Author Topic: NDN Beliefs in Latin America  (Read 18027 times)

Offline educatedindian

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NDN Beliefs in Latin America
« on: July 06, 2006, 02:11:02 pm »
For all articles that could be used to check against all the "Andean shamans" and spiritual tourism sites out there.
"Modern Andean religious expression in an historical context  
Descendants of those people who were living in the Andes of South America before the New World first had contact with Europe still reside there today. These indigenous groups have roots going back to the Incan empire and beyond. The topic addressed here relates to those descendants who still live relatively separate from the immigrant populations that have inhabited these areas, more specifically to those people in Peru and Bolivia. Although they are not part of large organized religions, their belief systems are still important when considering contemporary religious expression in Latin America. Many small groups keep to themselves and discreetly follow their traditional beliefs outside of the greater social and political stage.
....When studying isolated indigenous communities whose practices and ideas may not be considered of a "Western" tradition, it becomes more difficult to separate religious beliefs and expressions from social ritual and custom. Daily life and cyclical activities, like farming, take on meanings that are difficult for outside observers to separate into purpose and function. Delegating the cleaning of common village space might appear to serve a simple functional role, but the meanings and consequences might also have strong religious relevance. Therefore, when researchers write about social and cultural activities there is often a recognized or unrecognized religious side to what they are studying. Beliefs about how people should behave with one another as derived from what we would call religion may manifest themselves in ways that do not specifically warrant the label "religious expression."
....The groups in Peru and Bolivia are descended from the Inca, who did not have a written language. Since their beliefs were transmitted orally, it is difficult to say for sure what their ancestors, the Inca, actually believed and to what extent those beliefs are important to them today (Barnes, 1992, pp. 67-81). Other traditions of the Inca besides oral messages are very relevant to belief systems. Physical place was of high importance. This can be observed in the ceque system around Cusco and similarly organized areas in Bolivia. The small and varied places of worship within these systems were defined and built long ago. As documented by Bauer (1998, pp. 31-33) and Hadingham (1987, pp. 243-260), these historically determined places and ideas are very important in current beliefs and worship.
Hadingham (1987, pp. 230-231) describes the series of straight, distinct lines called ceques covering the landscape around Cusco and on the Altiplano of Bolivia.
The Coricancha (Golden Enclosure) is an ancient temple located at the center of the Cusco ceque system. Now standing over the remains is the church of Santo Domingo.
Where the lines exist, the plant life (if there is any) breaks away to form a corridor of several feet in width. If there is little plant life then the lines are demarcated by a physical change in the ground itself for the corridor from being trampled down. These lines vary in length, but can be tens of miles long. They have survived over hundreds of years due to the dry climate of the area. Interspersed among the system of ceques are shrines or huacas. According to Bauer (1998, pp. p. 23) these huacas take different forms, from water springs to stacks of rock to ravines or other natural physical forms. To the people that worship the huacas, each shrine embodies a supernatural force or spirit whose existence and behavior is important in their lives.
Categorization of the Cusco Ceque System Huacas
Physical nature Number of huacas Percentage of total (328)
springs or sources of water 96 29%
standing stones 95 29%
hills and mountain passes 32 10%
palaces of the royal Incas and temples 28 9%
fields and flat places 28 9%
tombs 10 3%
ravines 7 2%
others* 16 5%
unclear category** 16 5%
*others include caves, quarries, stone seats, sunset markers, trees, and roads  
**existing records are so unclear about some huacas that categorization is impossible
Source: Bauer, B.S. 1998. The Sacred Landscape of the Inca
According to Hadingham (1987, pp. 252) the power of the huacas that people were so concerned with related to the weather. In the dry Andean regions of the Incan empire moisture and weather were very important to the survival of crops, and therefore important to the survival and prosperity of the people. In visiting the spirits embodied in the huacas, one thing people would seek was information about weather. This communication took the form of prayer and burnt offerings. Shells were and are often important in the offering because of their relation to the sea; the source of moisture. Sea shells were associated with fertility. It is unclear exactly how the spirits of the huacas controlled the weather, but the fact that this was their subject of importance is not very surprising given the importance of weather in the region and even the importance of praying for good weather in other societies throughout history.
When the Spanish came upon the Incan empire they sought to change the methods of religious practice they found there. Bauer (1998, pp. 5) argues that the Spanish did not approve of the worship they found so they tried to destroy it. When they found people worshiping huacas, or heard reports of such activity, they punished the people and destroyed the huaca as much as they could. (Many huacas were just distinct geographical features like springs or small hills and therefore hard to destroy.) Thus, the social and religious structures of the Incan empire were overturned. The strong promotion of Christianity in the communities of the native peoples affected their religious stories. Classen (1993. pp. 139-142) asserts that the attempts at acculturation by outside influences led to the creation of new myths or religious stories to reconcile the efforts of the Christian Spaniards with the religion of the indigenous peoples. Another interesting long term effect that will be noted later as well is the association of huacas and native traditions with Christian saints and festivals."

