Devil Dance

by Angie Washington on October 31, 2014

Halloween. Day of the Dead. All Saints Day. This week we observe the earthly and underworld of the spiritual realm. As I regale you with tales of Bolivia, rife with ancient connections to the other-world, consider the spirituality embedded in your dwelling place. Let us begin.

The Devil’s Uncle

I’ve visited Potosí in the mountains of Bolivia a few times. It claims the title of populated city with the highest altitude in the world at 4,100 meters (13,451 feet), a high place. It used to be filthy rich. Conquistadores stripped their silver mines bare then raped and pillaged the land. The duress of depressing poverty left only meager spelunking tours and an ominous statue of the Devil’s Uncle in every cave.

Residents visit the caves regularly to sprinkle on the statues coca leaves, cigarettes and other items to appease the bad tempered spirit. Nicknamed Tío his visage takes many forms prominently displayed throughout the shrunken city. The ignorance of the rage of the Tío is told to have led to the atrocious devastation Potosí suffered. The fear of his punishment grips the hearts of many Bolivians.

Some PG images in this music video filmed in Bolivia, shared solely for cultural context:

Devil Dance

A dispute caused by the actions of a Peruvian pageant contestant had leaders claiming that the ‘Devil Dance’ belongs to Bolivia alone. Called the ‘Diablada’ in Spanish, the dance interprets the fight between good (the arc angel) and evil (the Devil and the seven deadly sins). The dramatic costumes, flailing arms, and vigorous jumping dance steps leave a deep impression on the onlookers. Centuries ago Jesuit choreographers intended to send a clear message to the tribal people of the land that would one day become: Perú, Bolivia, and Chile.

This dance is kept alive as a devout remembrance of the powers in Bolivia. Many believe that to allow this brazen display of syncretism to be extinguished would signal the downfall of the nation.

devil dance

Blessings and Curses

One lady said to me, “I am a Christian, not a Catholic. Though, I do think it is important we observe cultural traditions so that our children can proudly carry on the Bolivian culture to the next generation.” She said this to explain why she practices the first Friday of the month ritual called the Q’owa during which elements are burned so as to fill the house or establishment with a smoke of blessing. The elements include coca leaves, tiny sugar statues, and dried animal fetus.

During this purification ritual one procures blessings from the Pachamama to ward off curses of all sorts, according to their practitioners.

Spiritual Warfare

These are only three examples of spiritual engagement in Bolivia: burnt animal sacrifices to the Pachamama, dances displaying deep seated beliefs of powerful principalities, and gifts laid before the Devil’s Uncle by people cowering in caves. I could go on. I imagine you, too, could share about the spiritual practices of the people of your nation.

Related articles:

Participating in the religious ceremonies of other faith traditions
This I Used To Believe
Can Nations Change?
Voice of the National ~ an uncomfortable conversation

Since the start of this blog collaborative people have requested articles on the topic of ‘Spiritual Warfare’. Due to the beautiful diversity of denominational and theological beliefs represented in our global readership we the editors have requested the team of writers avoid attempts to indoctrinate or persuade, thereby excluding people. Rather, we present what we believe and invite people to respectful conversations in hopes to promote encouragement and growth.

Coca: Repurpose or Eradicate

Bolivia’s top export is coca leaves. It happens to be the main raw ingredient of cocaine, though it does have many other uses. Some believe that eradication is the only solution for the evils produced by drug lords. Others are convinced that the crops can be repurposed for harmless uses.

Might these be two different approaches to the spiritual practices of the nations we serve?

We can enter with the belief we are called to eradicate evil and any evidence it ever existed. Like in Chile where the 31st of October is not Halloween but legally observed as the national holiday: The Day of Evangelical Churches and Protestants.

Or we can take the approach of repurposing, or redeeming, the spiritual practices. The famed story of the Peace Child shows us a missionary who saw the story of Christ in the practices of the tribes who would offer a child to establish peace. Salvation came to the people through the message of this tradition.

Ghost Stories

Under the influence of the oppression of evil spirits in your life and the lives of the people of your nation, what works? Let’s talk about it. Share your stories of liberation from the hand of the enemy. Share the practices which brought freedom.

photo credit: Bolivia Travel Site

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About Angie Washington

Co-Founder, Editor of this collaborative blog site: A Life Overseas

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