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This blog is a summary to explore wise Inca astrology, its impact on civilization, and its enduring legacy in modern times. Also, in order to understand these beliefs, it is necessary to make reference to Inca astronomy which is known to us through some brief mentions in colonial chronicles and through the folk astronomy of Quechua communities of today.

Inca Astrology and Celestial Deities

The ancient civilization had a wise knowledge of the cosmos that played a vital role in their daily life, agriculture and spiritual practices. Furthermore, the Incas viewed the universe as a living, interconnected system where celestial deities exerted influence on earthly affairs.

The deities venerated in the Qorikancha were personified celestial bodies and meteorological phenomena and among them was Inti, the Sun God and supreme deity. Inti was believed to be the source of all life and was closely associated with the Inca emperors who were considered his direct descendants of him. The Inti Raymi festival, celebrated during the winter solstice, honored Inti and marked the beginning of the new solar year. Mama Quilla, the Moon Goddess and god Inti’s wife was the protector of women and associated with fertility, menstruation, and childbirth. Its phases of her guided agricultural activities and women’s rituals. Ch’aska, the Star Goddess associated with Venus symbolized transformation and guided souls to the afterlife.

The Milky Way known as Mayu, had great importance in Inca astrology. It was seen as a celestial river and a path to the afterlife. Within the Milky Way, the Incas identified unique “dark cloud” constellations, such as the llama (Yacana) and the serpent (Amaru), which influenced their understanding of natural forces and agricultural cycles. These celestial entities were intertwined with the Inca calendar, guiding the timing of planting, harvesting, and religious ceremonies.

The painting by the Cusco artist Miguel Araoz Cartagena shows the Milky Way over Cusco, in the months of July and August, when the sky is clear and most of the astronomical phenomena venerated by the Incas can be easily observed.

The chronicle of Polo de Ondegardo, dating to 1585, reads: “…They adore two other (stars)… called Catuchillay y Urcuchillay, that pretend to be a a sheep (llama) with a lamb… They also adore another star, Machacuay, which is in charge of all the Serpents and Snakes, so that they do not do them any evil, and in general they (they Incas), believed that all the animals and birds had their likeness in the sky, whose responsibility was their procreation and augmentation”. Possibly, when speaking about “stars”, Polo de Ondegardo referred to “yana phuyu”, a concept which is totally strange to Western astronomy and thus could not be fully understood by the author of the chronicle

The Inca Calendar, Empire, and Astronomical Instruments

The Inca calendar, a sophisticated timekeeping system, was divided into solar and lunar components. The solar year began with the heliacal rising of the Pleiades (Qullqa) in June, marking the start of the agricultural cycle. Solstices, equinoxes, and the moon’s phases were observed to determine the timing of agricultural tasks and religious festivals. This understanding of celestial patterns allowed the Incas to develop a highly efficient and sustainable farming system.

The Inca Empire, or Tawantinsuyu, was divided into four regions (suyus) that were associated with specific deities and celestial events. Chinchaysuyu to the northwest was linked to the summer solstice, Antisuyu to the northeast to the winter solstice, Qullasuyu to the southeast to the spring equinox, and Kuntisuyu to the southwest to the autumn equinox. This cosmic organization reflected the Inca belief in the interconnection of the terrestrial world and the celestial world.

Of course, to observe and interpret celestial phenomena, the Incas developed various astronomical instruments. These included gnomons or simple vertical pillar for measuring the sun’s shadow, quipus for recording astronomical data, and intihuatanas, or “hitching posts of the sun” to track solstices and equinoxes. The Coricancha or Temple of the Sun in Cusco was the center of Inca astronomy. It housed a golden disk representing Inti and was connected to a network of sacred pathways (ceques) that linked it to various sacred sites, embodying the Incas’ understanding of cosmic energy flow.

Inca Astrology in Modern Times and Personal Growth

After the fall of the Inca Empire. Today, the legacy of Inca astrology continues to influence contemporary Andean culture, Inti Raymi and other festivals are celebrating, and traditional agricultural practices guided by celestial observations persist too. As well as the resurgence of interest in Inca astrology extends beyond the Andes, and people around the world are drawn to its holistic perspective on the cosmos and its connection to personal growth.

The resurgence of Inca astrology can be attributed to a appreciation for indigenous wisdom, as well as the desire to reconnect with ancestral roots, and the spiritual practices. Furthermore, the modern practitioners and scholars are rediscovering the insights offered by this ancient system which provides a unique framework for understanding the cosmos and our place within it.

Inca astrology also offers valuable lessons for personal growth. The concept of Ayni or living in harmony with nature and the cosmos teaches us to find balance in our lives. The Inca belief in interconnectedness encourages empathy and understanding. Their practice of using celestial bodies for self-reflection can aid in personal development, while their reverence for the natural world promotes a more sustainable lifestyle.

There is a connection between Inca astrology and shamanism. Shamans, who served as a bridge between humans and Celestial, used their astrological knowledge to guide rituals, provide personal insights, and practice holistic healing. Today, many people are drawn to these practices for guidance, healing, and personal transformation.

Thank you for reading Natourandes‘ blog and remember to book an adventure in Cusco with us.