Antonio Ruiz de Montoya’s description of a Guaraní ancestral shrine in Paraguay, 1639

English Translation
Father Francisco Diaz and his companion managed to make their way in the dark over a rugged, almost trackless ridge. Mounting the top of a rise, they found a temple where the dry bones in question were venerated. All around it they saw numerous hermitages in which those who made the pilgrimage there lodged, just as is done in novenas—for the devil tries to imitate everything. They found the temple alone and unguarded. This surprised the guide the Fathers had brought, since it was said that there were always people there, day and night. The temple was spacious and well fitted out. In the interior was a dark, two–doored compartment, in which the corpse was suspended on a net or hammock between two poles. The ropes were decorated with a variety of brilliant feathers. The hammock was covered with two precious cloths of colored feathers, striking to the eye. There were devices for perfuming the place. No one dared enter it but the priest who posed questions in the people's name to this oracle. In the front part of the temple were numerous benches where the people sat and listened to the replies given by the devil. Hanging from the walls and beams all over the temple were numerous offerings of fruits of the earth in curiously worked baskets. The priest would eat from these offerings and give what was leftover to the farmers as something sacred, from which they anticipated great blessings upon their crops. The Fathers gathered up the bones, feathers, and ornaments, and in complete silence brought them to the town, unbeknownst to any one…

[The friars then collect bodies from other nearby shrines and bring the collection back to the mission town.]

...All the people assembled in the church and were given a sermon. It dealt with the true God, with the worship owed him from his creatures, with the devil's artifices and impotence, and with the lies and deceits of the magicians. Upon completion of the sermon, one of the Fathers went out in surplice and stole, accompanied by servers with holy water and a large finely bound book, from which he read a part of a chapter in Latin. He urged the people to make an act of contrition for believing in this nonsense. They were all kneeling with hands joined and eyes cast to the ground. They made their fervent act of detestation for every vain belief and idolatry, embracing only the true teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. They cried aloud to God for pardon so feelingly and devoutly that we were moved to tears. After this, one of the Fathers mounted a platform that had been erected on the square so that everyone, including women and children, could be undeceived by the sight of the cold bones. The Father displayed them, naming the persons whose bones they had been. It was amazing to see the people's rejoicing as they beheld this public discrediting of the great fraud regarding the corpses which everyone had claimed were alive. They competed with one another to bring firewood for burning them. This was carried out in my presence, so that not a single bone could be carried off and the lie thereby perpetuated.
   

Spanish Original
El P. Francisco Diaz, y su compañero dieronse buena maña a caminar: a escuras por una muy agria sierra, y casi sin camino, y subiendo con harto trabajo a la cumbre de aquel monte descubrieron un Templo adonde eran honrados aquellos secos huesos: vieron a la redonda muchas hermitas en que se albergaban los que iban a aquella romeria, como en novenas, que todo lo quiere remedar el demonio: hallaron aquello solo sin guarda alguna, cosa que estraño mucho la guia que los Padres llevaban, porque afirmaba, que de dia, ni de noche dexaba de aver alli continua gente: era el Templo bien capaz, y bien aderezado, en el avia un atajadizo lobrego con dos puertas, en que estaba el cuerpo colgado de dos palos en una red o hamaca, las cuerdas della estaban muy bien guarnecidas de muy vistosa, y varia plumeria, cubrian la hamaca unos preciosos paños de pintadas plumas que su variedad se llevaba la vista: avia algunos instrumentos con que perfumaban aquel lugar en el qual nadie era osado a entrar sino el sacerdote, el qual en nombre del pueblo preguntaba, las dudas a este oraculo, en lo anterior del Templo, avia muchos bancos donde se sentaba el pueblo, el qual oía las repuestas que el demonio daba avia por todo el Templo muchos ofrendas de frutos de la tierra en curiosas cestos pendientes por las paredes, y madera. Destas ofrendas comia el Sacerdote, y lo que le sobraba repartia como cosa sagrada a los labradores, de que se prometia una gran bendición en sus cosechas. Recogieron los Padres los huesos, sus plumas, y arreos, y con todo silencio le llevaron al pueblo, sin que persona alguna lo supiesse....

...Junto toda la gente en la Iglesia, se les hizo un Sermon, en que le trató del verdadero Dios, de la adoración que se le debe de las criaturas y engaños del demonio, quan poco puede, de las mentiras, y entredos de los Magos, acabado el Sermon salio un Padre con sus sobrepelliz, la estola, ministros con agua bendita, y un libro grande bien enquadernado, en el qual leyó en Latin algo de un capitulo. Incitoles a hazer acto de contricion de aver creido aquellas boberias, estaban todos puesto de rodillas, juntos los manos, puestos los ojos en suelo hizieron su acto bien fervoroso de detestacion de todo creencia vana, y idolatria, abrazandole solamente la verdadera doctrina que la Iglesia Catolica Romana enseña, pidiendo a vozes perdon a Dios, con tanta devocion, y sentimiento que miraron nuestras lagrimas: subiese (acabado este acto) un padre en un tabla dello que se avia hecho en la plaza, para que todos y las mugeres y ninos pudiessen ver el desengaño en los huesos frios, mostrolos el Padre, declarando los nombres de cuyos eran. Fue estraño el regocio popular por ver tan gran engaño de cuerpos, que todos confessaban que iban deshecho tan en publico a porsia traian leña para quemarlos y asi se hizo en presencia mia para que no llebassen algun hueso, y continuassen su mentira.
   








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