Venezuelan cult growing in popularity
Poverty and poor education are contributing factors.
In Venezuela a religious cult is growing in popularity as poverty and crime consumes the nation.
Practitioners engage in a number of rituals that are part Catholic, part voodoo, and part shamanistic. They typically gather around Sorte Mountain in Venezuela, which they believe to be sacred.
According to the legend, Maria Lionza lived on that mountain in the 1400s. It is said that while she was gazing into a river, she was attacked and swallowed by an anaconda. From within the Anaconda, Maria Lionza made an agreement to marry the mountain if it would save her. Once saved from the Anaconda, Maria Lionza and the mountain became one.
People come from all around the country each October to celebrate the cult's holiest days. The national holiday of Indigenous Resistance, October 12, is generally considered to be the most sacred. On that day, some of the pilgrims dress in native garb and perform a ritual known as "dance of hot coals." They claim that the spirits prevent their feet from being burned as they walk over beds of coals.
But the chief feature of the religion is its rituals which involve summoning of the dead. Generally, famous people are summoned into the living with the possessed murmuring and chanting as their words are interpreted by a cult priest. However, ancestors and virtually any other dead spirit can be conjured up according to the faithful.
Worshipers are then able to question the spirits and get advice. Virtually any topic from love, to prosperity, to other personal problems can be discussed. Priests and spirits are generally consulted before any major decisions are made.
Researchers say the cult has become popular as crime and poverty skyrocket in the increasingly troubled country. More than a third of the population lives in poverty and is poorly educated.
Established institutions are finding it difficult to meet the needs of the people, so when their basic needs remain unmet they become increasingly likely to turn to a religious cult -- it's that cult offers them solutions.
Commonly, practitioners seek the advice of spirits instead of psychologists. Less often, but more dangerous are occasions when people approach the spirits with physical ailments. Witchcraft is commonly blamed for sickness, so practitioners seek healing from shamans rather than doctors.
So long as Venezuela remains an impoverished country with many people lacking education and social services, the cult of Maria Lionza is likely to remain popular.
© 2011, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More Americas News
- Sebastián Piñeira: 'Lo correcto y sabio' es defender la vida y oponerse al aborto
- Fútbol: Cardenal Cipriani y Parma de Italia juntos en pro de niños pobres de Manchay
- The evil pit of despair that awaits illegal immigrants deported to Tijuana
- ¡Dios no es una amenaza para el ser humano!, clama el Papa Francisco
- Fracking protesters in Canada set up burning tire blockade, dance around flames
- Brazilian teen girls becoming prostitutes before World Cup in bid to escape poverty
- Organizan en Argentina bicicletada por la libertad religiosa
- Madre de Gustavo Cerati: Dios es quien decide sobre la vida y la muerte de mi hijo
- Mexican drug cartels now illegally mining iron ore for shipment to China
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?