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Peru: A Land of Contrasts
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"In the beginning there arose the golden child. He was the one born lord of all that is. He established the earth and the sky.

"Who is the god to whom we shall offer sacrifice?

"He who gives life; he who gives strength; whose command all the bright gods revere; whose light is immortality; whose shadow is death. He who through his power is the one god of the breathing and awakening world.... He whose greatness these snowy mountains, whose greatness the sea proclaims, with the distant river. He through whom the sky is bright and the earth firm.... He who measured out the light in the air,... wherever the mighty water clouds went, where they placed the seed and lit the fire, thence arose he who is the sole life of the bright gods.... He to whom heaven and earth, standing firm by his will, look up, trembling inwardly....

"May he not destroy us! He, the creator of the earth; he, the righteous, who created heaven." 

                                                                       — Hymn of Indian Sun-worship from the Rig-Veda.

PRIMITIVE peoples usually adore that natural force which is their greatest good. Gratitude for benefits conferred is the basis of all pagan religion. Primitive peoples also worship the sky and the bright objects within it. Sun worshippers combine the two.

Inti, the Sun, child of the Universal Spirit, is his mighty emblem, a symbol of his uncreated glory, the quickening principle in nature, the great wizard of Peru, the only source of vitality upon earth, by whose energy the winds arise, the glaciers slide over the mountains, by whose energy even the rain descends, the rivers swell, and cascades leap through the valleys down toward the sea. In how much more real a sense than the Incas knew is Peru the land of the sun!

The Sun, ruler of the stars, together with Quilla, the Moon, ruler of winds and waters, his sister, wife, and queen, created beautiful Chasca, the Dawn, "whose time was the gloaming and twilight, whose messengers the fleecy clouds which sail through the sky... and who, when he shakes his clustering hair, drops noiselessly pearls of dew on the green grass fields."

The light-rays emanating from the Sun and the morning star of double course are his messengers, bringing strength and power. They precede to announce his coming in the morning, and follow him as, by the force of his power and heat, the sea parts in the evening to receive him.

The name of Sun-temples in Peru was Intihuatana, the binding of the Sun, the place where the eternal light or fire was held fast. Though there were many such throughout the kingdom, the Holy of Holies was at Cuzco, the Place of Gold, Inti-cancha, oriented to the sunrise, golden crown gleaming, sheltering walls and cornices lined with gold plates under its roof of straw. There flamed the great golden image of the Sun, glistening with emeralds and other precious stones, completely covering one side of the temple opposite the eastern portal. The mummies of all former kings, perfect replicas of themselves, sat staring as in more active days from their thrones of gold along the walls, the eyes shining with a mixture of gold. "And so light were these bodies that an Indian could easily carry one of them in his arms to the houses of Spanish gentlemen who desired to see them."

Beyond, twinkled the temple of the Moon, the Sun's coya. The queens, her descendants, were also called coya, "not being worthy a title so truly magnificent as Inca." This was the Place of Silver, surrounded by the dark shadow of night, receiving the silent homage of the queens, the sister-wives of the Incas, reposing on silver thrones. At full moon the festival of the deities of water was held here.

A white cross of crystalline jasper hung from a silver chain in a secret place. The white light in it increased and decreased with the moon. It was beneficent and associated with the morning light, whose compartment came next, sacred to the Dawn with the Morning Star, chasca coyllur, ragged with earth mist, he of the long curling locks, the page of the Sun. The royal runners were named for him, messengers of the Inca as he of the Sun. All the other stars, companions of the Moon, which vanish at the coming of the Sun, glittered each in its proper magnitude from a starry ceiling.

The temple belonging to Thunder, Lightning, and the Thunderbolt — servants of the Sun, but messengers of an angry god — shone with tiles of gold, but was without symbol. As the arms of the Inca, the dread liquid fire which darted from heaven like a golden serpent with quick spring and mortal bite, surrounded the Rainbow, beautiful cuychi, whose image spanned one wall of the room beyond, a multicolored ray of the Sun, flickering over the showery hillside, announcing his gracious reappearance after the tempest and promising peace. The all-powerful Sun could subdue the dark cloud and draw from its depths the shining rainbow, whose fragile arch widens as the Sun sinks. He lives in the clouds, and the rainbow is the hem of his garment. Is it strange that the Incas should have held it in such veneration that when they saw it in the air they shut their mouths and clapped their hands before it? Is it not stranger that they only should have worshipped the rainbow and placed it on their banners as an emblem of God?

All the priests of the Sun in Cuzco were of the blood royal, a privileged class. As many as thirty thousand officiated in Inti-cancha. They washed the sacrifices in fountains of water which bubbled up in golden cisterns and celebrated the great festivals in glittering dresses of feathers with drums of serpents' skins.

