Commentary, Customs, Medicinals

The Earth Mother’s Mud Gives Food, Housing, and Medicine

Dirty and Straw (Photo: Arnold Fernandez)

The Mother fills all of us with affection, since she offers us all of our delicious and nutritious food. The people of Cuzco thank her by giving her “payments”, offerings of food, as well as giving her the first sip of a glass of chicha–the favorite and most drunk beverage in Cuzco.

Beside giving us all our food, the Mother Earth also helps us build our homes. Thanks to the Earth we can mix mud and from that adobe. We use the dried adobes to make our houses.

Besides being very important for making our homes, this mud has other uses as well. It is used to make fogones (our classical stoves), pots, heaters, and other things. Artisans make these more specialized implements with careful, studied procedures.

The mud used for adobes is a mixture of earth, water and straw. To make a good house, good mud is essential. As a result, the first thing that people do is mix well the dirt, water, and straw. They do this by stepping in it over and over with their bare feet. Once ready it goes into the adobera, the form for adobe bricks.

Making mud requires a careful procedure. First people dig up the earth. Then they stretch a fine-meshed screen They toss the earth at the screen with a shovel to screen out all but the finest dirt.

With this carefully screened dirt they can now make mud and fill the adobe molds, one after another, before leaving the adobes to dry in the sun. Pottery, though, must be fired once dried, even if adobe bricks are not.

Mud, though, also has curative functions. It is said that in ancestral times here in our city of Cuzco, the Incas lived here. For them, mud was the cure-all for internal aches. Only with this medicine could they feel well

Makings of Adobe (Photo Arnold Fernandez)
Makings of Adobe (Photo Arnold Fernandez)

In our times we have lost most of things our ancestors left us. A few elderly people, such as those above 80 years old, still use mud as a cure. They use it mostly for aches in their waist. When this pain comes on them, they prepare mud in their fields and the place a coat of it on their waist in order to be able to continue their labors.

It is said that people should eat dirt if they trip and suddenly fall, or suffer a sharp freight. They lift a bit of the dirt from the place and eat it in order to not suffer from what people expect to happen due to a shock or fright; the loss of one of their souls. If they do not do this, they will lose energy and desire resulting in their family having to contract a healer to call their soul back.

Some people say that it is not uncommon for pregnant women to eat dirt occasionally. The overwhelming desire comes on them to partake of this part of the Mother Earth.

Some people also say that a white clay is eaten in some rural areas.

In any case, the Mother Earth gives us food. She gives us our homes and stoves (traditionally) as well as providing us with an important medicine. As a result, we are thinking about how, in a couple of weeks, we will make our offerings of food and thanks to her.

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