A Geomantic History of South America: 4

Above, the Spanish legend of El Dorado (The Golden One) originated in stories the Spanish heard concerning the initiation rite of the Zipa. This was the name given to the hereditary ruler of the southern  confederation of Muisca tribes, which occupied territories corresponding to part of present-day Colombia. The Zipa’s body was covered in gold dust prior to submerging himself in Lake Guatavita, while his attendants threw gold and jewels in to the Lake as votive offerings to the gods. (Photograph by Andrew Bertram, CC BY-SA 1.0).

Alchemy, Gold and the Temple of Solomon

A hunger for gold provided the impetus for the Spanish adventurers to seek out the temples and lofty holy places of the native peoples. Stories of cities and kings lavished with gold enticed them to press beyond the Eastern Cordilleras, deep into the bosky lands surrounding the many headwaters of the Amazon. Their actions are often characterised as simple greed, but many of them were in severe debt at home.  While this does not excuse their rapaciousness, it does perhaps explain their motives a little more completely. The Americas provided the possibility of an escape from poverty for  at least some of these secular adventurers.

The Extirpation

The Catholic clergy also possessed an acute hunger, but theirs was for the conversion of those, whom they saw as indigenous savage souls, to the Church of Rome. Hence, not long after the fall of the Tawantinsuyo – and the removal of its gold – the clergy quickly got to work on the conversion of the peoples of the former Inca lands. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the Jesuits who were in the vanguard of this process on behalf of the Pope, to whom they had pledged their utmost allegiance. Founded by the Basque soldier, Ignatius Loyola in 1534, the Jesuits combined intellectual rigour with military discipline in carrying out their appointed duties.

Matteo Ricci and Guangqi
Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and Chinese scholar Xu Guangqi in the early 17th century. Ricci was a fierce opponent of traditional Chinese geomancy, known as Feng Shui. The story goes that his opposition had been prompted by the placing of the first Jesuit mission in China next to a pagoda. However, from their experiences in the Andes, did the Jesuits understand the strategic importance of geomancy to maintaining an independent cultural identity? (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The Jesuits set about the task of eradicating every visible feature of the Andean religion in something known as the Extirpation, which was carried out with characteristic meticulousness. The Jesuit priest Pablo José de Arriaga published a training manual called The Extirpation of Idolatry, which set out the methodology to be adopted. It included, as a priority when entering a village or settlement for the first time, the destruction of its lineage huaca. The reader will recall that huacas were arranged across the land in lines, called cesques. As a result, it became common practice amongst the indigenous people to destroy any visible signs of the cesques.  Where possible, the native peoples removed the huacas from their alignments in an attempt to conceal their spiritual and cultural heritage from the encroaching Jesuit clergy.

So it was that the beliefs, lore and practices of the many tribes that inhabited the Tawantinsuyo became submerged beneath the baptismal waters of Roman Catholicism. The old beliefs did remain as undercurrents, however;  and undercurrents are potent. They often move in barely perceptible ways that alter the nature of the more visible waters nearer to the surface.

Indigenous undercurrents 

There are countless examples across the Andean regions of where ostensibly Christian festivals thinly veil local ancient myths, customs and beliefs. Around the shores of Lake Titikaka, and centred on the small Bolivian town of Copacabana, the local people celebrate the Festival of Our Lady of the Candelaria in early February. This is one of the most important saints’ days in the towns and villages that surround Lake Titikaka, regardless of whether they may be in Peru of Bolivia. In early February 2010, I was staying in the Peruvian city of Puno. Throughout the whole day, its streets were thronged with thousands of people dressed in all manner of costumes, ranging from traditional tribal ponchos and chullos to the lassos and leather trousers of gauchos.

Members of one of the many folk societies participating in the Puno Festival of the Virgin of the Candelaria in 2010. (© Dave Truman).

Those in the procession were members of the numerous folk societies that had come from the small towns and villages dotted around Puno’s altiplano hinterland. The members of each folk society moved in formations along the streets in their costumes; each group dancing in to the rhythms of its own band. The parade went on all day and well into the night, amidst much drinking and the setting off of fireworks as the day’s festivities drew to a close.

Francisco Tito Yupanquii
Statue of the sculptor Francisco Tito Yupanqui (1550-1616) in the courtyard of the Basilica of the Virgin of the Candelaria, Copacabana.  His sculpture of the Blessed Virgin was said to have been instrumental in securing the allegiance of those native copacabeños loyal to St Sebastian in venerating Mary. This was a feat that must have been  helped considerably by the fact that Francisco was a direct descendent of the Sapa Inca Huayna Capac. How better for the old religion endorse the new one?(© Dave Truman).

The Virgin of the Candelaria is also the Patron Saint of Bolivia and the story goes that her adoption in the region arose out of a dispute between those who venerated the Virgin Mary and those who venerated San Sebastian in Copacabana. The people on each side in the dispute were descended from the either Aymara speaking inhabitants, or the Quechua speaking ‘newcomers.’ It is most likely that the different  ‘Saints’ worshipped by the two grooups represented Christianised versions of their respective traditional local tribal deities.

The need for the dispute to be resolved became more pressing, we are told, because of a series of bad harvests. The much needed favours of heaven could not be bestowed upon the people of Copacabana if they were undecided as to whom they should pray. Eventually, through a series of miraculous events and involving paintings and statues of the Blessed Virgin, the copacabeños adopted the Blessed Virgin and Copacabana became the home of one of the oldest shrines to Mary in the Americas.

