The Inca


Manco Capac, founder of the Inca lineage

(Drawn by the indigenous chronicler Felipe Guaman Poma)


The Legend of the Ayar Brothers

After the flood, when the waters returned to their normal levels, the almighty Sun gave life to the first mortals, who were created at Parictambo (Abode of Procreation). High up in the caves in the Tampuctoco or “Place of Windows” there were three grottos: Maras Toco, the “salty cave”; Sutic Toco, the “damp cave”; and Capac Toco, the “cave of bounty”.

Out of the first two came the lineages of the Maras and the Tambo, who failed to produce descendants. From the last cave came the Ayar brothers, the beloved children of the Sun. Since their mission was to populate the world, the Sun gave each one of them a wife. Thus, Ayar Manco--the eldest-- had as a wife his own sister Mama Ocllo; Ayar Auca had Mama Huaco; Ayar Uchu had Mama Raura and Ayar Cachi was paired with Mama Cora.


Inca ritual (Drawing by Guaman Poma)

As per their father’s orders, the brothers headed South, but during their long journey through the Andean highlands and plains, Ayar Cachi’s rebellious and unruly temperament infuriated his brothers, who tricked him into returning to Tamputoco, where he remains imprisoned forever.

It is said that the intensity of his screams caused springs and rivers to come into being. Cachi’s curse caught up to his brothers, though, turning Ayar Uchu into a rock mountain and causing Ayar Auca to drown in a river. Only Ayar Manco and his widowed sisters made it to Cusco.

Compiled by Odi Gonzales

Andean Mythology: Man's origin

Within the vast mythology that populates the Quechua psyche, there are numerous stories about the origin of the Andean man. The most widespread myths assure that men sprouted spontaneously from their pacarinas or places of origin. Even today, through their legends and narrations of the oral tradition, natives declare themselves to be the descendants of springs, hills, lagoons or caves.


Calling the Apus, by the Peruvian artist Luis Solorio (mixed technique, 1996)

Conversely, in the chronicles drawn up from reports compiled from the 16th century on, the supreme deities were the creators of men. It is not known whether the concept of a three-level universe already existed alongside the myths mentioned above. The three levels are identified as: Hanaq pacha (the world above, where the deities dwell); Kay pacha (the earth or the world of the living); and Ukhu pacha (the netherworld or the world of the dead).

The Mythical Cycles: Viracocha and Ayar

The domains of the civilizing gods Viracocha and Ayar, extended throughout the southern area of ancient Peru. However, this does not mean they developed parallel to each other, nor that they were contemporary to other mythological cycles that evolved along the Peruvian coast, such as that of Huarochiri, or even the cycle involving Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the ancestors of the Inca. There is certainly great confusion regarding the Viracocha cycle, since up to 4 different gods bearing the same name have been identified. Researchers such as Maria Rostworowski maintain, nevertheless, that there is only a single deity and three “assistants” who wander the Andean world to accomplish different missions.

The main deity, Viracocha I, has various names such as Tecsi Viracocha or Pachayachachic (Maker of All Things); he represents wisdom and the ability to bring order to the world and all things it contains. He is generally associated with the creation of water and navigation techniques. Viracocha II, Imaymana Viracocha, is associated with plants’ medicinal properties as well as agricultural labor. Viracocha III, Tocapo, is seen as connected with textiles. Finally, Viracocha IV, Taguapaca or Tunupa is seen as responsible for the propagation of ocean beings, but he is also linked with disobedience and rebelliousness.


Raymondi Monolith. Representation of a feline deity.

In antiquity, there were also other mythical cycles which flourished in various regions of the Andean world. Among the best known are those of Con (on the northern coast), Chincha (in the Chincha Valley), Cañaris (in Quito), Ancasmarca (in the southern Andean valley of Cusco), Tumbe (in Tumbes), Tumayricapa (in Tarma and Huanuco), Raco (in the colder regions of the highlands), Guari, Libiac (in the central and north-central mountain ranges), Catequil, Piguerao (in the northern mountain ranges), Chicopaec, Aiapaec (northern coast),Urpay Huachac and Auca Atama (in the Lima valley).

It is important to point out that all these mythical cycles were, it seems, overseen and regulated by Pachacamac, the great invisible deity, who is responsible for both the beginning and the end of each cycle, usually by means of a cataclysm or a deluge. Pachacamac is the permanent generator of the pachacuti or renewal of the world. He is, thus, the end of an era and the beginning of another, a notion that reinforces his ties to the Inca dynasty.

