Pachamama: The Inca Goddess of the Peruvian Andes

08 Jul
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Celebrating Pachamama in Peruvian Andes
Friday July 08, 2016 - Posted by to Culture

Pachamama: The Inca Goddess of the Peruvian Andes

Pachamama is a goddess revered by indigenous people throughout the Andean Highlands and was an important feature of worship under the Inca Empire.

The Inca worshipped a range of gods from the natural world. The Inca believed themselves to be direct descendants of Inti, the Sun God, and revered the Apus (mountains), choosing to build their ceremonial places such as Machu Picchu at high-altitudes, where they believed they were physically closer to their gods.

Pachamama was believed to be the goddess of fertility, helping to sustain life on earth and therefore an important deity to worship to secure good harvests.
 

What does Pachamama mean?

In the indigenous Quechua language, Pachamama (who is also known as Mama Pacha) translates as Mother Earth or Mother Cosmos.

For indigenous communities in the Andes across South America, the goddess Pachamama is still regarded as a personification of the earth and remains an important aspect of religion in Peru. By overseeing life, she is capable of nourishing and protecting “earth-children”. But when disrespected, it is believed that Pachamama is capable of causing earthquakes. Andean people still believe strongly in the importance of living in harmony with nature and not taking too much from Pachamama.

To ensure Pachamama looked favourably upon them, the Inca were sure to make regular offerings to her, known as pago a la tierra (payment to the earth). These ceremonies still exist to today and consist of offerings of traditional items such as coca leaves, huayruro seeds and chicha de jora (a corn beer).

It’s also not uncommon throughout the Andes to see challa, where chicha or another drink is sprinkled on the floor below as a toast to Pachamama before important meetings and festivities.
 

Pachamama Raymi Celebration

In the first week of August each year, the festival of Pachamama Raymi, which means Mother Earth Day, is celebrated as a way of thanking Pachamama for her benevolence and abundant harvests throughout the previous year. As August is the sowing season for the fields, it’s also a good time to ask for a plentiful harvest for the upcoming year.

 

Celebrating Pachamama in Peruvian Andes

 

The main day of the celebration is August 1, when farmers stop working in the fields and instead prepare their offerings for Pachamama, who is believed to have hunger and thirst at this time of the year. They cook a meal, giving the first plate to Pachamama before they start eating and then which they bury all of their offerings in a hole in the ground.

The festivities that honor Pachamama all throughout the month of August are particularly important in the Cusco region of Peru, with districts organizing their own traditional festivities and forms of tribute to Mother Earth.
 

The image of Pachamama in Peru

The figures of Mother Earth, which today are offered for sale in the markets, are usually manufactured exclusively for tourists. In fact, the locals themselves don´t need an image or graphic representation because Pachamama can be felt in every place, at every moment, and in every living being. Therefore, in the traditional Andean belief there are no images necessary to represent Pachamama, nor does it state the fact that she is female.

However, the mystic figure of Pachamama came to be mixed with the representation of the Virgin Mary after the Spanish Conquest of South America in the 16th century. When the Spanish forced the local people to convert to Roman Catholicism, the Virgin Mary and Pachamama were united by the indigenous people in a curious example of religious syncretism – something most obvious in Catholic art from the period.

When travelling in Peru, take a look at images of the Virgin Mary in churches and museums. She is often represented wearing a long dress with skirts that fan out like a triangle, granting her the appearance of a mountain – and thus indicating that she actually depicts Pachamama.
 

One thought on “Pachamama: The Inca Goddess of the Peruvian Andes

  1. Pingback: The Most Popular Peru Travel Blogs 2016 | Dos Manos Peru

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