For an ethnic Mixtec woman like Donaji*, nightmares were not just scary but predicted disaster in this world and the next.
The 40-year-old fruit-vendor in a remote village of western Mexico believed she was surrounded by gods of rain, trees, mountains, stones and forces in nature telling her she was doomed. No amount of animal sacrifices could ward off the destruction of her soul that the dangers and deaths in her dreams portended.
Donaji’s animistic beliefs and rituals were rooted in centuries of Mixtec tradition, which dictated that one’s afterlife was determined by how one died. Her dreams instilled fear that she would die in the woods, which according to Mixtec belief destined her to serve the forest demon.
The animal sacrifice that she had always known had grown out of practices going back more than 10 centuries calling for the offering of blood from human ears and tongues, along with ritual dances that sometimes included hearts from human sacrifices. Those rituals reigned when the Mixtecs ruled the region for more than three centuries, before the Aztecs conquered them in 1458 – and imposed their own system of human sacrifice, according to cultural history website Study.com.
When Spanish conquerors arrived in 1521 and imposed Catholicism on the natives, the Roman institution’s pantheon of saints joined the other gods the Aztec-ruled Mixtecs served. A faded form of that mix of animistic and Roman Catholic beliefs and rituals was the cosmology that Donaji inherited – a tradition of centuries that no one dared question. This is the adulterated Catholicism that the Joshua Project refers to when it states that 95 percent of the Western Juxtlahuca Mixtecs, for example, are Catholic.
Residing in western Oaxaca state as well as parts of Guerrero and Puebla states, many of the Mixtec groups are only 2 percent evangelical, and in fact Donaji had known a native evangelical missionary for more than a year – and dismissed her talk about Christ. Donaji’s particular Mixtec group does not have an indigenous evangelical church, the leader of the native ministry said.
After a year of hearing how Christ had been sacrificed to take away the sins of all who trust in Him, the eyes of Donaji’s heart opened to her need for forgiveness and eternal life, he said.
“Donaji lived under great fear of evil spirits, her dreams were very fatalistic, and for the Mixtecs this makes them live with great fear,” the ministry leader said. “But after surrendering her life to Jesus and close discipleship, little by little she has lost her fear, and she feels that God has made her free of that fear.”
Donaji has been baptized and is very happy to be following Christ, he said.
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SOURCE: Christian Aid Mission