Children of the Sun and Mother Earth: Inca and pre-Inca religious beliefs
17 April 2019
The Inca Empire, large and powerful in its day, was comparatively short-lived, only about one hundred years.
As the Empire conquered smaller kingdoms and fiefdoms across the Andes and made them part of its territory, the Inca’s influence on local religious beliefs was absolute.
The new Inca religion was one of the glues that kept the Empire growing, even for the short period of its existence before Spanish arrival.
The Inca religion evolved from earlier pantheistic cults in the Andes who worshipped many different manifestations or aspects of nature.
Religion before the incas
Pre-Inca religion was largely animistic, seeing divinity in what is observed in nature on a daily and yearly basis, in what can impact and change life’s cycles and conditions.
Pre-Incas and Incas both were keenly observant of natural cycles. In nature they could see clues about how to live, when to plant, and indications about their destiny.
The Inca pantheon of gods and goddesses begins with an early creator, Wiracocha, who emerged from Lake Titicaca to put the world into order, and who is husband of Pachamama, or the Mother Earth.
Pachamama is the focus of ceremonies to protect the year’s crops, and still today is always offered the first pouring on the ground from every glass of chicha or beer.
For the Incas, Inti, the Sun, was the most important deity, the god who every day appeared over the mountains to bring light and warmth to the crisp air of the high Andes.
The Incas considered themselves “Children of the Sun”, and gold was the precious metal that represented the sun. In the main plaza of Cusco, grand ceremonies to venerate the sun took place.
The walls of the main Inca palace in Cusco, the Coricancha, were said to have been covered in gold plates. Of course, Inca kings and nobles themselves were considered divine, direct descendants of the Sun.
Andean mysticism and traditions today
Still today, the Andean connection to the Inca’s worship of the sun in manifested every year in Cusco’s Inti Raymifestival, the winter solstice celebrated in late June.
This, the most important religious celebration in Peru’s Andes, involves several days (and even weeks) of preparation and practice for the constant parades, dances, feasts and gatherings that take place during Inti Raymi week.
Other Inca deity’s included Quilla, the Moon, and the Apus,the sacred mountains, protectors of nature and water.
The devout religious celebrations of Cusco and the Andes are made more fascinating by the process of syncretism that has taken place over hundreds of years, in which the ancient Inca earth religions and Catholicism blend in a fascinatingly colorful and culturally rich coexistence.
Splendid religious celebrations in towns such as Paucartambo, Puno, and other places provide opportunities to explore this Andean mix of religious beliefs and practices.
Cusco’s most revered mountains are Ausangate and Salcantay, the two Apus that flank the city, Salcantay to the west and Ausangate to the east. Ancient myth says these mountains were two brothers who during a famine went searching for help for the ancient capital.
Ausangate, considered the sacred protector Apu of Cusco, is the destination of choice for Andean Lodges travelers, the location of our four wonderful ecolodges and the best place to encounter the magnificence of the Andes mountains on a journey of discovery.
Please contact us atto find out more about the rich culture of the Peruvian Andes.