The Inca race is one which is shrouded in mystery since their existence was very much thriving in the 13th Century but by the 15th Century they had all but gone out like a flame.
The lack of writing has given birth to a great deal of speculation regarding their religion and spiritual practices. Most of the theories and findings are derived by those that have an eye for detail for what they left behind.
Since the Incas were not much for writing, even their rituals and the practice of their religion was carried out from one generation to another orally, and that is how they passed on the knowledge about their deities, of which mainly stone carvings remain.
Where The World Started
Much like any other civilization, the Incas had their own concept of the world beginning and taking its present shape. The ‘God of the Gods’ for the Incas was ‘Inti’ who they routinely associated with the sun and all its blessings and they mainly depicted him with gold, although stone was used too.
The sun has always been important for earlier civilizations and medieval religions all over the world because of its power to influence the other elements as well as the land. For the Incas, it was no different. They started their story of creation from a god called Viracocha who then created Inti but the latter was more revered than his creator.
Lake Titicaca is where the narrative begins with Viracocha emerging from the Island of the Sun to manifest giants into the physical world but eventually decided on human beings instead.
According to Inca legend, the first race of people was a disappointment for the God but Lake Titicaca where it is said to have happened is understood as a place which can give, create and cure the people that come into contact with it.
For this amongst other reasons; thousands of tourists each year go on a Titicaca retreat to experience the same magic which so entranced the Incas centuries ago.
The Sun God Inti In Inca Spiritual Beliefs
Carrying on the story from Lake Titicaca; Inti went on to become the most worshipped out of all the Inca deities and this is apparent in symbolic structures and illustrations all over Inca historical sites.
When you delve deep into the philosophy surrounding Inti, he seems to be a fairly accurate embodiment of how the Incas lived and what they considered most important in their lives. Inti was not only the manifestation of the sun but also a supporter of the expansion of the empire and land acquisition.
The Incas showed spiritual reverence to their emperors and rulers on the basis of the belief that they had descended from Inti which made them sacred, special and worthy of worship and adoration.
Furthermore, Inti represented an end to aspire to. People that paid homage to the Gods and showed piety could hope to end up with Inti in his realm of abundance where they could abide forever.
A statue of Inti made entirely of gold was placed in the Temple of the Sun (Qorikancha) and its stomach which was left empty was used to burn organs and flesh of the Inca aristocracy to symbolize their connection to his line.
The Inti was responsible for three aspects of life for the Incas: the health of the king or emperor, the harvest, and the prosperity of the Inca Empire. A Villaq Umu (high priest) was given the duty to perform rituals and periodic sacrifices to the god and he kept a group of chosen virgins that acted as helpers during ceremonies.
As tribute entire herds of animals would be dedicated to the god and the festival of Inti Raymi was held in his honor in which dancing and singing was the form of worship before the Incas laid the seeds for the first crops of the season. It was a way of appeasing the god so they could have a sublime harvest.
At the time of the festival (usually in June around the time of the solstice), two children of remarkable good looks were chosen out of the throngs of people from neighboring villages that attended for human sacrifice.
Children held a special place in Incan spiritual beliefs on account of them being pure of heart and intention which is why they would, in theory, be more desired by the gods as a tribute. They would either be sacrificed in Cuzco or in other sites depending on the movement of the procession of worshippers.
Manifestation Of The Gods and Ancestor Reverence
The Incas had an eerie relationship with the dead and with the concept of death. Not only were all their human sacrifices killed by knocking a person unconscious or strangulating but they believed death to be a method of spiritual elevation.
Death was not the end but the beginning of a spiritual journey and the sacrificed could then hope to meet their gods whom they adored so much which is why it was a privilege to be chosen for sacrifice.
Incas believed that the spirits of gods and of the ancestors could reenter the world but take the form of a naturally occurring feature of the landscape such as a mountain or a river or even a sacred stone. Many of the stones in sites like Machu Picchu that are considered sacred were thought to be a reincarnation of an ancestor by the Incas.
Whenever a natural feature was identified as being connected to someone of prominence or having divine energy it would be altered and converted into a shrine or a temple so offerings could be made in the location. This transformation was known as Huacas.
The Incas never really forgot the people that died especially if the person was of particular importance like a priest, royal or nobleman. Special people would be mummified in a sitting up fetal position as opposed to lying down the way the Egyptians did. The position itself also indicated that the person was sitting and could return rather than permanently dead.
The deceased were entombed but the structures remained accessible either through tunnels where sacred refreshments could be poured down to the mummy or by doorways where people could enter and lay down food and gold.
The dead body was mummified by drying out the organs and applying alcohol and this was done only to preserve the shape of the person as the Incas did not believe in the concept of real death. They would often take the mummies out of the tombs and place them in the congregation while ceremonies and rituals were taking place.
In retrospect, it seems almost bizarre that the Inca spiritual practices didn’t last very long after the race was more or less extinguished. Surrounding non-Inca communities preferred the presence and worship of the moon god and reverted to establishing newer religious sites of their own instead of using the Inca temples and shrines as they previously had.
Regardless of how short the Inca time of glory was; the memory awakens whenever someone takes a meditation retreat in the Sacred Valley or in neighboring areas because the energy field is strong and it can transport you to an older time.