Lesson 8) The Intriguing Inca
Rich fabrics drape the walls, doors, windows, and all flat surfaces in the Mythology room today. They bear intricate designs and colors ranging from the crispest white to deep, saturated tones of green, red, purple, yellow, and orange. Some of them also seem to be quite soft, based on the marvelling exclamations of one of your fellow students who was bold enough to reach out and stroke one. As the echoing click of Professor Wessex’s heels approach, the student snatches their hand away sits down rather quickly, sharing a wary look with other students nearby.
Hello, students. Today marks our last topic of the term: the Inca. In addition to being our last civilization of the year, it is the last of the three sister civilizations that people generally think of when ancient Mesoamerica comes to mind. There were, and are, certainly others, but we have focused on them because they are the most predominant and well-known from this era. If this has not sated your appetite, however, Professor Fairclough has covered a few other civilizations that existed previously and some that continue on today. Those of you not taking N.E.W.T. level History of Magic may want to reconsider that decision. Without further ado, we will commence our look at the mythology of the Inca, starting with the various moving parts and people as we did in our two-part spread on the Maya.
For our obligatory background, it is pertinent to know that the Inca civilization existed from 1230 C.E. to 1525 C.E. There is a bit of contention as to the last date, as 1525 is the year in which the Inca civilization no longer existed as it once had, due to decimation by tribal warfare and disease. However, the invasion of the Spaniards in 1533 further ensured the complete removal of the Inca and other related civilizations and their assimilation into Spanish and European culture.
At its peak, the empire stretched nearly the full length of South America, through the modern day countries of Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. Its size was larger than twice that of modern-day France and was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America prior to its destruction. The capital of the Inca Empire was the city of Cuzco (sometimes called Cusco, or Quechua), a city which still exists in modern-day Peru.
As far as cultural and magical background, the Inca were very skilled in a number of areas which included divination, charms, and potions. Relatedly, as you can see from the rich fabrics adorning the classroom this week, they valued cloth immensely, even more than gold or precious minerals. Because of this, a large subsection of their charms work centered on textiles: whether making them, growing the plants for them, or charms for decoration or durability to be applied to the final product.
As you have likely come to expect, the Inca pantheon is just as problematic as the other two Mesoamerican cultures’. However, the one positive is that the Inca pantheon is nowhere near as cluttered as its Maya and Aztec counterparts. In fact, it is possible to create a (generally accurate) family tree of sorts, as there is much more detail on which god is related to whom and how. What makes this family tree problematic is that, like the Aztec and the Maya, as the Inca conquered surrounding peoples, they absorbed many of their beliefs along with their gods. Therefore, additional gods were forced into a pre-existing family tree. On occasion, this means that one group may pair up a god and goddess as consorts, whereas another group will make them father-daughter, which obviously cannot be reconciled. Additionally, sometimes it was impossible to integrate new gods into the pre-existing family tree at all, and so they were left out. They were still divine and part of the pantheon, but not part of the complex web of relationships. You can see what I mean when you look in detail at the diagram on the board.
With that diagram for reference, we will now go on to briefly touch on some of the main players from this pantheon in Inca mythology. Some of these descriptions may seem a little sparse, but this is in the interest of not giving away all the details of the myths next week, and keeping the lesson from running over.
As you can see, there are certain patterns and facts that stand out. For example, nearly all goddesses had the honorific “Mama” in front of them -- in the case of this chart, all of them do. Secondly, you will likely have noticed that the practice of siblings also being husband and wife. Inti and Mama Quilla were both spouses and siblings, as were many of their children. This is a common thing not only in some of the various pantheons that have been discussed in Ancient Studies and Mythology, but also something that was practiced among flesh and blood people in ancient times. This relatedness was echoed in their associations. Often times, a male-female pair had dominion over the same area or element. Therefore, you might have both a god and a goddess of air, with the two of them being married (and potentially also brother and sister).
