Thousands of Venezuelans congregated for candlelit rituals on a remote mountainside where adherents make an annual pilgrimage to pay homage to an indigenous goddess known as Maria Lionza.
Some calling themselves the “Vikings” pricked their tongues with razor blades, drawing blood that ran down their chins and chests. They said they could not reveal the esoteric secrets that govern their traditions.
The traditions centered on Maria Lionza are hundreds of years old and draw on elements of the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria and indigenous rituals, as well as Catholicism. Believers often ask for spiritual healing or protection from witchcraft, or thank the goddess for curing an illness.