Significantly, according to the social scientist Mario Montaño Aragón, the name Copacabana probably derives from Kotakawana, an Andean fertility god, who was androgynous. What is interesting is that the Christian story of the adoption of the Blessed Virgin contains all of the essential elements of the more ancient myth of Kotakawana. The need to resolve the dispute as to which saint to venerate, the Blessed Virgin or San Sebastian, being made more pressing because of a failed harvest is a clear relic of Kotakawana’s role as a fertility deity.

Just as in many of Europe’s mediaeval churches and cathedrals, stonemasons carved representations of people, spirits and legends that were not strictly Christian, so in South America indigenous craftsmen included carvings of their traditions into the decoration of the new churches. Around Lake Titikaka for example, it is common to see carvings of creatures that resemble mermaids in many churches. These are, in fact, Umantuus aquatic members of the court of the fertility god Kotakawana. Such indigenous representations, along with others, were commonplace in the style of architecture that came to be known as Andean-Baroque.

Representation of the three crosses of Calvary, situated in the courtyard of the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana. The Basilica was built on the site of the Pre-Columbian Temple of Kotakawana. (© Dave Truman).

The Christian Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana was built on the exact spot where Kotakawana’s temple had once stood. Clearly, the Catholic Church was seeking to stamp its mark on the spirituality of the local people, just as it had done at the Coricancha in Cusco. I am left to ponder, however, if such superimposition of Catholic buildings, legends and iconography has converted the root and branch of the Andean psyche even today, almost half a millennium after the Pizarro brothers first arrived in Peru from Spain.

Transatlantic undercurrents

The accepted view of Spain in the sixteenth-century is that it was a fanatically Catholic country. It was, after all, one of the two European powers (the other being Portugal) that sought to convert on behalf of the See of Rome, the heathen masses of South America to the Catholic faith. Yet, residing beneath its staunch evangelism there were undercurrents of other traditions, beliefs and forms of spiritual expression. Moreover, these were not simply confined to the peasant classes as remnants of earlier pagan times. Rich and powerful aristocratic families, even royalty, entertained different and heretical notions, which they kept hidden from the eager scrutiny of the Inquisition.

There was perhaps something in the vehemence of Spain’s Catholicism at this time that betrayed a certain insecurity of belief and identity. It was only in 1492 that the Emirate of Granada had been defeated and the Iberian Peninsula was once more entirely under Christian rule. This put to an end to nearly 800 years of Muslim political occupation that stretched back into Europe’s dark ages. Especially during the earlier times, the Islamic scholars of Al-Andalus – as southern Spain was then called – were the custodians of learning from across the known world. This included classical Greek and Latin, as well as Arabic and Persian texts on astronomy, mathematics and alchemy amongst other subjects.

Ibn Rusjd
The Islamic scholar Ibn Rusjd, or Averroes (1126-1198), who was born in Córdoba in Al-Andalus. Like many Spanish Muslim scholars from this period, his writings reintroduced the works of Aristotle, amongst others, to European readers. Along with other early Muslim scholars, he may be thought of as a progenitor of the European Renaissance. (Public domain).

Islamic scholars, such as Ibn Rusjd, were not only examples of a great florescence of learning in  Islamic Spain, they also came to exert a strong influence on contemporary Jewish and Christian thinking. Islam perhaps  reached its apogee in Spain in the 9th century, with the rise to prominence of Córdoba as a cultural and political centre. The Al-Andalus city had what was probably Europe’s greatest library and arguably its first university.

Within certain limits, this was largely a tolerant society. Christians, Jews and Muslims each lived in their own quarters in Spanish towns, but there was much in the way of exchange of ideas as well as commerce between them.

Until 1492, Spain was also the home to a large and influential Jewish population, amongst some of whose members the practice of Kabbalah featured prominently. In all of Western Europe up until the 16th century, the Iberian Peninsula  was the most exposed to the rich and diverse cultural traditions that emanated from outside of Christendom. Significant components of those traditions were esoteric in nature and ranged from the Kabbalism of Sephardic Jews to the Hermetic, Neo-Platonic and alchemical texts studied by Islamic scholars.

Alchemical and other secrets
Alchemist's Laboratory
Engraving of an alchemist’s laboratory from the Ampetheatre of Eternal Wisdom, by Heinrich Khunrath 1595. (Public domain).

By the time that Ferdinand and Isabella had united the kingdoms of Castile and Leon in the 1470s to form what was eventually to become the modern nation-state of Spain, the new realm had become a repository for esoteric learning. Figures such as the Majorcan, Ramon Lull (1232-1315/6) were a major influence on esoteric thinking across Europe. It was even said that the reputed alchemist Nicholas Flamel had learned the secrets of transmutation from a book that had originated in Spain, written by a Jewish conversio (convert) to Christianity.

Certainly, the Spanish royalty, whilst fiercely proclaiming the Catholic Faith in the New World and in Europe, was not averse to incorporating alchemical and Hermetic symbolism into the architecture it commissioned and built. There is perhaps no greater example of this than Félipe II of Spain (1527-1598), who despite his staunch Catholicism, was also deeply interested in alchemy. Félipe was responsible for the construction of the part-monastery part-palace of the Escorial. When the original architect for the project died, Félipe appointed the Hermetic architect, Juan de Herrera to complete the building. In the event, Herrera, with the King’s approval, changed the building’s design to accord with their mutual esoteric interests.

