STYLISH skulls donning hats and flower crowns were paraded through the streets of Bolivia yesterday in the Fiesta de las Natitas.
Known as “ñatitas”, the noggins are decorated and paraded to the General Cemetery of La Paz a week after All Saints Day.
The bones are dressed with sunglasses, cigarettes and fetching flower crowns and hats – all things they are thought to have enjoyed in their past life.
Their eyes are also stuffed with cotton wool so they can see again, and festival-goers splash cash to musicians and mariachi bands to serenade the bones.
Some lucky skulls are also fed booze and sweets.
There are huge parties, known as prestes, and festival-goers also attend mass across the country.
The celebration of the skulls -which are kept indoors most of the year in special urns or glass boxes, with some even having their own "bedrooms" – is part of an ancient tradition honoring their miracle-working powers in a bid to win some good luck.
Followers can amass huge collections of the skulls, with each having its own name given by a witch who realises the moniker in a dream.
The festival is celebrated on November 8 every year, with “ñatitas" roughly translating as “little pug-nosed ones”.
The festival takes place eight days after the start of the Catholic "All Saints" celebration, and events are carried out in numerous cemeteries across the country.
The Fiesta de las Natitas, or Festival of the Skulls, is believed to have its roots in the Uru Chipaya custom of digging up the bodies of loved ones at the one-year anniversary of their death.
The tradition dates back to pre-colonisation of the Americas and is thought to be linked to the tradition of reuniting dead friend's and family's skeletons with their souls.
“We come to ask or the devotees come here to ask for the favors they want, especially asking for health and for the well-being of family,” said Angel Aduviri, celebrating the day, adding the skulls helped people get things they needed.
“In 2014 a person told the skulls that he wanted to be a lawmaker and the skulls granted his wish, the person was elected a lawmaker.”
Traditions and cultures of the Aymara, Quechua and other groups remain strong in Bolivia, where indigenous people are a majority.
“I have come to visit the Natitas, we come every year, there are many devotees,” said devotee Rosario Zelaya.
“They are our angels, they take care of us, guide us, help us, protect us and bless us. Obviously first God and then our souls.”
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