From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to searchFor other uses, see Pachamama (disambiguation).

Earth, life, harvest, farming, crops, fertility
Representation of Pachamama in the cosmology, according to Juan de Santa Cruz Pachacuti Yamqui Salcamayhua (1613), after a picture in the Sun Temple Qurikancha in Cusco
Other namesMama Pacha, Mother Earth, Queen Pachamama
RegionAndes Mountains (Inca Empire)
ConsortPacha KamaqInti
Mama Killa

Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother.[1] In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. She is also an ever-present and independent deity who has her own self-sufficient and creative power to sustain life on this earth.[1] Her shrines are hallowed rocks, or the boles of legendary trees, and her artists envision her as an adult female bearing harvests of potatoes and coca leaves.[2] The four cosmological Quechua principles – Water, Earth, Sun, and Moon[2] – claim Pachamama as their prime origin. Priests sacrifice llamas, cuy (guinea pigs), and elaborate, miniature, burned garments to her.[3] Pachamama is the mother of Inti the sun god and Mama Killa the moon goddess. Pachamama is said to also be the wife of Inti, her son.

“For the general public, the best-known ancient South American civilization is that of the Inka (also spelled Inca) who flourished between about 1438 CE until the Spanish conquest in 1532. During this rather short time period, they established over 100 ceremonial centers on the summits of many of the highest mountains in the area. The Spanish chroniclers of the Inka reported that at these centers offerings were made to the mountain gods: food, incense, alcoholic beverages, textiles, and ceramics. In addition, the Inka offered human sacrifices.

On the high mountain tops, the Inka sacrificed children. Sacrificing the life of a child, according to Inka religion, would bring honor to the parents and a blissful afterlife to the child. The children were selected for sacrifice based on their beauty and purity. In the Capacocha ceremony, children were sacrificed to the fertility goddess Pachamama which provided abundant harvests in the following year.

Archaeologists have uncovered the mummified bodies of several sacrificed children. At the summit of Llullaillaca (22,109 feet in elevation), archaeologists found an Inka platform, three burials, and several groups of offerings. Isotopic analysis of the hair from one of the mummies (a 15-year-old girl known as the Llullaillaco Maiden) revealed that her diet had changed in the year before she died: during her last year of life her diet was rich in animal protein and maize, foods generally reserved for the elites. This tends to suggest that she had been selected as a sacrifice some time before the actual ritual and had been provided with a special diet. For most of her life she had consumed primarily root crops, vegetables, and quinoa with very little meat. Isotope analysis also showed that she had had a mobile childhood, perhaps with seasonal migrations.”

In pre-Hispanic culture, Pachamama was often a cruel goddess eager to collect her sacrifices. After the conquest by Spain, conversion to Roman Catholicism took place and the figure of the Virgin Mary was equated with that of the Pachamama for many of the indigenous people.[4]

As Andean cultures form modern nations, Pachamama remains benevolent, giving,[5] and a local name for Mother Nature. Thus, many in South America believe that problems arise when people take too much from nature because they are taking too much from Pachamama.[6]



Pachamama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be “World Mother” (in Aymara and Quechua).[7] The Inca goddess can be referred to in multiple ways; the primary way being Pachamama. Other names for her are: Mama Pacha, La Pachamama, and Mother Earth. La Pachamama differs from Pachamama because the “La” signifies the interwoven connection that the goddess has with nature, whereas Pachamama – without the “La” – refers to only the goddess.[citation needed]

Modern-day rituals[edit]

Pachamama Museum in Argentina

Pachamama and Inti are worshiped as benevolent deities in the area known as Tawantinsuyu. Tawantinsuyu is the name of the former Inca Empire, and the region stretches through the Andean mountains in present-day BoliviaEcuadorChilePeru, and northern Argentina. People usually give a toast to honor Pachamama before meetings and festivities. In some regions, a special kind of libation known as a challa is performed on a daily basis. The challa is performed by spilling a small amount of chicha on the floor, and then drinking the rest.