A Market in Huancayo

In Acllahuasi, near by, lived a thousand virgins, the most beautiful of all the pure blood of the Sun, destined as his wives, and watched over by their mamacunas. Visited only by the coya, they spun the fine vicuña garments for the Inca's use and sewed upon them little plates of gold and emeralds. They wove and embroidered the royal coca bags which the Inca hung upon his left shoulder. They made the sacred llautu with the colored fringe, and the straw-colored twist for the head of the prince royal. They gathered bones of white llamas and burned them with linen they had spun. Then they collected the ashes, and looking toward the east, threw them into the air, an offering to the Sun. They made bread for the festivals of the Sun and the chicha drunk by the Inca and his kindred, in kettles of gold and silver. For recreation they went out to walk in their garden of silver and gold.

Nearly half the year in the Empire of the Sun was given to celebrating — everything from the first day of the moon to the day of marriage of the royal brides, coyaraymi. The beginnings of the four seasons were festivals. At the vernal equinox degrees of chivalry were taken by young nobles who, having gone through all possible tests, fasting, and temptation, received at last the kiss upon the shoulder and the jab through the ear-lobe given by the Inca with a nail of gold.

At the autumnal equinox all subjects were cleansed of whatever troubled them, when, purified with children's blood, they asked the midday Sun to protect them from outward calamities and inward diseases. A messenger of the Sun with a gold-studded lance, fluttering feathers of many colors along its length, ran down from Sachsahuaman to the center of the city, where four sons of the Sun waited with lances to be touched by him, and scatter to the four quarters of the earth at the Sun's command, all evils which beset mankind. Each ran six leagues in his separate direction to spread the good news. People shook their clothes. The evils of night were driven out by lighted torches, which were then thrown into a stream and extinguished before being borne away. Confession of sins followed.

The greatest feast was Intiraymi, the Binding of the Sun, when his southern shadow grew no longer, when the Sun-god by some unknown power was hindered from progressing farther. This was always a mystery. Tupac Yupanqui had said: "Many say that the Sun lives, and that he is the maker of all things.... Now we know that many things receive their beings during the absence of the Sun and therefore he is not the maker of all things; and that the Sun hath not life is evident for that it always moves in its circle and yet is never weary, for if it had life it would require rest as we do and were it free it would visit other parts of the heavens unto which it never inclines out of its own sphere. But as a thing obliged to a particular station, moves always in the same circle and is like an arrow which is directed by the hand of the archer."

Later, Huayna Ccapac said: "There must be some other whom our father, the Sun, takes for a more supreme and more powerful lord than himself; by whose commands he every day measures the compass of the heavens without any intermission or hour of repose; for if he were absolute and at his own disposal he would certainly allot himself some time of cessation though it were only to please his own humor and fancy without other consideration than that of liberty and change."

But to continue with the festival of the summer solstice. At peep of day the Inca and all the nobles of the blood of the Sun went in procession under canopies of feathers to await his arrival. Foreign princes and distinguished vassals, in garments plated with gold and silver, skins of jaguars, and condors' wings, assembled at a little distance, the whole people filling the streets of Cuzco. All barefoot, crouching, they waited, looking toward the east. Hardly had the first rays touched the snowy mountain-tops when a loud shout of joy, songs of triumph, and deafening music on rude instruments broke from the multitude. It grew louder and louder as the god, in rising, shed more and more light upon the people. They raised their arms, opened their hands, and kissed the air so filled with light.

The Inca, rising, greeted the pomp of dawn. He held two great bowls of gold filled with chicha in his hands; the contents of one he poured into a golden channel leading to the temple, and the vapor rising in the heat, it seemed as if the Sun himself were drinking. The contents of the other he shared with all his kindred, pouring it into little golden goblets.

Then they all proceeded to the temple. Outside, the curacas, or governors, offered to the priests images of many different animals of gold, while the Inca and all the legitimate children of the Sun went in and presented the goblets he had consecrated to the image of the Sun. There were sacrifices of flocks of black llamas, the particular property of the Sun, from which prognostications were made. The animal to be sacrificed was held fast, and with a sliver of black obsidian its breast was opened and the heart torn out. Sometimes as many as two hundred thousand llamas were sacrificed during a year.

It is a horrid chapter from the Incas' story that they made human sacrifices along with everything else which they valued. Von Tschudi says that they offered to the Sun as many as two hundred children at one time. "The children were strangled and buried with the silver figures of sheep, having first walked around the statues of the Creator, the Sun, the Thunder, and the Moon. Sometimes they were crushed between two stones, sometimes their mouths were stuffed with ground coca."

The fire for sacrifice was a direct gift of the Sun, kindled from a great polished bracelet upon the left arm of the high priest. The Virgins of the Sun bore away some of it to care for during the following year. No more unhappy omen could occur than its extinction.

The Inca sat within view of all, mounted upon his gold seat, drinking to his kindred and to the curacas in order. The cups his lips had touched were kept as idols.

The Sun had drunk of their offerings; he had kindled their sacrificial fire; he now entertained his subjects with a banquet prepared by the hands of his own Virgin-wives. As three days of universal fasting had preceded the feast of the Sun, so for nine days reveling followed. They ate the bread of the Sun Virgins, and drank their chicha, they shouted and danced and masqueraded, each tribe of the empire with differing head-dresses of feathers and grotesque masks according to the fashion of their country. "They cast flowers in the highways,... and their noblemen had small plates of gold upon their beards, and all did sing."

In a Fertile Valley of the Uplands

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