The people of the Andes knew that a lightning in the sky could spread death just as a crashing tree could do, but they also knew that without rain that followed the lightning and without food growing on the ground, no one could survive. Life and death were connected. It was discovered that seeds could germinate, grow, set flowers which became fruits that could be eaten as well as new seeds that could then germinate, grow. The observation created and reaffirmed their holistic view of life.
In the threatening nature, people accepted to be led, and when the leader died, someone else had to take over the leadership. Yet, people sometimes asked: What would our former leader have done now?
Deceased leaders could keep their high status and frequent references to such an ancestor did that he could become part of the manys dream world. This is how ancestral worship could develop into faith and contribute to notions that soul was eternal.
In the Andes it was believed that the body of the deceased was a container and that soul found its way to a place that was the ancestral place of origin and source of rebirth.
Although souls were no longer bound to bodies, bodies were carefully preserved and protected to allow souls to dwell in a tree, cliff, cave or others, called a huaca.
But which huaca? There were so many and one should respect every huaca. This implied that people always had to be careful, so they not offended a soul, spirit, an apu, as they called it.
Not the people were in the center, but the cyclic unified whole.
Soul had eternal existence, soul existed both before and since, soul was elevated over time. Incas believed that the soul continued to guard fields and crops and that it also felt thirst and hunger, so that it should have the necessary otherwise it could cause illness and accidents.
Everything – objects, sounds and visions – could be interpreted as omens by those who claimed to be able to establish contact with the soul world. It could empower chosen people and make others powerless when they focused on the special abilities of the chosen.
Recognition of powerlessness could also give people confidence, because the individual did not have to worry about everything.
Relatives with common ancestor, the ayllu, maintained the unity needed during the familys migration; ancestral worship also strengthened the community as the nomads became permanent residents. This ancestral worship was extended.
Especially the rulers worshipped gods in temples, and gods became more numerous as the Incas went to war with neighboring tribes, defeating and incorporating them and their gods in the Inca Empire. So a very dynamic world of gods.
Despite of their inclusive practices, the Incas told of the people before themselves, before establishing their power over the strangers, that these had lived without religion and government, that they had eaten human flesh and had covered their bodies with leaves and bark or had walked naked around. Even in their dealings with women, these strangers had behaved like wild beasts, but then the Incas had come and established order. This is how the Incas myth of origin sounded.
Garcilaso de la Vega wrote, a couple of generations after the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, what he in Spain remembered he had heard of his mothers high-ranking Inca family:
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 our 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.
The Son of the Sun, Manco Cápac, had shown the Incas way and with his sister he had a son: the prohibition of incest was broken by the Son of the Sun. That was part of his sanctification. Manco Cápac was followed by his son, who later was replaced by his son.
This idyllic description corresponded to the perception of the royal succession in the Europe, where Garcilaso wrote. But the Inca Empire had almost been an electoral kingdom, where the choice was mainly between the rulers relatives.
Garcilaso wrote that Manco Cápac had invented the fable that he and his sister had been sent from heaven to win the tribes esteem. But he also claimed that people were convinced of the lineage of Manco Cápac, that he was a child of the Sun, and they accordingly adored him, just as the pagans of antiquity gave worship to others who conferred similar benefits.
Garcilasos description was based on his Inca upper-class familys notions. Three Spaniards – Pedro Cieza de Leon, Juan de Betanzos and Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa – had before Garcilaso described the Incas history differently, perhaps because their sources had been different and perhaps because they wanted to show something different.
According to them, Manco Cápac had been one of siblings who crept out of a cave, but his brothers were dead and exalted to deities, after which Manco Cápac continued with his sisters, and with one he had founded the Inca Kingdom in Cusco. Where the sibling had originally come from and how it had entered the cave was not told, but its outbreak must have been divine.
In ayllu-communities everyone had worked together to escape hunger, and the collaboration developed a reciprocity and collective consciousness. Following a social specialization, leaders were set free from the physical work for instead leading the ayllu and connecting with the divine powers. The principle of this reciprocity was fundamental to the community.
As the Incas started looting neighboring tribes, the spoils was allotted to the individual warrior, but eventually the leaders took an ever greater part for themselves, also to handle the communitys interests: supplies for further warfare.
The collective consciousness of the tribe – something for something – was outstretched to the whole Inca society. In return for the Son of the Suns leadership and contact with the Sun Inti, everyone should work for the Son of the Sun. This reciprocity tied the Inca society together.
Tribes conquered by the Incas had also to respect the Son of the Sun and were also included in the reciprocity. However, the conquered were allowed still to worship their own ancestors and gods, most of them at least.
The increasingly more extensive reciprocity and ancestral worship changed character after the 9th Sapa Inca, Pachacútec, was crowned in 1438. After a devastating war with the Chanchas, he wanted to reorganize the Inca society by reducing the risk of intrigue in the royal lineage. Immediately, he strengthened ancestral worship while introducing the split heritage.
The Son of the Sun, Sapa Inca, was to be worshipped for his divine origin. His property was to preserve its divinity and therefore be looked after by his panaca, his relatives. His successor as newly crowned Sapa Inca was to take over rights and duties of the office, but not inherit the earthly property of the deceased. This split heritage made it necessary for the newly crowned Sapa Inca to acquire his own property, establish his own army and administration.
The system implied that the new Sapa Inca had to conquer new land. His respect for his ancestors continued interests lead to violation of other people and their respect for their ancestors. Wars of aggression was legitimated religiously.
War victories and the subsequent rapidly growing Inca Empire triggered a weakening of the former cohesion. The reciprocity between most people in the empire and Sapa Inca disappeared – or did never arise. Recently conquered – ie. the suppressed – did not experience Sapa Incas proximity in the same way that others had done before; they did not experience him as their father with divine connection. Thus the social contract dissolved for the still increasing number of people who simply felt like conquered, like oppressed.
(pp. 440-444 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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