The Snow Star Festival - Qoyllur Rit’i
Unique to Peruvian culture, this exciting experience has you join thousands of pilgrims and visitors from around the world, over 3 days as they ascend 5200m and more with processions and dances, combining indigenous, Incan and Christian beliefs, to honour Christ, the beginning of harvest and the glacier of Ausangate.
Once, a local boy, Mariano, was watching over a herd of alpacas. He met a boy, Manuel who gave him food. They became very good friends. Manuel wanted to make Mariano a similar set of clothes to his. Mariano went to Cusco for fabric, which was used only by the Bishop! The curious Bishop followed Mariano back and ascended the mountain to find Manuel dressed in white, shining bright! On touching him, the boy transformed into a *tayanka* bush with a depiction of Christ’s crucifixion on it. Mariano fell dead thinking his friend was killed. Buried in the same spot, a shrine with Christ’s crucifixion painted on it was built too. At 17000 feet, in the southern Andes, in late May/early June, under the full moon, one of the most amazing cultural events of South America takes place. A trek to a towering glacier to gather sacred ice. It is a festival full of colour, dance and spiritual connection. A celebration of the reappearance of the Pleiades constellation, marking the beginning of harvest, honouring Christ and Ausungate the sacred glacier. 3 days of non-stop singing, dancing and praying is followed by a 6 hour hike, in the moonlight, carrying heavy wooden crosses, up the glaciers to the very top. On this pilgrimage we understand the Apus (Mountain Gods). They represent something so basic, so free, it needs no justification. This is for anyone to whom the spirits of the mountains hold relevance. They don’t belong to any particular ethnicity but being amongst them this way represents the importance of coming together and honouring the humanity in all. This pilgrimage is also for those who want a glimpse, a very privileged one, into an age-old tradition… that could be fast disappearing, given the glacial retreat in the face of climate change
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