Wayuu customs and beliefs in the culture

Wayuu customs and beliefs in the culture

The Wayuu people are not only known for their magnificent weavings, but also for many of their customs and beliefs that have endured over time. This is very important for the Wayuu people because it is the legacy of their ancestors. They are deeply connected to their customs and show great respect towards them.

The confinement

One of the most well-known customs is the practice of “encierro,” which occurs when a girl experiences her first menstruation. During this time, she is secluded for a few weeks, a month, or even a year. Throughout this period, the girl is only allowed contact with her mother and grandmother. Her hair is cut, and she must consume medicinal beverages such as Jawapi, Kaswo’u, and Palisse. Additionally, she is prohibited from consuming fatty foods and can only have corn chicha and mazamorra, which should not contain milk or sugar.

When the girl completes the period of seclusion, a celebration takes place in which she performs the Yonna dance, and food is shared. It is generally assumed that the practice of encierro is specifically for girls when they begin menstruation, but it can also be imposed on any Wayuu individual who has encountered difficulties or to ward off any ill effects. Likewise, they must follow the same diet restrictions without consuming fatty foods and sleep with the A’lania or “contra.” During this time, they may have dreams involving their ancestors.


This is one of the most significant beliefs within Wayuu culture, as dreams are seen as revelations of both positive and negative events that will occur. Dreams are meant to be shared with the entire family, and an elderly person will interpret their meaning. When someone has a bad dream, they must wake up, rebuke the dream, and even take a shower regardless of the time. Ancestors of the Wayuu often appear in dreams. Therefore, it is important for the Wayuu to fulfill what was asked of them in the dream to ensure everything goes well.


Like many cultures, the Wayuu have their own God whom they call Maleiwa. Maleiwa is the creator of all the wonders in nature and is considered the primary God. Another deity worth mentioning is Juya, who is the God of rain. On the other hand, there is Pulowi, the goddess of drought and winds. Finally, there is Wanülü, an evil spirit that brings about misfortune, such as diseases or death.


This is one of the few mentioned customs; it is when a Wayuu person acquires a material possession, they must prepare a meal as an offering to Maleiwa (God). This act ensures that the possession will be protected, and it is also a way to show gratitude to Maleiwa. First, a white or red goat or sheep must be purchased; it should not be black or have black spots. With this goat or sheep, it can be prepared as friche, roasted, or stewed, accompanied by cassava or arepa and corn chicha. The family members must eat everything; nothing should be left for the next day.

The dote

This is a topic that generates some controversy; however, it can be observed that the custom of dowry is not exclusive to the Wayuu culture. This practice takes place after the confinement of the young woman (Majayut) when a suitor asks for her hand in marriage. The family of the young woman establishes the dowry, which can consist of animals, jewelry, or money. The purpose of this tradition is to provide the bride with kitchen utensils, hammocks, and other household items for her new home.

To sleep early 

For the Wayuu, sleeping early and waking up in the early morning is very important as it is very healthy. This has allowed them to have a long life. In this way, they start their day very early by tasks such as collecting firewood, herding goats, among other activities. As the afternoon approaches, they begin to wind down and in the evening, they are completely free. They go to sleep around 6 or 7 in the evening and wake up at 4 am to carry out their tasks.

These are just some of the many customs and beliefs; some are more well-known than others, but this doesn’t mean they are less important. These customs and beliefs are part of the daily life of the Wayuu people; it’s how they perceive life. Therefore, the customs and beliefs of the Wayuu are extremely impressive; for them, human beings are closely connected to a spiritual world.

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