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07 May 2011

Incan Sacrifice

by Kathleen A. Staley

University of Lima, Peru, Professor, Alex Cuzco was lecturing a group of students about the Ancient Rituals of the Inca. He was an authority on Ancient Cultures and spent many months studying the area of Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains. He was looking forward to his first visit to the ruins of the temple. The students were anxious to learn about the custom of human and animal sacrificial rituals, in preparation for a field trip to the temple at Machu Picchu. Alex warned of the graphic nature of the information and began.

"The Ancient Inca chose children as young as six, but also as old as twenty to "fattened them up" for a year and sent them on a sacrificial pilgrimage. The children had their hair cut a year before and six months before their sacrifice. Sons and daughters of local rulers were selected for sacrifice this way. The Incas spread fear into their populations and warned of retribution if they did not obey the laws of the temple."

Many of the students were horrified by the gruesome information, but listened intently.

"Some girls, around the age of four, were put under the custody of priestesses, to groom for the ritual. Some would later be given as wives to local nobles. Priestesses and others were sacrificed after being told it was the highest honor to be sacrificed to the Gods. The children's diet was based on potatoes, but in the last year of life, they received maize or corn, an elite food for the Incans. They also consumed Charki, dried llama meat. They were given as much food as they desired in an attempt to help them gain weight."
"Three to four months before death, the children started their pilgrimage to the heights of the Andes, usually from Cuzco, the imperial capital. Priests accompanied the children and during the journey ritual, dances and incantations were performed. The trek to the temple was long and arduous. Because of the altitude, sickness was caused by low oxygen. Drugs like maize beer (Chicha) and coca leaves were administered at every meal. The children were brought to a state of semi-consciousness so in the moment of the sacrifice they were numb to any discomfort. Some children were left to succumb to exposure to the cold. Others had horrific, painful deaths, despite the analgesic, hallucinogenic drug Achiote. Some were beheaded and some were thrown into a volcano."

One of the students raised his hand and asked "If they going to be killed those ways, why make them gain weight? Were they fattened up for slaughter, like for Cannibals?"

Professor Cuzco said "It was their way of offering the healthiest human sacrifices. They were not cannibals and the people were likely to have been sacrificed and their bodies mummified. The bones may have been crushed to fit in the small burial crypts. Mummies were found of sacrificed children with crushed bones and were preserved by the dry, cold air and ice of the Andes. The remains included hair and organs. In fact, Inca Children represent the best specimens of naturally preserved mummies, ever discovered. The clothes and the tunics of these children were marked with mystic symbols and signs. Around the mummies were statuettes, ceramics, baskets with food and coca bags were also found. Each item was artistically adorned with symbols, each with a specific meaning. There is also evidence in the temple carvings that some of the sacrifices were hurled into a nearby active volcano. This was to appease the Mountain God, Apu and ensure bountiful harvests for years to come. Although there is no physical evidence of the ritual, it is illustrated in great detail on the temple walls."

The students were restless and anxious to hear more about the mysterious Incas. They all had many questions. It was late in the day. Alex told the students to write down their questions, dismissed class and went home to pack.

It was Alex's birthday and a gift was waiting at his apartment.He put on a pendant, given to him by his parents. The gold medallion was a symbol of Viracocha, God of All Creation. The design was a sun disk with a Christian style cross in the center. He couldn't wait to thank his father and mother in person. Before going to sleep, he drank a pint of Zaramama Peruvian Ale and drifted into slumber. The dream he had was a profound vision into the past that would lead to his ultimate destiny.

Deep inside the dream-world a voice cried out. "My Lord Cuzco, awaken. It is time for the sacrifice. We must hurry! The Spaniards are on their way to kill us all. We must perform the protection ritual and make offerings to Zaramama, the Goddess of Grain and Corn. We must also make the traditional human sacrifices to Supay, Lord of Death and the Underworld."

Alex opened his eyes, stood upright and studied the surroundings. The room was filled with mountains of gold and silver, sculptures and baskets of food. On the walls were detailed illustrations of the sacred ceremonies performed in the temple. A tall warrior, adorned in ceremonial garb, stood in front of a stone altar.

Alex wore the feathered robe and golden headdress of the High Priest in the Temple of Inti, the Sun God. The top of the headdress and most of the decorative designs of the garment, symbolized the disk of the golden sun. Upon the altar was a solid gold disk, over five feet in diameter and four inches thick. An intricately carved face was in the center of the design and made it an exquisite work of Art.

