Religion in the Inca Empire
In the heterogeneous Inca Empire several polytheistic religions were practiced by its different people. Most religions had common traits such as the existence of a Pachamama and Viracocha. The Incas controlled religion to give the empire cohesion by having conquered peoples add the Inca deities to their pantheon.
Inca deities occupied the three realms:
- Hanan Pacha, the celestial realm in the sky.
- Uku Pacha, the inner earth realm.
- Cay Pacha, the outer earth realm, where humans live.
Con-Tici Viracocha Pachayachachic, The first god, creator of the three realms and their inhabitants, was also the father of Inti.
Many ancient Andean peoples traced their origins to ancestral deities. Multiple ayllus could share similar ancestral origins. The Inca claimed descent from the Sun and the Moon, their Father and Mother. Many ayllus claimed descent from early proto-humans that they emerged from local sites in nature called pacarinas.
The earliest ancestors of the Inca were known as Ayar, the first of which was Manco Cápac or Ayar Manco. Inca mythology tells of his travels, in which he and the Ayar shaped and marked the land and introduced the cultivation of maize.
Religious expansion 
Religious traditions in the Andes tended to vary among different ayllus. While the Inca generally allowed or even incorporated local deities and heroes of the ayllus they conquered, they did bring their gods to those peoples by incorporating them in law such as required sacrifice. The Inca attempted to combine their deities with conquered ones in ways that raised the status of their own. One example of this is Pachamama, the goddess of earth, who was worshipped long before the rise of the Inca. In the Inca mythology Pachamama having been integrated was placed below the Moon who the Inca held ruled over all female gods.
A prominent theme in Inca mythology is the duality of the Cosmos. The realms were separated into the upper and lower realms, the Hanan Pacha and the Ukhu Pacha and Hurin Pacha. Hanan Pacha, the upper world, consisted of the deities of the sun, moon, stars, rainbow, and lightning while Ukhu Pacha and Hurin Pacha were the realms of Pachamama, the earth mother, and the ancestors and heroes of the Inca or other ayllus. Kay Pacha, the realm of the outer arth, where humans resided was viewed as an inermedary realm between Hanan Pacha and Ukhu Pacha. The realms were represented by the condor (upper world), puma (outer earth) and snake (inner earth).
Huacas (sacred sites or things), were spread around the Inca Empire. Huacas were deific entities that resided in natural objects such as mountains, boulders, streams, battle fields, other meeting places, and any type of place that was connected with past Incan rulers. Huacas could also be inanimate objects such as pottery that were believed to be vessels carrying deities. Spiritual leaders in a community would use prayer and offerings to communicate with a huaca for advice or assistance. Human sacrifice was a part of Incan rituals in which they usually sacrificed a child or a slave. The Incan people thought it was an honor to die as an offering.
There are supporting the presence of sacrifice within Inca society according to Reinhard and Ceruti: "Archaeological evidence found on distant mountain summits has established that the burial of offerings was a common practice among the Incas and that human sacrifice took place at several of the sites. The excellent preservation of the bodies and other material in the cold and dry environment of the high Andes provides revealing details about the rituals that were performed at these ceremonial complexes."
The Incas also used divination. Divination was used to inform people in the city of social events, predict battle outcomes, and ask for metaphysical intervention.
Divination was an important part of Inca religion, as reflected in the following quote:
- "The native elements are more obvious in the case of the sunrise divination. Apachetas, coca and the sun were major elements in pre-Conquest religion, and divination, the worship of sacred mountains and the bringing retribution against enemies were important ritual practices."
The Incan calendar had 12 months of 30 days, with each month having its own festival, and a five day feast at the end, before the new year began. The Incan year started in December, and began with Capac Raymi, the magnificent festival.
|Gregorian month||Inca month||Translation|
|January||Camay quilla||Fastening and Penitence|
|April||Ayrihua or Camay Inca Raymi||Festival of the Inca|
|May||Aymoray quilla or Hatun Cuzqui||Harvesting|
|June||Inti Raymi||Feast of the Sun and the great festival in honour of the sun for the harvest|
|July||Chahua-huarquiz, Chacra Ricuichi or Chacra Cona||Ploughing Month|
|August||Yapaquis, Chacra Ayaqui or Capac Siquis||Sowing month|
|September||Coya Raymi and Citua||Festival of the Moon|
|October||K'antaray or Uma Raymi||Month of crop watching|
|November||Ayamarca||Festival of the dead|
|December||Capac Raymi||Magnificent festival|
(Von Hagen, p. 93)
Inca religion is one of the main counter-arguments in the debate regarding the notion that the Inca state was an early 'Socialist Empire' (Baudin, 1928). These facts, however, have little to do with the Inca economy, which, with its large-scale central planning, vast system of grain houses, and mandatory work periods, does closely resemble modern socialism, although there were markets, catus, where barter was practiced without any regulation.
- Steele, P.R. Handbook of Inca mythology. Santa Barbara ABC-CLIO, 2004.
- Ceruti and Reinhard; "Sacred mountains, ceremonial sites, and human sacrifice among the Incas"; Archaeoastronomy: the journal of astronomy in culture (University of Texas Press); Volume XIX; 2005;pp. 2
- (Rowe 1946: 292-314)
- Kendall, Ann (1989). Everyday Life of the Incas.
- (Von Hagen, p. 91)
|This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (May 2012)|
||This article includes inline citations, but they are not properly formatted. (October 2012)|
- "Inca Religion", Elliott Shaw (General Editor), Overview of World Religions, PHILTAR, University of Cumbria
- Baudin (1948)