The most important Inca Gods and Religion

The Incas were a complex and highly advanced civilization that flourished in South America around the 14th century. While much of their technology and architecture has been lost, many aspects of their culture and religion remain today. 

The Inca religion

The Inca religion was polytheistic, meaning they worshipped multiple gods. The sun god, Inti, was the most important. Other gods included the moon goddess, Mama Killa; the thunder god, Illapa; and the earth goddess, Pachamama.

The Inca believed these gods interacted with humans and could influence their lives. They thought it was important to appease the gods to maintain balance in the world. To do this, they offered sacrifices of animals and other items of value.

The Inca religion also focused on ancestor worship. They believed that their ancestors had a special connection to the gods and could intercede on their behalf. As such, they paid great respect to their elders and sought to keep them happy in the afterlife.

One of the key aspects of Inca religious beliefs was reciprocity. They believe that if they showed respect and honor to the gods, then the gods would show favor to them in return. This reciprocity was at the heart of all aspects of their lives, including religion.

History of the Inca Religion

The Inca religion has its roots in the beliefs of the ancient Andean civilizations, and it was greatly influenced by the faith of the Tiwanaku culture, which was the dominant culture in the  Lake Titicaca region before the rise of the Inca Empire.

The main deity of the Inca religion was Viracocha, who was believed to be the creator god. The Spanish Conquest of South America in the 16th century ended the Inca Empire and their faith. However, indigenous communities who continue to live in the Andes mountains have preserved many beliefs and practices of the Inca religion.

Rituals and ceremonies

Ceremonies and rituals played an important role in the Inca religion. They believed performing these ceremonies would please the gods and ensure their favor. Common ceremonies included sacrifices, processions, feasts, dances, and music.

  • Capac Cocha (Human Sacrifice)

The Incas believed that by sacrificing humans to their gods, they would please them and earn their favor. They would often sacrifice young children or prisoners of war, as they believed these people had fewer attachments to this world and would therefore make better sacrifices.

  • Inti Raymi Festival

The Inti Raymi Festival is religious and cultural in Cusco, Peru. The festival is held annually on the winter solstice (June 21st) and celebrates the Inca god of the sun, Inti. The festival is a colorful and vibrant event, with traditional dances and music, and is a popular tourist attraction.

  • Capac Raymi

It marked the beginning of agricultural labor and coincided with the summer solstice. Several llamas used to be sacred during this festival to guarantee a good season. 

Afterlife in the Inca religion

One of the most important aspects of the Inca religion was the belief in reincarnation. This meant their soul would be reborn after someone died into another person or animal. This belief helped create a sense of community and kinship among the people, as they knew they would be reunited with their loved ones in the future.
Impact on the religion after the Spanish Conquest

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the New World in the early 16th century, they brought their religion. Christianity had a profound impact on the religious beliefs of the indigenous people of the Americas.

The Spanish conquistadors were quick to convert the indigenous people to Christianity. They did this by force, often using violence and intimidation. In many cases, they destroyed native temples and idols and banned traditional religious practices.

The indigenous people largely converted to Christianity but retained many traditional religious beliefs and practices. This syncretism between Christianity and traditional indigenous religion is still evident in many parts of the Americas today. 

The most important Gods of the Incas

The Incas were a polytheistic society, which meant they worshipped multiple gods. There were three main gods in the Inca pantheon: Inti, the god of the sun; Viracocha, the creator god; and Pachamama, the goddess of fertility. 

  • The sun god - Inti

The sun god Inti was one of the most important deities in the Inca pantheon. He was believed to be the son of Viracocha, the creator god, and was said to be the bringer of life and light. Inti was worshipped as the god of the sun and fire, and his cult was centered around the city of Cusco in Peru.

Inti was represented as a golden disk with rays emanating from it and was often depicted with a human face. He was also associated with the colors red and yellow, which were thought to represent the heat and light of the sun. Offerings to Inti were typically made of gold, silver, or copper, as these metals were believed to be particularly precious to him. The Inca believed that the sun rose each day because Inti emerged from his cave in the east. They also thought that he set each night as he returned to his home in the west. It was said that when he died, darkness would blanket the earth. 

During the winter solstice festival of Inti Raymi, which was celebrated each year on June 21st, offerings were made to Inti to ensure that he would continue to rise each morning and bring life and light to the world. This festival was one of the most important in the Inca calendar and continues to be celebrated by indigenous peoples in Peru today.

  • The moon - Mama Killa

Mama Quilla is one of the most important goddesses of the Inca pantheon. She was the patron deity of the Inca royal family, and her temple was located in the sacred city of Cusco. She was also associated with the fertility of the land and its people and was responsible for ensuring that crops grew and children were born healthy.

