Most people in the Inca Empire did not worship the religion you get impression of in Coricancha. The gods there were predominantly reserved for the powerful and were explained to foreign chiefs when they had to be convinced of the excellence of Tawantinsuyu. It was thus rulers and captive, former rulers who where conveyed the Incas dynamic divine world which the rulers worshipped while the empire expanded.
What is called common peoples faith was far closer to the nomads and the early farmers, a faith that originated from life in a nature which – for humans – was primarily violent and powerful, ie. which controlled their lives.
The ancestors were to be asked for advice and Pachamama, Mother Earth, should have her three cocaleaves each morning. Common people had to work before the sun rose, but whether it actually was due to the Sun Inti for religious reasons should see that they were diligent or whether it was a necessity will remain unresolved. But the necessity, the daily struggle to keep the hunger away, helped to ensure the widespread dissemination of the religious interpretation of the Sun.
Most people believed that even the smallest stone, a stream and a mountain could have a soul. Everything could be animated and have energy. The people did not distinguish between positive and negative energy, but on the contrary emphasized that, for example, the shadow should not be fought but integrated and accepted. The shadow also at that time followed the light. Soul was found in the huacas, sacred places, and was called apu, spirit, but huacas could appear widely different. There were no evil spirits.
The ayllu, the kin, gathered around its ancestors mummy, and it had to be asked and cared for. The tribe – the ethnic unit – could jointly worship a volcano, a mountain or a mountain range. Its apu, the tribe could worship as its creator god, and therefore it with military means would protect the place from strangers invasion.
At the interpersonal level, energy could be transferred to others, and people could open up to others energy. It applied to pacos, shamans, who on behalf of others made contacts with spirits.
Soul and energy could be at one place, but at the same time it could be somewhere else. It could also be here right now, but also here at another time. Neither place nor time was stuck. Soul and energy could be asynchronous and collective: at all times and everywhere. Energy was not a zero-sum game.
This notion could give a person a great sense of security, because one was never alone. Regardless one believed being alone, then ancestors and spirits were always present and could be called upon.
Conversely, the notion could also be very disturbing, for always one should take care of everything. Did you forget to ask the apu for permission? Did you overlook something important? Everything could be significant and therefore the existing order was never to be broken without permission from the apu.
We can talk about predestination, superstition and thus derived passivity. Everything was controlled by forces outside of humans; the people of the Andes were convinced that spirit existed in an infinite variety: in stones, plants, animals and humans.
People who share this faith can easily be controlled. This the Incas knew, and allowed common people keep their faith that everything was animated while claiming themselves to be the Children of the sun. So while everyone lived in a animated world, they themselves had the right to their father, the Sun Inti, who from the sky kept an eye the whole day.
As the notion could create security, it also laid the foundation for an eternal fear.
The Incas propagated the myth of origin that before them chaos had prevailed. According to some myths, the Sun had sent two siblings, had given them a golden wand, and told them to settle where the wand slid into the ground. The Sun had rescued them from the barbarity, and therefore all people should recognize the Children of the Sun – the Inca and his sisterwife, and their offspring, the next Incacouple – as lords. Therefore, everyone was instructed to get up before the sun and get started, so that the Sun could immediately see that they were working. Stolid, we of course can say: Early up and early in bed – it was a matter of utilizing the bright hours before the black night of stars fell again. Most had found this long time before by bitter necessity. In the myth, it was made necessary for something sacred.
The Incas formulated their morals in the sentence: Ama suwa, ama llulla, ama quella which can be translated into Don’t steal not, don’t lie, don’t be lazy. Actually a standardization of obviousness, of general morality. A society can hardly stick together if it is built on the opposite law: Steal, lie and be lazy! It will be a society of robbers – or a non-society.
The law of the Incas was a natural law, many would argue.
And yet: The law of the Incas was propagated in a society where most people were forced to work for the ruler and the priesthood, and people could call it theft of their laborforce. The people lived in a religiously based society where everything became blurred by religion, and this they would rightly could call lies, for it did not originate from the gods but had just been propagated by humans. And the Inca and his family were carried in litters and they were serviced when they wanted it, so they could reasonably be called lazy.
The law applied to most of the people, but not to the supposedly divine rulers, the Children of the Sun. The Inca laws were supposed to secure the Inca society, tying it together so no one doubted its place. A conservative view of society that built on a well-controlled class society where everyone had their defined place where the individual was totally subject to power.
The law was neither written down nor justified.
(pp. 260-263 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
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