Inca Religions



In the heterogeneous Inca Empire several polytheistic religions were practiced by its different people. Most religions had common traits such as the existence of a Pachamama and Viracocha. Many ancient Andean peoples traced their origins to ancestral deities. Multiple ayllus could share similar ancestral origins. The Inca claimed descent from the Sun and the Moon, them being Father and Mother, respectively. Many ayllus claimed descent from early proto-humans that they emerged from local sites in nature called pacarinas.

They conceived the world as composed of three aspects. In their representation of the cosmos, for example they used the three words: UKU PACHA (the past and the interior world), KAY PACHA (the world of present and of here), HANAN PACHA (the future and the supra world). These worlds are represented as concentric circles. Each of these worlds are inhabited by spiritual beings.

The Inca worshipped the dead, ancestors, founding culture heroes, their king whom they regarded as divine, nature and its cycles. The worship of nature and its cycles suggest that for them time and space were sacred, and consequently the calendar was religious and each month had its own festival. The most important cult was directed to Inti the god sun who nourished the earth and man with his rays. Another important cult was directed towards Pachama who was the mother of the earth. Wiracocha was also a very important god, and though some scholars may explain his importance due to the Christian influence, others emphasize his importance as a culture hero that transformed, and as a god that created, claiming that his full name was "Con Ticci Wiracocha-pachaya" which means: the ancient foundation, the Lord and Instructor of the world.

All the constellations had duties assigned to them by Wiracocha. Thunder, the god of weather, was another important deity. Like Wiracocha he was pictured as a man with a war club in one hand and a sling in the other. Thunder and lightning came from his sling, and from the Milky Way he drew the rain. Farmers worshiped earth as Earth Mother, while the fishermen worshiped Mother Sea.

In additions to worshipping he deities, the Inca worshipped the numerous huacas -sacred places -which were everywhere throughout the Inca Empire. Mountaintop were huacas, because man could not penetrate them. The emperor's palace, with all his goods, was sealed after his death and became a huaca. Battlefields, caves, springs, quarries, and even the roots were Huacas. There always seemed to be room for more huacas in the religions of the Andeans.

Inca Religious Sacrifices:

The Incas had periodically held sacrifices. These were mostly animal sacrifices, but sometimes human too. The Incas believed in afterlife. They cared deeply for their dead, whom they had embalmed before burial, mummified and had placed into tombs. Afterwards, the relatives had brought food and various other objects to their beloveds' resting place. They believed that the dead could hear them and would use the multitude of objects that were brought there. The bodies of the dead were also considered to be huacas.

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