Lake Titicaca was fiercely coveted by many ancient civilizations such as Tiwanaku and Pucara but even more so by the Incas of later centuries. They claimed the origins of their creation story started from the mystical waters of Lake Titicaca.
The lake is still of immense spiritual importance to the indigenous tribes of Peru such as the Uru people of the floating islands. To this day it is a backdrop for ceremonies and rituals as it is believed to be abundant in energy and power.
The Incas had one god that presided over the others and who was the author of their creation story. His name was Viracocha and it was from him that the lineage of the other gods could be traced.
Make And Destroy
The world he envisioned was not the pinnacle of perfection so he went about both creating and destroying it in equal terms. He would first create races of creatures such as giants and then see their traits and send about natural calamities to destroy them. The Incas attributed the coming of great floods to his expressions of wrath.
The Incas believed that human beings themselves were a second or third attempt at creating intelligent creatures that Viracocha could bind to his will.
He started with creating giants (which could simply have been extremely tall people) with stone. Since they were made with stone they were not obedient and could not be controlled. Once Viracocha realized this, he decided to destroy them, knowing they could never benefit the land he cared so much about.
The current historical site Tiahuanaco is the location that the Incas believed was the center of the world. According to myth, this was where human beings were first created by the creator god.
The Two Traits Of Destruction
Human beings came with their own sets of problems. While they were easier to control than the stone giants had been, there were motivated in all matters by two key traits. These were namely arrogance and greed.
The Incas attributed the decline of civilizations to these two human traits, which is why they were an important part of Inca teachings. Healers and shamans guarded against it and taught their people the same.
When Viracocha saw that the humans would not abandon their ever-increasing greed and pride, he destroyed them with a flood which enveloped most of the existing populace.
Only three (or two according to some mythical accounts) humans survived. The flood ended and its water drained into the Lake Titicaca, forever ensuring its great power.
Tourists today that embark on a Titicaca retreat to enjoy the natural beauty of the adjoining islands can feel this spiritual energy.
Juxtaposition With Other Cultures
Historians that have studied the Inca mythology have seen a similarity of narrative between the Inca creation stories and those of other cultures.
Even in the stories of great battles such as Ragnorak (Norse Mythology), there were only two people who lived on called Lifsandir and Lif.
Similarly, the great Greek flood only had two or three survivors as well namely Deucalion, his wife and another.
The People That Would Create All Others
Lake Titicaca was supremely vital to the Incas because this is where the two (in some narratives three) people lived on and had children which then divided into the population of the world.
There are two theories about the other natural elements such as the moon and stars. The first Inca theory was that they emerged from Lake Titicaca altogether and the second is that they had been created prior to the lake by Viracocha.
Lack Of Written Accounts
One of the things that set the Inca people apart from many other civilizations (even ones from an earlier period of time) was that they had almost no written records for their myths and beliefs.
A lot of what we know about them today is speculation of archeologists and historians who have analyzed their sites as a whole, ritualistic remains and architectural inferences.
One written account which is credited to a Spanish invader who subsequently married an Inca woman is amongst the most commonly cited for information on the Incas.
He wrote the ‘Narrative of the Incas’ with a lot of first-hand knowledge from his wife who versed him on the Inca beliefs and myths.
The Second Generation And Their Story
The second generation of human beings (after the first which had largely been destroyed) emerged by Viracocha’s will and he named them after him. They were hence called ‘viracochas.’
An alternate theory runs alongside this story which claims that the creator god had created a substitute race of men and kept them secret and hidden inside the land. When he sent the ‘viracochas’ to different parts of the Earth he was actually bringing the hidden people to light.
The ‘viracochas’ were given the task of imparting knowledge of life (how to survive etc) to the hidden people and also to coax them out of the Earth. They were believed to have been hidden in rivers and stones.
The two people that had been spared in the initial purge were sent to two different regions simultaneously namely Andesuyo and Condesuyo. Their purpose was the same as the ‘viracochas’ and that was to awaken people and teach them the ways of life. This included educating them about crop cultivation and also ritualistic worship.
After sending the initial survivors on their way, Viracocha set out on a mission of his own. He set out to reach the city of Cuzco and on the way he encountered the sleeping Canas people as they were called.
They reacted violently to the awakening but later sought forgiveness from the creator god.
Lake Titicaca And Its Islands
It is not only Lake Titicaca that is believed to be a melting pot of sacred energy and ancient mythology. The surrounding islands also have temples and historical sites devoted to the creator god and other key gods such as Inti the sun god.
The Sun Island on the banks of Lake Titicaca is thought to be the place where Manco Capac was born who was the first Inca. According to legend he was created by Inti the sun god who had been created prior to the advent of humans by Viracocha.
Isla De La Luna
Isla De La Luna also found on Lake Titicaca is significant for the moon god that Viracocha created and is also home to a structure which was devoted to worshippers of the sun god Inti. It is called Tupac Yupanqui.
There is some evidence in the form of artifacts and sites to suggest that Lake Titicaca was spiritually important as the creation center not just for the Incas but other civilizations too.
An underwater temple was discovered in the lake which predates the Inca sites and it has visible infrastructure for cropping and worship.
Viracocha Art In Lake Titicaca
The statue in Tiwanaku near to Lake Titicaca is a symbol of Viracocha and the reverence the Incas had for him.
He is displayed as a sobbing statue (symbolic for rainfall) holding thunderbolts in his hand and looking out towards the water.