Around him, aromatic urns burned incense and sage and circulated the chamber. The intoxicating smoke wafted into Alex's nostrils and put him in a deeper trance. Hypnotized by the vision, he followed the warrior to the shrine of Inti. They entered a large antechamber, filled with nervous villagers, children and superstitious priests. Arguments broke out when the Emperor Atahualpa arrived and informed the people that they were all going to be sacrificed, to appease Supay. According to the emperor, the dark lord demanded allegiance and would only save the people from the invasion of the Spaniards, if they offered fifty children and fifty adults to Apu, the Mountain God. The tradition was to select twelve warriors and twelve maidens or children to be sacrificed. The people were told that the one hundred sacrifices were to be hurled into the volcano, on the highest peak of the Andes to properly appease Supay. Many of the priests were angered by the emperor's demands and plotted against the monarch.

Alex was in a daze and believed he was only dreaming. He tried to wake up from the vivid vision, but he was trapped in another plane of existence. He walked slowly toward the nearest exit and looked out of a small window, to the scene below. The chamber was on the top of the step pyramid, overlooking the massive army headed their way. The entourage was led by Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish Conqueror.

There was not enough time to perform the sacrifices, before the confrontation of forces. Emperor Atahualpa led a vast and powerful army, but they had never been up against an army as vicious and greedy as the men under Pizarro's rule. The lust for riches and power had already destroyed many of the brethren of the Incas, the Aztecs and the Mayans. Pizarro forced his way to the temple when he heard of a "Room of Gold" and a large golden disk. Nothing would stop the invasion, with the exception of divine intervention.

Pizarro pretended to befriend the emperor, but captured him and held him for ransom. The greedy man demanded that a large room- 22'x18', 15'high, be filled with gold, silver and precious stones. Incans believed in serving Viracocha, achieving high spiritual enlightenment and the afterlife. The priests were forced to obey Pizaro or suffer a horrific death, with no honor to their souls.

The thought of being killed without honor was unthinkable. Reluctantly the priests, led by Lord Cuzco, gathered the treasures for Pizarro. The golden disk was hidden deep within the pyramid.

When the room was full, the soldiers melted down the metal and confiscated all the treasure. He then demanded the room be filled again and refused to release the emperor. Pizarro had no intention of releasing the hostage, until the ships were filled and on their way back to Spain.

Alex's vision continued along the trail to the volcano, led by the eyes and mind of Lord Cuzco. He and several of the priests were against the emperor and abhorred the sacrificing of living beings. They believed only in the one true God of All Creation- Viracocha. They also believed in reincarnation and practiced mummification of the sacred bodies, called Huacas. For many years, the Temple of Inti supported the brutal bloodletting in the name of Supay, the evil one. Lord Cuzco refused to take part in any of the brutal rituals and stayed in hiding.

Eventually, Pizarro filled the holds of his many ships with treasure and left one-hundred men to guard the emperor and to make sure the people continued to collect more gold. He was told of the sacred Golden Sun Disk of Inti and became obsessed with acquiring the precious object. The temple was to remain under the control of the Spaniards, until the disk was found.

When the room was filled for a second time, Pizarro ordered the treasure be taken to the four ships waiting in Lima, ready to return to Spain. He informed Atahualpa that he would return with twice as many ships and the priests of Inti were to fill the room eight more times. Before Pizarro left the temple the emperor offered to exchange his freedom, for the sacred disk. The selfish emperor promised to give the disk to Pizarro when the Spanish fleet returned, if his life was spared.

Lord Cuzco had a brilliant idea and implemented the plan to entrap the Spaniards and the evil emperor. Those loyal to the emperor were tricked into preparing for the offering to Supay. One hundred men, women and children were gathered and participated in the Pacari, ceremony of purification. A stone chamber used to perform the ritual was prepared, following the tradition. The soldiers gathered around the altar to witness the mystical rite.

Maize beer, called Chicha and flasks of a thick, syrup, made from the coca plant, were distributed to the soldiers. They were treated as gods and fed well. The men were pleasantly surprised when they were treated so well by the "savages". They congratulated themselves on the latest conquest.

Gradually, the effects of the liquids, made them susceptible to hallucinations and subliminal commands. Captain Ruiz was left in charge of the men and he also was extremely intoxicated. A priestess Mamakuna, loyal to Lord Cuzco, served Ruiz another helping of food and filled his goblet with the Sacred Elixir of the Gods. It was a reddish-brown blend of chocolate, fermented corn, coca and an unknown ingredient, known only to the priests.