Offline educatedindian

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Re: NDN Beliefs in Latin America
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2006, 02:14:53 pm »
Pt 2
The destruction of the huacas had a significant effect on the beliefs of future generations. However, the strong ties between the people and the supernatural through the physical environment could not be easily severed. An important part of this tie was the Andean mountains themselves. This makes intuitive sense to those who study the region because of the high importance of the mountains in the weather. According to Hadingham (1987, pp. 250-252), spiritual gods were thought to live in the high mountain peaks, determining the fate of those who lived near them by sending frost, rain, hail, or no moisture at all. In relation to the villages, many huacas were located in the direction of the mountain peaks. The ceques would lead in a straight line from the city or village up the slope toward the mountains where the place of worship lay.
Although it is unclear how much native beliefs are incorporated into the lives of modern Peruvians and Bolivians, there is evidence that the Cusco ceque system is still in use. Bauer (1998, pp. 5) argues that, "the worship of place-specific sacred powers plays a discreet but important role in the lives of many rural inhabitants". Prepackaged offerings to be burnt at the huacas are available for sale at certain locations in Cusco. Bauer (1998, pp. 33) recounts how when his group was researching the huacas outside Cusco they found offerings still burning by the shrines when they got there. Even after so much time and change in the Cusco region, ancient traditions are still being adhered to. The historical existence alone of these traditions makes them significant. However, their contemporary meaning in the lives of people makes them even more important to study.
In addition to spiritual beliefs and traditions, Hadingham (1987, pp. 258-259) writes that mountains also have an important role in social organization. Mountain peaks exist at many different levels, some obviously lower than others. The Inca organized their civilization similarly, having several kin groups arranged in a hierarchical structure. This is an example of lines between religion and social organization being blurred. The mountains are a very important and complex figure in Andean society.
It is difficult to say whether the social organization of the people was thought to be determined by the gods who controlled the appearance of the mountains or whether the social distinction was linked more closely to circumstance and justified by the appearance of the landscape. According to Classen (1993, pp. 27, 68), the influence of the mountains is great, from traditional explanations of daily weather to myths about the origins of human life in the region. These are illustrations of the importance of physical place in diverse aspects of historical and modern life in the Andean regions of Peru and Bolivia....
Hadingham (1987, pp. 256) reports that use of these "lines to the mountain gods" in the late twentieth century has been documented in Bolivia. A group of villagers in a fairly isolated community on the Altiplano walked the two mile line up into the mountains to offer seashells and other sacrifices to a huaca. Bauer (1998, pp. 140) and Hadingham (1987, pp. 243-244) describe how on the mountain top the participants prayed for water and fertility in a ritual whose origins reach back for many centuries. The undeviating line carved into the landscape leading high and deep into the mountains evokes a feeling of wonder in respectful outsiders perhaps for its powerful simplicity. This is especially true for those who have learned the much more complex meanings behind it. It is not clear how widely used the lines and huacas were in this region in the last decades of the twentieth century. Perhaps isolation of villages over many years makes traditional practices more likely, but isolation also makes contact with researchers who can share their findings with the rest of the world less likely.
Hadingham (1987, pp. 252-253) cites another contemporary documented practice, which has taken place in the area outside of Cusco, Peru. A group of people gathered at the time of Corpus Christi (Corpus Christi and other festivities in Cusco, Peru), a day denoted by Catholic tradition, to have a fiesta during the day. Then in the evening some of the group members set out to climb to a nearby mountain peak to worship at a shrine located there. Some of them worshiped Jesus there, while others worshiped the spirits represented by the huaca and offered it small sacrifices. Each person took a piece of ice from the peak home with them, the water from which they believed would provide healing powers. The mixture of Christianity with indigenous Andean religion is an interesting phenomena. The celebration and ritual have transcended time and the influence of Catholicism, but the people have included aspects of Catholic belief in the ceremony. According to Osborne (1973, pp. 131) the native peoples of the Andes are known for their practice of adopting outside religious customs as their own, yet keeping the essence of their own traditions. Bauer remarks that the Inca themselves and those they conquered did this in their interactions before the Spanish arrived.
The specific Christian influences may be harder to identify than previously thought. Since the cultural traditions of the indigenous peoples in Peru and Bolivia rely on oral transmission, it is very difficult to assess what people believed at specific points in history. According to Barnes (1992, pp. 67), Catholic Peruvian leaders made a special effort over hundreds of years to change the beliefs and worship systems of the Quechuan peoples by publishing specific texts to be taught to the Indians by Catholic priests. She suggests (1992, pp. 80) that, "through the use of catechism, confessional manual, and book of sermons, Spanish priests intended to alter ideas about the nature of the cosmos, the concept of sin, and appropriate religious practices". Barnes argues that some of the teachings from these texts became slowly adapted into the oral tradition of the Quechua, making it unclear what the Incan people really believed and how much change had been made over time. This is another example of the Andean people selecting some of the beliefs of others and incorporating them into their own.
Other beliefs stemming from earlier times involved animal figures. This is another aspect of the natural environment held to be important in Andean society. According to Hadingham (1987, pp. 248), flying animal figures were historically thought to be messengers from the mountain gods to the people. The "figures" passed down through oral tradition and cultural images were not clearly any one type of animal. They had body parts of birds, felines, and humans. One example comes from the people living near Nazca, Peru. Hadingham (1987, pp. 250-252) cites the story of a storm god that manifested itself as a being in the form of part flying cat and part human warrior. There is a contemporary appearance of this belief in the importance of flying beings. Near Nazca the sightings of condors, herons, and pelicans are interpreted by farmers as signs of rain. Hadingham links the historical legend with the current behaviors of farmers as an example of ancient beliefs being passed down. The belief has obviously changed some, but what it represents has not. It was thought that flying animals brought messages from the mountain gods about what future weather would be like. In modern times the prediction of weather is associated with the sighting of certain birds.

