Witches be witchin’

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If you’re looking for some llama fetuses La Paz is the place to shop. 80% of the population of Bolivia identifies as Catholic. But the goods sold in the many witches markets here suggest the Catholic missionaries shouldn’t count Bolivia as an unqualified success.

That llama fetuses are used on auspicious occasions, for example breaking ground on a new building. They’re burnt along with sugar and sweet wine as a tribute to Pachamama the earth goddess. The larger the building, the more fetuses you’ll need. We don’t know where the fetuses come from, and we haven’t the gumption to ask. We have heard an urban legend that shamans entice homeless drunks and addicts to building sites then murder them as the ultimate sacrifice.

The meaning and use of some of the other stuff is harder to identify. Fiona tried asking one of the witches. “Are you going to buy it?” she asked, probably frustrated by gringo ignorance at her craft. “Um, no” Fiona replied. “I’ll tell you what it’s for if you buy it,” said the witch. Fiona politely exited from the conversation hoping there was no “if you don’t buy it I’ll put a curse on you” pretext.

The term witch probably isn’t quite right, though it is the common translation. They’re more like witch doctors, or homeopaths. They’re selling things which people believe will help them out though there’s surely no scientific proof that’s the case. To me the ultimate proof of their folly seems to be this: they peddle various things that are supposed to make you wealthier. But none seems to have consumed all their wealth increasing products and run away to live on the beach.

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