El Escorial
El Escorial is a royal palace, monastery, pantheon, cathedral and library combined into one complex. Many Spanish researchers consider that its design incorporated esoteric geometry derived from Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. (Photo by Hans Peter Schaefer, CC BY-SA 3.0).
Detail from Alberto Moro’s portrait of Félipe II from 1557. (Public domain).

Having accepted Herrera’s changes to the building’s design, Félipe supervised the construction and embellishment of the Escorial in every detail. The edifice was devised and built in rigorous conformity to principles of geometric harmony and proportion. Its various stages of construction were computed and inaugurated in accordance with astrologically propitious dates.

It is evident, from Félipe’s personal oversight of the construction of the Escorial, that he took the inclusion of Hermetic symbolism and esoteric lore into the building’s construction very seriously indeed. The Escorial was no mere fad, folly, or fashion statement for him.

From the Knights Templar to the Knights of Christ
Insignia of the Knights of Christ
Insignia of the Knights of Christ. (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Other undercurrents had been bubbling beneath the surface European culture in the late middle ages that originated from slightly different sources. The Royal Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Real Ordem dos Cavaleiros de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo), popularly known as the Knights of Christ, was a Portuguese and largely maritime chivalric order . It was to play a pivotal role in the exploration of the New World. The Knights of Christ originally were Knights Templar who had fled to Portugal after the Order had been suppressed in 1307 by Pope Clement V in collusion with the French King Philippe IV.

Cross pattée of the Knights Templar
Cross pattée of the Knights Templar. (Public domain).

When the south-bound flotilla of the Templar fleet left La Rochelle in France in 1307 and arrived at Nazaré in Portugal, it was given refuge by King Denis I. Denis had reluctantly obeyed the Papal decree to confiscate all Templar properties in his realm. However, he negotiated with Clement’s successor to found a new chivalric order, the members of which were all former Templars. These Knights of Christ became the recipients of all of the Templars’ former properties in Portugal. It was hardly surprising that Denis should support this group of refugee Templars. He needed their expertise in rebuilding his country after the Muslim occupation and he may have wished to have a counterbalance to the increasing power and influence wielded by the Knights Hospitaller in his realm.

There were other deeper reasons as well. The Portuguese monarchy at this time was a cadet branch of the House of Burgundy. The same Royal House, in the person of André de Montbard, had been one of the founders of the Knights Templar, nearly two hundred years previously. Whatever the dynastic allegiances between the Templars and the House of Burgundy, it is certainly true that the Burgundian Kings of Portugal were enthusiastic in their support of the Knights of Christ.

Coat of Arms of André de Montbard
The Coat of Arms of André de Montbard, member of the powerful Burgundian family and one of the founders of the Knights Templar. (CC BY-SA 3.0).

It was during the reign of Denis’ son, King Alfonso IV (the Brave), that the Portuguese Age of Discovery really began. This was an age that included the exploration of the Atlantic even from the onset. Indeed, Alfonso was said to have been a Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Christ. Alfonso set in train expeditions to the Canary Islands during the first quarter of the 14th century. Later on, the famous seafarer Vasco de Gama was a Knight of Christ and the renowned Prince Henry the Navigator was a Grand Master of the Order.

Christopher Columbus: a secret Knight of Christ?
Columbus' Santa Maria
Model of Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria with the red equal-armed cross of the Knights of Christ/Knights Templar emblazoned on its sails. (Public domain).

Another significant fact is that Christopher Columbus, although sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, was married to the daughter of a Knight of Christ. It is said that Columbus gained access to his father-in-law’s sea charts. Some writers even claim that Columbus was himself a Knight of Christ and that he had studied cartography and navigation at the school founded by Henry the Navigator. Whatever the truth of this claim, on Columbus’ first expedition, the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria all crossed the Atlantic under sails emblazoned with the cross pattée of the Knights of Christ. That same emblem once had symbolised the power and enterprise of the Knights Templar throughout Europe for two hundred years.

Templar knowledge and doctrines

It is not within the scope of this short account to give a full history of the Knights Templar. However, it is perhaps worth reminding the reader of their origins during the crusades and especially of their association with the Temple of Solomon. The Templar Order rose to prominence in Europe during the middle ages. Their founders and principal members came from the elite European families. The Templars became great landowners and wealthy bankers. They were also excellent soldiers and, as we have seen, they seem to have developed into highly skilled and knowledgeable seafarers. Significantly, they also appear to have been instrumental in the introduction of Gothic architecture into Europe shortly after the Second Crusade.

It is little wonder then that some thought the Templars to be too powerful and too influential. Many writers have argued that the Pope and Philippe of France sought to persecute and suppress the Templars in order to gain access to their fortunes, especially their gold. Hence, it is argued, the charges of heresy and of other occult practices against them were fabricated.

The Temple Mount
A recent picture of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is the site of Soloman’s Temple. Not only did the Templars excavate here, but the site was also the Templar’s headquarters during the Crusades. (CC BY-SA 3.0).