The priestess whispered in Ruiz'ear "I know where they keep the sacred disk. If you want it, follow me and bring your warriors with you. You must cover yourselves with ceremonial cloaks and headdresses, to hide your uniforms. Wait for a signal and when the Pacari is over, I will meet you at the foot of the pyramid. Do not tell any of the men where they are going. Only tell them they must obey."

Ruiz was ecstatic at the thought of finding the elusive disk of Inti and planned to keep it for himself. He resented Pizarro and welcomed a chance to acquire the most valuable treasure. After the Pacari purification rite, Ruiz instructed the men to assemble at the base of the temple. Mamakuna greeted them with the other priestesses and distributed the robes and headgear to one hundred disoriented men.

Lord Cuzco's aide, Conira appeared from the shadows, wearing the mask of the emperor. He motioned for the procession to begin. The hike to the volcano was steep and rocky. Along the way, some of the intoxicated men stumbled and fell into the Sacred Valley to the Urubamba River, far below.

Meanwhile, the emperor was released from his cell. Mamakuna and Lord Cuzco pretended to be loyal and told Atahualpa where the sacred disk was hidden. It was supposedly inside a secret vault, in the center of the temple.

They left the emperor alone, but observed him through the many openings in the stone terraces. Conira was the architect of the terraces on the inside and outside of the massive step pyramid. He knew all the secrets of the inner chambers and the vault.

Certain levels were used as gardens and some were vents and others, irrigation canals. In the center of the structure was a protected chamber where large amounts of gold and grain were stored. The emperor and very few others knew of the secret vault. Just as expected, the emperor entered the vault to take the sacred object.

Alex continued to watch from the eyes of Lord Cuzco and the scene unfolded. Atahualpa lit a torch and entered the tunnel behind his throne. At the moment the emperor entered the vault, he triggered a series of locks and traps. He walked toward the golden disk, mesmerized by the glow of the torch reflected on the polished gold. The door and all the vents closed, locking the evil one inside, for eternity.

The dream finished violently when the soldiers were led to the edge of the volcano. They were offered in sacrifice to Apu for bountiful crops and prosperity. The day was declared the end of human sacrifice. Conira and the others denounced Supay and returned to the temple. Lord Cuzco was chosen as the new leader and he abolished the practice of polytheism. He desired to teach the people about Viracocha and attempted to bring peace to the land.

When Pizarro returned, most of the people were gone and the sacred disk was lost forever. A mock trial was staged with a priest in the place of the emperor. It was reported that the emperor was executed, in the name of God and the King and Queen of Spain. Pizarro returned to Spain with the news that the emperor denounced his throne and before being beheaded, made the sign of the cross and claimed Viracocha, his savior, Incan for God or Son of God.

Alex woke up with a terrible headache, but quickly finished packing. He rushed to the campus and boarded the bus with the students. Only six of them had the courage or desire to hike to the top of Machu Picchu.

Cuzco was the name of the closest city to the ancient ruins. Cuzco is also a common name and has various meanings. Alex, Alejandro Cuzco's family was of Incan descent and lived on the outskirts of town. The group was greeted by Alex's parents. Alex thanked his father Conira and his mother Kura, for the wonderful gift. He shared his theories about Incan Sacrifices and reincarnation, with the students and his parents. Although Conira and Kura were very knowledgeable on the subject of Incas they said nothing. Alex had studied Ancient Cultures and received his doctorate on the subject of Incan Sacrificial Rituals. He knew many details of the rituals and customs of the mysterious Incas, but admitted he needed to learn much more.

They boarded a small tour bus and headed to the foot of the mountain. The first stop was in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and it had a magnificent view of the ancient pyramid and terraces far above. The climb from that point was on foot and llamas carried the supplies.

People from the village offered gifts to the tourists of corn beer, dried llama meat and coca leaves. They were told to eat the leaves of the coca plant and it would fortify and sustain them at the high altitudes. It was considered dangerous to consume local water and the Zaramama beer was recommended.

Along the way, Alex taught the students about the many Gods and Idols from Incan Mythology. He recited a list of deities including; Apu, Mountain God, Chasca, the Goddess and Protector of Young Girls, Chasca Coyllur, God of Flowers and Maidens, Zaramama, Goddess of Grain and Corn and Urcaquary, God of Underground Treasures and buried riches. There was also a legend about Conira Viracocha, who disguised himself as a traveler and created the elaborate terraces and gardens and made the water flow through irrigation canals.

