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8 Photos of Bolivia Skull Festival | Day of the Dead Celebrations | So Weird

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Hundreds of Bolivians carried human skulls to the chapel at La Paz cemetery for blessing on Friday, asking for health, money, love and other favors as part of an annual highland festival.The skulls came to church on the "Dia de los natitas" (Day of the Skull) with crowns of flowers and cigarettes stuffed into their mouths. The yearly ritual is a way for citizens of La Paz to ask for health, money, love and other favors.

The Roman Catholic Church considers the skull festival to be pagan, but it doesn't prohibit people from taking part in it. Mass was not being held at the chapel on Friday, but a bowl of holy water was left out so people could bless the skulls they were carrying in the ritual celebrated a week after the Day of the Dead.

According to tradition, the skulls should be from unknown people, but in some cases they are distant relatives. The devotees say they get the skulls, which they call "natitas," from abandoned cemeteries.

The festival is a mixture of Andean ancestral worship and Catholic beliefs. Experts say it was common in pre-Columbian times to keep skulls as trophies and display them to symbolize death and rebirth.

The skulls are carried to the cemetery chapel in urns of wood or glass, or in toy boxes. All have crowns of nardos, a curative plant with white, fragrant blossoms. Some skulls wear hats or caps inscribed with a name. Others wear sunglasses or even sport a lit cigarette in their mouths.

The festival began with prayers and songs by mariachi and other musical groups in the cemetery gardens.





A woman street vendor arrived with two skulls, labeled as Hilario and Dionicia.

Among the pile of skulls waiting to be blessed were two labeled as Juanito and Juanita. They were brought by police from the neighboring community of El Alto, who say the skulls sometimes help them clear up difficult cases.


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AIZAR RALDES/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The "natitas" is a macabre ritual carried out every November 8th during which the believers venerate the human skulls they keep at home for protection.
Some people stuffed lit cigarettes into their skull’s mouth.






2.skull festival in bolivia, day of the dead, la paz, festival, weird, skull fest 2014, annual festival, amazing bolivia, bolivia facts, fun bolivia, day of the skull, dia de los natitas, bolivians, bolivians culture

JUAN KARITA/AP

Some people stuffed lit cigarettes into their skull’s mouth.
A skull with its skin still intact gives the world a gruesome grin.


3.skull festival in bolivia, day of the dead, la paz, festival, weird, skull fest 2014, annual festival, amazing bolivia, bolivia facts, fun bolivia, day of the skull, dia de los natitas, bolivians, bolivians culture

DAVID MERCADO/REUTERS





A skull with its skin still intact gives the world a gruesome grin.


4.skull festival in bolivia, day of the dead, la paz, festival, weird, skull fest 2014, annual festival, amazing bolivia, bolivia facts, fun bolivia, day of the skull, dia de los natitas, bolivians, bolivians culture

AIZAR RALDES/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Two women arrive with an urn with their "natitas" (flat-nosed) human skulls.
People holds decorated human skulls or "natitas" as they wait to be greeted by the priest inside the Cementerio General chapel. The Roman Catholic church considers the skull festival to be pagan, but it doesn’t prohibit people from participating in it.

 





5.skull festival in bolivia, day of the dead, la paz, festival, weird, skull fest 2014, annual festival, amazing bolivia, bolivia facts, fun bolivia, day of the skull, dia de los natitas, bolivians, bolivians culture

JUAN KARITA/AP

People holds decorated human skulls or "natitas" as they wait to be greeted by the priest inside the Cementerio General chapel. The Roman Catholic church considers the skull festival to be pagan, but it doesn’t prohibit people from participating in it.
A man lights a candle in front of a skull.

 

6.skull festival in bolivia, day of the dead, la paz, festival, weird, skull fest 2014, annual festival, amazing bolivia, bolivia facts, fun bolivia, day of the skull, dia de los natitas, bolivians, bolivians culture

DAVID MERCADO/REUTERS

A man lights a candle in front of a skull.
Skulls with ornaments are displayed during a "Dia de los natitas" (Day of the Skull) ceremony at the General Cemetery of La Paz.


7.skull festival in bolivia, day of the dead, la paz, festival, weird, skull fest 2014, annual festival, amazing bolivia, bolivia facts, fun bolivia, day of the skull, dia de los natitas, bolivians, bolivians culture

DAVID MERCADO/REUTERS

Skulls with ornaments are displayed during a "Dia de los natitas" (Day of the Skull) ceremony at the General Cemetery of La Paz.
Women light candles asking for good fortune. The ritual is a mixture of ancient Andean ancestral worship and Catholic beliefs.


8.skull festival in bolivia, day of the dead, la paz, festival, weird, skull fest 2014, annual festival, amazing bolivia, bolivia facts, fun bolivia, day of the skull, dia de los natitas, bolivians, bolivians culture

DAVID MERCADO/REUTERS

Women light candles asking for good fortune. The ritual is a mixture of ancient Andean ancestral worship and Catholic beliefs.

 

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H/T – nydailynews.com

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