The Almighty Boa

Living in Ecuador these past couple of months has meant answering the same questions every day, starting with the inevitable “Where are you from?”. I have wondered how often un-Dutch-looking people get asked that in the Netherlands… Not very often, I’m guessing… And I’m not saying that is a good thing! There is some genuine interest in “the other” that stems from that question and it makes room for conversation. I think we Dutchies are missing out by overprotecting our personal space that way…

I’m from Holland. Where are you from?

The second most frequent question I get asked is probably “How are you liking Ecuador so far”, followed by (after me saying that I love it here) “Are you married?”. The fastest way to stop a conversation like that, would probably be saying that I am married and very happily so…. but I just can’t do it… I am a bad liar and I think that’s kind of a good thing…

Anyway, the marriage question has sometimes led to questions about religion and it has forced me to put into words what I do and don’t believe. I think the first time the topic arose, I just kind mumbled something about being “spiritual” but not religious, even though people that call themselves “spiritual” have always made me kind of itchy… So when confronted with the question again by Bertila, the most outspoken Kichwa woman I have met so far, I decided to formulate a more accurate answer.

I am definitely not religious, all though I went through a phase of admiration as a kid. My parents read the children’s bible to me as a bedtime storybook and I attended church on various Sundays with friends. As I was talking to Bertila the other day however, I came to the conclusion that I think being a good person is very important but I don’t need to be threatened into good behaviour by someone who claims to hold some special truth they have learned from some cryptic scripture. I want to be a good person and I think that is better motivation than whatever any cleric of any religion can demand of me. If at the end of all of this, some deity turns up to judge me, I think I will be OK…

All though some of Bertila’s friends gasped when I said the words “I do not believe in god”, Bertila nodded eagerly and said that she agreed with me completely because she knew some priests that were sinners themselves and the hypocrisy had always bothered her. On a sidenote though, I must say that I kind of like this new pope! I know I am not the target group and it is quite paradoxical for someone like me to be talking about what is good for an institution I have consciously chosen not to be a part of, but I really do think he is genuine and that he could make a positive contribution to the world, which I am very much part of!

But I am completely steering off topic here… I was trying to build some sort of bridge to another anecdote Bertila told me about an enormous boulder that sits beside the road, just outside the village of Cotundo. She told me there is a legend that this boulder holds two enormous boa constrictors captive beneath it, after they were trapped there by smart villagers. These two boas had been tormenting the area and legend goes that on judgment day, these two boas will return as apocalyptical creatures with seven heads to takes all sinners down to hell with them.


After hearing this, I realized that boas are a major part of the culture in this region. I hear boa metaphors here almost weekly and practically all the kids I have met are terrified of riversides, deep pits, wells and caverns because of the possibility of being eaten by a boa. I doubt this actually happens as often as their parents would like them to believe, as boas seem to be used as some sort of “boogeyman”-threat to keep kids away from dangerous places. Also, I have heard stories about people being swept away by the river and drowned but in many cases, people were convinced the deceased were attacked by a boa first, because “they would never have drowned otherwise”…

I think this is very interesting and I can’t really explain why boas are perceived as such an enormous threat, even though they are rarely spotted in the wild. I wonder if this fear of boas is pre-columbian or if it is something the colonizing Catholics created and nurtured, as there are some convenient biblical serpents to link the local ones to. If I had more time, I would look into it, but my time here on the equator is starting to run out…… *gulp*….


Daily Prompt: In good faith


4 thoughts on “The Almighty Boa

  1. I’ve been cruising and enjoying your blog, Epi. Especially loved this post on religion, spirituality, etc. Straight and clean and respectful—beautifully done!

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