What is “Ayni”?

Quechua is the ancestral language of the Andes and was spoken by the Inkas, Inkan nobility, as well as by millions of common folk within the Inkan Empire. It is now estimated to be the most widely spoken indigenous language in the western hemisphere with over 10 million speakers in modern-day Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Columbia.

Ayni is a Quechua term which means “sacred reciprocity” and is the core guiding principle of the Andean people. The concept is expressed by the saying “today for you, tomorrow for me”; that is, helping out your neighbor in kind.  It comes into play - in its presence or absence – in all social, familial and commercial relations. Relations “in ayni” involve harmony, balance, affection and respect; relations “out of ayni” involve their contraries. Ayni is even relevant in high shamanic ceremonies in which Andean priests offer their prayers to the spirit world in exchange for blessings and  guidance. In all its contexts, it is a literal energetic exchange upon which life in the Andes (and beyond) depends.

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