  • Viracocha - Wiracocha

Viracocha was the supreme god in the Inca religion, and his worship was widespread throughout the Inca Empire. He was often depicted as a bearded man with long hair and a llama-hide cloak. Viracocha was believed to be the creator of the universe and its inhabitants and was also responsible for bringing light to the world. The Incas believed Viracocha would eventually return to earth to bring about a new age of peace and prosperity.

They built temples and shrines in his honor and offered sacrifices to him to ensure his favor. Many indigenous peoples in the Andes region still venerate Viracocha. His image can be seen in artwork and statues throughout Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.

  • Mother earth - Pachamama

Pachamama, Mother Earth, was considered the ruler of all plants and animals and the giver of life. The Incas believed that everything in the world was connected to her and that she could be found in every mountain, river, and lake.

The Incas believed that Pachamama would provide them with everything they needed if they treated her well. They honored her with elaborate ceremonies and built temples in her honor. Many people in South America still worship Pachamama and offer her sacrifices.

  • Mother of the sea - Mama Cocha

Mama Cocha is the Inca goddess of the sea. She is a fertility goddess responsible for the health and well-being of fish and other marine life. She is also a protector of sailors and fishermen.

  • God of tremors - Pachacamac

Often confused with Viracocha, he was worshipped as the creator god by the people of the coastal region and the Andean mountains. He lived in a great palace on a hill above Lima, associated with earthquakes and other natural disasters.

  • God of Thunder - Illapa

Illapa was the god of thunder, responsible for weather phenomena such as thunder, lightning, rain, and hail. Offerings were often made to Illapa to appease him and prevent bad weather. One of the most common offerings was llama fetuses, considered pleasing to the god.

  • The Rainbow - Kuychi

Kuychi was responsible for bringing rain to the earth and was worshipped as a fertility god. Offerings of llamas and other animals were made to him, and children were sometimes sacrificed in his honor. His festival was celebrated in December when the rains usually came to Peru.

  • The stars - Chaska

The Incas saw the stars as being very powerful, and they would often make offerings to them. 

  • God of the death - Supay

In the Andean cosmovision, death is intimately linked to the cycle of life. Just as we are born and go through different stages of life, so too we must die and be reborn. This is why one of the most important deities in Andean mythology is Supay, the god of death. Supay is responsible for guiding the souls of the dead to the afterlife.

  • God of wealth - Ekkeko

Ekkeko is the god of wealth in Inca mythology. He is often depicted as a pot-bellied man with a large nose, wearing a hat and carrying a sack of goods. Ekkeko is said to bring good luck and fortune to those who please him, and he is often invoked by businesses and households seeking prosperity.

Sacred Animals in the Inca religion

The Inca religion had a great variety of sacred animals. The most important were the puma, the condor, and the serpent. Many other animals had special meanings in the Inca religion.

The Inca people believed that the world was divided into three realms (Inca Trilogy): the upper, middle, and lower. The upper world (Hanan Pacha) was where the gods lived, and it was also the place where the sun rose each day. The middle world (Kay Pacha) was where humans lived, and it was also the place where the moon set each night. The lower world (Ukju Pacha) was where the dead went after they died. 3 animals represented the 3 worlds; The Condor, The Ouma, and the snake. 

  • The condor

This large bird of prey was seen as a messenger from the gods and was often used in religious ceremonies. The Incas believed the condor could fly higher than any other bird and see into the future.

  • The Puma

The puma was an important religious symbol for the Inca. They believed the puma was a powerful creature that could help them in their journey through life. The puma was also seen as a protector of the home and family. The LPumna Represented the “Kay Pacha” (this world)

  • The snake

The snake represents the Ukju Pacha (The underworld), the Inca believed that this snake had special powers and that it could help them communicate with the underworld. 

  • The llama

The llama was an important animal to the Inca people and played a significant role in their religion. Llamas were used as pack animals to transport goods and materials, and they were also raised for their meat and wool. The Inca believed that llamas were a gift from the gods and played an important role in religious ceremonies.

  • The fox

The fox is a cunning and clever creature, revered by the Inca for its ability to outwit its opponents. It was seen as a symbol of intelligence and resourcefulness and was often associated with the god Wiracocha, the creator god of the Inca.

  • The dog

The Incas believed the dog was a sacred animal that could help guide the soul to the afterlife. Dogs were often buried with their owners, and they were also thought to be able to protect graves from evil spirits.

  • The bear

It was believed to be the reincarnation of a great warrior and protector of the people. The bear was also associated with strength, power, and courage.

Juan Coronel

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