Rituals of reverence and reconciliation at gathering in Peru - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Maria Apaza at the Convergence of International Women: We are Medicine in Pisac, Peru, September 9-14, 2019

Miliwanga Wurrben blessing participants of the gathering.

“If you were at the Synod on the Amazon, what would you say to the pope, bishops and participants about the value of indigenous traditions and spirituality in a broken world?”

I posed this question to four women: Rabbi Jenny Kuvin, a Jewish clergy with a law degree who uses indigenous traditions in recovery programs for addicts in Arizona; Visolela Namises, a former member of parliament and Namibian healer; Sweet Medicine, a medicine woman from the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Lakota traditions; and Miliwanga Wurrben, an Australian Rembarrnga aboriginal traditional healer.

I am sharing their answers in articles for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns:

The four women were part of the more than 560 women from 32 countries that gathered in early September for six days in the Sacred Valley of Peru for the “Convergence of International Women: We are Medicine” (Somos Medicina).

Mary’s Pence Foundation and the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns sponsored Valentina Castro Tum and my attendance. Valentina, a young Mayan woman from the El Quiche department of Guatemala, lives with the Maryknoll Sisters in Lemoa and manages literacy and nutrition programs.

We gathered in the town of Pisac in the Cusco region of Peru, to heal ourselves and give reverence to our Mother Earth, Father Sun and the Divine interconnectedness of the universe. We participated in rituals of reverence and reconciliation for and with the elements of fire, water, earth and wind. No speeches, no workshops, no working documents were offered. The focus was our being together in the beauty of the Andes, steeped in the light and tradition of the Quechua people and the inspiration of mountains. One of the most beautiful components of the gathering was the blending of cultures. A moving example of this was aboriginal and Mayan healers co-leading the fire ritual.

Kathy Bond and Valentina Castro Tum

Thirteen grandmothers from all corners of the world guided us through our six-day-journey. It was an honor to have present 93-year-old Maria Apaza, an Altomisayoc Andean priestess and spiritual leader of the Q’ero Nation. Clothed in traditional vestments and neon-stripped Keene close-toed shoes, she graced our days with blessings of endless energy and an engaging smile.

From a high Andean village home to 200 Quechua, Maria’s large extended family has spread out over the Cusco region. By chance my driver was her grandson. He shared with me that his people were saved from the Spanish by geography as the conditions were too harsh and breath-sucking high. Legend has it that Machu Picchu was also spared because it was covered by jungle.

The closing ceremony of We are Medicine (Somos Medicina) was a ritual to unite the masculine with the feminine. Over 100 men, mostly family members of the participants including my husband, Flávio, received a blessing from the 13 grandmothers.

2020 will carry us all in body and/or spirit to Mexico for the second gathering of We Are Medicine. We were each asked to bring four additional women. I dream of bringing 40.

Fire ritual

Photos courtesy of Kathy Bond and Somos Medicina.



Kathy Bond
Based in João Pessoa, Brazil, Kathy Bond provides accessible courses, classes and retreats in various holistic health therapies including hatha yoga, shantala and reflexology at AFYA Women’s Holistic Health Center and other locations in João Pessoa and online.