Stone archways are to be found on top of a number of the hills of Paraguay. Could these places have been used for religious rituals by the indigenous peoples of Paraguay?
Probably not. But what if the stone archways of Paraguay were sacred spaces to the ancient people of Paraguay?
Lack of proof is not proof they were not.
When the Spanish arrived they found a people with both culture and tradition. What if the also had ceremonies hidden away in the jungle which the Spanish never saw?
For this post rather than remaining in the world of fact I am heading off into the world of possibilities. Not looking at what did happen but instead thinking about what could have.
The stone archway behind my house is in the right sort of place to be a sacred one to ancient peoples.
It sits at the top of a hill. So any journey to it must be made with a purpose. It is shielded by other rocks so invisible from a distance. And it faces west, the direction of the dying sun.
Also anyone passing through it quickly disappears from view as the come out onto a wide flat stone platform that overlooks the valley below.
So here is what just might have happened there.
The tribal elder has died and the shaman announced that he must join the ancestors before a new elder can be chosen.
So following the shaman and the body of the elder carried on a wooden platform the tribe travels along the valley to the place where the path leads up to the stone archway.
Slowly the procession winds its way up the hillside until arriving in front of the archway.
Here everyone stops. Before anything can continue the shaman invokes the ancestors as he know he must to seek their permission to enter the place of the dead.
Once the correct incantations have been performed and the shaman feels permission has been granted he heads slowly up into the archway followed by two assistants carrying the elder on his funeral platform.
As the rise through the archway the party soon disappears from view leaving the land of the living behind.
Ahead on the wide stone platform that overlooks the valley the shaman directs his assistants to place the platform upon a large rock in its center.
Here he performs more incantations so that the ancestors who are waiting for them in this place will recognize the elder and accept him as one of them. Finally his bow and an arrow are broken and placed gently upon his chest.
If he is to use them in the land of the ancestors they to must be killed so that they may travel there with him.
Ceremonies complete the body is left on the exposed rock and the shaman and his assistants return once more to the tribe.
That night down in the valley a great feast is held in the name of the elder so that he and the ancestors may continue to honor and assist the tribe.
This they know will be the last good meal for a while.
There after for several weeks the tribe remain nearby in the valley. They await the word of the ancestors and know it will not be good if they stray far.
Around here there is food to be had but as the tribe wanders listless and leaderless they find enough to avoid starvation and little more.
During this time the shaman is away for days on end. Seemingly going without food and water.
For endless hours he sits meditating in a trance at the foot of the rock archway awaiting a message from the ancestors. Never once does he step up into the archway and their domain.
At times he come down to the tribe. Everyone hoping to hear what he has to say. However he remains silent and sits apart from the others before climbing the hill once more.
Life continues like this for the tribe for almost three months. Then finally descending from the hill the shaman gestures them all to gather round.
His silence is broken by more incantations to the ancestors with arms raised high as if trying to reach them. His eyes roll and once more he falls into a trance.
Then suddenly he stops. His arms fall and all is silence as his eyes focus on the expectant group in front of him.
Nothing moves for a moment. Then the shaman steps forward and touches one of the young bloods on the head. The sign that he has been chosen.
He may only be in his early twenties but the whole tribe knows that whoever the ancestors choose is their elder.
Almost imminently the shaman heads back off up the hill with his new charge besides him. The rest of the tribe following excitedly behind.
They stop once more at the stone archway. There permission to pass is sought from the ancestors and once given the pair proceed upwards.
Passing up onto the stone platform the shaman is pleased to see that where once there was a body there is now just a pile of dried bones.
A sign that the messengers of the ancestors, the vultures, have taken his flesh to them and that he has been accepted.
Going over to the bones he selects just the most potent and powerful from amongst them. The skull and the long bones from the right side of the body.
Turning to the young blood he motions him to kneel. As he does he passes him the skull. The relic of his predecessor and the symbol of his authority.
As for the long bones he keeps them for himself. Some will be ground down and mixed with herbs to make powerful potions and the others will be kept as totems for the tribe.
This done the ancestors depart for their land with one more added to their number and the shaman and elder are free to leave the place of the dead.
Passing back through the archway the elder raises the skull high in the air and the tribe give out a loud cheer to acknowledge their new leader.
There will be much feasting over the following days as the tribe move on through the valley knowing they have been once more blessed by the ancestors and are to thrive and prosper.
An interesting tale Simon.