Accepted Paper:

Holding the saint in one's arms. Miracles and exchange in Apiao, southern Chile  


Giovanna Bacchiddu (Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Chile)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the cult of San Antonio de Padua in Apiao island. The image of the saint circulates among the island households, where novenas are celebrated in exchange for the miracles he previously provided. People interact emotionally and physically with the saint as if he was a person.

Paper long abstract:

The small community of Apiao island (700 inhabitants, mostly Catholic) regularly host elaborate public prayer meetings (novenas) to celebrate a miraculous saint, San Antonio de Padua. The saint's image is fetched from another island and stays in Apiao for cycles of 9 days. During his stay Anchuquito, as people familiarly call him, is hosted in a private household, the residence of the person who received the miracle. The image of the saint is spoken of as if he was a person, and held and kissed as if he was a baby. During novenas people pray, eat, drink and dance in front of the saint and in his honour. The peculiar relationship of affection and reciprocal exchange that tie Apiao people to the little image is described and analysed. Negotiation with this powerful entity culminates with the celebration of the novena ritual gatherings. In the cult's celebration, a unique code of decorum takes place regarding the body and the proper way to interact with one's fellow novena goers.

Religious beliefs as well as crucial social rules inform and shape a cult that embraces and dramatically exposes the pillars of Apiao people's social theory.

Panel W011
Body and soul: on corporeality in contemporary religiosity