LA PAZ – The varieties of indigenous offerings of sweets and assorted foods – typical in the Andean world in August to thank Mother Earth, or “Pachamama,” for her fruits – are on display at a Bolivian museum.
August is the month in which the Earth receives these ritual offerings to recover her vigor after the Southern Hemisphere winter, Alejandra Rufo, one of those in charge of the exhibit on the “waxt’as” – or offerings – now on display at the Museo Costumbrista (Costumbrist Museum) in La Paz.
The exhibit, entitled “Lakan Phaxsi: August, the time between the end and the beginning,” reviews the ceremonies that are held mainly in rural Bolivia but which have also been transferred to the cities.
“The Earth is like a woman. When she gives birth, she loses much strength and needs to nourish herself because after the winter the Earth is dry, she’s hungry, thirsty, she opens her mouth and needs to eat. That’s what the (offerings) are for,” said Rufo in explaining the Andean belief.
The offerings are designed to express the people’s thanks for the Earth’s work, to pay her back for the harvest, to request peace and health and as a way to thank the “spirits of the mountains.”
Specifically, the offerings are comprised of coca leaf, “wira q’uwa” (a plant like oregano), a product taken from llama breasts related to cooking oil and stone amulets representing vivacity.
But llama fetuses also figure prominently in the offerings to Pachamama and are decorated with colorful yarn and bright pieces of paper as per the belief that the “Earth wants to eat meat.”
“Animals are offered so that there are no misfortunes or accidents involving humans,” Rufo said.
The offerings also feature rectangular or square colored crackers with figures symbolizing the requests of the people, along with incense as a means to “cleanse one of ghosts or curses.”
In addition, pure ethyl alcohol, considered a “male” drink, and “winitu” or sugared water colored with cactus fruits, considered to be a “female” liquor, are included in the offerings, according to museum staffers.
The offerings to Pachamama may only be made by a “yatiri” or shaman, and not by just anyone. Otherwise, tradition holds that Mother Earth may levy punishments on the uninitiated who transgress in this way.