Finally, you will have noticed that some gods and goddesses listed such as Supay, the god of the underworld, and Apocatequil, the god of lightning and storms, do not fit into the overall family tree. This is due to the fact that there is not truly one exclusively Inca pantheon, but instead, it is a mix of many pantheons from various indigenous groups. Therefore, there were multiple creator gods (which we will discuss later), multiple gods with the same associations (for example, both Viracocha and Apocatequil were associated with storms), and gods or goddesses that either do not fit into the family tree at all, or have been put in two different places. The Inca absorbed the religious beliefs of most that they conquered, and so their pantheon grew -- and grew more complicated -- with time.
These four sons of Inti and Mama Quilla are known collectively as the Ayars (Manco Capac is also occasionally referred to as “Ayar Manco” and, regardless of what he is called, is included in this group of four). There are other gods that are also attributed to Inti as his offspring, although their different names suggest they were added later and potentially absorbed from other tribes’ pantheons. These four gods in turn married their four sisters and were the leaders for the human race and the basis on which the Inca empire was mythologically founded and created. In some mythologies, these four are referred to as Viracocha’s “sons” and their wives as Viracocha’s “daughters.” However, it is common to simply read the terms “sons and daughters” in a looser sense, in that everyone -- humans and gods alike -- would have been sons and daughters of the all-powerful creator god.
While not a god, Emperor Pachacutec is certainly an important historical and mythical figure! Also styled Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui, or even Cusi Yupanqui before his ascendance, this man was the ninth emperor of the Inca Empire, and one of the most celebrated. There is much speculation surrounding this emperor. One of the most common topics of discussion are the belief that Machu Picchu was, in fact, built as a large estate for he, his family, and his court. Another frequently emerging question surrounds whether or not Pachacutec was magical or not. There are many interesting twists and turns to his story including not being his father’s original heir, many celebrated military campaigns, and otherworldly feats of greatness. Many historians point to these things to support their theory that there is more to Pachacutec than meets the eye.
Said to be the direct son of Viracocha (who will be mentioned later), Inti is also worshipped as the “head” of the pantheon, even though he is on the second level or tier. He is worshipped as the sun god and is either the consort of Pacha Mama, to be mentioned later, or Mama Quilla, his sister and the moon goddess.
Kon, or Con, is occasionally mentioned as having created humans, similar to Viracocha and in those myths, the god is styled “Con Tiqui Viracocha,” combining the two deities into one. Some mythologists speculate that Kon mythology exists because commoners were not allowed to speak the name Viracocha because he was so revered -- thus the name Con Tiqui Viracocha was shortened to just “Con” to avoid the problem. However, others suggest he is merely a borrowed god from another pantheon, and the stories of his creation of the universe was meshed with pre-existing ones that starred Viracocha.
Also noted as Pachamama, she is a goddess of fertility, the earth, and all other related concepts such as the harvest. There is evidence to suggest that she herself was once the head of her own pantheon (of a smaller conquered tribe) and she is highly respected. Though, this may also have to do with the importance of harvesting and crops to the native peoples. Depending on the myths you hear, Pachamama may be the consort of Inti, but according to other myths, this role is occasionally taken on by Mama Quilla.
Supay is the sole god of the underworld, known as Ukhu Pacha, and is traditionally thought of as a counterpart to the devil. However, unlike many ancient European civilizations, the Inca did not shun their version of the devil. Instead, like the Maya and the Aztecs, Supay could be safely interacted with and appeased. He was worshipped like other gods with rituals, prestigious days, and invocations to grant mercy or spare them. More positively, he was (and continues to be) worshipped as the god of underground minerals and water, both of which are seen as important and life-giving.
Finally, we arrive at the head of the Inca pantheon. Though it may be more appropriate to call Viracocha one of the heads as you will see that other gods who came later have also been credited with his deeds. Also known as Wiraqoca, Huiracocha, or Wiro Qocha, this is the Inca first creator god. It is from him that all other gods and goddesses are said to have been born. He is also credited with creating human life, the sun, the earth, and, generally speaking, everything. For this reason he is very revered. His consort, Mama Cocha, was viewed as a complement to him and had dominion over the sea.