Manco Cápac and the Incan kingdom

For many researchers, the Inca period begins with the couple formed by Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, who are not themselves creators of life, but children of the Sun, charged with a civilizing mission. As such, they are regarded as intermediaries between the Sun god and men and emerge from the frothy waters of lake Titicaca to teach men diverse occupations and Sun worship. Both the emperor or Intip Churin (child of the Sun) and the Purun una (mere mortal), had two gods: the Sun (a visible god, creator of all that exists) and the feared Pachacamac (an invisible but omnipresent deity). Nonetheless, the Andean pantheon included numerous lesser local deities who were worshipped with equal fervor.

Good examples of these include the Huacas (embodied in men, mountains, rivers, animals, fruits and rocks); Mamacocha (the sea); Illapa (thunder); Pachamama (Mother Earth); Mamaquilla (Mother Moon);and the Apu (the mountain spirit). Also, the Incas also differentiated three spatial levels where everything existed: Hanaq Pacha, the upper world, inhabited by the ancient creators, the builders; Kay Pacha, our world, inhabited by men, animals, nature; and Ukhu Pacha, the netherworld, inhabited and traveled by the dead.


The snow covered peak of theAwsangate (Cusco, Peru)

Ancient Andean Manuscripts

The Gods

“In very ancient times there was a deity called Yanamca Tutañamca. Then another god called Huallallo Carhuincho arrived and vanquished [Tutañamca.] When [Huallallo Carhuincho] came to power, he ordered men to have only two children. He would devour one of them and spare the other one. Some time later another god called Pariacaca arrived and drove men out of his domains. During that time there also existed a huaca (deity) named Cuniraya. However, we ignore if Cuniraya came before or after Pariacaca, or whether Cuniraya existed alongside Viracocha, the creator of man. [And so], people in the temples would cry out: “Cuniraya Viracocha, creator of man, creator of the world, You have as much as is possible to have, yours are the chacras (farming fields), yours is man: I [am yours]”

"Deities and Men of Huarochiri". Chapter I. Compiled by Francisco de Avila (16th century). Translated from Quechua by José María Arguedas.


Moche icons(Northern Peru)

Deities and Men of Huarochirí

A unique document, Deities and Men of Hurochiri is a manuscript consisting of accounts compiled in Quechua by the Cuzco priest Francisco de Avila in the later part of the 16th century in the province of Huarochiri, belonging to the Archdiocese of Lima. Partially edited by Herman Trimborn (Leipzig, 1939) and by Hipólito Galante (Madrid, 1942), with translations into German and Latin (the latter was used to produce the first translation into Spanish). A careful, complete edition was produced by the National History Museum and the Institute of Peruvian Studies only in 1966, with José María Arguedas undertaking the first direct translation from Quechua into Spanish. He was also responsible for titling the still unnamed manuscript.

Touted by Arguedas as “the most important Quechua literary work in existence”, Deities and Men of Huarochiri is an invaluable text that offers an integral and coherent view of the mythology, the rituals and the social mores of a province in Ancient Peru.



The Popol Vuh

In spite of being composed in different geographical realms and during very different eras, there exist surprising similarities between Deities and Men of Huarochiri and the Popol Vuh—the sacred book of the Maya-Quiche.



The second chapter of "Deities and Men…" narrates the adventures of the god Cuniraya Viracocha, an obsessive traveler who wanders the universe on foot disguised as a shabby individual dressed in tatters.

In these circumstances, Cuniraya meets the beautiful Cahuillaca, whom he manages to impregnate by means of a ruse: As she is resting peacefully under a lúcumo tree, Cuniraya –who has turned himself into a bird—injects his semen into a lúcumo fruit which he then drops in front of Cahuillaca who greedily eats it. As a result she conceives a child of the god. In a similar episode in the first chapters of the Popol Vuh—the ancient Central American manuscript rescued in the 18th century by brother Francisco Ximénez—there is a beautiful young woman resting under a tree loaded with delicious fruit. There she meets the Supreme Master Magician, one of the creators of the world..

The young woman longs to eat one of the tree’s fruits and the deity advises her to simply reach out with her hand open. When she does so, the god “spits forcefully, flinging some very dense saliva onto the young woman’s open hand”, thus impregnating her. That saliva, of course, is seen as the divine semen that spawned humanity.

Market at Chichicastenango (Guatemala)

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Last update: May 29, 2007.
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