Some of the legends involved Intihuatana Stone-the Golden Disk of the Sun God Inti. The sacred relic allegedly depicted a face with two fire opal eyes. The border of the circular design was encrusted with emeralds and diamonds. The precious item was never found it has always been an object of desire and held great value. Anyone who found the massive gold disk would be incredibly rich and famous. The idea of the disk was intriguing to everyone who heard the tales.

Alex told a story about the Quipu- a rope with units of measure, used to record numerical information. A series of knots on the rope were woven with various strands of fiber, indicating inventory of goods, years, days, weeks and hours. The original Quipus were made by spinning wool with hemp fiber to make strong, durable safety ropes for climbing the treacherous peaks. Quipus recorded certain information but the rest of the lore and legends were passed down through the generations and not written down. Chiseled stone tablets recorded names of the sacrificed and often had inscriptions of prayers of tributes to Viracocha.

Word of mouth and messengers spread the stories and they changed over the centuries. The truth about the disk was a matter of speculation and remained a mystery. The tour began at the site where the first mummified bodies of children were found.

The carefully preserved Huacas were buried with sacred objects, amulets, beads and baskets of food for the afterlife. The process was remarkably similar to the Egyptian ritual of mummification. It was a mystery as to why the pelvis bones were crushed inside the layers of fiber. Bones, organs, teeth and skin were preserved and perfectly intact.

As they climbed higher into the thin atmosphere, some of the students became weak and the ale, containing the hallucinogen, Achiote, caused intestinal discomfort. They stopped to rest before ascending higher. The llamas only went as far as the grave site and the rest of the trip was on foot. The students were unable to continue. Alex proceeded alone and headed up the steep trail. He was accustomed to the Maize Beer and felt no effect from the drug, at that time.

When he reached the summit and beheld the sight of the enormous terraced pyramid, he wept with joy. The drug began to take effect and he entered the world of ancestral visions. Every part of his being was energized and he radiated intense light, from every pore of his golden skin. He spread out his arms, closed his eyes and when he opened them, he was adorned with the garb of Lord Cuzco, once again. Convinced he was under a spell or extremely intoxicated, he ventured forward to the base of the temple. In the distance, he could see rising smoke and steam, from an impending volcanic eruption. The ground trembled. Alex stumbled and fell on the lower terrace.

An ancient looking man approached him and said "Lord Cuzco! I knew you would return someday. It has been so very long since we have seen each other."

When Alex vaguely recognized the strange, robed one, he nervously asked "Who are you?"

The man smiled and said "It is I, Conira, my Lord. Do you not remember our friendship and victory over Pizaro and the denouncing of Supay? Hurry, the mountain is going to explode. We must take shelter in the pyramid!"

Alex was led to an opening in the lower terrace and a passageway to the center of the structure. Symbols on the rock walls were of Urcaquary-God of Buried Treasure, Inti the Sun God, Zaramama, Goddess of Grain and Chasca, protector of young girls and small children. At the end of the passageway was a shrine made of solid gold and a room filled with sacred items, buckets of gold and silver coins and a podium holding a giant golden disk.

Conira motioned for Alex to approach the shrine. Alex touched the disk and was filled with enlightened thoughts and wisdom from the ancient past. Suddenly, he received a vision of doom inside his mind. A scene from the distant past, unfolded before his unbelieving eyes.

He was face to face with the evil Emperor Atahualpa, in the moments before the vault was sealed. The emperor was livid when he was unable to lift the heavy gold plate from the shrine. The door was ajar. Lord Cuzco, Mamakuna and Conira followed the emperor to the hidden vault. They watched as the weak, fragile man struggled and attempted to take the object for Pizarro. He saw them watching and demanded that they help. The temple and the ground trembled violently. The door shut and sealed the emperor inside. He screamed in terror as the walls closed in on him and crushed him to death.

The children in the Pacari chambers were terrified when the ground trembled. They were told to wait in the chamber until Lord Cuzco arrived and were going to be set free.

After the Spaniards were thrown into the volcano, the mountain swelled and began to hurl large rocks in to the air. Some of the stones within the temple shook loose and trapped the children inside the Pacari chamber. Many of them were crushed by the heavy impact. By the time Lord Cuzco arrived, the children all were dead. He grieved heavily for the loss of innocent life.

The survivors performed sacred burial rites on the children, mummified them and place them inside a stone crypt. The sign of Viracocha, a disk with a cross, was inscribed in the tombstone, with their names. Listed on the tablet were the names; Cava, Zara, Taruca, Coni-Cusi, Tupac and Apu. Icons representing Chasca, the Protector, decorated the outside of the crypt.

