Even before the time of the Incas, Lake Titicaca was considered sacred and of great geographical importance to all civilizations that existed around it. Furthermore, it was believed to be the center of the then known universe and a major part of the Inca creation mythology.
The Emergence Of Viracocha
The Inca traced their creation to the emergence of the god Viracocha who was, in essence, the ‘god of the gods’. Lake Titicaca was believed to have life-giving powers as the creator god rose out of it.
Viracocha first made the sun, the moon, and the stars before he embarked on creating a race of humans. The Incas depicted Viracocha in their oral teachings and ceremonies as a pale being; fiercely beautiful with a glimmering beard.
There are remains of a statue in Tiwanaku which exhibits these same features. Legend has it that the creator god instructed his races of mud and stone giants to build statues all along the road known as the ‘path of Viracocha.’ Tiwanaku was considered as a sacred site by the Incas since it falls on a central point on this mythic path.
It is in the same location that Incas believed he created the first race of people and subsequently taught them culture and survival.
The First Inca
The Inca traced their human lineage from a man called Manco Capac. There is little historical evidence to suggest he ever actually existed as the Incas did not really believe in written records or stories.
Lack of Written Material
There were people within the Inca community that did little else other than memorizing by heart the histories and the ancient myths. The Inca mythology would perhaps have been immortalized better if there was writing for historians to interpret but artifacts and the actual sites have also been rich with information.
Much of what we know about Inca mythology comes from the book ‘Historia De Los Incas’ by the Spanish Pedro Sarmiento who journaled the stories native tribesmen told him.
The Incas called Manco Capac the first of their kind and he was believed to have been sent by the sun god to impart teachings to the people who abided by Lake Titicaca.
Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo
These two figures were central to the Inca belief system as it gave them guidance of how their community had thrived and learned the ways of life. It was also the crafting of a direct link to the gods and their bloodline which was important to the Incas.
They had to believe that they were the superior race due to this divine right which would then, in turn, give them a reason to subdue other indigenous civilizations in the region at the time.
The sun god Inti (who was one of the few gods that were the most revered by the Incas after the creator god) had two children called Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. While these two were siblings they were also husband and wife.
This account was shared by Pedro Sarmiento in his book and also by Garcilaso de la Vega in his chronicles as he was the son of an Inca princess in the 16th Century.
The People of Lake Titicaca
The civilization that inhabited the banks of Lake Titicaca and the islands was narrated by the Incas as being primitive and barbaric. When the sun god Inti saw these people and their ignorance of the gods and of a better way of life, he decided to send his two children to them.
The coming of Manco Capac and his wife was instrumental (according to Inca myths) in civilizing the local population and making them more knowledgeable than the surrounding tribes.
While Manco Capac brought the populace to the light of the sun god Inti (who was also his father), his sister-wife taught the people necessary skills such as weaving textiles and planting crops. It was through the labor of these two demigod figures that the Inca population thrived and learned their ritualistic practices of worship.
Inti the sun god remained over the centuries particularly vital to Inca worship as he was connected with the crop cycle and the fertility of the land.
Titicaca- The Land Of Fertility
According to legend, Inti envisioned fertile land for his people that had now been guided to the right ways and knew when and how to plant their crops.
He gave his son a golden stick that would sink in the land that was meant for the people of Lake Titicaca. The tribe followed their two leaders and the magical staff sank in the area which is modern day Cuzco city. This is why it was known as the ‘city of the sun.’
Manco Capac upon realizing this was the land that Inti had promised settled his people there and thus began the great race of the Incas.
He developed the barren land of Cuzco and made it into a vibrant city with majestic structures and abundant crops. Manco Capac taught the men to hunt and fight so that they would be ready for the future.
The Incas did indeed have developed military strategies and structures by the 14 to 15th centuries although they were no match for the advanced invading Spanish forces.
A Legacy Of The Same Bloodline
Once the Incas settled and inhabited Cuzco city, legend has it that Manco Capac and his wife continued to rule them. This bloodline supposedly remained a constant through all the generations which is why the Inca royalty was considered sacred and special and not fully human like everyone else.
Lake Titicaca and its myths also played an imperative role in maintaining the power of the Inca royals because this is where their ancestors had risen by the will of the sun god.
Lake Titicaca also carried symbolic importance for the Incas because their myths stated that people had been brought out of ignorance and into the light of knowledge. The sacred powers of the lake were believed to be responsible for this miracle as the same lake had given birth to the creator god.
The Island of the Sun lies near Lake Titicaca and is believed to be the place where the sun rose (by the creator’s command) when the world was enveloped in darkness.
In Inca times, a large rock (that was primarily sandstone) existed on the island and it was worshipped due to its association with the ascent of Inti the sun god.
This led to the Incas gathering yearly to celebrate ‘Inti Raymi’ or the Festival of the Sun.
A Titicaca Retreat
Lake Titicaca has much to offer in the way of tourism with scenic surrounding islands like Amantani. You can also engage in the sacred energy of the lake by opting for a meditation retreat and spending a few days in self-reflection.
Many of these islands are in their natural state with the culture of the indigenous people very much intact. There is little interference from man-made noises and technology making them very peaceful and harmonious.
You can also book a silent meditation retreat if you are looking to detox negative energy from your life and embrace the magic of the lake. There is one right in the middle of Lake Titicaca called Meditation Retreat Peru that offers spiritual tours, silent meditation, and yoga.