On the other hand, the Templars do appear to have entertained unorthodox doctrines and ritual practices that may have arisen through their contacts with some Islamic groups (including the Assassins) and other religious traditions in the Middle-East during the crusades. They were claimed to have discovered certain writings during their excavations in Jerusalem, under the Temple Mount. They may even have discovered secrets encoded in the geometry of the Temple Mount itself. Whatever their exact source, several authors have contended that the Templars were in possession of information that called into question the accepted story of Christ’s life, and therefore of Christian doctrine, as promulgated by the Roman Church.

Modern-day Mandaeans engaging in a ritual at Alvaz in Iran. (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Others have pointed out the possible connection between Templar beliefs and a sect called the Mandaeans, who may have inherited their traditions from the Essenes. The Mandaeans, who exist even today, venerate John the Baptist, rather than Jesus as their principal prophet. According to Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, their Gnosticism and Hermeticism seem to have influenced the Templars through direct contacts of some sort. Interestingly, the Mandaeans entertain a belief in a land across the ocean called Merica, which some have gone so far as to connect with the name America.

There has been much written about the relationship between the Knights Templar in Europe and the later Freemasons. Again, it is not within the scope of this short account to examine this in detail. As far as South America was concerned, former Templars as Knights of Christ, played a large part in opening up South America to European influence and colonization. However, did they also help in the transfer of esoteric knowledge? In order to determine if  there is any truth to this, we need to understand a little more about the Templars knew, or may have known.

The Templars, Gothic Architecture and the Notre Dame Cathedrals

What is certain is that the Templars were associated with the construction of many of the great European Gothic cathedrals, as much as they have been credited with the introduction of Gothic style of architecture itself. Moreover, these same early Gothic cathedrals, called Notre Dame Cathedrals, also happened to exhibit a great deal of alchemical symbolism in their decoration. The earliest of the Notre Dame cathedrals is at Chartres, just to the West of Paris. Apart from its breath-taking Gothic architecture, part of the Cathedral’s tiled floor displays a labyrinth.

Chartres Labyrinth
The labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The French researcher and writer Louis Charpentier described the transformational spiritual workings of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral thus:

It is likely that the ritual progress had to be made above all at times when the telluric current was in strong pulsation, which should coincide with the times of pilgrimage. In the spring certainly, as the “Easter rounds”, led by the bishop, suggest.

The man who reaches the centre of the labyrinth, having made the ritual progress through it and having “danced”, is changed and for all I know in the sense that there has been an opening of the intuition to natural laws and harmonies; to laws and harmonies that he will perhaps not understand but which he will experience for himself, with which he will feel in tune…….

The wyvern as depicted on the standard of the old Kingdom of the West Saxons (Wessex). The word ‘wyvern’ shares the same origin as the Gaulish word ‘woivre’, Germanicwurm’ and the Latin ‘viper’.  The wyvern is probably related to the Welsh dragon and is thought to represent telluric energy. Its reptilian nature is a curious parallel with the Andean Ukhu Pacha – see Part 2. (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Cathedrals such as Chartres were built on pagan sites that appear to be at the confluence of strong telluric currents, called wouivres. (The word wouivre is derived from the ancient Gaulish word for snake, or serpent). Its famous labyrinth may have served as a means of focusing the telluric currents in the earth to affect the consciousness of the initiate who ‘danced’ barefoot within the labyrinth situated on the Cathedral’s floor.

The Labyrinth at Amiens Cathedral

Another Cathedral said to have Templar associations is at Amiens in Picardy. Sadly, the original labyrinth at Amiens Cathedral was destroyed in the 19th century, although it has now been reconstructed. It differed from the one at Chartres in that it was octagonal, which is suggestive of an axis mundi. It is also worth noting that Cologne Cathedral, the design of which was based on Amiens, also has an octagonal labyrinth. We shall return in a  later article in this series to these two cathedrals, and their connection to the Cathedral of La Plata, Argentina.

Labyrinth at Amiens Cathedral
The reconstructed octagonal labyrinth set into the floor of Amiens Cathedral. (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The exoteric explanation for placing labyrinths in churches was that it was some kind of symbolic representation of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on which the devout person would wander before reaching the axis at the centre. Hence, they were given the generic title of  Road to Jerusalem; but does this name hint at a more esoteric connection to Solomon’s Temple? Perhaps revealingly, labyrinths were also believed to have alchemical and Kabbalistic meanings, representing the Road to Solomon and the Great Work (of alchemy) and the triumph of spirit over matter.

Chartres and Amiens cathedrals are said to be located on particular points on the ground, along with other the Notre Dame cathedrals of Reims, Evreux and Bayeux, in a formation that reflects the arrangement of the stars in the constellation of Virgo. If this is so, it is curiously similar to the writings of Cornelius Agrippa, some three hundred years or so later, on geomancy. It may also be an example of the Hermetic dictum, As above, so below.

Lucas Jennis’ engraving of an ouroboros from the alchemical treatise ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ of 1625. Note its similarity to the wyvern. (Public domain).

After the suppression of the Templars in 1307, the extensive lands that they owned were confiscated by the Church. Curiously, many of these places became centres of alchemy. Given their proclivity for adorning cathedrals with alchemical symbolism, it is not stretching the powers of conjecture too much to suppose that the Templars may have fostered the practice of alchemy on their lands before their banishment in 1307.

