of Peruvian healing waters
Every year in June thousands of pilgrims travel high into the Peruvian
Andes to Mount Sinakara - a glacial site long held sacred to water spirits
- for the festival of El Señor de Qoyllur Rit'i (The Lord of the
Shining Star of the Mountain). The festival venerates the Sun and the
deities of the sacred mountain - and celebrates the appearance of a child
they believe was the Christ.
In 1870, a shepherd boy called Marianito Mayta was on the sacred mountain
of Apu Ausangate when he met a boy with a very pale complexion. The child
seemed to be cold, and asked Marianito to find him some new clothes, but
Marianito had only seen clothes like those worn by the child in church.
He went to the Bishop of Cuzco for help, but the Bishop, sceptical of
Marianito's story, and thinking that someone was wearing stolen
church vestments, had the boy followed. A priest tailed Marianito first
to Ausangate, and then to Mount Sinakara, where the boy was suddenly
enveloped in a powerful light. The priest tried to grab the child, but
the boy changed into a Tayanca tree, in the image of the Christ in agony.
Marianito died he was buried beneath a stone on the site of the apparition,
and the image of the Christ subsequently appeared on the stone.
Pilgrims believe that the glacial water has healing properties, and collect
the ice during the festival. "They think it acts like a medicine
- like a
sacred water," explained mountain guide Feri Coba. "Perhaps
someone at home is not feeling well. They will drink it and be cured."
In recent years, due to climate change, the glacier has been rapidly retreating
and the pilgrims have been denied access to the healing water. "The
glaciers were bigger," said one pilgrim. "When I first came
here this particular one reached around 200 metres down. In a few years'
might not have any ice."
(Sources: www.enigmaperu.com, www.gosouthamerica.about.com)
from: Share International, November 2005
Reprinted by courtesy of © Share