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In South Africa's Fertility Caves, Christianity mixes with traditional beliefs

Kim Ludbrook / EPA

Members of the United Apostolic Church pray at the divine Fertility Caves deep in the Maloti Mountains near Clarens, South Africa, on Dec. 14. The congregants retain some of their traditional pre-Christian belief system of ancestor worship in parallel with their Christianity. Living in the caves are several witch doctors, known as sangomas, who help interactions with the spirit world

Kim Ludbrook / EPA

Members of the United Apostolic Church walk with candles through the caves as they move to the next praying area deep in South Africa's Maloti Mountains.

Kim Ludbrook / EPA

Phara Nyathela, right, and Eva Dipeere, left, hold the hand of a young boy as he and other members of the United Apostolic Church cleanse themselves of evil spirits as they immerse themselves in the freezing water of a waterfall at the caves. The ritual forms part of a belief system that includes pre-Christian traditions of ancestor worship as well as conventional Christianity.

Kim Ludbrook / EPA

A member of the United Apostolic Church prays after she immerses herself in the freezing waters of the waterfall.

Kim Ludbrook / EPA

Members of the United Apostolic Church leave the Fertility Caves before heading to a waterfall for a ritual cleansing.

 From the European Pressphoto Agency:

The caves are situated in the Maloti Mountains, about 200 miles southeast of Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest urban area. In addition to holding Christian beliefs imported by white colonialists and settlers, many black South Africans from all of the nine main tribes retain many of their pre-Christian religious traditions, including ancestor worship. In making trips to the area, members of the United Apostolic Church also pray for help in having children, hence the name associated with the caves. The massive caverns include a small village populated by witch doctors known as sangomas, who help pilgrims connect with their ancestors.