Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Historical Cusco #1 - Inca Creation Myth

A traditional representation of Viracocha

(Contiti) Viracocha 

The Inca creation myth revolves around one central figure, the great god Viracocha. The exact origins of Viracocha are unknown but he is one of the earliest gods worshipped on the continent with statues of him found dating back 3000 years.

The following legend was recorded by Juan de Betanzos, one of the original conquistadors who arrived with Francisco Pizarro. Juan de Betanzos conducted interviews with many of the Inca royalty and was married to the wife of the Inca Atahualpa.

The Legend of Viracocha
In the beginning of time Viracocha created the earth and the sky but all was left in darkness. At this time he created a race of people who inhabited the earth. Later on during this time of darkness Viracocha returned to the earth in the region of Collasuyo (the Southern section of the Inca empire) with a host of people (viracochas) at his side. Finding that the people had done some disservice he turned his first creations along with their lord to stone.

Lake Titicaca
It is commonly believed that Viracocha emerged from
Lake Titicaca
Viracocha then began anew and created the earth as we know it today; he created the sun, moon and stars and ordered the sun and moon so that there would be day and night. He also created a new people; modelling them from stone with different races for each region.

Once all the people were created he ordered them to depart leaving only two of his new creations in his company. Viracocha then called on his host of viracochas and told them to look upon the stone likenesses of the people he had created. Viracocha told the viracochas the names of the people and from which spring or cave and in which region these new people would emerge. He then ordered them to go forth across the land in the direction of the setting sun and to call 'Come out and people this land which is uninhabited, because Contiti Viracocha who created the world has ordered it'. He also sent out his two new creations to  do the same to the South and East and Viracocha set out in the direction of Cusco in the North to call out the people there.

As Viracocha approached Cusco he arrived to the province of Cacha where the Canas indians reside. Viracocha called them out but they did not recognise him and they came bearing arms to kill him. Viracocha recognising their intent called fire from the heavens and set the mountains ablaze. Fearing for their lives the Canas Indians threw themselves down at Viracochas feet and seeing them so he struck the ground three times with his staff and the fire was put out. At the time of the conquest Juan de Betanzos claims to have visited this site 'I have seen the burned mountain and the burned stones. The burned area is more than a quarter of a league across'.

From Cacha Viracocha continued his journey on to Cusco. On arriving there he created a lord known as Alcavicca to control the lands and ordered the orejones(big ears) to emerge after he had left. Viracocha then continued on to the North until he reached the province of Puerto Viejo from where he departed across the sea. It is said that he and his companions walked on water as if on land.

This is just one of the many legends told in Peru about the creation of the world, however as it was written only about 20 years after the conquest it is possibly one of the most accurate as it has not been adapted through the ages. The legend of Viracocha is a potent one and there are similar stories told throughout the Americas. To discount such a story purely as myth would be to not do it justice; somewhere in all legends there is always a grain of truth.

Technorati Tags: Inca, Legends, Peru

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