Views 26 Sep Andean beliefs, a world of rituals and superstitions
 |  Category: Culture and Curiosities

Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador have the highest percentages of self-identified indigenous people, most of whom live in the highlands. The Quechua and other linguistic groups, such as the Aymara, have coexisted with the mestizos majority (people of mixed European and indigenous descent) for many centuries.

Their cultures are strong, autonomous and resilient to change and have influenced their country’s identity (through traditional music, food, language and superstition) to its core.

For travelers, experiencing these highland cultures firsthand can be as simple as getting on a bus, hanging around a typical village or shopping at a bustling local market. Here you will find the usual fare such as colorful ponchos, alpaca sweaters, Machu Picchu paintings and other crafts but also a funny little man: the Ekeko.

Andean beliefs, a world of rituals and superstitions

This ceramic doll symbolizes the Andean comerciante and odds are they look exactly like how you imagined an indigenous person from South America; colorfully dressed carrying many bags, in the Ekeko’s case filled with grains of rice, corn, sweets, confetti and even miniature dollar bills (or euros). This Andean buddy embodies abundance, fortune and prosperity…and makes for the perfect souvenir!

Superstition is found everywhere in the Andean Altiplano. When you look closely to the adobe houses you often can spot two toritos on the rooftops. These ceramic bulls resemble a blessing to the home and giving its owners protection and strength in adverseness. The interior living space is also protected from any disgrace, in the form of a cross-like cactus hanging in the hallway, not surprisingly hanging upside down.

The Cross and religion were often a clever veneer adopted among indigenous people to disguise traditional beliefs forbidden by the church. In spite their sworn allegiance to Catholicism (about 90% of South Americans are at least nominally Roman Catholic) traditional worship has proliferated until today, and it is not strange at all to go to a Christian mass one day and the next day seek help from a shaman. Hence, Andean rituals such as the reading of coca leaves or the payment to the earth (pago a la tierra) where the Apus, the Andean gods, are called upon are still fervently celebrated.

Andean beliefs, a world of rituals and superstitions

One of the best examples of the unification of ancient Andean beliefs with Catholic spiritual celebration is the pilgrimage of Qoyllority. At this Peruvian festival far away in the mountains thousands of devotees gather to receive their blessing and greet their ancestors. In the Catholic Church they bring miniature versions of goods to be blessed by Andean priests. It is believed that if you bring the same object for three years in a row, you will receive the real thing in the course of the next year. People bring all sorts of miniatures such as houses, cars, food, computers, cell phones, petrol stations, figures of domestic workers and even university diplomas (which after three years should almost be a certainty)!

Symbolism also turns up in the local pubs called chicherias where men fling metal disks as close as possible to a metal frog mounted on a big chest with various holes around it. Landing it on his head earns top points. The game supposedly originated from the Inca royals who threw gold coins in Lake Titicaca in the hope of attracting a frog, believed to possess magical healing powers and to have the ability to grant wishes. It is also a symbol for fertility and rebirth and used to call down the rain.

Andean beliefs, a world of rituals and superstitions

In the Andes you won’t find a meaning to a lucky horseshoe or shamrock, but a complete different world of symbols and beliefs that make South America such a fascinating and unique traveling destination.

The local staff and guides of Dos Manos travel agency in Cusco, Peru are all part of this cultural heritage. Their knowledge and genuine enthusiasm to invite you into their culture make going on an excursion in Peru or anywhere else in South America with Dos Manos Travel Specialist far more special than if you would go about it on your own.

Visit the webpage now to start preparing for your own South America travel adventure!

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11 Responses

  1. 1

    Gotta love Peru! Great article…transports me right back to the time i was roaming the markets in Bolivia back in 2008!

  2. 2
    Dos Manos Travel Specialist 

    If you liked reading this article, we suggest you to read this as well:

    More about Qoyllority:

    Insight into the Inca culture:

    About the cuy..a peruvian delicacy:

  3. 3
    Michiel van Rhaele 

    hahah you are right..I brought some toritos and ekekos home as souvenirs!

  4. 4

    I am a huge believer of superstitions, nice to hear of some new ones!

  5. 5

    I love the way the Andean people honor mother earth and have such a great understanding of the cycle of life. I live in Cusco at the moment and heard a wonderful story the other day about the moon. A very moving history.

  6. 6
    Chicha lover 

    Chicha was my drink of choice while in peru! My friends though I was crazy!

  7. 7

    This is a nice and informative article about the indeed funny little man, i had no idea what it exactly meant. I love Peru and if I visit next again i’ll contact you guys at Dos Manos. 🙂

  8. 8
    Dos Manos Travel Specialist 

    Thanks for all your comments! Cusco is indeed a very spiritual place! What is the story you heard about the mone Big-Travel? Please share and Mag: looking forward meeting you in person! Saludos from Cusco where the sun is shining brightly!

  9. 9
    Dos Manos Peru 

    We keep an ekeko at the office too 😉 It has been a fantastic year so far!! He is a keeper

  10. 10
    Top Online 

    Very good and interesting article I really like know new things !!

  11. 11
    South AmericanTravel Blog 

    Hi Top Line!
    Thanks for the comment! It is an interesting article about such intriguing beliefs and rituals that the Andean people have celebrated for generations!

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