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Encyclopedia > Incan mythology

The Christian priests that followed the Spanish conquest of Peru burned the records of the Inca, knotted cords called Khipus [1] (http://www.anthropology.wisc.edu/chaysimire/titulo2/khipus/quipus.htm). There is currently a theory put forward by Gary Urton that the Khipus represented a binary record keeping system capable of recording phonological or logographic data. All our information is based on what the priests recorded, on iconography on Inca pottery and architecture, and the myths and legends which survived amongst the native peoples.

Inca foundation legends

The founder of the first dynasty of the kingdom of Cuzco was Manco Capac. In one legend he was brought up from the depths of Lake Titicaca by the sun god Inti. In another he was the the son of Tici Viracocha. Commoners were not allowed to speak the name of Viracocha, which may explain the need for two foundation legends.

In one myth Manco Capac was the brother of Pachacamac who were sons of the sun god Inti (aka Apu Punchau). Manco Capac himself was worshiped as a fire and sun god. According the Inti legend, Manco Capac and his siblings were sent up to the earth by the sun god and emerged from the cave of Pacaritambo carrying a golden staff, called ‘tapac-yauri’. Instructed to create a Temple of the Sun in the spot where the staff sank into the earth, they traveled to Cusco via underground caves, and there built a temple in honor of their father, the sun god Inti. During the journey to Cuzco, one of Manco’s brothers, and possibly one of his sisters, was turned to stone (huaca). In another version of this legend, instead of emerging from a cave, the siblings emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca.

In the Tici Virachocha legend, Manco Capac was the son of Tici Viracocha of Pacari-Tampu (today Pacaritambo, 25 km south if Cuzco). He and his brothers (Ayar Anca, Ayar Cachi and Ayar Uchu) and sisters (Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Raua and Mama Cura) lived near Cuzco at Paccari-Tampu, and united their people and ten ayllu they encountered in their travels to conquer the tribes of the Cuzco Valley. This legend also incorporates the golden staff, which is thought to have been given to Manco Capac by his father. Accounts vary, but according to some versions of the legend, the young Manco jealously betrayed his older brothers, killed them, and became the ruler of Cuzco.


Like the Romans and the English, the Inca permitted the cultures they integrated into their empire to keep their religions. Below are some of the various gods worshiped by the peoples of the empire. Many have overlapping responsibilities. Unless otherwise noted, it can safely be assumed these were worshiped by different ayllus or worshipped in particular former states.

  • Apo was a god of mountains
  • Apocatequil (aka Apotequil) Unknown
  • Ataguchu was a god who assisted in creation myth
  • Catequil was a god of thunder and lightning
  • Cavillace was a virgin goddess who ate a fruit, which was actually the sperm of Coniraya, the moon god. When she gave birth to a son, she demanded that the father step forward. No one did, so she put the baby on the ground and it crawled towards Coniraya. She was ashamed because of Coniraya's low stature among the gods, and ran to the coast of Peru, where she changed herself and her son into rocks.
  • Chasca was the goddess of dawn and twilight, and Venus. She protected virgin girls.
  • Chasca Coyllur was the goddess of flowers and young maidens.
  • Mama Coca (aka Cocomama) was a goddess of health and joy. She was originally a promiscuous woman who was cut in half by her many lovers. Her body grew into the first coca plant, the leaves of which men were only allowed to chew (to bring health and happiness) after having given a woman an orgasm.
  • Coniraya was the deity of the moon who fashioned his sperm into a fruit, which Cavillaca then ate. When she gave birth to a son, she demanded that the father step forward. No one did, so she put the baby on the ground and it crawled towards Coniraya. She was ashamed because of Coniraya's low stature among the gods, and ran to the coast of Peru, where she changed herself and her son into rock huacas.
  • Copacati was a lake goddess.
  • Ekkeko was a god of the hearth and wealth. The ancients made dolls that represented him and placed a miniature version of their desires onto the doll; this was believed to caused the user to receive what he desired.
  • Illapa ("thunder and lightning"; aka Apu Illapu, Ilyap'a, Katoylla) was was a very popular weather god. His holiday was on July 25. He was said to keep the Milky Way in a jug and use it to create rain. He appeared as man in shining clothes, carrying a club and stones. He was formerly the main god of the Kingdom of Colla after which the Collasuyu province of the Inca empire was named.
  • Kon was the god of rain and wind that came from the south. He was a son of Inti and Mama Quilla.
  • Mama Allpa was a fertility goddess depicted with multiple breasts.
  • Mama Cocha ("sea mother") was the sea and fish goddess, protectress of sailors and fishermen. In one legend she mothered Inti and Mama Quilla with Viracocha.
  • Mama Quilla ("mother moon" or "golden mother") was a marriage, festival and moon goddess and daughter of Viracocha and Mama Cocha, as well as wife and sister of Inti. She was the mother of Manco Capac, Pachacamac, Kon and Mama Ocllo.
  • Pacha Camac ("Earth-maker") was a chthonic creator god, earlier worshiped by the Ichma but later adopted into the creation myth of the Inca.
  • Mama Pacha (aka Pachamama) was the wife of Pachacamac and a dragoness fertility deity who presided over planting and harvesting. She caused earthquakes.
  • Pariacaca was a god of water in pre-Inca mythology that was adopted by the Inca. He was a god of rainstorms and a creator-god. He was born a falcon but later became human.
  • Paricia was a god who sent a flood to kill humans who did not respect him adequately. Possibly another name for Pachacamac.
  • Supay was both the god of death and ruler of the Uca Pacha as well as a race of demons. He has been adopted by Christian mythology as the fallen angel Satan.
  • Urcaguary was the god of metals, jewels and other underground items of great value.
  • Mama Zara ("grain mother", aka Zaramama) was the goddess of grain. She was associated with maize that grew in multiples or were similarly strange. These strange plants were sometimes dressed as dolls of Mama Zara. She was also associated with willow trees.


  • Mama Ocllo was the sister and wife of Manco Capac. She was thought to have taught the Inca the art of spinning.
  • Mamaconas were similar to nuns and lived in temple sanctuaries. The dedicated their lives to Inti, lived a life of chastity, and served the Inca and priests. Young girls of the nobility or of exceptional beauty were trained for four years as acllas and then had the option of becoming mamaconas or marrying Inca nobles.
  • In one legend, Ono pacakoti was a great flood sent by Virachocha to destroy the giants that built Tiwanaku.
  • Uca Pacha ("the lower world") was the underworld (similar to Hell), located in the center of Earth.
  • Hanan Pacha (higher world) was the Heavenly underworld. Only righteous people could enter it, crossing a bridge made of hair.
  • A Huaca was a sacred object such as a mountain or a mummy.



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