A Look into Inca Astronomy


The Qorikancha was at the physical center of the Inca empire, their most revered ceremonial temple which also housed the golden sun disc and was considered where the four quarters of the empire came together.  It is located on Avenida del Sol, in Cusco, Peru.
The image below is of  beautiful painting by the Cusco artist Miguel Cartagena, which hangs in the Qorikancha, showing the important points of the Milky Way in the southern hemisphere and how the Inka related to them. Below is a description which is also hangs in the Qorikancha next to this painting:


Milky Way & llama - Southern Hemisphere

“The deities venerated in the Qorikancha were personified celestial bodies and meteorological phenomenon. In order to understand these beliefs, it is necessary to make reference to Inca astronomy, which is known to us through some brief mentions in colonial chronicles and through the folk astronomy of the Quechua communities of today.
The painting by the Cusco artist Miguel Cartagena shows the Milky way over cusco, in the months of July and August when the ski is clear and most of the astronomical phenomena venerated by the Incas can easily be observed.
In the Andes, the Milky Way is called the “maya” (celestial river). Unlike the Western constellations composed of groups of stars, the Andean culture distinguishes dark spots against the light background of the Milky Way and indentifies them with the silhouettes of animals that have come to drink its waters and darken its shining with their shadows. These spots are called “Yana Phuyu” or black clouds.  On the right hand side of the painting, Machacuay, or the big water serpent, appears. In the centre, two small figures of Yutu (partridge) and Hamp’atu (toad) can be seen. They are followed by the female llama with two shining eyes corresponding to the stars Alpha and Beta Centuri. Underneath in the upside-down position is her  baby llama. The llamas are chased by the fox, (Atoq) with red eyes. In some communities, a figure of the shepherd, with his arms extended towards the llamas, is seen in place of the fox. His legs coincide with the rear paws of the fox.
The chronicle of Polo de Ondegando, dating to 1585, read,  “…They adore two other stars called Catuchillay y Urcoschillay, that pretend to be sheep (llama) with a lamb… They also adore another star, Machacuay, which is in charge of all the serpents and snakes, so that they do not do them any evil, and in general they (the Incas), believed that all the animals and birds had their likenesses in the sky, whose responsibility was their procreation and augmentation”. Possibly, when speaking about stars, Polo de Ondegando referred to “yana phuya”, a concept which is totally strange to Western astronomy and thus could not be fully understood by the author of the chronicle.”

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One Response to “A Look into Inca Astronomy”

  1. Introduction to Jyotish, Part 3: Geocentric Conception | Conception Calculator Says:

    […] A Look into Inca Astronomy « Mountain Spirit Institute: Blog […]

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