This short film is a visual song about the ceremony at the heart of our prayer journey
PACHAMAMA ⌘ MOTHER EARTH PRAYER JOURNEY
In the autumn of 2018, Carolyn made a mountain pilgrimage with three other travelling sisters, Naomi Ocean, Jilly Dowse and Cecibel Egan, to the Bolivian Andes. This had been envisioned as a symbolic affirmation at this time of tumult, a remembering of kindness and wild tenacious hope in empowering our custodianship of the earth, and a carrying of prayer threads to add to the ongoing work of womankind in strengthening connections between our ancient lands, our diverse cultures and our resilient, brilliant spirits.
The many prayer threads that we carried were physically and energetically woven into our bundles by hundreds of women and supported by many men during the previous few years. Some of these were gathered as prayer beads onto four woven belts that we have created to take as gifts to Bolivian sisters. Some were anchored onto a long braid of wild Dartmoor horse hair, that we carried to offer to the mountain where we made our Pachamama ceremony. Some were tied into our journey as we travelled, by women gathering in circles and ceremonies at their home hearths in the UK and elsewhere, to create mountain and full moon rituals during the time that we were on the mountain.
We also carried a Pachamama Seed Fund, one thousand pounds that had been collected into our hands from the donations of many people. We used this to give to women’s projects and campaigns that we encountered along the way, as well as to support the work of weavers’ cooperatives and fairtrade collectives. During the final Pachamama prayer gathering held online after our return, the Weaver’s Market that we offered realised another thousand pounds from the sale of these crafts, half of which was sent to support an indigenous weaving educational organisation in Bolivia, and half put towards the next project to be fed by the seed fund. Please see below to find out more about how the Seed Fund was shared.
WHAT FOLLOWS IS A TASTE OF OUR JOURNEY...
We come to these mountains to weave because, if we do not, then threads will drift, cloth will fray and the fabric of our lives will thin out to rags. We come to these mountains to bind and mend and add colour because, if we do not, how will the cloth make us strong and draw us home? We come to these mountains to ply earth and land, darkness and memory, stories of life and bright days because, if we do not, then how will we know the pattern of our journeys, how will we remember what has been and what is to come? Sometimes when we sit working as these strings, we hear women whispering on the far side of the loom. We cannot make out what they say but we sense that they are very close. We reach our fingers through the warp strings and feel the pressure of other pairs of hands around our own. Then we all move in unison, back and forth, our hands entwined, binding the threads, creating the cloth. Looms are doorways and our weaving hands have keys to open them.
The women were carrying many threads, their own and those of their many distant, threads that they were weaving as they walked: into the land, into the prayer of the land, into the dream of the prayer. They arrived east of the mountains and slowly travelled west, climbing high with the tide of the rising moon. Eventually, riding the tail of the moon as she circled into full, they moved north towards the snow-wrapped peaks. There they made their pilgrimage, walked slowly as old women do, sticks in their hands, drums strapped to their backs. They reached the mountain mothers; Grandmother Akamani held their horizon, Mamāy Wikili embraced them to her ancient belly. They walked through the departing night and the arriving dawn to a wild headland hung high above the river and there they offered a ceremony: a spiralled shrine, a braid of prayers, a ring of pebbles spun with offerings, promises and spells. They sat with the mountain mothers and in turn they spoke, each finding words that released the truth inside her bones and the deepest jewel inside her heart. In this way they bore witness to each other and to the sacred Pachamama and to the vast word that turned around them. And the clouds brought mist and swirling birds to that place of silence and beauty, while the women tenderly buried the many woven threads and the braid of prayers and small fragments of themselves, bedded into mosses and herbs, hidden beneath rocks that would remain untouched for five thousand years.
Below is a sliding photo gallery – click onto the first image to view the slide show.
THE RIGHTS OF MOTHER EARTH
In 2010 the Bolivian Government passed the Pachamama Law to enshrine the rights of the Earth Mother. The declaration written here has been inspired by and newly envisioned from that law by Carolyn Hillyer. You are very welcome to use and share this text but please reference its source.
Our mother is a sacred and dynamic living entity.
Our mother survives through harmony, plurality, diversity and balance.
Our mother represents the collective wellbeing for now and future generations.
We belong to the community of beings comprising our mother earth.
Our mother is owned by no one. She exists for us all.
Our mother has the right to life, the integrity of life, the regeneration of life, the honouring of life.
Our mother has the right to pure water, clear air, clean soil, purifying fire.
Our mother has the right to freedom from toxic pollution, radioactive contamination, industrial aggression, commercial exploitation, unharnessed waste.