Offline educatedindian

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Re: NDN Beliefs in Latin America
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2006, 02:17:37 pm »
Pt 3, with lots of other sources.
According to Osborne (1973, pp. 134-136), the image of one kind of animal has been particularly transcendent of time in Andean culture. This animal is the jaguar. He argues that outsiders worshiping the feline animal brought the practice to the people of the pre Inca Andes. It was strongly accepted by the common people and has a solid legacy throughout the history of the region. Osborne asserts that Lake Titicaca was given its name after an island on the lake. The name of the island, Titicaca, roughly means "Jaguar Rock" in Aymara. The jaguar symbol was integrated with the sun worship of the Inca and some symbols from that time integrate characteristics of both. Then, in current times, festive dances in villages on the Bolivian Altiplano feature the mask of the Jaguar. Osborne (1973, pp. 131) argues that the Indian culture in the Andes was and is, "syncretic, receptive; integrating the new without ever discarding the old; prepared to conjoin the incongruous and marry the incompatible into a polycladous tradition multiradicate in the distant past". The history of the image of the jaguar in the Andes would certainly defend Osborne's statement.
In ancient and modern Andean culture it can be difficult to separate distinctly religious expression from overall cultural tradition. However, through the study of historical ideas and behaviors, contemporary custom can be better understood and appreciated. Andean customs in Peru and Bolivia historically and in modern times have had a focus on the physical environment. This manifests itself in huaca worship and the place of animal figures in the belief system. Although outside cultural influences such as Catholicism have influenced Andean religion, native tradition has persisted over the centuries and in contemporary times. What that means is modified ancient religious practices are carried out by native peoples in the Andes and Peru and Bolivia.