Noble Families and Esoteric Lore

Of course, the Templars did not exist in a vacuum socially, or politically. Many of their most prominent figures were members of some of the best-connected and most powerful European aristocratic families.

Amiens Cathedral
The western entrance to Amiens  Cathedral. The late mediaeval Cathedral of Cologne and the neo-gothic Cathedral of La Plata (Argentina) were both based on its design. (CC BY-SA 2.5).

Those same families provided the wealth for the building of the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. More often than not, these cathedrals venerated the Divine Feminine through their stone masonry and devotional art. This was especially the case with the Notre Dame Cathedrals. It is a tradition which ultimately stems, according to John Major Jenkins, from the worship of the Egyptian Virgin Mother, Isis. The same author notes that the early Christian cathedrals of Colonial South America continued this tradition and that their construction was sponsored by the aristocratic families of Spain and Portugal.
Divine proportions, what we would refer to today as earth energies, celestial correspondences and alchemical symbolism were all part and parcel of the construction of great religious buildings in the Mediaeval and early modern periods in Spain, France and across Europe.

2nd century Roman interpretation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Note the black garb. The worship of Isis was adopted by many peoples in imperial Rome, including by the Romans themselves. (Public domain).

The royal and and aristocratic sponsors of these enterprises had the political will and financial power to ensure that esoteric principles and symbolism were woven into the very fabric of monumental architecture; albeit covertly. The Knights Templar were a repository for Gnostic, Hermetic and alchemical lore in mediaeval Europe and their expertise had guided the construction of the great Gothic cathedrals, especially the French Notre Dame cathedrals.

The transformation of members of the Templars into the maritime Knights of Christ in Portugal had stimulated to the exploration of the Atlantic. What was more, the stimulus to learning of the crafts of navigation and seafaring also seems to  have exerted a considerable influence on Spain at the end of the Middle Ages. In the following parts of this history I will show how esoteric lore informed the construction of sacred and municipal architecture and the landscape of South America in the years that followed.

To be continued …….

Read part 3

© Dave Truman

A Geomantic History of South America: 3

A colonial era building in Cusco that is adorned with two therianthropic sculptures. The building today is named ‘Casa de las Arpias’ (House of the Harpies), but was the indigenous sculptor actually recording a memory of Ayar Auca’s shamanistic transformation into a bird, when the first Inca family arrived in Cusco and ‘founded’ it?    (© Dave Truman).

The Founding of Inca Cusco

The Incas did not originate in Cusco, but established it as the centre of what would become their extensive empire, or more correctly the Tawatinsuyo (Quechua for ‘four parts together’). At its height, the Tawantinsuyo stretched from present day Colombia through Ecuador in the north, through Peru, western Bolivia, North-West Argentina and as far south as Santiago de Chile.

There are several different traditional accounts of where the Incas originated, although most historians say that they inhabited the high grasslands of the Andes. One tradition tells of their origin at Lake Titikaka, whether or not this is historically true.

The Royal Measuring Rod
The artist de Maguilaz’s rendition of the Gateway God of Tiwanaku, who is commonly associated with Wiracocha. Note the staff that is held in each hand. Figures holding two sceptres are depicted in many Andean cultures.These are thought by some to have been measuring instruments. (CC 3.0).

The mythos of Inca origins at Titikaka certainly serves to establish a degree of continuity between the cultures of Tiwanaku and their Inca successors. This may have been rather more than a matter of simple political expediency, as some commentators have suggested. The Incas saw themselves as re-establishing order and civil society after an era of bloodshed and warfare that had existed since the demise of Tiwanaku, which is said to have taken place at around 1000 AD. At Tiwanaku, according to the early seventeenth century chronicler Pachakuti Yamqui, Wiracocha (in his version of the story called Tunupa), gave the father of the first Inca a staff that was called Tupayauri (The word is said to derive, fittingly from a combination of the Quechua tupa, ‘royal’ and the Aymara yauri ‘copper’). Historically, the Inca Priest-King carried the Tupayauri as a symbol of his authority, power and invincibility, but it had many other connotations as well.

Interestingly, the Quechua word tupa (royal), shares its origin in the language with the verb tupay, which means ‘to measure with a staff’. Here we have the words for measure, measuring-rod and royal all closely associated with each other. This is, of course, not unique to South American languages. The English words: ‘rule’, ‘regal’, ‘royal’, ‘ruler’ and ‘regulate’ all derive from the Latin regula and rego, meaning to keep straight and to rule. (Equally, the English word real, comes from the closely related Latin regalis, meaning royal). Could it be that, from very ancient times, it was the responsibility of shaman priest-kings to establish and maintain the measure of the known universe? As we shall see, the first Inca Manco Cápac drove his Tupayauri into the ground, in what was to become Cusco, in order to establish the new axis mundi there.

Manco Cápac
Manco Cápac, with the signature of his office of Sapa Inca (King), the Tupayauri in his right hand. (Public domain).

There is yet more that we can say about the associations between measurement and royalty. The title of the first Inca, Manco Cápac, means ‘Royal Manco’ in Quechua. (I shall just focus on the meaning of Cápac here, for the sake simplicity). According to William Sullivan, the name Cápac originates in the Quechua verb capay, meaning to measure with the palms of the hand. Aymara also has the word capa, meaning palm and capatha, meaning to measure by palms. Measurement by means of the palms of the hands is said to have been an extremely ancient technique and examples of it are found in many cultures. It is possibly the basis for various units of measurement in ancient cultures around the world, including the Pacific Islands, where it may have contributed towards the Polynesians’ system of navigation across the vast tracts of the Pacific.