Our mother has the right to not be stripped of her living skin, plundered to her dark veins, raped for her jewelled bones.
Our mother has the right to freedom from excessive light, excessive speed, excessive noise, excessive greed.
Our mother has the right to stillness, silence, peace.
Our mother has the right to receive restoration from loss, repair from damage, healing from destruction.
Our mother has the right to conservation, continuity, equilibrium.
Our mother has the right to be respected for the interrelationship, interdependence and intrinsic harmony
of all her living systems, living components, and living beings
Our mother is owned by no one. She exists for us all.
PACHAMAMA PRAYER GATHERINGS
In the year leading up to our journey we held three Pachamama evenings in Dartmoor, Wales and Cornwall to share the story of this project, Quechua songs, Sikuri dancing, mountain ritual, Andean food and our crafts. The fourth and final gathering took place one evening online; here are some of the offerings from that circle, including pictures from some of the ceremonies women were creating while we were on the mountain.
from Carolyn: I am sitting here this evening in amazement and gratitude that we have at last reached this place – where we can offer our deep thanks to all of you who have supported this pilgrimage (and the dream in which it was incubated) in so many ways. It has been a long trail, through years of patient waiting, through months of powerful creating, through weeks of realising that vision… and finally putting feet onto the mountain and prayer into the air… And now these few hours when we are able to say thank you for believing in this pilgrimage journey and for feeding it with your own prayers and dreams. We hope that we are able to bring something to this gathering that will enable you to truly feel that you were there with us on that mountain side, as the dark flowed into dawn, as the sounds of river and thunder and birds formed harmonies inside our ritual… So this is a vast and expansive thank you to all of you, sisters, brothers, friends, family… And from my own heart I want to offer gratitude to my three sisters who trusted me enough to say yes to this journey and with whom I have just shared an experience that I am scarcely yet able to hold inside my bones, so profound has been its impact. Making the film has given me the understanding that this prayer journey has been everything I could possibly have anchored into my dream and so much more than I could ever have caught into my imagination. It was so strengthened by the threads that we carried as we travelled, given into our care by you, and by the immense kindness of the people we encountered on the trail.
from Naomi: Our journey is complete. Thank you all for being part of it! Immense gratitude to all of you who thought of us while we were away and who shared circles and gatherings while we were preparing the mountain ceremony! I felt cradled by you all who were holding us! We owe so much to our friends, who held our courage in their hands. The prayer was strong. In the days leading up to the ceremony it hummed and vibrated within & around us so powerfully. The place is beautiful. Mama Wikili mountain embraced us. Grandfather/Grandmother Akamani mountain so potent but a bit more distant… We walked out to the edge of the mountain in the moonlight before dawn… We carried the braid filled with prayer beads, blessed it with libations of flowers and coca leaves and whiskey and added a gift of ourselves. It was a powerful and potent and beautiful offering. As we sat in quiet awe after the ceremony, a flock of Andean Swifts flew over and swirled around in the sky above us, dipping and diving… We felt blessed!
from Cecibel: and the day for the ritual arrived… it was dawn but still dark, we walked silently and ever so slowly and lightly, many tears were plaited in the prayers… the mountains quietened down even more, our Mother was listening…and you all, lovely wild sisters were there with us… From the beginning, it was like having a hand on our backs, guiding us, and all the doors opened for us magically… we found open hearts everywhere, the resonance of our intentions created a magic key… Walking to the place for our ritual, I felt as if I had been coming that way all my life… I felt also like we were connecting the lands, my land of the Andes with my land of here, one Pachamama… and at the moment of the offering I asked Carolyn to cut my long plat. And it stayed there, with my prayers, and the prayers of all of us… (Carolyn: It was a powerful moment when Ceci handed me her knife and asked me to cut her plait – not only such a personal offering from her to the mountain, but also it felt like she was holding in her cut hair something of the deep pain of the mother earth which we were then laying with our tears and love into the ground. We others each added small twists our hair and coiled it all around the wild horse braid of prayers, inside the pouch we buried in the cairn.)
from Jilly: so I wrote this in my journal when we were in our little bungalow on the edge of Nino Corin below our sacred mountain – I sit in the stillness of the predawn, wrapped in a blanket against the chill, watching and listening to the sounds of the night. The moon is just past full and bright in the clear mountain air and stars prick holes in the blackness. The sound of rushing water rises up from far below me in the gorge and there is the scent of eucalyptus from the trees. Inside the house Carolyn is murmuring and softly singing as she writes at the table in the bare room. Ceci and Naomi sleep after the long bus journey to get here. With the dawn comes the mountain….Akamani…..Grandmother mountain. Yesterday evenings mists have rolled away and there she is… so grand and beautiful. Jagged peaks and pinnacles of snow and rock surrounded by softer greener rolling curving slopes. The river has worn a deep cleft in the mountain folds. I am mesmerised, humbled and oh…so grateful to be here. I sit and listen and watch and wait for the rising sun and send a prayer of thanks to all those generous and warm hearts that helped us pilgrimage here. What a blessing! Time out of time. Sacred Mountain. Sacred Waters. Sacred Earth.
