Indigenous religion in Venezuela
MarÃa Lionza is the central figure in one of the most widespread indigenous religions in Venezuela. Her religion is a blend of African, indigenous, and Catholic beliefs similar to Santeria. She is revered as a goddess of nature, love, peace, and harmony. She has followers in many layers of Venezuelan society from small rural villages to the modern capital of Caracas, where a statue stands in her honor.
The MarÃa Lionza religion, similar in most aspects to SanterÃa, lies in the indigenous bemountain of Sorte, in Yaracuy state, Venezuela, which is central to the religion. Therein is located the “Altar Mayor” or principal altar. As such, it is the main destination of pilgrimage from elsewhere in Venezuela and a place for people from the Caribbean to come to pay homage to the goddess.
MarÃa Lionza is the highest and most important deity in the pantheon. She is part of a trinity of saints known as the tres potencias or “three powers”. The other two figures in this trinity are Guaicaipuro, an Indian chief murdered by the Spanish colonists, and Negro Felipe, a black slave who was also murdered by the colonists. These three saints are the leading figures of the pantheon and lead several “courts” of lesser deities.