Cusco: the new stone in the centre

In several versions of the Inca foundation myth, Manco Cápac and his brothers and sisters left Tiwanaku and Titikaka to travel to the north to find a place to settle. In the version of the founding of Cusco told by the Spanish chronicler Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa the story goes thus:

Let it be by one way or the other, for all agree that they went trying the land with a pole or staff until they arrived at this Huanay-pata, when they were satisfied. They were sure of its fertility, because after sowing perpetually, it always yielded abundantly, giving more the more it was sown. They determined to usurp that land by force, in spite of the natural owners, and to do with it as they chose. So they returned to Matahua.

(Dave Truman).From that place Manco Ccapac saw a heap of stones near the site of the present monastery of Santo Domingo at Cuzco. Pointing it out to his brother Ayar Auca, he said, “Brother! you remember how it was arranged between us, that you should go to take possession of the land where we are to settle. Well! look at that stone.” Pointing out the stone he continued, “Go thither flying,” for they say that Ayar Auca had developed some wings, “and seating yourself there, take possession of land seen from that heap of stones”.

This would indeed seem to be a propitious place, given that the heap of stones must have reminded Manco  Cápac of Tiwanaku, or taypicala, as ‘the stone in the centre’. There were also practical considerations in that Manco Cápac and his siblings used the staff (Tupayauri) to test the land in order to see if it was fertile. Doubtless such practical considerations also included the supply of fresh water and this location just happened to lie within two rivers, the Huatanay and Tullumayu, that join further south to form the river of the Sacred Valley, the Vilcamayu-Urubamba.

The Urubamba River just to the North of Cusco in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.(© Dave Truman).

John Major-Jenkins has observed that this division of rivers at Cusco resembles the dark rift of the Milky Way, close to the constellation of Sagittarius:

The unusual geological bifurcation of rivers that surrounds Cuzco most closely conforms to the part of the Milky Way that is bifurcated by the dark rift north of Sagittarius. In that sense, if we map the sky onto Peru, Cuzco is in the dark rift. 

To Manco Cápac  and his party, this must have been a propitious place indeed. It is little wonder therefore that the name Cusco was chosen as the name for their new axis mundi. The name comes from the Quechua q’osqo, which means in English ‘navel’. The imagery should be familiar to anyone who has studied geomancy, as Cusco was indeed the navel of the world, or the physical centre in the new pacha (epoch) established by Manco Cápac  and his family.

The geomantic plan of Cusco

Cusco eventually would become the political, economic and cultural axis of the Tawantinsuyo as  the Incas expanded their territory to take in those of other South American tribes, either by conquest or negotiation. The tribes brought within the compass of the Tawantinsuyo sent certain numbers of their people to live at Cusco, where they were allocated particular quarters within the city’s boundaries, according to their ethnic and geographical origins. Cusco thus became a sort of ethnic microcosm of the whole Tawantinsuyo, with its geometric topography manifesting the unity in diversity of the entire realm.

Map of Inca Cusco
Map of Inca Cusco, with Hanan Cusco marked in red and Hurin  Cusco marked in orange. The city is laid out to form a geoglyph of a puma; a scheme devised by the Inca Pachakutek (1438-1471/2), This was to commemorate the establishment of the Tawantinsuyo, with Cusco at its political centre. It was from Pachakutek’s time onwards that the City also took on a four-fold division. (CC BY-SA 3.0).

The reader will recall that the Chakana became closely associated with Cusco in Inca times. One reason for this was the four-fold division of the City, which reflected that of the division of the whole Tawantinsuyo into four provinces. The Chakana, it should also be remembered, encompassed celestial correspondences, especially in relation to the Southern Cross.

Prior to its division into four, however, celestial space had been reflected in the two-fold division of Cusco’s terrain. The line that cut the City in half had been established by observing the sun’s rising over a mountain called Pachatusan during equinoxes. The mountain’s name in English is ‘support pillar of space-time’, or ‘support pillar of the world’. This line marked the division between upper and lower Cusco. Upper Cusco (Hanan Cusco) was the abode of those members of the City who were warriors or administrators, whereas the inhabitants of Lower Cusco (Hurin Cusco) worked in religion and agriculture.

The Temple of the Sun
The Convent Church of St Domingo, which was built on top of the Temple of the Sun, known as the Coricancha. Chroniclers tell us that the walls of the Coricancha were covered with sheets of gold. (© Dave Truman).

The sheer sophistication of geomancy used at Cusco is best appreciated when we come to consider the use of huacas and cesques there. Again, the reader will remember that cesques consisted of straight alignments of huacas across the landscape. All of the cesques in the entire Tawantinsuyo originated in the Temple of the Sun in Cusco, which was built next to the very pile of stones where Manco Cápac had thrust his Tupayauri (staff).

Pre-Inca street, Cusco.
Although  most people assume that the Incas founded Cusco, this wall belonging to the earlier Killke culture was excavated beneath an Inca street. The pile of stones, or cairn, to where Ayar Auca flew also may have been the remains of a more ancient construction. (© Dave Truman).

