In Inca mythology, Apu Qun Tiqsi Wiraqutra, commonly known today as Con-Tici Viracocha or simply Viracocha, was the creator of civilization, and one of the most important deities in the Inca canon. Viracocha was the creator god of the pre-Inca inhabitants of Peru, later assimilated into the Inca pantheon. His original title among the Inca is Viracocha Pachayachachi, “Creator of All Things.” [1]

Viracocha is likened to other feathered serpent deities of pre-contact mythology, and is both a sun deity and a storm deity. Like many other serpent deities, he is also a culture hero. Viracocha was believed to have created the sun on the waters and foam of Lake Titicaca. After forming the rest of the heavens and the earth, he wandered through the world teaching humankind the arts of civilization. Finally, he walked westward from Ecuador across the Pacific Ocean, promising to return one day. His cult was extremely ancient, and he is probably the weeping god sculpted in the megalithic ruins at Tiahuanaco. [2]

Viracocha is sometimes identified as the spouse of Mama Cocha and the father of the god Inti and the goddesses Mama Quilla and Pachamama. [3]

Viracocha is known to be related to the Polynesian sun god Maui. Graham Hancock has speculated that Viracocha was in some way related to Quetzalcoatl, a deity of the Mexica. While the mythology of the two deities is quite similar, many respected Aztec historians, archeologists, anthropologists, and other Aztec experts do not agree, mostly due to a lack of orthodox historical evidence.

Conquistadores accounts[edit | edit source]


Detail of Viracocha from the Gateway of the Sun.

According to spanish accounts, Viracocha was pale or white-skinned and bearded, unusual features among the Inca; these anomalous features are sometimes thought of as evidence for early contact between old and new world peoples.

The famous carved figure on the decorated archway in the ancient (pre-Incan) city of Tiahuanaco, known as the "Gateway of the Sun," most likely represents Viracocha. The central figure is flanked by 48 winged effigies, 32 with human faces and 16 with condor's heads. This huge monument is hewn from a single block of stone, and some believe that it might represent a calendar; if true, this would be the oldest known calendar in the world.

Mythology[edit | edit source]

Viracocha is the primary deity mentioned in the Incan creation myth; he creates a world without sun, moon, or stars, populated first with giants, and finally with human beings. Viracocha ordered that people should live without quarrelling, and that they should know and serve him. He gave them a certain precept (the exact precept is not mentioned) which they were to observe on pain of being confounded if they should break it, but falling prey to pride and covetousness, they transgressed the precept of Viracocha. As punishment, some people were turned into stones, some were swallowed up by the earth or sea, and Viracocha drowned the world in a great deluge, called Unu Pachakuti. [4]

As is common in myths of the deluge, Viracocha saved two people to bring civilization to the rest of the world: Manco Capac, the son of Inti, whose name means "splendid foundation," and Mama Ocillo, "mother fertility". This pair founded the Inca civilization with a golden staff, called ‘tapac-yauri’. In another similar legend, Viracocha fathered the first eight civilized human beings. [5]


Statue of Viracocha from Tiahuanaco.

Other myths state that Viracocha allowed all the first humans to be destroyed, believing them too corrupt to salvage, and began afresh by creating new humans in the city of Cuzco, the Incan capital. Along with these new people, the Incas, Viracocha created the sun, moon, stars, plants, and animals. [6]

Another legend tells of Viracocha’s powers over the heavens and alludes to his role as a culture hero. After creating new people and sowing them across the earth, Viracocha traveled across the lands to awaken the new humans. When he came to a province of Cacha, the people did not know who Viracocha was and rushed out with their weapons raised. Viracocha instantly caused fire to fall from heaven, burning the mountains nearest to the people. When they saw the volcano, the people realized the power of Viracocha and feared that they would die in the fire. Throwing their weapons to the ground, they went straight to Viracocha and kneeled before him. When Viracocha saw this he took a staff in his hand and went to where the volcano was. He gave it two or three blows with his staff, which put it out forever, and then announced to the people that he was their creator. To remember their origins, and the miraculous activities of Viracocha, the Canas Indians built a majestic huaca, which means a shrine or idol, at the place where Viracocha stood when he called the fire from heaven and from which he went to put it out. [7]

In other legends, Viracocha wandered the earth disguised as a beggar and wept when he saw the plight of the creatures he had created, but knew that he must sustain them. Here he appears as a culture hero and is identified as the bringer of science, agriculture, and technology. [8] However, according to legend, Viracocha is so saddened by the misdeeds of humanity that he weeps copiously; if people become too wicked, his tears cause a flood which could destroy humanity. [9]

Viracocha was also the name of the eighth ruler of the Inca kingdom of Cuzco; he was named after Viracocha after having visions of the god, and should not be confused with the god Viracocha in his role as culture-hero.

Spanish Accounts and Authenticity[edit | edit source]

Bochica is a figure in the mythology of the Muisca (Chibcha) culture, which existed during the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in areas comprising parts of present day Colombia and Panama. He was the founding hero of their civilization, who according to legend brought morals and laws to the people and taught them agriculture and other crafts.

Similarly to the Incan god Viracocha, the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and several other deities from Central and South American pantheons, Bochica is described in legends as being bearded. The beard, once mistaken as a mark of a prehistoric European influence and quickly fueled and embellished by spirits of the colonial era, had its single significance in the continentally insular culture of Mesoamerica. The "Anales de Cuauhtitlan" is a very important early source which is particularly valuable for having been originally written in Nahuatl. The Anales de Cuauhtitlan describes the attire of Quetzalcoatl at Tula:

"Immediately he made him his green mask; he took red color with which he made the lips russet; he took yellow to make the facade; and he made the fangs; continuing, he made his beard of feathers..." (Anales de Cuauhtitlan., 1975, 9.)"

In this quote the beard is represented as a dressing of feathers, fitting comfortably with academic impressions of Mesoamerican art. The connotation of the word 'beard' by Spanish colonizers was grossly abused as foundation for embellishment and fabrication of an original European influence in Mesoamerica.

Interestingly, not one cultural representation of either of these gods, painted or sculpted, show them bearded in any sense the Spanish colonizers believed they would have been. No evidence in the abundance of Mesoamerican art are their signs of European influence, most stridently ruled out by the likenesses they gave themselves and their gods.

There have been questions on the authenticity of the preserved stories, and to what level they have been corrupted by the beliefs and imagery incorporated by Spanish Christian missionaries and monks who first chronicled the native legends.

See also[edit | edit source]

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