Life and Death in the Andean Cultures

From Mirada Global, a look at the surprising similarities between Andean culture and the Christian message:

La Paz – In Andean worldview time is notlinear, that is, it doesn’t conceive a beginning and an end, but the coexistence with the past and the future which takes place in the present, between what happened and what is yet to come. This permanent and circular movement regenerates and complements itself with man’s everyday life and the different seasons.

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At the beginning it was the relationship. That was the true Andean substance, which manifests itself, for instance, in the structure of their language, their ethics, symbology, rites, and even in how they combine the colors of their fabrics. Indeed, the entire world is alive and animated: the heavenly bodies, the mountains, the Pachamama, the meteorological phenomena, everything has a soul, therefore, everything is alive.

So, which is the Andean vision of death? Nothing dies or ends through misfortune, it is rather a permanent rebirth, walking in different cycles, being in one and in many places. It is seen in terms of harmonious contradiction because death is conceived as the continuation of life as a “passage-voyage”, which once the circle is closed, returns to real life among the living. Each cycle is always a new beginning.

It’s essential to understand the meaning of the spirit or soul, called ajayu, which includes a double principle: immanent and transcendent. It is immanent because the man that lacks creativity, inventive, judgement, sense of humor, decision, will, is defined as “lacking ajayu” and it is transcendent because when the ajayu is separated from the body, the “passage-voyage” that’s the moment of death.

The expression is “he’s gone”; it implies that death is not the end of everything. It isn’t life in heaven or enduring punishment, but the end of the natural cycle of life and the beginning of another more elevated cycle, where everydayness continues. This is so clear that the fact of dying does not break the links with the community: the deceased is still part of the community, although he is living a new situation, a new reality.

Read the rest here. Also available in Spanish.

Tim Reidy

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Gabriel Marcella
6 years 4 months ago
Tim,
The picture is very compelling: climate change is eliminating the snow cover from the Andes. Lamentably, in the long term this will affect agriculture, therefore human habitation. The Andean cosmovision may be lost. Let's hope not.

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