Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Inca Religion and Myths

Huaina Pichu shrouded in the background above Machu
Picchu. The myths of the past of Peru are equally shrouded. 
We had a recent FHE assignment here amongst the North Americans.  We meet twice a month and wanted to do something special.  RA prepared 19 varieties of native fruits that are available right now in our local grocery store.  They included mango, guanabana, pineapple, pepino melon, biscocho bananas, yakon, guava, lucuma, mamey, tuna rojo, aguaymanto, tamarindo, kaki, star fruit, chirimoya, maracuya, granadilla, and cocona, and albaricoque.  I thought a few could have benefited by the addition of a little vanilla ice cream, but I was overruled.  Since the fruit refreshments were not my portion of the evening's entertainment I could not say anymore.
Kaki fruit as they are known here and in Japan. In the US we call them
Maracuya and Granadilla.  Everyone's favorite, at least ours are the mangos.
The season is over this year and we will pass them. 
It has been fascinating to study Inca and Pre-Inca traditions and myths going back 5,000 years. Some themes are consistent with other ancient traditions from the Middle East and Asia.  Joseph Campbell would suggest the similarities in these worldwide myths would be the consequence of what Carl Jung called the "collective unconscious" mind, something on the order of Freud's "archaic remnants."  Brother Nibley would be at odds with Campbell and Freud as to the origins of the universal myths and the similarities of myth throughout all ancient civilizations.  To quote Brother Nibley, "It already appears that he ancient myths, wherever they turn up, have a tendency to fit together into the same picture, confirming and supporting each other due to the solid ground on which they stand... This leads us to conclude here is a serious historical reality behind the myths as a whole, in spite of the adjusting and romancing that sometimes effaces them beyond recognition."
Less than a thousand khipu survive today. Most are thought to have
been used for accounting as they are organized into the decimal system.
More complex khipu may contain words but that is yet to be determined. 
Sorting out the past Pre-Spanish and even Pre-Inca with respect to myths and religious traditions is difficult. It was estimated when the conquistadores arrived in the North of Peru there were approximately 700 different languages and cultures here, all under Incan rule. Three languages remain today, Aymara, Quechua and of course Spanish. The Inca like any victorious conqueror rewrote the history books and adapted the past to fit their world view and support their dynastic rule. A major problem in all of the Andean past is there was never a written language. History most likely was preserved through the telling of oral traditions. Khipu, the strange knotted cords of the Inca and earlier peoples served as nemonic helps to recall these events of the past. A team of Harvard scholars may prove otherwise. Using very large and fast computers some progress has been made in deciphering the khipu. At least one numerical address, akin to a zip code of a city or district, has been deciphered. In Central America the written languages of several groups including the Maya have been successfully translated. Unraveling the history especially the religious beliefs proves very difficult as there was no written language and both the Inca and the Spanish adjusted and changed the past to justify their rule. Particularly the Spanish were the more egregious as they committed what amounted to cultural genocide upon the indigenous peoples of the New World.
Dried potatoes or chuño. They are also called papa seca or dried potatoes.
Climate change and freeze dried potatoes, called papas secas, or chuño, according to a few scholars, explains why the Inca armies were able to sweep over and conquer the western Andean regions of South America in such a short period of time, approximately 100 years.  Potatoes are still freeze dried much in the same way they have been done for many millennia.  These freeze dried potatoes are relatively high in nutrition and have a shelf life of up to three years without further refrigeration.  Their light weight allowed them to be carried on the backs of soldiers and llamas as the armies were moving through their empire.  Climate conditions weakened the economies of coastal communities but the higher elevation of the Inca with ample rainfall and moisture gave them sufficient foodstuffs to conquer the areas suffering famine. The Inca were astute enough bargainers to offer food to any peoples who would accept their rule.  One scholar estimates that Inca had five years worth of food storage at any one time for all of the inhabitants of the empire.  Even today, many fields - estimated between 25% and 50% of those that were once used by the Inca - remain unused.
The terraces of Ollantaytambo, a royal Inca city, once grew corn and many
other crops. This site was abandoned before the conquistadores ever set foot in
Peru. Smallpox and other European diseases decimated the Inca population
ahead of them.
Wherever the Inca took control of another society the local gods and myths were recognized and maintained along with the official state Incan religion of sun worship.  To legitimize the rule of the Inca, the Sapa Inca, or head Inca, was advanced as the direct descendant of the Sun God Inti.  Viracocha was acknowledged as the creator god, though Inti would take preeminence in time.  It did get complicated with the addition of many local gods to the pantheon by the time the Inca were extending their rule.
Viracocha the chief God of a number of Pre-Inca societies.
In his right hand he caries a serpent. 
The near universal myths of creation, deluge, and the hero's journey are to be found amongst the Inca and their predecessors.  According to the various versions of Inca legends Viracocha came forth from a cave on the Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca with his two sons and began the creative process.  He breathed on large stones and turned them into giants who first populated the land.  Because they were sometimes disobedient in the days of Noah, (as the OT story goes,) he sent forth a flood and drowned them all.  He started afresh with the current race of humans and the first Incas emerged. Traveling north he created other peoples and taught them.  He wore robes, was bearded, and carried a staff.  Among the earliest cultures are representations of this god carrying a staff.  A shard of dried inscribed squash portrays the staff god, among the Norte Chico of Caral, approximately 3,000 B.C.
The stone giants at Tiawanaku. This site was one of the five most important
for the Inca even though it was created before the rise of their empire. It is 
on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. We had permission to visit it but ran
out of time. 
Serpientes, or serpents were an important symbol utilized universally among the Inca and their predecessors.  As Moses had fashioned a brass serpent to raise and allow the children of Israel to be healed, so the serpent is associated with divine events and religious practice.  I asked my good friend Cesar if the serpent had any positive meanings in Inca history and he said that it did not.  The Inca have nothing equivalent to the Caduceus of the medical establishment in our culture. The serpent represented the underworld of departed dead, though it is featured prominently as part of the decoration and representation of the various gods. Moses and Pharaoh's magicians used serpents to represent the power of their gods.
The male side of the Pachacamac Totem. The 
Spanish came to this site looking for gold and
found nothing of value to them. They toppled
the totem and set fire to his temple. 
Throughout all of the ruins we have visited in Peru the theme of duality or opposites, has been symbolized in stone or carving.  The creator god Pachacamac of the Lurin area, south of Lima, is both male and female. Other civilizations illustrated their gods with both female and male organs. The concept of a feminine deity is not foreign to ancient Hebrew and middle eastern cultures. Mormons early in this dispensation were taught about a mother in heaven though orthodoxy struggles with that concept. All are familiar with Eliza Snow's lines, penned in Nauvoo, and set to music.  One of the Hebrew names for god is El Shaddai, which means "breasted one." In Genesis 17:1, 28:3, and 48:3 the name El Shaddai is used in association with descriptions of God as a nourisher or supplier of good things.  Female and male representations are more common than not in the stones and carvings of ancient Peru.
RA and I at the Pachacamac site. It is mostly of stone and some adobe. The 
Inca added additional temples and structures to it. Even today travelers still
come especially in August and leave offerings such as chicha and coca leaves. 
A Swedish scholar who has studies the religious and cosmological themes of the Pre-Colombian Peru notes:  A fundamental principle in Andean cultures is that of duality.  The principle of dualism permeates the lives of indigenous Andeans; it is a world view according to which people, society, the cosmos and other aspects of life are divided into complementary parts.  the harmon of the universe depends on the controlled inter-relationship between the halves." (Professor Daniel Rosengren, University of Gothenberg, Sweden)
The image of the staff god incised on a dried squash gourd. The color of
the inset was changed to highlight his features. His right terminates in the
head of a snake. 
The Quechua words for this duality of harmony and opposites are "yanantin and masintin."  The Spanish made every effort to remove this concept from the Inca and other indigenous peoples.  Due to the religious taboo,  these words are discouraged from use even today in rural Quechua speaking Peru.
Sechin Alto Temple Complex with the two staircases and light and dark
stones at the entrance. The site dates to approximately 2000 BCE and is
near Chimbote about 200 miles north of Lima

