Inca mythology

Inca mythology includes a number of stories and legends that are mythological and helps to explain or symbolizes Inca beliefs.

All Christian priests that followed the Spanish conquest of Peru by Francisco Pizarro burned the records of the Inca culture. There is currently a theory put forward by Gary Urton that the Quipus represented a binary system capable of recording phonological or logographic data. All information for what is known is based on what was recorded by priests, from the iconography on Incan pottery and architecture, and the myths and legends which survived amongst the native peoples.


Inca foundation legends

Manco Capac was the legendary founder of the Inca Dynasty in Peru and the Cuzco Dynasty at Cuzco. The legends and history surrounding this mythical figure are very jumbled, especially those concerning his rule at Cuzco and his birth/rising. In one legend, he was the son of Tici Viracocha. In another, he was brought up from the depths of Lake Titicaca by the sun god Inti. However, commoners were not allowed to speak the name of Inca Viracocha, which is possibly an explanation for the need for three foundation legends rather than just the first.

There were also many myths about Manco Capac and his coming to power. In one myth, Manco Capac and his brother Pacha Kamaq were sons of the sun god Inti. Manco Capac, himself, was worshiped as a fire and sun god. According to this Inti legend, Manco Capac and his siblings were sent up to the earth by the sun god and emerged from the cave of Puma Orco at Pacaritambo carrying a golden staff called ‘tapac-yauri’. They were instructed to create a Temple of the Sun in the spot where the staff sank into the earth to honor the sun god Inti, their father. During the journey, one of Manco’s brothers (Ayar Cachi) was tricked into returning to Puma Orco and sealed inside, or alternatively was turned to ice, because his reckless and cruel behavior angered the tribes that they were attempting to rule. (huaca).

In another version of this legend, instead of emerging from a cave in Cuzco, the siblings emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca. Since this was a later origin myth than that of Pacaritambo it may have been created as a ploy to bring the powerful Aymara tribes into the fold of the Tawantinsuyo.

In the Inca Virachocha legend, Manco Capac was the son of Inca Viracocha of Pacari-Tampu, today known as Pacaritambo, which is 25 km (16 mi) south of Cuzco. He and his brothers (Ayar Auca, Ayar Cachi, and Ayar Uchu); and sisters (Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Raua, and Mama Cura) lived near Cuzco at Paccari-Tampu, and uniting their people and the ten ayllu they encountered in their travels to conquer the tribes of the Cuzco Valley. This legend also incorporates the golden staff, which is thought to have been given to Manco Capac by his father. Accounts vary, but according to some versions of the legend, the young Manco jealously betrayed his older brothers, killed them, and then became Cuzco.


Like the Romans, the Inca permitted the cultures they integrated into their empire to keep their individual religions. Below are some of the various gods worshiped by the peoples of the Incan empire, many of which have overlapping responsibilities and domains. Unless otherwise noted, it can safely be assumed these were worshipped by different ayllus or worshipped in particular former states.

