Inca Religion


Doctrines 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. The most important feast was the one dedicated to Inti, called IntipRaimi. This rich ceremony, with its splendid costumes, and gold and silver offerings and decoration, was opened by the Inca emperor, his family and the curaca. After the opening the emperor made a libation to the sun and drank chicha (a maize drink) with his family, then led a procession, followed by every one into the sun temple, where the imperial family made offerings of precious vessels or images to the god. Following this, omens were read and llamas were sacrificed. The ceremony ended with eating and drinking.

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.

The Incas believed in the notion of polarity that was expressed by the words hanan and hurin. Hanan expressed the high, superior, right, masculine, and hurin expressed the low, inferior, left, feminine. This polarity was evident in the cult to the moon (Quilla), considered as female and the sister and wife of the sun considered a male entity.

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. Once future, present and past are not conceived as a linear structure, human beings can access the three dimensions.

Another part of Inca religious life was divination. Everything, from illness, to the investigation of crimes, or the definition of what sacrifices should be made to what gods, was all done by consulting the oracles, observing in a dish the meandering of a spider, or the disposition of coca leaves, by drinking ayahuasca (an hallucinogen), or even by examining the markings on the lungs of a sacrificed llama.

They practiced daily offering and sacrifices. However, human and animal sacrifices were held only on special occasions such as the enthronement of the Inca(the king), when 200 children would be killed, or in times of crises such as famine, or epidemics. Such critical situations were actually considered, most of the time, a result of disobedience to the Taboos and would therefore call for confession of sins. By confessing they would prevent or allay private and public disasters. At the beginning these confessions were done in public, becoming secret after some time.

They believed that after death, the two souls which inhabite each person would take different ways. One would return to its place of origin - that actually depended upon the virtues of the dead, on the kind of death one had, as well as on the dead person's social and economical condition. The other soul remained in the body which was preserved intact and mummified. It is most probably this belief that led the Incas to bury personal belongings with the dead.

The Incas were a very hierarchical society, and although the Inca(the king) was the son of the sun, his religious power was divided with hullac umac (the high priest, chosen from a noble lineage) to whom the priests of all shrines were submitted. The priests made sacrifices, prayed on behalf of the believers, listened to people's confession, and where responsible for divination. They often lived in the temple that also housed the priestesses -chosen women that would remain chaste unless they were chosen as a concubine or a wife of someone of the imperial families. They were also in charge of the preparation of chicha, and the woven of the textile used in the cults.