The Festival of Qollur Rit’i, Mt. Ausangate, Peru
After last night's fantastic showing of "Les Stroud's Beyond Survival: Descendants of the Inkan High Priests," (you can download at Amazon for $1.99) I decided I wanted to learn more about the Qollur Rit’i festival held in the high Andes at Mt. Ausungate every year. Here's some of what I found.
The remote, ice-ringed Sinakara valley high in Peru’s southern Andes, is usually a silent, lonely place inhabited only by alpacas. But, on the full moon before Corpus Christi (typically in early June) some 30,000 people gather upon the mountain slopes.
Each year thousands of pilgrims hike many miles to reach this valley at nearly 15,000-feet above sea level. A couple hundred foreign and national tourists make up the crowd but the majority are pilgrims who have come to pray for good health or fertility, a university degree or money to buy a truck. Some are here to plead for divine intercession in some personal injustice and others simply to beg for grace. It is believed that if you act out your dreams at Qoyllur Rit’i they will come true. Of course you must make the pilgrimage three consecutive years for this to bear true.
Located high in the Sinakara valley, twenty-six kilometers to the south of Ausungate peak (6,372 meters, 20,905 ft.), the shrine of Qoyllur Rit’i derives its sanctity from four separate but interrelated factors. First, is that the June date of the annual pilgrimage to the site (and more precisely the pre-Christian sacred day of June 21, the time of the solstice) seems to be associated with the prehistoric, pan-Andean preoccupation with the Pleiades constellation and its association with the wanderings of the mythical pilgrim-hero Wiracocha. Second, the general importance of the sacred mountain, Apu Ausungate, on the side of which the shrine is located. Third, the pre-Colonial era legends that Ausungate has been known to appear to local peasants as a white-skinned boy with blond hair (there are strange parallels here to the physical look of the god Viracocha, said to be a white-haired, blue-eyed man). And fourth, the Christian legend of how a local shepherd boy, and soon thereafter some church officials from Cuzco, encountered a mysterious Caucasian-appearing youth, assumed to be the child Christ, at the place where the pilgrimage shrine now stands.
Alright..... I want to go!
Here's a very informative video on the festival:
Here's a great slideshow of the festival: