This brightly painted plaster statue from Bolivia depicts an Andean pre-Christian deity known as Ekkeko, the god of abundance, money and luck. Similar statues are also made and sold in Peru. As is customary, Ekkeko (pronounced ey-kay-koh) is dressed in modern clothes with a real knit cap made of wool; he has outstretched arms, an open mouth, and a painted moustache.
Wishes for material goods that are tied onto Ekkeko's body before noon on January 24th will be granted during the coming year. Once given to Ekkeko, wishes are never removed, so a well-used statue will be loaded down with desires. In contemporary usage, the small items Ekkeko carries are usually placed in clear plastic bags; but also included are colourful cast- sugar "mysteriosos" (mysterious things), an older regional form of offering made to be placed on llama-wool rolag altars as well as on Ekkeko statues.
Mysteriosos are rectangular, generally about 2 inches by 3 inches and seem to derive from European ex votos or Latin American milagros. The mysteriosos in my collection include the sun, mountains, cars, trucks, llamas, children, houses, bank teller windows, and the like. The use of sugar as a sacred offering in Peru and Bolivia extends beyond the manufacture of mysteriosos -- typical altars will also be loaded with hard sugar candies. Packets of granulated sugar dyed with food colouring are a suitable offering for Ekkeko as well.
This Ekkeko is about 7 1/2 inches tall. He is carrying a bag of shredded green paper representing good crops, a bag of white rice, a clay cooking pot, money in the form of a photocopied U. S. dollar, a bag of metallic party confetti for happy times, a bag of red-coloured granulated sugar, a bag of dried herbs (probably Basil), and a pink sugar mysterioso embossed with two llamas. Unseen, because they are on his back, are a small house made of plaster, a blue sugar mysterioso embossed with 7 children, a black llama wool rolag, a miniature set of pan-pipes, a miniature black rubber sandal, and a red truck made of plaster.
Ekkeko's mouth is open so that he may receive his offering -- a lit cigarette, which is put into the orifice after the mysteriosos are tied on him. The length of the ash that forms without breaking off as he smokes the offering is a divinatory sign of how much good fortune he will grant the supplicant during the coming year.
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