by Andrew Pacholyk MS, L.Ac. (excerpt from Soul Satisfying Journeys)

I had the joy and privilege to see the center of the world at the equator in Ecuador. The journey started in Guayaquil, the coastal city. I have been coming here for over 10 years and find it an exciting and fun city. It has changed dramatically over the ten odd years that I have been coming here. I have seen the impoverished city flourish in art and design, in commerce and industry and become much more gentrified over the years. With changing government, banks falling and leaders rising, it has yo-yo’d up and down, but I would consider it’s growth steady and significant.

As a part of my own self study, I come to Ecuador each year to study Amazonian herbs with Shamans, visit healers and politicians and visit amazing places such as the European-like capital of Quito, the healing mountain town of Banos and the sprawling discovery of Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands. One afternoon, I was approached by one of my Shaman teachers with a gift. It was more of an offering than a gift, I would say. It was a promise. Created from crystals he had gathered all over the world, my teacher created what he called Cosmic Solstice jewelry. A collection or “gathering” of sacred crystals to be used as “tools for transition” in preparing for the 2012 Solstice. Knowing that I had a means of “getting them out to the world” as he put it, he thought I would be the one to make his gift to the world, known. I accepted his “gift” on the premise that the monies made would come back to his village in order to help them with clean water and the growing of new crops in order to feed the village and their elders. He handed them over to me and said, “las herramientas estan en sus manos” (the tools are in your hands). So, off on my journey I went.

This particular visit took me to Quito. Approximately 16 miles north of Quito, marks the exact Middle of the World (Mitad del Mundo), latitude 0 ° where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. The Equatorial Monument is a statuesque block of iron and concrete covered with cut and polished andesite stone with a globe perched at the top. Inside this monument is a museum paying homage to the indigenous Ecuadorian cultures including descriptions of the various ethnic groups, clothing, articles and examples of their lifestyle. Within the area there are other attractions such as a Planetarium, restaurants and a miniature model of Quito. There are often various musical and cultural groups performing in the Mitad del Mundo’s Central Plaza. There is a town surrounding the monument replicating a colonial Spanish town and it is called Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City).

My particular visit there came on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2010. I was invited to a ceremony by the local Shaman to celebrate the Solstice on this day (just one year from the expected date of the lining up of the Earth with the center of our Milky Way galaxy). This most talked about event has already had the world preparing the planet for the end of the Mayan long count calendar, known as “End Time”, which takes place on December 21, 2012. This date has been causing absolute fear and upheaval, due to its gloom and doom associated with the Mayans prediction as being the actual end of the world!

On a more metaphysical level, this time is looked at as simply awakening once again from a deep sleep and beginning to walk the path of wisdom our ancient ancestors followed. It was they who understood what it meant to live their lives in tune with nature and in a heightened state or another dimension of reality. As with any winter solstice, it is a time which signifies a rest period within the cycle of life, birth and rebirth. Looking at “End Time” can also be seen as not the end of the world, but a time of transition. Astrologically this time period is considered The Age of Pisces. At the turn of the solstice, this will become The Age of Aquarius or The “Golden Age”.

Symbolically, a ceremony at this sacred and mysterious spot felt like ground zero, where the latitude is 0 ° where water flows both counter-clockwise and clockwise down a drain and balancing eggs on end seem possible due to the Coriolis effect. No matter what the truth might be, just the mere fact of being at the middle of the world on the Winter Solstice was incredibly fulfilling, humbling and sheer magic!

The ceremony started right before sunrise as myself and traveling companions were led to a location just beyond the great monument. A large circle of andesite stone, some polished, some raw, created the ceremonial boundaries, straddling the north and south hemisphere line. The burning smell of pungent sage filled the air as we were each blessed on the forehead with a sacred blend of essential oil including cedar, juniper and lavender. Meditation and prayers were said and a form of sun salutation was performed. Music played a big part of the ceremony with local drummers and musicians accompanying the Shaman with hypnotic vibes as it turned into a rhythmic celebration of song and dance as the sun rose above the Andes mountains.

We were all given the chance to have items blessed and given the opportunity to spend private time with the Shaman healers. I was given a particular set of Chakra stones, which I now use in my practice. I offered crystals in exchange for the blessing of my teacher’s Cosmic Solstice jewelry. As the sun lit the ceremonial circle, the start of a new and promising season began.

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