SHAMANISM ON THE ANDES
Pre Columbian traditional medicine has, for centuries, relied on the figure of the Curanderos healers who, through spirituality and magic, try to succeed where official medicine doesn’t exist or isn’t enough.
Today, the figure of the Curandero is far less widespread because it’s no longer recognised in society. There are still a few and for the most part, they are elderly people, holders of an ancestral wisdom handed down from their ancestors.
In Peru, from the high places in the Cordillera and the southern islands of Lake Titicaca and in the depths of the Amazon jungle, it’s a tradition that is still very much alive and indeed attracts new waves of “mystic” tourism, which is recognised by the government as such and therefore upheld.
Each rural community has its own Curandero or Shaman, as a spiritual guide for the village who works by using his connection with the universe and the Pacha Mama, to help his community to dispel the evil eye, have more abundant harvests or to cure diseases.
In South America, following the Spanish conquest and the indigenous repression, the nature spirits and the energies of the Universe modified their characteristics and were for the most part assimilated to the holy figures of the Catholic tradition. Despite all this, the shamans have continued to exist in the more traditional indigenous communities, defending their culture and ceremonies.
QUYLLUR RITY, THE STAR OF SNOW
Quyllur Rit'i, that in Quechua means “Snow Star”, is a pagan and religious festival held annually at the Sinakara Valley in the Cusco Region of Peru that join together shamans and indigenous populations of the Andes with large groups of devoted Catholics. This is one of the most complex festivals in the world due to its syncretism between Catholic prayer and fertility rituals, pre and post-Columbian legends.
The pilgrimage follows the crosses on an 8km procession from the Mahuayani village to the Sinakara glacier, 5000m high - where the Señor de Qoyllur Riti shrine lies - and ends with the homage to the image of Christ painted on a boulder. People worship the rising sun at dawn when Viracocha (the Inca divinity of light) melts with the image of the Catholic Christ and celebrate their devotion by lighting candles, offering gifts to the mountain, praying, dancing and singing day in and day out. The pilgrimage to the Señor de Qoyllur Riti shrine has been recently included on the Unesco Cultural and Natural Heritage list.