Throughout Peruvian history, coca has been considered a sacred plant and also its reading is considered by many, the oldest method of fortune telling in South America. The Incas, due to its stimulating, medicinal and nutritive properties considered coca a plant of great value, even they use it as barter to interchange objects with other towns, for example, charqui, potatoes, chili and cotton. The coca leaves are used nowadays in ceremonies, funerals, and earth offerings. Even, it is been found evidences of coca in mummies that date back to the year 1000 AC.
Coca leaf reading is a tradition that links people with their inner being, fortune telling their past and show them their future. The leaves that are used in the reading must be carefully selected by an expert person who has the gift of reading, and also, that has enough experience in the topic. Normally, leaves of major beauty and freshness are chosen. The oldest or driest leaves are discarded. This is considered a spiritual cleansing.
Coca leaf reading is done at any time of the year. But its major power and precision is between the months of August (beginning of harvesting) and June 21st and 24th (Inti Raimi Festival). Its precision is such that many consider it superior to the oriental and occidental fortune telling methods, such as the millenarian Chinese I-Ching. The practice and teaching of the coca reading has passed through generations that data to the Incan Empire era. Consequently, it is a hereditary practice, only a true descendent of the Andes, has the gift of being able to read the coca leaves adequately.
The historian and director of the Biblioteca Regional Mario Vargas Llosa, Rommel Arce Espinoza, said: “The coca leaf will not die while the habitants of the Andes, native from Peru, keep on transmitting from family to family the secrets of the coca. It has played a central role in the system of beliefs, customs and knowledge.” He stated that coca is reflected though varied iconographic representations in different supports. This is why coca leaf reading is one the intangible assets of the heritage of Peru and is part of the knowledge of our Andean culture.
Coca leaf reading is a window that shows you the past, present and future according to your way of living, connecting with nature in the pursue of your inner harmony. The spiritual guides of these rites communicate from spirit to spirit, entering to a stage of higher consciousness. Through coca leaf reading we can consult our work and sentimental future, infidelity, treason, money, illnesses and studies, among others. These coca leaves are capable of purifying your soul that could have been injured by other people. Besides, it gives you protection and safety keeping away bad spirits and thus you can enjoy your present at any given moment. It takes place in sacred sites, such as Apus (sacred mountains), lakes and ceremonial and energetic centers. The ceremony lasts from 1 to 2 hours, and it is directed by a spiritual guide or shaman.
“As well as any living being, the Pachamama is fertilized, she gives fruits and can get tired. We have to feed her in a ritual. The offerings and quintus of coca express a conversation between us, the human beings, and the spirit of the nature. The offerings are prepared with flowers, coca leaves, llama fat, vegetables, sweets, which are burned and buried in certain places, and in this way, Pachamama receives her food and starts to recover her power in intimate communion with Mother Nature.” (Pérez, Ana María, 2003).
Finally, we can say that spirituality goes beyond what our senses are capable of perceiving. And we have inherited from our ancestors the paths to reach our spiritual realization. Coca leaf reading must be appreciated and revalued, because in this way we make a just tribute to the customs and traditions of our ancient Peru.