Venezuelans seek strength, healing from mythical goddess

  • In this photo taken Oct. 12, 2019, a man with chewing tobacco dripping from his mouth goes into a trance as a grandfather spirit known as a “Chamarrero” is believed to enter his body during an annual gathering of followers of indigenous goddess Maria Lionza on Sorte Mountain in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state. Those immersed in the old tradition say it puts them in a trance that allows them to channel spirits and escape injury from otherwise dangerous feats. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

  • In this photo taken Oct. 13, 2019, followers of Maria Lionza lie amid candles and white powder designs inside a circle called an oracle during a ritual for prosperity on Sorte Mountain where followers of indigenous goddess Maria Lionza gather annually in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state. Venezuela is predominantly Roman Catholic, and the church disapproves of the folk religion but has long since abandoned its attempts to suppress it. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

  • In this photo taken Oct. 13, 2019, a man carries a statue of indigenous goddess Maria Lionza riding on a tapir, on Sorte Mountain where her followers gather annually in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state. According to legend, the goddess came from the mountain at Sorte, near the northwestern town of Chivacoa. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

  • In this photo taken Oct. 12, 2019, a spiritual healer known as a “madrina” starts a ritual on Sorte Mountain where followers of indigenous goddess Maria Lionza gather annually in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state. While her followers gather on the mountain for weeks at this time of the year, Oct. 12 marks the biggest gathering, coinciding with Indigenous People’s Day, known in Latin America as “Dia de la Raza.” (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

  • In this photo taken Oct. 12, 2019, a spiritual guide known as a “madrina” performs a ritual on a man training to become a medium to receive spirits into his body on Sorte Mountain where followers of indigenous goddess Maria Lionza gather annually in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state. The tradition is hundreds of years old and draws on elements of the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria and indigenous rituals, as well as Catholicism. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

  • In this photo taken Oct. 13, 2019, girl lies surrounded by candles and designs of white powder during a ceremony on Sorte Mountain where followers of indigenous goddess Maria Lionza gather annually in Venezuela’s Yaracuy state. Believers congregated for rituals on the remote mountainside where adherents make an annual pilgrimage to pay homage to the goddess, seeking spiritual connection and physical healing. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CHIVACOA, Venezuela — Every year, thousands trek to a mountainside in Venezuela for rituals played out with fire, blood and smoke to pay tribute to the indigenous goddess Maria Lionza, who is revered across the crisis-stricken South American nation.

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