From the Temple of the Sun, 40 (some say 42) cesques radiated in straight lines over the mountain tops to different points on the horizon. Positioned along each cesque were 8 or so huacas, making some 328 huacas in total. This complex arrangement worked on multiple levels. Each huaca was associated with its own day and certain rites were performed at particular huacas on particular days. As the Inca calendar consisted of 328 days, there was one huaca for each day of the year. The remaining 37 days were excluded from the calendar, because they were the days when the Pleiades were not visible above the horizon.

Stars and ancestors

The number 40 was highly important in the Inca world view for other reasons. The 40 cesques also signified the idealised number of tribes that had been brought together to form the Tawantinsuyo. Each cesque therefore formed a straight line that led towards the geographical origin of each tribe. Priests were amongst the members of the 40 tribes who had been brought to Cusco, and the responsibilities of each included the maintenance of the huacas along the tribal cesque and for conducting rituals on the appropriate days. Each cesque also pointed towards the rising of a significant star, or constellation. Each star or constellation that aligned in this way with a cesque was important because it was thought to be the ancestor of that tribe.

Here, in Inca Cusco, we had the embodiment of order on the human, spiritual, geographic and cosmic scales. This was the counterpoint par excellence to the periodic cataclysms, or pachakutis, that had arrived during the many cycles of time that the Incas understood to be history. At the centre of the Tawantinsuyo was Cusco, and at the centre of Cusco was the Temple of the Sun. In writing of the ancient science, of which he believed Pythagoras and Plato to have been the inheritors, John Michell observed something that was equally true of the Inca conception of Cusco:

Thus human nature and the order of the universe were seen as products of the one archetype, the pattern that the Creator had in mind when he set about his work. On that perception rested the entire fabric of ancient philosophy and science. The Temple was placed between the two scales, human and cosmic, and the energies it transmitted were two-way; for it was believed not only that the heavens influenced affairs on earth, but that the order of human society affected the entire world of nature. Ceremonies throughout the year at the Temple were meant to initiate, and so procure, the fruitful union of all mutually corresponding elements, those above with those below.

The arrival of the conquistadores
The Sapa Inca Huascar, Tupayauri in hand, from a drawing made in his own lifetime. (Public domain).

Although it was geographically extensive, the Tawantinsuyo flourished for around only a hundred years before the Spanish, under the command of Francisco Pizarro, subjugated it in 1533. The fact that Pizarro, with only a small force of fewer than 200 Spaniards at his disposal, overcame this vast realm is one of the great riddles of history. Most historians attribute this to the effects of smallpox, which the Spanish inadvertently introduced into South America, and its devastating effect on the indigenous population. It was smallpox that claimed as its victim the Sapa Inca (King) immediately prior to Pizarro’s campaign in Peru. Huayana Capac died of the disease, leaving two of his sons, the half-brothers Huascar and Atahualpa, to conduct a bitter civil war for the Tawantinsuyo, which left it divided into a northern and southern portion. It was no longer ‘the four parts together’, a sign indeed of ill omen.

The Sapa Inca Atahualpa, Tupayauri in hand. (Public domain).

There were further signs that the pacha of the Incas was about to come to an end. Andean priest-astronomers knew about precession, and from this understanding, they realised that the current world pacha was about to be turned upside down in a pachakuti, after which a new pacha would come into existence.  Furthermore, according to the chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega – who was Huayana Capac’s great nephew – the Sapa Inca had told of an ancient prophecy just before he had died of smallpox. This spoke of a future time when the Incas would lose their religion and the Tawantinsuyo would be no more.

The dying Sapa Inca was also said to have associated the coming of the Spaniards with the return of Wiracocha, heralding the advent of a new pacha. This information was said to have been kept as a secret amongst the Inca royalty for many years, according to Garcilaso.

Huayna Capac
Father of Huascar and Atahualpa, the Sapa Inca Huayna Capac, whose death from smallpox led to a civil war. Just before his death, Huayna Capac referred to a prophecy uttered by his ancestor, WIracocha Inca, that ‘a people never seen before’ would come and destroy the Tawantinsuyo and the religion of the native peoples (Public domain).

Whilst many historians have explained the prophecy away as an excuse that the Inca royalty had made for not resisting the Spanish incursion more vigorously, it may have been that the Incas genuinely believed that their time had come to an end. To them, the signs were everywhere.

Whatever the causes, the Spanish soon established the new dispensation. The Temple of the Sun was stripped of its gold and a Dominican convent was built on the site. This was an act of no small significance to the conquered peoples of the Tawantinsuyo, as much as it was for the conquerors. There followed a period called the extirpation, in which the Catholic Church attempted to remove all signs of indigenous religious symbology from the landscape, and which especially included the deliberate destruction of huacas. Many of the menfolk were forced to work in silver and gold mines to feed the insatiable appetite of the Spanish Crown for precious metals. Others were simply slaughtered. Perhaps ironically, Inca resistance grew after the demise of Cusco and the death of Atahualpa.

Yet for all this, the history of geomancy in South America did not come to an end. Amongst the native population, some fragments of the ancient beliefs were kept alive clandestinely.

Andean Baroque carving.
The Spanish conquistadores used indigenous stone masons in the construction of many churches. The native craftsmen included motifs from their own traditions in their carvings. This is one such example in a style known as Andean Baroque from the Jesuit Church in Cusco. The Jesuits were responsible for the extirpation of the native religion, largely through the destruction of huacas.           (© Dave Truman).

