Girish Gupta

HOME

PHOTOS

ONLINE

Twitter
Instagram
IFTTT
Facebook
LinkedIn
Keybase
GitHub

BY COUNTRY

Brazil
Colombia
Cuba
Ecuador
Egypt
Guyana
Iraq
Jordan
Lebanon
Mexico
United Kingdom
Venezuela

BY MEDIUM

Text
Photo
Radio
TV/Video

BY PUBLISHER

Al Jazeera
BBC
BuzzFeed
CBC
Christian Science Monitor
CNN
Daily Mail
Datum
Ecologist
Economist Intelligence Unit
Emerging Markets
Financial Times
Foreign Policy
France 24
Fusion
GlobalPost
Guardian
Independent
La Prensa (Panama)
LatinFinance
Mancunion
Monocle
National (Abu Dhabi)
New Internationalist
New Statesman
New York Times
New Yorker
NPR
PBS
PRI
Radio France Internationale
Reuters
RTE
Sky News
Sun
Sunday Times
Telegraph
TIME
Times of London
USA Today
Vice
WLRN

ABOUT

About
CV
Contact (PGP Key)
Venezuelan cult draws tens of thousands of followers
Oct. 31, 2011 — Sorte, Venezuela



Published by Reuters (en espaŮol, em PortuguÍs)

The jungle air is thick with cigar smoke and pierced by an occasional scream as drums beat, people chant and candles flicker illuminating bodies squirming.

Empty whisky bottles strewn across the ground are also a part of the ritual which is hundreds of years old.

"I still feel very cold thanks to the presence of the dead," said Ana Maria Caraya, who remembers her 15-minute trance as a dream. "I fell asleep. I feel nothing more."

The 25-year-old is one of thousands of believers in the cult of Maria Lionza, who is thought to have been born in the 16th century and was the daughter of an Indian chief.

Her followers travel to the jungles of the Sorte mountain in Venezuela's Yaracuy state for one week each October looking for healing and protection.

No one is certain about the origins of the cult, which includes aspects of Catholicism and African worship, or the number of followers. Estimates range from 10 percent to 30 percent of Venezuela's population.

Official believe about 20,000 followers, from Venezuela, the Americas and even Europe, descend on the mountain in October.

"MIRROR OF VENEZUELAN SOCIETY"

Caracas-born Eloy Parra is the medium who led Caraya in her trance, channeling the spirit of a 10th century Viking explorer who is now saint for the cult.

"What we're doing here is cleaning her aura with candles so she does not encounter earthly obstacles," said the 34-year-old, who was wearing only beads and shorts.

"Maria Lionza is the greatest thing we have here in Venezuela," she added.

Followers of the cult believe their chosen saint will possess the body of the medium who entices the follower into a trance in which they often speak in tongues or harm themselves.

Maria Lionza is known by members of the cult as La Reina or the queen. Angelina Pollok-Eltz, a former professor of anthropology at the Andres Bello Catholic University in Caracas who has written a number of books about the cult, said it began in the Sorte mountains in the early 1920s and was brought to Venezuela's urban centers a decade later.

"The majority of the believers are members of the lower classes," she added.

The latest trend is the worship of saints dedicated to the thugs that plague the streets of one of Latin America's most crime-ridden countries.

"The cult of Maria Lionza is like a mirror of Venezuelan culture and society," said Wade Glenn, an anthropologist at Tulane University in the United States.

"Whenever there is a significant change in the cult, we must ask ourselves what is occurring in Venezuela to cause such a change," he explained. "People use Maria Lionza as a coping mechanism for life's hardships, as a form of survival."

Wade believes that estimates of the number of members who take part in the rituals may be much higher.

"I am confident in stating that minimally 60 percent of the population or more has at some level participated in the cult of Maria Lionza."

Filed from
Sorte, Venezuela






More...

Exclusive: At least 123 Venezuelan soldiers detained since protests - documents
Jul. 6, 2017


Venezuela hikes minimum wage 50 percent, effectively down 17 percent
Jul. 2, 2017


Venezuela movie actor behind helicopter attack on government buildings
Jun. 28, 2017


Fourteen Venezuelan army officers jailed in first week of protests - documents
Jun. 6, 2017


Exclusive: U.S. considers possible sanctions against Venezuela oil sector - officials
Jun. 4, 2017


Exclusive: Trump administration concerned about U.S. firms giving financial 'lifeline' to Venezuela
Jun. 4, 2017


United Airlines ends flights to Venezuela, further isolating country
Jun. 3, 2017


Venezuela sets new exchange mechanism, as currency continues to slide
May. 24, 2017


Exclusive: Venezuela holds 5,000 Russian surface-to-air MANPADS missiles
May. 22, 2017


Venezuelan opposition activists march to Leopoldo Lopez' jail
Apr. 28, 2017


Venezuela says inflation 274 percent last year, economists say far higher
Apr. 20, 2017


Venezuelan protests against government leave three dead
Apr. 19, 2017


Venezuelans return to streets, roused by ban on opposition leader
Apr. 8, 2017


Venezuelan opposition, security forces clash in anti-Maduro protests
Apr. 6, 2017


Venezuela security forces battle anti-Maduro protesters
Apr. 4, 2017








© Girish Gupta