Mesoamerican and South American Mythologies: Maya, Aztec, Inca

The Inca

What was the Inca creation myth?

Viracocha first created the earth and the sky. Then he decided to create a race of giants to live in his creation. When they became evil, he sent a flood to destroy them. It is said that he then plucked the sun and the moon from the depths of Lake Titicaca. Because the moon was as bright as the sun, the sun became jealous and threw ashes into the moon’s face to darken it.

The real emphasis in the various versions of the Inca creation myth is on the creation of humans and the origins of the tribe. One account has it that Pachacamac made the first man and woman out of clay but that he forgot to give them food, and the man died. As in the case of the Mayan myth, imperfect creation is a theme here. Pachacamac then made the angry woman more angry by making her fertile and then cutting up her baby when it was born. He took the pieces of the dismembered body and planted them in the earth. Not surprisingly, given similar myths from around the world, the sacrifice of the baby resulted in plants that fed the people. This myth would seem to have as one purpose the justification of human—especially child—sacrifice practices. When Pachacamac tried to sacrifice the woman’s second son, Wichama, the boy escaped and Pachacamac killed the mother. Now very angry himself, the boy chased the trickster-creator into the sea.

A story more sympathetic to Pachacamac considers him the sun god—in effect, Viracocha. It relates that he did, in fact, create a man and woman out of clay and that he then sent his own son and daughter, born of the goddess Pachamama, to act as culture heroes to the new humans. The son and daughter were the first Inca and his queen, Manco Cápac and Mama Oello. They represented the sun and moon, respectively. They lived at Lake Titicaca, but, as commanded by their father, they traveled around at will, leaving marks with a golden rod. It was at these marks that the people were to build the Inca cities. In the Valley of Huanacauri, the golden rod sank into the ground, and it was here that the Inca and his wife established the capital city of Cusco.

Like all Inca cities, Cusco was divided into northern and southern halves, one founded by the Inca, one by his wife.

An Incan drawing of the creation god Viracocha.


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