World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Religion in the Inca Empire

Article Id: WHEBN0001253138
Reproduction Date:

Title: Religion in the Inca Empire  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Inca mythology, Andean civilizations, Inca road system, History of religions, Neo-Inca State
Collection: Inca Mythology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Religion in the Inca Empire

In the heterogeneous Inca Empire, polytheistic religions were practiced by its people. Most religions had common traits such as the existence of a Pachamama and Viracocha.


  • Deities 1
  • Origin 2
  • Religious expansion 3
  • Duality 4
  • Divination 5
  • Festivals 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Inti or Sun of May of the flag of Argentina, 1818

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.

Uku Pacha was the domain of Pachamama, the Earth mother, who is universal to Andean mythologies. Kanopa was the God of Pregnancy.

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 clans could share similar ancestral origins. The Inca claimed descent from the Sun and the Moon, their Father and Mother. Many clans 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 worshiped long before the rise of the Inca. In the Inca mythology Pachamama having been integrated was placed below the Moon who the Inca believed ruled over all female gods.[1]


A 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 earth, where humans resided was viewed as an intermediary 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.

Archaeological remains confirm such human sacrificial practices, 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."[2]


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.[3]:292–314


Inti Raymi, Sacsayhuaman, Cuzco
Inti Raymi, Cuzco, Huacaypata, 2005

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.[4]

Gregorian month Inca month Translation
January Camay Fasting and Penitence
February Hatun-pucuy Great Ripening
March Pacha-puchuy Earth Ripening
April Ayrihua or Camay Inca Raymi Festival of the Inca
May Aymoray qu 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 The Harvest Festival
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

See also


  1. ^ Steele, Paul Richar d (2004). Handbook of World Mythology. ABC-CLIO.  
  2. ^ Reinhard, Johan; Ceruti, Constanza (2005). "Sacred Mountains, Ceremonial Sites, and Human Sacrifice Among the Incas". Archaeoastronomy: The Journal of Astronomy in Culture 19: 2.  
  3. ^ Rowe, John H. (1946). Julian H. Steward, ed. Handbook of South American Indians Vol. 2 The Andean Civilizations (PDF). Washington: Smithsonian Institution. pp. 183–330. 
  4. ^ Kendall, Ann (1989). Everyday life of the Incas. New York: Dorset Press.  

External links

  • "Inca Religion", Elliott Shaw (General Editor), Overview of World Religions, PHILTAR, University of Cumbria

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.