Our Father the Sun, seeing men in the state I have mentioned, took pity and was sorry for them, and sent from heaven to earth a son and a daughter of his to indoctrinate them in the knowledge of Father the Sun that they might worship him and adopt him as their god, and to give them precepts and laws by which they would live as reasonable and civilized men, and dwell in houses and settled towns, and learn to till the soil, and grow plants and crops, and breed flocks, and use the fruits of the earth like rationel beings and not like beasts. With this order and mandate our Father the Sun set these two children of his in Lake Titicaca, eighty leagues from here, and bade them go where they would, and whereever they stopped to eat or sleep to try to thrust into the ground a golden wand half a yard long and two fingers in thickness which he gave them as a sign and token: when this wand should sink into the ground at a single trust, there our Father the Sun wished them to stop and set up their court.
This myth was originally written by Garcilaso de la Vega, born in Cusco in 1539, just six years after the Spaniards had marched into the capital of the Incas and just three years after the Incas during a violent uprising had briefly liberated it.
The father had been a Spanish officer, of noble ancestry, one of the conquistadors who had participated in conquering first Mexico and since Peru. The mother had been Inca princess, therefore one of the conquered, so the father had not only participated in conquering the Inca Empire but also her. She gave birth to their child, a mestizo, who was one of the 10th Sapa Incas great-grandchildren and who was baptized Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, but I use the name he later became known at: Garcilaso de la Vega. His descent from two upperclasses gave him knowledge, information and opportunities that help his Royal Commentaries to be quite special.
In his childhood, he was taught Quechua of his mother, and with her he met relatives, formerly high in the Inca Empire, who enjoyed telling Inca myths and stories. When Garcilaso was ten years old, his father pushed his mother away – after royal orders to stabilize Catholic marriages. Although the mother had been baptized, the relationship had not become lawful, and the father married a younger Spanish woman at whom Garcilaso had his youth and received education. His fathers home is now converted to a historical museum just behind the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.
Garcilaso still visited his mother and listened to family stories, and that is important for this story. The father was not just officer but also a powerful official in Cusco. When he died, his son was 21 years old, leaving him a sum of money to study in Spain.
However, the Spanish Crown had criticized the father for having left a horse to Spanish rebels against the King in the conflict 1546-1548. In Spain, his son had to fight for his father to be recognized as one of Perus conquistadors – a recognition could bring greater economic benefits to himself. Also, the parents mestizo relation the son should defend as part of the requirement of the fathers inheritance.
The young man had plenty to look after in Spain.
Garcilaso planned to return to his native country Peru when he had secured his inheritance, but it didn’t happen. Instead, he reared horses, became an officer, translated and wrote his book on the Incas which he published in 1609. It was 49 years after he had left Peru, and he himself was seventy.
Garcilaso de la Vega admitted that his description of the Incas was marked by his pride of his motherly ancestry, and then he boasted that his Inca origin could give his presentation greater value as source and claimed that the spaniards are not well enough aquainted with the language to be able to ask for and obtain informtion from the Indians.
At the end of his life, Garcilaso proudly presented himself as Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, for his self-chosen name he shared with another author; our Garcilaso was more Inca than conqueror, more Quechua than Spaniard. Much later – in 1780 – the Spanish authorities banned his work on the Incas, for they feared that Indians might be incited to resistance.
Garcilaso, however, was also marked by Spanish humanism, as evidenced by his formulation of the Sun, who of pity with the people from heaven sent its son and daughter to the earth, where they also had to teach men to live as civilized people and not as animals.
That approach was different than that other had, and in particular it was different from Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboas presentation of how the first Incas had planned to tyrannize other tribes.
Over the years, Garcilaso de la Vega has often been quoted so that his reproduction of Inca myths and stories probably more than any other single source has marked the perception of the Incas, and the myth of the golden wand is surely the most frequently told of the Incas wandering. It differs fundamentally from other chroniclers violent creationstories of the flood, and about the first Incas who climbed out of windows, lured a brother into the mountain to let him die when the mountain shook.
Consciously or unconsciously Garcilaso idyllized: The warm Father The Sun had sent his two beloved children to the earth with a golden wand, where they could walk safely, as caring educate people they met and with them create their kingdom. With the Sun Inti as father, the Incas came to occupy a unique position. They were not just a dynasty who replaced a previous one, they pretended not to be divine, no, they had by cosmic forces been sent from heaven to earth, he wrote.
Garcilaso wrote on basis of what he remembered and what consisted of what he as a boy had heard by his mother and her noble family. It must have cast a light of love over the prehistory.
However, the two US-American anthropologists Geoffrey W. Conrad and Arthur A. Demarest pull the myth down to earth again:
The rise of the Inti cult must have been to some extent a conscious manipulation of religion for political purposes … The creation of the Inti cult obviously worked to the advantage of Inca rulers: as Garcilaso noted, the veneration of Inti meant that when the people adored their god, they were also worshipping their king.
