Happy New Year

By Published On: June 21, 2005Categories: Culture1 Comment on Happy New Year

No, I haven’t got confused. Today is the Aymaran new year and winter solstice in Bolivia. (I am hoping to find an Aymaran birthday so I can celebrate that twice a year too). To mark it I got up inordinately early to head up to Tiwanaku, an ancient religious city dating back above 1500 years, situated 70 kilometres outside La Paz near Lake Titicaca.

As we arrived, it reminded me of Glastonbury festival without the rain and mud and about 25 degrees colder and with slightly more ponchos. In the shadowy pre-dawn, we joined hundreds of people streaming into the old temple. There was a buzz in the crowd, some fairly drunk Bolivians swaying next to a bonfire, someone playing a didgeridoo (see, just like Glastonbury) and little attention paid to the official speeches by various Aymaran dignatories and priests.

Then at last, fingers of sunlight crept above the horizon. Everyone held out their hands, to absorb the cosmic energy, although I doubt I absorbed much because my fingers were so numb.

But soon the light transformed the landscape spreading tentacles of warmth and colour. To celebrate, lots of Bolivians started Conga dancing to drums and pipes brandishing brilliantly rainbow coloured Wiphala flags. I can understand why Aymaran cultures worshipped the sun in this climate. Without it, the altiplano would be desperate, icy and desolate. But sun here brings life and colour to a beautiful but inhospitable environment.

After a tour around the site, we had a small ceremony presided over by an Aymaran priest where we burnt offerings of coca leaves, sweets and an attractive-looking llama foetus (photo included in the gallery) to pray for a happy and prosperous new year.

Happy new year!


One Comment

  1. Sarah June 22, 2005 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Hello Nick,
    5 hours before you welcomed the sun, I did the same at Stonehenge, in the company of 21,000 druids, hippies and ciderheads. Didgeridoos were out in force and judging by your photo, some of the headgear wasn’t that different from at Tiwanaku.
    I like to think of wave after wave of new people greeting the sun as the earth rolled around lighting up new slices of the earth.
    Blessed be (that’s a druid greeting I’m told)

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