More on Andean belief systems
Incan Religion
Andean Cosmology by James Q Jacobs
Additional websites of interest
South American images
Qosqo: Inkas' Sacred Capital -
Cultures of the Andes - (general information, images and links)
The Andes, A Photo Gallery -
Nasca y sus Lineas - The Nasca Lines: characters carved in the earth by a past Andean peoples. The images are so large that their actual form can only be understood from high above the ground. (Spanish and Quechua only)
General cultural history of the Andes by International Expeditions Inc.
General cultural history of the Andes by International Expeditions Inc.
Far Horizons archaeological & cultural trips, inc.

Barnes, M. 1992. "Catechisms and confessionarios: distorting mirrors of Andean societies". in Andean Cosmologies through Time, Eds. R.V.H. Dover, K.E. Seibold, and J.H. McDowell, Bloomington, Indiana University Press
Bastien, J.W. 1985. Mountain of the Condor: metaphor and ritual in an Andean ayllu, Prospect Heights, Waveland Press
Bauer, B.S. 1998. The Sacred Landscape of the Inca, Austin, University of Texas Press
Classen, C. 1993. Inca Cosmology and the Human Body, Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press
Hadingham, E. 1987. Lines to the Mountain Gods, New York, Random House
Isbell, B.J. To Defend Ourselves: ecology and ritual in an Andean village, Austin, University of Texas Press
MacCormack, S. 1991. Religion in the Andes: vision and imagination in early colonial Peru, Princeton, Princeton University Press
Osborne, H. 1973. Indians of the Andes, New York, Cooper Square Publishers Author: Carol Carpenter

Offline educatedindian

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Re: NDN Beliefs in Latin America
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2009, 03:21:52 am »
For any frauds claiming to be Mapuche, such as Perruchon in Sweden. Here's the Mapuche Nation's own description of their belief and culture.

Bolded the parts pointing out they don't convert outsiders or even allow them to attend ceremony.


The spiritual belief of the Mapuche people is closely linked to the land and their natural environment from which the power of life emanates with the grace of a divine family known as ELMAPUN, ELCHEN, NGUNEMAPUN and NGUNECHEN, and which creates and sustains man and nature.

The existence of a celestial spiritual family is believed to be in constant interaction between the powers of good and bad. These powers express themselves in either chaos, destruction and uncertainty or order and harmony, thereby supporting or punishing man and nature. The Mapuche people are profoundly religious and are guided by the Machi, spiritual leaders (mainly women) who are the mediums of communication with the celestial family in order to maintain harmony and combat the malicious power of Wekufe (evil). The Machi's supernatural power is complemented by the sacred Kultrun (drum) they possess and play during their prayers and religious activities. The Machis are divided into various categories, from being solely spiritual, to being invested with the knowledge to cure and/or make people ill, through a spell. The Mapuche concept of their vision of the world is represented in the Kultrun (a symbol) which represents complex information and explains the configuration of the Mapuche world. Although traditionally the Mapuche are deeply religous, their beliefs are not presented in order to convert others. They hold the Nguillatun (religous ceremonies) every three or four years, which are conducted in private where non-mapuches are not encouraged to attend.

It is a common belief that neither man, animal, nor the most insignificant insect, could live without the grace of the great spirit, which comprises the amalgamation of the celestial family, ELMAPUN, ELCHEN, NGUNEMAPUN and NGUNECHEN, from which the Mapuche family both young and old is enriched. Ancestral beliefs are passed on from generation to generation.

here man is perceived as a integral part of nature interconnect with all the surrounding elements. The Mapuche people follow moral and ethical commitment to society, and to respect nature, therefore before using natures offerings, whether they be fruit or animals, they first ask permission and then give thanks to MAPUN KUSE-FUCHA.

R. Marhiquewun