One long night every year in a mountainous rain forest in Venezuela, hundreds gather to dance on red-hot embers, enter trance-like states and worship an ancient goddess known as Maria Lionza. Those who travel to the mountain known as Sorte in central Venezuela are practitioners of a cult that is built on local indigenous traditions.

Followers say its rituals heal pain and can even cure disease. Legend holds that Maria Lionza, the daughter of an indigenous chief and a European colonizer, battled a massive anaconda until the serpent exploded—causing torrential rains that are typical of the jungle surrounding Sorte. READ MORE