Inca religion in Cusco

Because of their immediate defeat at the hands of the Spanish, a lot of information surrounding Incan religion has been lost. Many historians rely on the religious customs of conquered Incan subjects to gather information about Incan beliefs. The Incans adopted most if not all of their religious beliefs from three main groups that lived around the empire. These groups were the Huari, the Chavin and the Nazca. With the combination of all three of these ancestral societies’ religions, the Incas were able to create a religious system that dominated almost every aspect of life in the empire.

The Inca’s were profoundly religious, and so it makes sense that their religious structure was very complicated. The religion was centralized in the capital city of Cuzco. Within Cuzco, a highly complicated and organized calendar controlled the state religion’s festivals and holy days. This calendar was responsible for almost all of the religious ceremonies that took place throughout the empire. Within the city of Cuzco, there was also over three hundred and twenty eight huacas or sacred objects. Huacas were located throughout the empire with most of them happening to be around the capital city. Within the capital city there was also a quipa. The quipa described all the sacred places and how they are to be used during ceremonies and sacrifices. Each sacred place or huaca was organized into forty one different directions called ceques. These ceques started from the central temple of the Sun called Coriacancha or “the golden enclosure.”

There were ten groups of Incan nobility that were in charge of being priests within the city of Cuzco. These ten groups of nobility were called panacas. The panacas had a vital role to Incan society in Cuzco because they were in charge of worship for the deities. All of the religious aspects that took place around the city were organized and arranged by this special group of nobility. The members of these ten groups were said to have a first royal ancestor that had conquered the valley. The panacas were decided through mother’s rank, fraternal succession, choice, and the success and honor of the individual on the battlefield. These ten groups were then divided into two smaller groups, one representing Hanan who lived north of the valley river and also Hurin who lived south of the valley river. The Hanan and Hurin each consisted of five groups of nobility. It is known that the first group of each of the Panacas dedicated all their sacrifices to the sun. The remaining four were in charge of dedicating their sacrifices to Moon, Thunder, Virachoa, and the Earth. These groups of nobility made up the upper most tier of society and they were highly revered and respected throughout the empire.

These fives gods or entities that received the majority of sacrifices within Cuzco represent the most vital aspects of Incan life. The Sun God represented the institutional organization of the society because everything in Incan life revolved around the Sun. Virachoa is also known as Apu Qun Tiqsi Wiraqutra and is considered the creator of civilization. He is one of the most if not the most powerful gods in Incan mythology. The sacrifices done towards Virachoa represents how much the Incans relied on outside forces to explain events in their daily lives. The sacrifices towards Thunder represent the handling of transitions in life and society. The sacrifices towards Earth and Moon show the fertility of the Earth and nature. All ten groups of nobilities had the responsibility to explain and account for all the occurrences of the natural world in and outside of the Incan empire.


* Sullivan, E. Lawrence. "Native Religions and Cultures of Central and South America". New York and London: Continuum, 1997.
* MacCormack, Sabine. "Religion in the Andes". Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Press, 1991.
* [ “pre-Columbian civilizations."] "Encyclopædia Britannica". 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 19 Sept 2006.
* Conrad, Geoffrey W. "Religion and Empire: the dynamics of Aztec and Inca expansionism". Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
* [ "Inca Empire."] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 19 Sep 2006, 02:06 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 19 Sep 2006.

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