Bolivia’s Witch Market – Mercado de las Brujas
If we are on Calle Jiminez and Linares between Sagarnaga and Santa Cruz in, it’s impossible not visit the Witches’ Market of La Paz, Bolivia, which is located right in a lively tourist area. The cobbled street of Calle Linares hosts a crowded line of unusual stores collectively known as El Mercado de las Brujas, The Witches’ Market, located just in downtown La Paz, and it sums up Bolivia’s strangeness quite well.
Bolivia is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and revolutionary Che Guevara all met their fate, or where the British ambassador to Bolivia was strapped naked to a donkey, paraded around the capital, and forced to eat a huge quantity of chocolate after declining the local drink “chicha”.
This is where the Salt Palace sits, a hotel made entirely of salt. And this is where a young girl in Aymara dress, sitting amidst an array of several strange things, offered my girl a dried llama foetus to protect our house against evil spirits.
Here, a plump little witch raised the talismans to her eye level to claim: “Son para dinero y trabajo, con estos tu tendras buena suerte!”
Here, dozens of vendors line the streets to sell different strange and fascinating products, and the raw ingredients used in rituals to call on the spirits that populate the Aymara world.
Among the many items sold at the market there are dried llama fetuses that are said to bring both prosperity and good luck, dried frogs used for Aymara rituals, soapstone figurines, aphrodisiac formulas, owl feathers, dried turtles and snakes, herbs, and folk remedies. Witch doctors, called yatiri, in dark hats and dresses wander through the market offering fortune-telling services.
It’s possible enter in one of the untidy place, that seems like a some horror movie, with mounted animal heads with unseeing eyes, feathers and potions which adorn the tables and herbs that spill from their dirty bags onto the wooden floor. But also the love amulet, to get married, or an amulet of a naked couple embracing to improve the sex life, rectify impotency, and increase fertility.
For more money it’s possible buy also dried frogs or armadillos to prevent thieves from entering the house, love potions, magic charms, animal skins, medicines and remedies used in Aymara traditions. If you stick a cigarette in your frog’s mouth, your chances of striking it rich will increase!
There are a collection of different colored candles too, made of animal wax and when burned release their magical properties.
The blue candle is for good luck with work, yellow for health, green for money, purple for happiness, white for protection and black wards off evil spirits, only to be used in a cemetary covered by night!
Between this unusual things, the dried llama fetuses are the most prominent product available at the market. A Llama fetus dried is used to protect the house. An estimated 99% of Bolivian families have a dried llama fetus thrown under the foundations of their house for luck. These animals are fairly large and are used throughout the country, buried in the foundations of new buildings as an offering to the goddess Pachamama. It is believed that the buried llama fetuses keep construction workers safe, but these are only used by poor Bolivians. Instead, healthy Bolivians usually sacrifice a living llama to Pachamama!
Instead, a Llama fetus burnt on a plate of sweets and herbs is used to ensure luck for a new business venture.