In Quechua, a Native American language of South America, a huaca or wak'a is an object that represents something revered, typically a monument of some kind. The term huaca can refer to natural locations, such as immense rocks. Some huacas have been associated with veneration and ritual. Andean cultures believed every object has a physical presence and two camaquen (spirits), one to create it & another to animate it. They would invoke its spirits for the object to function.

Uses of the term "huaca"

Each separate linguistic group in the Andean empires had its own sacred places. Many of the early civilizations of Peru considered all the world to be sacred and alive; this concept meant that anything of significant beauty or strength would be called a huaca. The word pacarina is sometimes used interchangeably for these locations. A huaca can be a place honored such as a high mountain pass, an origin or emergence or place of creation (pacarina), a place of traditional significance such as a spring, a mountain top (apu) where rain and water originates, an astronomically aligned location, or a place of historical or mytho-historical significance (some the early peoples of the Andes did not differentiate between historical and sacred mythical events). A huaca could also be the residence or panaka of the deceased mummys of previous Incas. . The huaca could also be the sacred location of one of the adopted (conquered) subkingdoms of the empire of the Incas or their preceding empires, such as the complex at Lake Titicaca. It can also refer to a specific pacarina (burial place), or a place of origin similar in definition to the origin places in the North American Southwest known as the place of emergence or Sipapu/Shipapu among the peoples which used kivas for worship (especially among the people commonly referred to as Pueblo). The conquistadors extended its meaning to encompass old structures. This meant that the ruins of Moche administrative buildings would be called huacas just as readily as would their temple.

Huacas along ceremonial routes

A huaca could exist along a processional ceremonial line or route as they did for the enactment of sacred ritual within the capital at Cusco. Such lines were referred to as ceques. The work of Tom Zuidema and Brian Bauer (UT-Austin) explores the range of debate over their usage and significance. Also these lines were sometimes astromonically aligned to various stellar risings and setting pertaining to time keeping (for the purposes of agriculture and ceremony and record keeping). These ceque lines bear significant resemblance to the processional lines among the Maya (sacbe) and the Chacoans . Special compounds were erected at certain huacas to compose entire elaborate network of rituals and religious ceremonial culture. For instance, the ceremony of the sun was performed at Cusco (Inti Ramyi). Incas elaborated creatively on a preexisting system of not only the mita exchange of labor but also the exchange of the objects of religious veneration of the peoples whom they took into their empire. This exchange ensured proper compliance among conquered peoples. The Incas also transplanted and colonized whole groups of persons of Inca background with newly adopted peoples to arrange a better distribution of Inca persons throughout all of their empire in order to avoid widespread resistance. In this instance huacas and pacarinas became significant centers of shared worship and a point of unification of ethnically and linguistically diverse empire bringing unity and citizenship to often geographically disparate peoples. This led eventually to a system of pilgrimages throughout all of these various shrines by the indigenous people of the empire prior to the introduction of Catholicism.

Huacas in politics

Of course, the Spanish sometimes believed huacas were idols to gods. Before Francisco de Toledo, Count of Oropesa murdered Tupac Amaru, Amaru gave a speech in which he claimed that when he or his brother consulted the sun via Punchao for advice, they invented whatever they wanted the sun to say. This statement may have been under coercion, however.

The European conquerors considered huacas to be idols to lesser gods than theirs, but they could not easily destroy a mountain or even a rock with their primitive technologies. If they suspected there was gold inside, they might change the course of a river to wash away an adobe burial mound, as they did at Huaca del Sol. In fact the structure had nothing to do with Sol, or Sun worship. It was a Moche site: they believed not in gods as such, but in the concept of duality.

External References


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