Poqomam - Religion and Expressive Culture

Present-day Poqomam religion consists of a traditional framework into which Catholicism has been assimilated. Although they accept elements of Catholicism, it is clear that the Poqomam tailor Catholic beliefs to reinforce local beliefs and practices. For instance, the Catholic stories about creation and Jesus are interpreted from their perspective to mean that God taught the original Poqomam the secret of milpa and that Jesus came into the world to distribute land.

Creencias, secretos, and luck are other integral components of Poqomam religious life. Creencias are the myths that explain the unknown. Central to many of these stories is a belief in charmed places where it is possible to pass into the underworld. In the underworld, it is possible to find wealth and knowledge. Secretos are carefully guarded formulas that can be used to solve both physical and spiritual problems. It is believed that luck comes to individuals either through birth or as a gift from the underworld.

Disease is thought to be largely caused by supernatural forces. Since Poqomam believe that brujos (witches) cast spells that cause illnesses, many people search out other brujos to counteract the effects of a spell; however, if God has decided that it is a person's time, no cure will succeed in making the patient well again.

Numerous rituals and ceremonies maintain the balance between the realm of the supernatural and the earthly. In fact, there are sixty-eight days during the year when formal rituals are conducted. These rituals include fertility rites, veneration of saints, and the Day of the Dead.

At death, the family gathers together and holds a feast. The descendants of the departed are obligated to pray for the soul of the deceased for nine days, after which time they must pray for the soul of the deceased during each Day of the Dead for the next seven years. It is thought that these prayers will help the soul to pass into heaven. Other services offered to the departed include the placement of food, drink, and candles at the grave and the placement of water at the home altar.

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