The Chibcha, a group of South American natives, occupied the high valleys surrounding the modern cities of Bogotá and Tunja in Colombia before the Spanish conquest. The Chibcha religion was of both state and individual concern. Each political division had its own set of priests. Apparently some kind of hierarchy was recognized and the priests were a professional hereditary class. Priests, who were clearly distinguished from shamans, had as their functions the intercession at public ceremonies for the public good, the dispensing of oracles, and consultation with private individuals. Shamans served the individual more than the state and cured illnesses, interpreted dreams, and foretold the future. The Chibchas had an elaborate pantheon of gods headed by Chiminigagua, the supreme god and creator. In addition to the state temples and idols, many natural habitats were considered to be holy places. Ceremonial practices included offerings, public rites, pilgrimages, and human sacrifice. Human sacrifice was said to be fairly common and was made primarily to the sun.
Bibliography: a. l. kroeber, "The Chibcha," Handbook of South American Indians, ed. j. h. steward, 2 v. (Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 143; Washington 1946) 2:905–909. j. pÉrez de barradas, Los Muiscas antes de la conquista, 2 v. (Madrid 1950–51) 2:435–511.