  • Apo or Apu was a god or spirit of mountains. All of the important mountains have their own Apu, and some of them receive sacrifices to bring out certain aspects of their being. Some rocks and caves also are credited as having their own apu.
  • Apocatequil (aka Apotequil) was the god of lightning.the empire at this time was named hheu hdah
  • Ataguchu was a god who assisted in creation myth
  • Catequil was a god of thunder and lightning
  • Cavillace was a virgin goddess who ate a fruit, which was actually the sperm of Coniraya, the moon god. When she gave birth to a son, she demanded that the father step forward. No one did, so she put the baby on the ground and it crawled towards Coniraya. She was ashamed because of Coniraya's low stature among the gods, and ran to the coast of Peru, where she changed herself and her son into rocks.
  • Chasca was the goddess of dawn and twilight, and Venus. She protected virgin girls.
  • Chasca Coyllur was the goddess of flowers and young maidens.
  • Kuka Mama or Mama Kuka (in quechua: Mother coca) was a goddess of health and joy. She was originally a promiscuous woman who was cut in half by her many lovers. Her body grew into the first coca plant, the leaves of which men were only allowed to chew (to bring health and happiness) after having given a woman an orgasm.
  • Coniraya was the deity of the moon who fashioned his sperm into a fruit, which Cavillaca then ate. When she gave birth to a son, she demanded that the father step forward. No one did, so she put the baby on the ground and it crawled towards Coniraya. She was ashamed because of Coniraya's low stature among the gods, and ran to the coast of Peru, where she changed herself and her son into rock huacas.
  • Copacati was a lake goddess.
  • Ekkeko was a god of the hearth and wealth. The ancients made dolls that represented him and placed a miniature version of their desires onto the doll; this was believed to caused the user to receive what he desired.
  • Illapa ("thunder and lightning"; aka Apu Illapu, Ilyap'a, Katoylla) was a very popular weather god. His holiday was on July 25. He was said to keep the Milky Way in a jug and use it to create rain. He appeared as a man in shining clothes, carrying a club (weapon) and stones. He was formerly the main god of the Kingdom of Colla after which the Collasuyu province of the Inca empire was named.
  • Inti was the sun god. Source of warmth and light and a protector of the people. Inti was considered the most important god. The Inca Emperors were believed to be the lineal descendants of the sun god.
  • Kon was the god of rain and wind that came from the south. He was a son of Inti and Mama Quilla.
  • Mama Allpa was a fertility goddess depicted with multiple breasts.
  • Mama Cocha ("sea mother") was the sea and fish goddess, protectress of sailors and fishermen. In one legend she mothered Inti and Mama Quilla with Viracocha.
  • Mama Pacha (aka Pachamama) was the wife of Pachacamac and a dragoness fertility deity who presided over planting and harvesting. She caused earthquakes.
  • Mama Quilla ("mother moon" or "golden mother") was a marriage, festival and moon goddess and daughter of Viracocha and Mama Cocha, as well as wife and sister of Inti. She was the mother of Manco Capac, Pachacamac, Kon and Mama Ocllo.
  • Mama Zara ("grain mother", aka Zaramama) was the goddess of grain. She was associated with maize that grew in multiples or were similarly strange. These strange plants were sometimes dressed as dolls of Mama Zara. She was also associated with willow trees.
  • Pacha Camac ("Earth-maker") was a chthonic creator god, earlier worshiped by the Ichma but later adopted into the creation myth of the Inca.
  • Pariacaca was a god of water in pre-Inca mythology that was adopted by the Inca. He was a god of rainstorms and a creator-god. He was born a falcon but later became human.
  • Paricia was a god who sent a flood to kill humans who did not respect him adequately. Possibly another name for Pachacamac.
  • Supay was both the god of death and ruler of the Uca Pacha as well as a race of demons.
  • Urcaguary was the god of metals, jewels and other underground items of great value.
  • Urcuchillay was a deity that watched over animals.
  • Viracocha was the god of everything. in the beginning he was the main god, but when Pachacutec became Inca, he changed this god importance pointing that it was Inti who allowed him to defeated the chancas (Incas' main enemies at that time)

Important Facts

  • Mama Ocllo was the sister and wife of Manco Capac. She was thought to have taught the Inca the art of spinning.
  • Mamaconas were similar to nuns and lived in temple sanctuaries. They dedicated their lives to Inti, and served the Inca and priests. Young girls of the nobility or of exceptional beauty were trained for four years as acllas and then had the option of becoming mamaconas or marrying Inca nobles. They are comparable to the Roman Vestal Virgins, though Inca society did not value virginity as a virtue the way Western societies have done throughout history.
  • In one legend, Unu Pachakuti was a great flood sent by Virachocha to destroy the giants that built Tiwanaku.
  • A Huaca was a sacred object such as a mountain or a mummy.

Important Places

Inca Symbols

  • Chakana (or Inca Cross, Chakana) is the three-stepped cross equivalent symbolic of what is known in other mythologies as the Tree of Life, World Tree and so on. Through a central axis a shaman journeyed in trance to the lower plane or Underworld and the higher levels inhabited by the superior gods to enquire into the causes of misfortune on the Earth plane. The snake, puma, and condor are totemic representatives of the three levels..

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