The practice of pilgrimage has not suffered variants, only the deities have been transformed

21/04/2021

In pre-Hispanic times the tops of hills and mountains, rivers, cenotes, and pyramids were the centers of worship to which man-made pilgrimages to ask the gods for their help, today in the 21st century this type of practice has not undergone major changes, only the deities, sites and offerings have been transformed, but the meaning remains the same.

Since ancient times, human beings have had the need to communicate with their gods to ask them for a favor or miracle in exchange for abstinence or sacrifice. In pre-Hispanic times people implored Tlaloc for rain for the sowing fields and to have good harvests, now they ask Jesus or the Virgin of Guadalupe for health or economic improvement. This was and is done through fasting, sacrifices, and pilgrimages.

A pilgrimage is a trip made for religious reasons, that is to say, people travel to certain places that they conceive as sacred spaces. With these trips, people seek to establish communication with the gods they venerate, to ask for something in exchange for a promise. In pre-Columbian times and according to material evidence, the centers of worship were the tops of hills and mountains or rivers and cenotes, but also spaces created by man, as was the case of the pyramids.

The way of venerating the gods is maintained to this day, but today as a product of the mixture that took place in the Colony, between pre-Hispanic customs and Catholicism, where the substitution of the deities for some saint or virgin is presented.

A clear example of this mixture that lasts until today is the devotion to the Christ of Chalma. It is said that in a cave, right where the Temple of the Lord of Chalma is now, Oxtotéotl (god of the cave) was worshipped with human sacrifices, a place where, according to oral tradition in colonial times, the apparitions of this Christ took place, and since then he has been venerated.

Another aspect that has not changed is the way of representing gratitude for the favors or miracles received, and that nowadays is known as votive offerings. Pre-Hispanic cultures placed figurines or vessels that were mostly representations of Tlaloc, filled with water or blood.

Today this is represented in signs or drawings that narrate and pay for the grace received, which the population places in the churches of the most miraculous saints, such as the Lord of Chalma or the Holy Child of Atocha.

Regarding the offerings, the way of making them has changed because they respond to the idiosyncrasy of each era; before, human or animal immolations were made, now it is done through practices that imply a sacrifice, such as fasting, abstinence, and the realization of long pilgrimages.

By Mexicanist, Source INAH