WORDS FROM OTHER SISTERS…
Star: while our wonderful sisters were travelling I kept a candle lit for their journey. I tuned in during the quiet moments of my life to send gratitude for their generosity and bravery, and sent light and protection that they would travel well and return safely.
Sarah: this is the altar that was a focus for my prayers for your journey. Four dolls for the four women and the parcel of seeds from the Pachamama evening in Cornwall which brought your journeying visions to the community. An honour to hear your stories and impressions from your travels.
Elley: Thank you for sharing your beautiful Journey. On the day I sat and sang and drummed and burnt some incense. I felt called to give something back to the earth in an offering but not the usual things. I realised it was the sacred seeds calling to return.
Nicola: my altar space for the second prayer gathering. I too lit candles for you during your travels and sent prayers out on the wind…Thank you all for carrying a small part of us with you to the sacred mountain.
Mandi: being – truly and consciously – BEING with this unfolding of shared dreaming, loving, hoping, hugging, singing, laughing and silent holding within this Prayer has been a beautifully profound experience for me and very real. The ripples from this time spent with the Pachamama Prayer will continue to be felt. Too long it had been since that bond of shared effort and focus has been in my life – and the kindness of Sisters has softened and undone me a little…. enough to allow Light to shine in those dark places. The whole time we were connecting has been deeply healing and insightful. My love to you all.
Gillian: Whilst the flames in the fire pit twisted and turned, we too twisted and turned in dance under the full moon’s light. We, two women, were a-whirling and a-drumming in support of our sisters’ pilgrimage and joining our threads with the other hearth fires that evening.
Mezzie: we gathered at the full of moon and also on the day of the prayer ceremony… thread mothers wove the prayers from their circles, into one held on the moor. There was song and drum… laughter and tears and as we sat, we could feel our prayer weaving amidst the threads of the many sisters across this good Earth , also sitting, holding our travelling Sisters within their prayers. Circles within circles , within circles… and as the sky darkened on the second day, a heron flew across the crimson night sky…
Jo: Gathering with my sisters in these soft rolling Devon hills
Dreaming of that far-off sacred mountain
And the footsteps you were taking to be there
The scent of incense and woodsmoke
The tang of golden berries on our tongues
Flickering candlelight casting shadows on our offerings
Weaving a braid of sisters to bind us all together across the miles
Drumming our love, our care, our protection to you
Songs of hope, connection, honouring this land, all lands
Sending healing out, out across the land, across the ocean
Heron flying low, carrying our prayers to you on slow, gentle wing beats
As the moon rose, watching the stars fill the darkness
Hoping your eyes were lifted to the same skies
That you could sense us joining with you in prayer
Hoping the mountain spirits could hear our songs.
Laura: I kept my small envelope safe all year, as I expect all our sisters did. On the night of the full moon, alone, I sat with the small bundle, with a candle and some Palo Santo burning, and sang songs from the Pachamama evening and the Wildsong sessions, whichever came to me and felt right and true for the occasion. Such an amazing journey you have been on, and all of us through you. I thank you all dearly for walking it and for also sharing it with us along the way. Sending love and gratitude.
Jan: our shamanic circle in October took Pachamama as our theme and we shared what she meant to each of us and then in pairs we wove together threads and beads and then tied them all together to make a circle of thread connecting us with each other and with your journey. Thank you for inspiring us to connect.