Alex's head was swimming in a sea of unearthly sensations. The students managed to recover from the ill effects of the drug and ale. After climbing to the summit, they searched the area around the bottom of the pyramid. Alex was slumped over a step, near the base, barely conscious.

One of the students, Carlos spotted Alex and shouted "Professor Cuzco! Are you okay? We were so worried when you didn't return".

Alex stood up and said "Yes, I am fine. I just fell when the earthquake happened."

Carlos replied "What earthquake? We didn't feel anything. Are you sure you are alright?"

Puzzled, Alex wandered toward the terrace. The memory was fresh and vivid and he was curious to find out why he had the profound vision. Carlos followed him to the north side of the pyramid and watched while Alex felt the stones to find an opening. To his amazement, when he touched a raised symbol of Viracocha, identical to his pendant, a panel opened.

The rest of the group rushed to see what they had found. They lit their lanterns and entered a dark passageway. Carlos remained outside to guard the entrance and ensure that it remained open. Rocks were gathered and placed as a wedge, to prop open the stone panel.

The freshman class consisted of four boys and two girls, under the age of twenty. They were enthusiastic and determined to make a discovery of a lifetime. One of the girls, Zara, believed that the legendary disk of Inti was hidden somewhere in Machu Picchu. TJ, the youngest agreed with her and convinced the others they were meant to find the sacred object. Carlos thought that Pizaro actually found the relic and melted it down to transport to Spain. Coni, Juan and Titu were neutral, interested in adventure and desired to find buried treasure.

Alex taught them how to make a Quipu to measure the distance traveled and explained how to use the long knotted rope to mark the trail.

Carlos was nervous and paced around the opening. After waiting for over an hour, he started to worry. The group made their way to the chambers of the Pacari.

Alex had a deep sense of foreboding and the intense feeling of déjà vu as they approached a stone crypt. The stones around them seemed to come alive and haunting whispers echoed throughout the tunnel.

Through the eyes of Lord Cuzco again, Alex's mind was filled with images of tortured children and had horrible feelings of guilt, for not saving them in time. A heavy stone doorway opened and revealed the vault containing the sacred disk. The crushed skeleton of Emperor Atahualpa was draped over the shrine.

Zara was excited and ran toward the shrine to see the spectacular, Golden Sun Disk of Inti. She could barely contain herself and burst through the doorway.

Alex screamed "NO, Zara, don't go in there! The disk has to remain in the temple or it will cause the pyramid to collapse! Zara was startled and quickly exited the room. Alex ordered everyone to leave at once. He stayed behind when he heard a child crying in the Pacari, place of emergence. The students quickly exited the pyramid with the help of the Quipu, without the professor.

As Lord Cuzco, Alex lived the last few moments of his life. A small boy was trapped inside the purification chamber as the others fled for their lives. He freed the boy and sent him out of the tunnels. He told the boy to hold on to a Quipu to find the way out. The little boy escaped along with five others.

Six of the children were saved from being crushed by falling stones. Lord Cuzco was killed and honored as a savior of children. His body was mummified and laid to rest inside the sacred burial mound, at the base of the pyramid. All entrances were sealed for eternity.

Carlos, Zara and the others searched for Alex for several hours. They used the rope to keep track of the areas already searched. There was no sign of their teacher and friend, anywhere inside or outside the temple. Once they left the interior, the passageway closed behind them.

Full of remorse and deep sorrow, the students returned to the base camp and reported the disappearance and probable death of the professor.

Alex was honored in a traditional Peruvian ceremony, near where the first mummies were found. While clearing the area for a memorial shrine, a crypt was found. Inside the sarcophagus was a perfectly preserved mummy of an adult male, wearing a golden pendant of Viracocha. The translated inscription read "Praise Lord Cuzco, Savior of Children and Son of Viracocha.

The class continued the research and examined the newly discovered crypt. Zara found a stone tablet with a tribute to Lord Cuzco, signed by six children. Ironically, the names were remarkably similar to the six students saved by their teacher.

By a strange twist of fate, Zara Ramos, Carlos Taruca, Tupac Cava, TJ- Titu Jose Atoc, Conira Mamakuna and Chasca Apu, discovered text, related to their ancient ancestors.

After the discovery, the spirits of the dead were released into the Cosmos. The souls were finally free to start the journey to the afterlife, while Lord Cuzco rested in peace. The Golden Sun Disk of Inti was never found and remains lost to this day.

A plaque was installed on the summit of Machu Picchu, to pay tribute to Alejandro Viracocha Cuzco. The inscription read "He gave his life to save others, in the true spirit of Incan Sacrifice".

© 2011, Kathleen A. Staley

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