When I visited the City Cusco I learned a great deal about the Incas and also the Cuscoians by going to the ruins and the citadel in the main square. Their beliefs and rituals all center around mother nature in some way or form. Our tour guide, Jay Jay, talked about the rituals that the Inca’s did for their kings and when they worshipped Mama Picchu. The Inca’s would preserve the bodies of their kings through mummification but never bury them. They did this so that the present king and the people could interact with their ancestors for guidance and advice. It may be a very odd way of connecting to dead people but the Inca’s would provide food and water to their mummified kings and clean the garments. For the people below the kings and royals, their bodies would be buried along with their possessions that reflect the profession when they were alive. This was important to so that they could continue their job in the next life. What I thought was really interesting that Jay Jay had said was the Incas believed that if your body disappeared by decaying, then you are considered actually dead. For us, if our loved ones die then we consider them dead and that’s why we have funerals and bury them in a cementary. It’s interesting how the Inca’s retained their relationship with their ancestors, however, I’m not too sure about talking to a mummified body for consolation.
Jay Jay continued with his lecture and said that most of the ruins were in fact temples erected to please the gods. Whenever a natural catastrophe occurred, the Inca’s would do one of three rituals. They often will give food and water to mother earth by spreading a few drops or crumbs before taking a sip or eating. It was a sign of respect and pleading that mother earth would continue to provide food and shelter for them. I thought this was very powerful because it shows just how close they are to nature and how much they rely on it for survival. The second kind of ritual was sacrificing a black llama or alpaca, these were considered very rare and thus represent purity. If both these rituals don’t work then the last resort is human sacrifices. The Inca’s believed that killing our own kind that has the same blood meant that you are not considered a human. It is like a taboo in their culture, only in desperate measures, will they commit such a sin. Usually its boys and girls under the age of 15 years old that are chosen to be sacrificed, this act was thought of as an honor because they would be slaves for the gods. Because they didn’t believe in suffering, the sacrifices were overdosed with drugs/alcohol or received a fatal blow to the head. These sorts of rituals that they performed were very interesting to learn about because we still do that today all around the world.
In the city my group and I visited the citadel which had once been a cementary for a cathedral. Walking into such a sacred place was thrilling because all citadels and churches have wonderful art work and architecture. In this particular citadel I was astonished by the amount of pictures and statues that are made out of cedar wood with plaster and gold leaves for decoration. It was something unreal but very interesting. Jay Jay told us about the different kinds of Saints and Christ that the Cuscoians believed in such as the Christ of Earthquake. There had been two major earthquakes that occurred and destroyed most of Cusco. On both occasions when the temple had been removed from the citadel, the earthquake had stopped. Now there is a festival called Senor de los Lembores where the Christ of Earthquake is taken around the city in a procession. There are a number of other stories that Jay Jay had mentioned that had similar outcomes.
Learning about the Inca’s and the Cuscoians helped me to understand a bit better their culture and beliefs in mother nature. It’s fascinating how they have personified mother nature into the gods that they worshipped. It’s the same today as it has been in the past, many cultures have deities that represent thunder, rain, sun, etc. However with our advance technology and science, we are starting to separate from our environment and using it’s resources for our benefits. Instead of living in harmony with it like the Inca’s did, we are now facing an environmental crisis.