Peruvian historian María Rostworowski, former director of Perus National Museum, believes that Garcilaso created this myth to its European readers.
The US-American archeologist and anthropologist John Howland Rowe characterizes Garcilasos version of the Inca history as largely fictitous, indeed, pious fraud.
Garcilasos myth unfolds here in the sun-drenched Titicaca, perhaps here on the cliff island Taquile, the neighboring island of Amantaní or on Isla del Sol, Island of the Sun. But at least on Lake Titicaca, 250 miles south of Cusco.
Also Felipe Guáman Poma de Ayala, who wrote about the Incas at the same time as Garcilaso de la Vega, but in Peru, mentioned Lake Titicaca as the Incas place of origin. Unlike Garcilasos two chosen Children of the Sun, Poma mentioned the four brothers and four sisters who others also had written about and he mentioned Tampu Tocco. Titicaca was thus not Garcilasos conception in his Spanish exile.
Garcilaso wrote that the Sun had been worried about humans, so in love for them he had sent a son and daughter, the Children of the Sun. With them they had got a golden wand so that they could find the right place to live. The golden wand can be perceived as the extended rays of the sun, for it is golden. It can also be interpreted as a royal scepter, as a ritualized weapon. Or as a very masculine symbol of power – also a kind of weapon – the wand must be inserted in all places, where it can slide in fertile soil. Somewhat effective digging tool in soil studies have it hardly been. But then a half-arm of gold of the width of two fingers.
Garcilaso was also interested in the time before the Incas, and seventeen years old he had asked one of his uncles about what he knew about the Incas origin and first year. According to Garcilaso, the uncle had answered:
You should know that in olden times the whole of this region before you was covered with brush and heath, and people lived in those times like wild beasts, with no religion or government and no towns or houses, and without tilling or sowing the soil, or clothing or covering their flesh, for they did not know how to weave cotton or wool to make clothes. They lived in twos and threes as chance brought them together in caves and crannies in rocks and underground caverns. Like wild beasts they ate the herbs of the field and roots of trees roots and fruits growing wild and also human flesh. They covered their bodies with leaves and the bark of trees and animals skins. Others went naked. In short, they lived like deer or other game, and even in their intercourse with women they behaved like beasts, for they knew nothing of having separate wives.
The uncle told THE GREAT MYTH OF ORIGIN, that before the Incas, the barbarian had ruled, and Garcilaso passed it loyally without questioning the source of the myth.
Years before, Pedro Cieza de Leon had written that there were people before the Incas and that they had been barbarians.
Now Garcilaso wrote:
The Indians of those heathen days were no better than in their eating and dressing. Many tribes cohabited like beasts without having any special wife, but with anyone they chanced to fall in with. Others married as their fancy directed them without excepting sisters, daughters, and mothers. Among other tribes they excepted their mothers, but no one else. In other provinces it was lawful and even praiseworthy for girls to be as immodest and abandoned as they pleased, and the most dissolute were the surest to marry, since they regarded it as a great quality to have been dissolute. At least girl of that kind were regarded as industrious, while the modest were thought to be feeble since nobody had wanted them. In other regions the custom was contrary: mothers kept their daughters with great circumspection, and when they were arranging to marry them, they brought them out in public and deflowered them with their own hands before the members of the family who had witnessed the contract so as to prove to all present that they had been taken good care of. In other provinces the closest relatives of the bridegroom and his best friends violated the maiden who was to be married, and the marriage was so arranged and the husband then received her.
In addition to his memories of what he as a boy had heard in the family, Garcilaso de la Vega also wrote from what others had written. He was given manuscripts from the Jesuit monk Blas Valera, which he quoted on how Indian women in war against foreign men had accustomed infants to barbarity:
The women, crueller than the men, anoint the nipples of their breasts with the unfortunate victims blood so that their babies may suck it and drink it with their milk. This is all done in a place of sacrifice with great rejoicing and lightheartedness until the man dies. They then finish eating the flesh together with all his inner parts, no longer as hitherto as a feast or delight, but as a matter of the greatest devinity.
The description appears more bloody, yes more violent than I have read in other sources. Where Valera had his information from is uncertain, for many of his writings have disappeared, which I will elaborate on in Cusco. Garcilaso emphasized that, according to Valera, these bloodsacrifices were still practiced. Neither that information we know the source of.
The description of the bloody barbarity made the Inca myth of the Children of the Sun sent to the earth, to radiate even more. Garcilaso made every effort to propagate the myth of the forgiving sun, which was his familyhistory, to ensure its exaltation – until the Incas War of Brothers and the Spanish conquest, which abruptly ended the Incas allegedly most paradisiacal existence.
(pp. 121-126 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2
476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors
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