Lenca - Religion and Expressive Culture

The religious beliefs of the Lenca are a combination of traditional beliefs and the teachings of the Catholic church. Traditionally, the Lenca believe in a direct link between the spiritual and the natural. Spirits and dioses (gods) abound in the Lenca cosmology and must be carefully dealt with.

From the Catholic church, the Lenca have taken the concepts of an overarching creator God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. The Catholic saints have been combined with the traditional spirits and are worshiped as household deities.

As the Catholic church has moved closer and closer to orthodoxy in Latin America, traditional Lenca beliefs have been harder and harder to find. This is a function of both a small-scale return to orthodoxy and an attempt to take traditional beliefs underground.

The Lenca maintain a multitude of ceremonies and rituals derived from both Catholic and traditional practices. The most sacred day of the year is the day on which the patron saint of the town is carried through the streets. This day is marked by a great festival and worship of the saints in the streets.

There are no trained medical personnel in rural areas. In those areas where medical professionals do exist, many people distrust them and remain under the care of traditional healers. Curing is carried out by pharmacists, curanderos (traditional curers), and midwives. A popular method of treatment is traditional herbal therapy.

When a person dies, mourners hold a feast during which large amounts of chicha, a fermented maize beverage, are consumed. The drinking and mourning often go on for nine days.

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