A Look at Creatures
As with the Maya -- and, truthfully, many other ancient civilizations -- this section dedicated to creatures and beasts from Inca mythology includes some figures that could more accurately be called beings. However, they are included here because of their designation in cultural myths, even if their status as being is widely accepted by the magical community and experts.
Actually not beasts at all, these were a special caste of especially proficient seers and oracles. They lived apart from the rest of the tribe from an early age, and sent to live with other Achachilas, as their gift was usually recognized before puberty. They were often viewed as demigods or spirits due to the common deification of magic in early societies. They were often visited and given offerings as payment for their consultation or wisdom. It is unfortunately not known how or if these people were trained or if they allowed the Sight to develop naturally.
To the Inca tribes, particularly the Aymara, this diseased demon was a terrifying specter. The mekala would descend on a farm and crops, and cattle there would immediately begin to die. Any prosperity would be wiped away. While traditional folklore describes mekala as female spirits, magianthropologists highly suspect that this creature was an ancient relative or variant of a Nogtail, and its feminine designation was in relation to sows’ litters becoming infected with Dark magic and birthing yet more Nogtails.
These short, cave-dwelling creatures go by many similar names such as muqui and mooqui have many myths surrounding their appearance, purpose, and habits. However, the belief in the creature in general is very widespread and still persists to this day. They are believed to be practical jokesters and a bit malicious, making things turn up missing and causing unwary miners or cave travelers to sprain their ankles or suffer similar injuries. On top of all this, there exist quite a few myths about these creatures kidnapping children.
Believed by Muggles to be demons that reside with Supay in the underworld when not inhabiting the caves, magical folk suspect differently. Because of the many descriptions of muki -- some appear like very small men, other times they are said to look like animals or twisted forms without necks and disproportionate bodies -- and the many myths about them, there is quite a bit of disagreement on just what exactly the muki were. However, nearly all magical persons agree that the muki must have been a real magical creature at one point.
Some of the most popular scholarly theories are as follows. First, many simply attribute the multiple, seemingly disparate, descriptions to the fact that the Inca lumped multiple creatures together under one name. Common frontrunners for the mis-identified creatures include goblins, imps, Hinkypunks, and even Erklings, though no one knows how or why they would be so far away from their native areas. The other common theory is that there existed a particular breed or group of goblins in South America that were particularly vicious. Lastly, though very difficult to prove, some people favor the idea that these creatures were some sort of hybrid breed of the earlier mentioned creatures. However, it seems we may never know. While the stories persist, all investigations into the reports have turned up no sign of magical creatures. It is presumed that, whatever the muki were, they either died out, migrated, or evolved into something else long ago.
The Snake Mothers
Yet more enormous, mythical snakes. As I mentioned earlier in the year, this is certainly a common theme in mythology around the world, though the exact reason as to why is unclear and unproven. The myths of large snakes in Inca tradition are difficult to sort through and relate to our present-day Western magical society, but we will at the least note pertinent information about the myths.
Styled with names like the various goddesses of the Inca pantheon, the three snake mothers -- Huayramama, Sachamama, and Yakumama -- certainly have otherworldly powers like goddesses would. They are said to have the bodies of large powerful snakes like anacondas and boas, but have the face and hair of old women. Huayramama in particular was said to be in control of the wind and weather magic. Indeed, one myth even tells of Huayramama teaching weather magic to a worthy shaman.
It is unclear whether these myths are long-lost accounts of a trio of powerful witches -- related or otherwise -- who dabbled in Dark magic and potentially raised enormous serpent familiars, or if their similarities to snakes were simply a credit to their ability for human transfiguration. In any case, these three “snake mothers” were considered to be very powerful.
That concludes our discussion of the various persons, deities, and creatures that feature into Inca mythology and influence their culture. Next week, we will be continuing, and ending, our discussion of the Inca as well as ending the year. Before you depart, I will give you one reminder that the final will be on all topics up to this point, including both North and South America. While it will not be nearly as challenging as your Ordinary Wizarding Levels, I should expect you have developed adequate study habits by now.
Inca - A title of nobility among the Inca people. Similar to “emperor” or “king.” Can also be interchanged with Sapa Inca or Sapa Inka.