Pachamama has a special worship day called Martes de challa (Challa’s Tuesday), when people bury food, throw candies, and burn incense to thank Pachamama for their harvests. In some cases, celebrants assist traditional priests, known as yatiris in Aymara, in performing ancient rites to bring good luck or the good will of the goddess, such as sacrificing guinea pigs or burning llama fetuses (although this is rare today). The festival coincides with Shrove Tuesday, also celebrated as Carnevale or Mardi Gras.

The central ritual to Pachamama is the Challa or Pago (Payment). It is carried out during all of August, and in many places also on the first Friday of each month. Other ceremonies are carried out in special times, as upon leaving for a trip or upon passing an apacheta [es]. According to Mario Rabey and Rodolfo Merlino, Argentine anthropologists who studied the Andean culture from the 1970s to the 1990s, “The most important ritual is the challaco. Challaco is a deformation of the Quechua words ‘ch’allay’ and ‘ch’allakuy’, that refer to the action to insistently sprinkle.[7] In the current language of the campesinos of the southern Central Andes, the word challar is used in the sense of “to feed and to give drink to the land’. The challaco covers a complex series of ritual steps that begin in the family dwellings the night before. They cook a special food, the tijtincha. The ceremony culminates at a pond or stream, where the people offer a series of tributes to Pachamama, including “food, beverage, leaves of coca and cigars.[8][9]

Household rituals[edit]

Rituals to honor Pachamama take place all year, but are especially abundant in August, right before the sowing season.[2] Because August is the coldest month of the winter in the southern Andes, people feel more vulnerable to illness.[2] August is therefore regarded as a “tricky month.”[2]During this time of mischief, Andeans believe that they must be on very good terms with nature to keep themselves and their crops and livestock healthy and protected.[2] In order to do this, families perform cleansing rituals by burning plants, wood and other items in order to scare evil spirits who are thought to be more abundant at this time.[2] People also drink mate (a South American hot beverage), which is thought to give good luck.[2]

On the night before August 1, families prepare to honor Pachamama by cooking all night.[2] The host of the gathering then makes a hole in the ground[2] If the soil comes out nicely, this means that it will be a good year; if not, the year will not be bountiful.[2] Before any of the guests are allowed to eat, the host must first give a plate of food to Pachamama.[2] Food that was left aside is poured onto the ground and a prayer to Pachamama is recited.[2]

Sunday parade[edit]

A main attraction of the Pachamama festival is the Sunday parade. The organizational committee of the festival searches for the oldest woman in the community and elects her the “Pachamama Queen of the Year.”[2] This election first occurred in 1949. Indigenous women, in particular senior women, are seen as incarnations of tradition and as living symbols of wisdom, life, fertility, and reproduction. The Pachamama queen who is elected is escorted by the Gauchos who circle the plaza on their horses and salute her during the Sunday parade. The Sunday parade is considered to be the climax of the festival.[2]

New Age worship[edit]

See also: Goddess movement

There has been a recent rise in a New Age practice among white and Andean mestizo peoples. There is a weekly ritual worship which takes place on Sundays and includes invocations to Pachamama in Quechua, although there are some references in Spanish.[10] Inside the temple, there is a large stone with a medallion on it, symbolizing the New Age group and its beliefs. A bowl of dirt on the right of the stone is there to represent Pachamama, because of her status as a Mother Earth.[10] Many rituals related to the Pachamama are practiced in conjunction with those of Christianity, to the point that many families are simultaneously Christian and pachamamistas.[9] Pachamama is sometimes syncretized as the Virgin of Candelaria.[11] Certain travel agencies have drawn upon the emerging New Age movement in Andean communities (drawn from Quechua ritual practices) to urge tourists to come to visit Inca sites. Tourists visiting these sites, such as Machu Picchu and Cusco, are offered the chance to participate in ritual offerings to Pachamama.[6][12]

Political usage[edit]

Belief in Pachamama features prominently in the Peruvian national narrative. Former President, Alejandro Toledo, held a symbolic inauguration on 28 July 2001 atop Machu Picchu which featured a Quechua religious elder giving an offering to Pachamama.[6] Pachamama has also been used as an example of autochthony by some Andean intellectuals.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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