In the verdant forests of a Venezuelan mountain steeped in mysticism, pilgrims gather in search of miracles and to pay tribute to their queen, María Lionza.
Within the magico-religious movement named in her honor, followers revere María Lionza – a mythological goddess figure of centuries-old indigenous legend – as a powerful spirit and guardian of nature
The faith is a complex and ever-evolving synthesis of indigenous beliefs, West African traditions, European Spiritism, Cuban Santería, and folk Catholicism. Widely practiced in Venezuela, María Lionza is spreading to other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
In addition to María Lionza herself, worshippers follow a dizzying pantheon of spirits and saints that includes Amerindian and slave soldiers murdered by Spanish conquistadors, African divinities, legendary South American liberator Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan folk saint Dr. José Gregorio Hernandez, and even a Viking warrior known as Erik the Red.
Marialionceras, as believers are known, form caravans led by mediums who serve as intermediaries to the spirit realm. Through rituals and trance, they summon spirits to hear the pleas and problems of the faithful, to offer guidance and healing, and to perform miracles.