ALVARO MARTINEZ

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Symbol in rituality in the healing process of soul diseases in La Paz, Bolivia

In my thesis I researched a healing technique through rituality and use of symbols developed by the inhabitants in the surroundings of La Paz-Bolivia. Ritual and medical specialists in this region have an understanding of the human being in a holistic and complementary manner. The human, the non-visible beings (spirits) and their ecosystem are perceived as one entity where the balance has to be preserved through reciprocal relations. The violations of normative including this reciprocal norm will conduct very often to a state of sickness or weakness.

Medical and Ritual Specialists are the people in charge of maintaining the balance between the different spheres of the universe. They read the coca leaves, the cards, or the drawings made by their patients to discover the causes of the unbalance. When this is discovered, then a healing technique has to be applied. This techniques are varied but among all of them the koa is the one in which this research is focused on. The koa consists in an offering of a mesa (a preparation of a dish full of symbols and, among others, a death llama fetus) to the spirits at a sacred place.

From the deep case study of one of these specialists, Don Gonzalo Ávila, and the analysis and study of many other specialists and related practices, this research examines the use of symbols as a technique of healing through the koa, the reading of coca, cards and drawings, and the use of talismans and miniatures.