These devils take place in the regions of Ecuador (particularly north of Quito) strongly influenced by Cayambis culture, and happen during the celebration of what was regarded as the Sun Festival also known as Inti Raimi (a word in Quechua not in the Cayambis's extinct language) or as the summer solstice, which later merged with the celebration of Corpus Christi and the celebrations of San Pablo, San Juan and San Pedro. Depending on the town where this fiesta takes place, it will be linked mainly to the Corpus Christi or to the celebrations of one of these saints. However, the fiesta is traditionally  hold for a week, between June 23th and 28th approximately. This feast is linked to the celebration and collective gratitude to Pachamama for crops and for sun for ripening crops.

The huma devil, also known as 'diabluma' is a being who according to tradition was not initially recognized as a devil, but only as 'haya' (or 'aya'). Thanks to the syncretism with the Catholic tradition, it  was called 'devil'. Particularly in the indigenous communities of Pichincha and Imbabura provinces, the haya has embodied the spirit, strength, energy and both positive and negative powers of nature, sun and the dark underground world. Additionally, the Quechua term huma means “head", so the term “huma devil” means “devil's head”, and is connected with the idea of leadership and governance. No wonder the huma devil or haya huma is considered as a guide or counselor inside the community, and represents the leader and and the mighty warrior who possess the vital energy of nature.

This representation or embodiment of the force of nature that takes place within the devils' traditional ritual dance, is expressed in the fact that, during the three days before the dance, the dancers usually pilgrimage to waterfalls (pacha) and bathe in the cold water. According to the Quechua worldview, waterfalls are doors that lead “into the land where the protective [but also watchful and punisher] gods live"; gods that are linked to the “souls of the ancestors.” Cultural syncretism evokes these protective, watchful and punishing forces by means of the figure of the devil. By bathing the dancers developed ritual practices related to the devil in order to gain the power and the skills needed for the ritual combat with other devils. Nowadays, after the prohibition of such combats, dancers bath in order to acquire enough energy for the grueling hours of dancing. Additionally, it is worth noticing that pilgrimage and bathing are already a test of courage. “According to the Andean logic, those who are not able to withstand the bath and run away will have a short lifespan, but those who bravely resist will be protected by tutelary gods that would give them live and victories. This is only how a warrior becomes a sinchi (strong and mighty warrior)”.

The mask of huma devils are traditionally made of blue or red clothes that cover part of the breast. It has three holes corresponding to the eyes and mouth, from which seems to hang a cloth tongue. The ears and the nose look like cloth handles. At the top of the mask there are three rows of 4 horns or antlers each, made also of cloth, representing the twelve months of the year. The mask has two faces that are very similar but sometimes are have different colors. Both faces are decorated with drawings made of colored threads. The devil dress colored shirt (although it is unusual to see white shirts), baggy trousers or a kind of sheepskin jerkin (with wool or hair), and in one of the hands carries a long whip that is waved while walking and whistle. The devils do not speak because it is forbidden for such demonic figures. However, they may play churos (conch), flutes, and rondínes (small wind instruments made of wood with metal tabs).

Clearly the huma devil, which is represented only by men, evokes the image of the cowboy who orders and directs the cattle. Not surprisingly, even if it is one of the protagonist of the dance by jumping and hopping around with the whip, and lifting the women dancer's skirts and pushing the curious, nevertheless it cares and leads the other dancers, especially the Arucuchicos or Aruchicos who stop at every corner to dance in small circles (Aru means wheel, and chico means little). While the devils represent supernatural events, the Aricuchicos represent the natural order of things. The dance ends with a cry of victory for the Devils over the Arucuchicos.

 

 

2011 Devils of the Americas. Some rights reserved.

 

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