We left the church and went on to have breakfast in the local market with the local people. We had coffee with milk (fresh from the cow), bread and ‘queso fresco’ (fresh cheese made straight from the cows' milk that very day.) Ronald began telling me that Bolivians believe in Catholicism as well as paganism. For example, festivals such as ‘Carnaval’ are pagan festivals but they still celebrate the Catholic festivals that they do in Europe. In this way they integrate going to mass and Catholic ceremonies with earth worshipping rituals.We then looked around the shops and Ronald pointed out that they sell dehydrated, dead animals. Depending on your illness to get better you need to sacrifice a certain animal to the Gods by burning it. All Bolivians know which dehydrated animal they need to sacrifice and for which illness. They don’t necessarily need to visit a shaman or witchdoctor. Every first Friday of the month the people carry out rituals to Pachamama, God of the Earth. Bolivians are very superstitious, and they really believe that their fate is decided by both Catholic and pagan Gods. Keeping the Gods happy in order to improve their financial prospects and their standard of living is still a big priority for them
OPINION ON RITUALS
What wonderful lessons on rituals I am being given here in La Paz! After having lived with three Bolivians in Madrid and after having taken part in their annual celebrations I knew that they were quite superstitious. However, it was only upon arriving into Bolivia that I realised the high importance which most Bolivians place on Pagan festivals, Animistic rituals, Catholic festivals and general rituals to God. When I worked in an indigenous village in Costa Rica and also on my trip to Laos I noticed they observed similar 'Animistic' traditions to the ones observed here and were generally related to agriculture. However in Laos a large percentage of the population were Buddhists and in Costa Rica many people were Catholics. However throughout Bolivia it seems almost everybody from business people to university professionals still observe these ancient 'Inca' traditions.
I really love the idea of continuing with old rituals and see no harm in it whatsoever so long as the rituals don't harm people or animals . In my opinion the big danger comes when people leave so much responsibility with the Gods and with regular offerings, that they don’t take any practical action to improve their situation (actions which in Europe have been tried and tested and evidence shows the methods work.) For example, here people baptise their cars with water but fail to service them. Science proves that cars rust in water and we know in developed countries that cars need regular MOTS to be roadworthy and therefore we can prevent accidents. To me it makes sense to follow practical methods rather than relying on God sending the cars on the correct route for life. I couldn't believe it when I saw Argentinian cars were waiting to be blessed. I thought
'Imagine buying a new car in Argentina, driving all the way to Copacabana, passing through rainstorms and dangerous mountain roads just to get a blessing from a priest. Religion really can overpower logic in a big way.'
I'm also concerned about the shaman practices here. For example whilst burning and offering to God a dehydrated sheep which is already dead it's not harming the animal. However if you have cancer, but to save your life you just burn a sheep in offering it to the Gods but fail to go to the doctors then you are surely likely to get worse and putting yourself in danger. Personally, I’d rather tackle illness from three perspectives – one being the Eastern methods of acupuncture and balancing energy chakras, two meditation,spiritual healing and thirdly I'd use tried and tested 'practical proven' methods from the west with a preference for homeopathy. For sure, if I get ill here I will ask for an immediate transfer to a hospital in Buenos Aires - no amount of sacrificing sea creatures, chickens or sheep will make ME feel better. I'll need a western doctor.