Holy Rocks in Peru

Holy Rocks in Peru

When I went to Peru in 2014, we saw the lesser-known parts of the country. No Macchu Picchu for us! We were up in the mountains until we all got sick, then we retreated to the area called the high jungle. One of the things our local guides took us to see was the “Santuario de Piedras,” or Sanctuary of Rocks. An indigenous group called the Yanesha worship these rocks as gods.

According to their lore, Yompiri, the god of the Yaneshas, began to argue with his brother Santiago in this location. Santiago was angry and turned Yompiri to stone. Just at that moment, Mama Achi (Yompiri’s wife) and their children showed up, and Santiago turned them to stone also. Santiago thought he had eliminated all of the witnesses to his deeds, but the Supreme Being had seen what Santiago had done and, as punishment, turned Santiago to stone as well.

There are three main rocks at the site. The largest is supposed to be Yompiri, the smallest is his wife Mama Achi, at the medium sized one is Santiago. There are other smaller rocks that the Yaneshas recognize as children of Yompiri. Each June 24, Yanesha natives gather in this place to worship their God where they dance, sing and deliver offerings.

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We talked to one Yanesha woman who told us that if (for example) she wanted more money, she would throw her arms around the rock and pray to her gods asking them for more money. She said that when a piece of the rock fell off she would take it and put it in a place relevant to her prayers (in this case, inside a coin purse) and that was how she knew her prayers would be answered.

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Animism is the belief that non-human entities such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects possess a spiritual essence. While it may seem silly to us, it is quite prevalent among the indigenous populations of South America.

Remember that if you are visiting a site like this, you should treat it with respect, as if visiting a cathedral in another country.

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