Friday, January 20, 2012

Of Superstition and Precipitation

 In Bogotá's Central Cemetery, believers wait to ask for assistance at the tomb of Bavaria brewery founder Leo Kopp. 
The news that Bogota paid a shaman to prevent rain at the Under-20 Football World Cup and Pres. Juan Manuel Santos' inauguration has drawn attention to Colombians' many superstitions.
Juan of Money is here. 

The shaman,  a campesino coffee farmer in Tolima Province named Jorge Gonzalez, evidently did a good job on the World Cup, which suffered little rain. However, his work on the presidential inauguration was a little more questionable, since it drizzled that day. But the shaman pointed out to El Tiempo that he was at least somewhat effective, since it might otherwise have rained much harder.

Doña Mercedes, in her esoterica shop. 
"The winter was hitting really hard," he told El Tiempo. "I'm good at controlling the rain, but I'm no god."

Nevertheless, a reporter who visited Gonzalez' farm in Tolima wondered why Gonzalez, who learned his powers from a book about King Solomon and employs a pendulum as his only tool, could not prevent floodwaters from destroying his own coffee plants.

But the rains affaire is only an example of an ubiquitous phenomenon in Colombia.

El Negro Felipe, Maria Lionza
and el Indio Guaquaipuro,
called Las Tres Potencias.
Colombian superstitions range from the charming and harmless, such as the believers who line up on Sundays and Mondays in Bogotá's Central Cemetery to whisper in the bronze ear of Bavaria Beer Brewery founded Leo Kopp, famed for assisting with legal and economic problems.

Who'll stop the rain? Put the
chaman on this unseasonal
downpour in Bogotá.
Turn on the radio in the morning and you'll hear seers promising to give you health, love or a winning lottery number. Caller after caller dials in with testimonials about how the psychic changed his or her life. Who falls for this? Evidently, enough people do to pay for daily radio time.

I also visited La Candelaria's Calle 10, where several shops sell esoterica supposed to bring love, luck and wealth. Doña Mercedes, who runs the El Señor de los Milagros esoterica store, told me about figures like Dr. Gregorio, who is supposed to bring health, La Reina Maria Lionza, who brings love and luck, and el Negro Felipe, who brings good fortune in business.
Dr. Jose Gregorio amongst Catholic symbols. 

Why, in the end, are these 'superstitions' any different or less valid than established religion? While I talked with Doña Mercedes, whose shop mixes Catholic and esoteric objects, people lined up nearby in Plaza Bolivar to see a few drops of Pope Juan Pablo the Second's blood.

And Colombians are not alone in being superstitious. In the U.S., to see what it was like, I once worked as a late-night telephone psychic. Incredibly, people with college degrees and professional jobs paid something like $15 bucks a minute to ask me questions about their future. All were down on their luck, lonely, unemployed and desperate. I tried not to predict, but just gave encouraging advice and suggested they talk instead to their ministers, neighbors and relatives. I even told them that the whole psychic thing was a fraud and got them off the phone as fast as I could. Still, some had a stubborn faith.

"Isn't there anybody there who really believes in psychic powers?" one caller asked me.
Just open these boxes for health and love! 

Finally, the phone rang one more time. It was the psychic company boss, who hadn't been psychic enough to detect that I had lied to him from the start about my supposed powers.

"We've been monitoring your calls," he said. "You're fired. You'll be hearing from our lawyer."

I never did. So much for his predicting powers.

Related post: Let the Indio Amazonico Solve Your Troubles.

Esoteric shops on Calle 10 in La Candelaria. 

Seeking fortune at the tomb of Julio Garavito, the man on the 20,000 peso bill. 

Catholic and esoteric objects mix. 

Love me!

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

city said...

thanks for share.