With regard to this duality, I am reminded from the Book of Mormon of Lehi's words to his son Jacob:  "And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents. and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.  Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should at for himself.  Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was entice by the one or the other."  2 Nephi 2:15-16
The Pyramide Mayor at Caral is one of the oldest temple sites in all of the
Americas. Note the dark and lighter stones uncovered by the archaeologists
at the entrance of the second level of stairs. 
I had never before thought of this concept of the two trees of knowledge with its forbidden fruit and the tree of life being emblematic illustrating the Inca/Quechua concept of opposites and harmony.
Cancer survivor and a stroke victim both, Dr. Christensen teaches about
life's riches experiences involving opposites in his new book. We heard him 
lecture in NYC at a business conference on his business theories. 
I was interested recently reading the reviews of a Harvard business professor's new book, How Will You Measure Your Life?  His work is recognized worldwide.  The fact that he is a friend of Mitt Romney should not be held against him.  Andy Grove and Intel, because of his influence, developed the Celeron family of microprocessors. RA and I heard him lecture a few years ago in New York.  He too understands as did the ancients the nature of duality and opposites.  He said.  "In the scriptures, we are told you can't really understand happiness unless you understand sadness.  You don't know pleasure if you don't know pain.  It's part of lie.  So can you learn something from somebody who has gone from success to success to success?  I don't think so.  It has to be somebody who has failed and failed and succeeded and succeeded."  Dr. Clayton Christensen
The entrance to the Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo.
Some of the granite used on this site is porphyry and very
old being thrust up with the Andes Mountains.  
There is much more to write about other than to repeat again how much we are going to miss Peru. One practice or belief must be noted in closing.  For the Inca, babies that are born with handicaps or birth defects were treated as special messengers from the Gods. As such they were given a special and elevated status in Inca society and treated well. Other than perhaps human sacrifice, life under the Inca was probably better than most contemporary cultures and certainly better than the colonial period that would follow under the Viceroy of Peru and the King of Spain.
Where else in the world could you dine on barbecued cuy? 
I am not sure we could have gone anywhere else in the world where we could have had the experiences that we have enjoyed in thus land of 10,000 temples, huacas, or religious sites.  We have been very fortunate to have worked in the Lima Peru Temple with people we dearly love, respect and admire.  They are largely a group without great wealth by any worldy measure, but as a whole they are among the wealthiest and happiest of people.

No comments:

Post a Comment