Sam: I call on the energies of my sisters. I call on the energy of my kin. Ancestors hear me calling, calling. Ancestors hear me calling in. I sat in hearth and candle light. Drawing around me the energies of all my sisters, brothers and ancestors. Calling in the energies of my Highland mountains and sending it over the many miles to all of your circles, your hearths and your pilgrimages
Clare: On our way to our circle on the Full Moon, I drove across Dartmoor gathering sisters on the way, I stopped to gather a bundle of moss with some lichen scraped from a Dartmoor stone to put on the shrine for connectivity and communication from our voices to yours in the mountains. I felt I didn’t have enough Lichen – but as we picked up the last sister, she offered me a palm full of lichen that had gently rolled in front of her feet in the breeze…. I was so excited our journey to meet you in the mountains had truly began….. Our nights of gathering we sat deep in prayer, contemplation, sadness, honouring, joy, healing, story telling, We drummed, we sang, we laughed, we cried, We sat silently; all in the name of our travelling sisters to hold their footsteps gently but firmly, to offer protection and love to deepen their prayers…..and to heal Mother Earth. We were blessed with heron at dusk and blessed that brothers had gathered too.
Nikki: four of us gathered around our full moon lit hearth, for our four Andes sisters, to weave prayers of love, protection and gratitude for them and our Pachamama. Our despacho was woven together by many strands and offerings, not least plaited Alpaca and Dartmoor pony hair and a little smackeral of bear salve and honey for a homeward bound call! Our despacho was embraced by the flames after we each bore witness to one another speaking aloud what our Mother Earth means to us. Much singing and drumming followed whilst the ashes of our despacho were offered up to the wind for it to carry our well wishes to you. The following morning we went to a local long barrow and crawled inside, each of us in a different chamber to tone, sing, drum and weave our threads together for Pachamama, our ancestors and our sisters in the Andes. The morning sunlight lit up the previously dark passage so our prayers could dance away on sunbeams.
THE SEED FUND
From Naomi: it was so moving to be carrying the Seed Fund! I have travelled a lot but never been able to gift money to projects like we did this time. Thanks to all of you buying the cotton Pachamama law bags and some donations, we had £1000 to share in support of wonderful women’s projects. When we gave money women gasped and cried and danced.
From Carolyn: so the money from our Weavers’ Market will be sent half to an amazing project run by Marie Elena in La Paz – she is the guardian of an incredible collection of ancient and traditional textiles, preserving Aymara and Quechua weaving traditions and keeping the knowledge alive with two centres that run courses for young people and support women in the community. She has done this work without government support or grants for 40 years, the last two on her own since her husband died. The other half of the funds gathered are going to start a new seed fund called A ROOM OF HER OWN, which is a project a small group of us want to initiate next year to enable women who are emerging from domestic violence, abuse or rape situations to come to Dartmoor for a fully-funded, fully-supported sanctuary and retreat week, with a beautifully prepared room of her own in which to strengthen broken edges and start to heal bruised hearts… blessings and prayers…
From Cecibel: finding each one of these items, this work, was so special. We heard the stories of how the projects had started, we met women that had been inspired to help other women and form an association to be able to sell their products…and on this journey we met some of them and brought their work to you.
From Carolyn: as well as buying items from weaving cooperatives and communities with the seed fund we carried, we made donations on your behalf to women’s projects we discovered along the way: the Santa Cruz women’s centre, supporting women suffering domestic violence, rape and homophobia; Tiquipaya Aldea Infantils in Cochabamba, front line emergency support for families in domestic abuse situations; Rosse Marie Vargas Vilela, Aymara spiritual mountain guide, to support her ongoing work and pilgrim centre; Museo de Textiles Andinos Bolivianos, run by Marie Elena, to support her ongoing indigenous educational project to preserve the traditional weaving culture; La Paz women’s centre, also supporting and empowering vulnerable women.
With grateful thanks
We are daughters of this Earth
Aka uraqinkir imillwawanakapxtwa
Noqaiku kaiku allpaq wawan
Somos hijas de esta Tierra
(in English, Aymara, Quechua and Spanish)
Thank you for your precious donation. My mom was quite moved by your desire to help and whenever we encounter visitors like yourselves, it provides us with strength to carry on with the work my parents started more than 20 years ago. Thank you for your desire to continue to help and contribute. Every single contribution is appreciated and treasured, and a donation of this size is remarkable. You left me speechless. We are so grateful. Thank you so much. This donation will come as a great help, particularly for the Sekakuna (learn in Kallawaya) program, since it will allow us to reach more public schools from La Paz and El Alto that cannot afford the ride or even the admission price. We believe it’s crucial for younger generations to learn about the traditions and the importance of the weaving process and textiles in the Andean region and in their own history. It will also contribute to the Kallay Manta (the authentic in Kallawaya) program since we can continue to support communities across different regions to weave textiles and crafts using traditional weaving techniques. I also thank you personally because these news will make my mom so happy. Again, from the bottom of my heart and on behalf of my family and the artists from the Andes we are proud to work with, I thank you. Warm regards, Martín Jordán S.C.