The spilling of blood: documenting concepts of revitalization in cycles of life and death in the Andes
Penelope Dransart (University of Aberdeen)
Paper short abstract:
People make libations of camelid blood in highland Andean communities to revitalize life qualities in persons, herd animals and other entities. The paper addresses the connections of such activities with life processes and the dynamics of political power in cycles of life, death and revitalization.
Paper long abstract:
Brightly coloured oxygenated blood circulating through a living organism is a sign of life, but the spilling of dark blood can signal wounding or death. In highland Andean communities people make libations of llama, alpaca or sheep blood and other liquids with the purpose of revitalizing life qualities in persons, herd animals and other entities. Andean countries have suffered national crises in which the state has, in recent times, failed to protect its people. This paper, written from my perspective of having conducted fieldwork with herders from Isluga, northern Chile, reviews ethnographic studies of rural Andean agrarian and pastoralist communities, mainly in Peru and Chile, in the context of local people's practical actions in making libations. It addresses how these ritual activities are connected with life processes and trajectories of political power in cycles of life, death and revitalization. The symbolic meanings to be explored include the importance of breath and the infusion of life-giving oxygen.
Documenting the meanings of life and death in the Americas