You will see them in the carvings made by indigenous craftsmen in the churches erected by the Conquistadores; you will find them if you look beneath surface of the many religious festivals celebrated in this part of the world. The Spanish too employed their own traditions of geomancy that came from esoteric European sources. It is said, for example, that families withTemplar and Hermetic connections provided many of the resources to build early colonial churches. Later, during the era of liberation from Spanish colonialism, Freemasonry was a major influence on the ideas of liberators, such as Simon Bolivar, Juan San Martin and Bernado O’Higgins to name but a few. That influence can also be seen in the architecture and layout of modern cities such as Buenos Aires, or Montevideo. In South America, it would seem that constructing an image of the cosmos across the landscape is something that is inextricably bound to establishing and maintaining political and social order.

 ⇐ Read part 2     Read part 4

© Dave Truman

A Geomantic History of South America: 1

Earth and Sky

The Dark Rift of the Milky Way is one of the most prominent dark cloud constellations. These have been venerated by numerous South American cultures stretching back into the remotest  antiquity. The Dark Rift stands between our solar system and the Galactic Centre. The picture above was taken in 2012, when our solar system aligned most closely with the Galactic Core. (Public domain courtesy of NASA).

The Andean world-view

I need to begin my brief account with something of an explanation. I came to the insights I am about to share during several extensive trips to the South American Continent, where I have been investigating evidence for the existence of an advanced civilisation of extreme antiquity, specifically during the Pleistocene era.

This is a subject that I find absorbing and fascinating, but it is not the subject of this article. So on reading further, please forgive me if any of my enthusiasm for this possibility may colour the observations I make. The following narrative is essentially about the Inca civilisation and its predecessor, the Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) culture, and it takes place between about 300 AD and approximately 1533 AD. It is about how each culture established an axis for its territory and the cosmology, mythology, numerology, geometry and symbolism each employed to do so.

I say ‘axis for its territory’, but that is misleading. The axis, in the world-view of these cultures, was much more than a central point of a given parcel of land. It was the axis of everything they understood themselves to be. There was no civilisation without the axis; there was no creation without the axis.

Precessional motion of the Earth
The right pointing arrows show the daily axial spin of the Earth every 24 hours. As well as this, the Earth also precesses (i.e. moves in the opposite direction) every 26,000 years, as is shown by the left-pointing arrow, by ‘wobbling’ around its axis. In their book, ‘Hamlet’s Mill’ Giorgio de Santillana and Herther von Dechend argued that very ancient cultures knew of the Earth’s precessional motion and tried to convey it to later generations through their mythologies. (Public domain courtesy of NASA).

The Incas saw themselves as the inheritors of the wisdom of Tiwanaku. and there is much to suggest that such wisdom was highly sophisticated and included a knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes and even of the Galactic Centre. A culture does not attain an appreciation of precession overnight. It takes thousands of years of meticulous observation of the heavens. It also takes a culture that is able to pass information down over thousands of years.

This was done through myth, in a quite specific and technical way. Contrary to what we have been taught, myths are not the naïve mental ramblings of so-called ‘primitive’ peoples, who were too stupid to make sense of the world around them. Neither are they untruths, as in the colloquial meaning of the word today.

It is the modern mind that has set up mythos and logos almost as opposites. In the original Greek, their meanings were much closer together and both words referred in some way to an account, or something that was said. Trace the meaning of mythos further back – to its Proto-Indo-European roots in the verb mewd (to care about something) – and we are getting closer to how we should really think about myth: an account of something of importance.

Cosmological diagram
The Cosmological Diagram of Juan de Santacruz Pachakuti Yamqui Salcamaygua; a sixteenth century indigenous Andean chronicler. (Public domain).

Precession was important to the Inca and Tiwanaku cultures because they perceived that there were synchronicities between the celestial world and the mundane world of nature below. Time moved in cycles. Events and changes in the world could be mapped against movements in the heavens, both for longer and shorter cycles of time. Star lore was thus based upon precise observations.

The Andean sages did not use a zodiac of twelve constellations, circling the earth in what is called the plane of the ecliptic, with which we are familiar. Instead, they studied the Milky Way as it traversed the heavens. Although certain constellations were important to them, their zodiac consisted of various ‘dark clouds’ within the band of the Milky Way, to which they ascribed the names of animals: the llama, the fox, the toad, serpent, partridge, etc.

These animals also feature in Andean myths and we begin to appreciate the technical meaning of those myths when we start to realise that their myths of animals are telling us something about the heavens and about the times in which they lived.

Dark cloud constellation of the Calsack.
The dark cloud constellation of the Coalsack, known to ancient Andeans as ‘Lluthu’ (partridge). It lies just to the South-east of the Southern Cross. (Photograph by  Naskies, CC BY-SA 3.0).

I shall give an example of how complex inter-relationships were thought of and used to illustrate something of how the Andean mind works. November and December mark the season when the rain comes to the altiplano and the sun moves into constellation we call Scorpio. To the Inca, this constellation was associated with a plough and storehouse – both images of the season’s abundance. This is not surprising, given the importance of rain to securing the forthcoming harvest. Scorpio also happens to point towards the Galactic Centre and to those ‘dark cloud’ constellations in the Milky Way closest to the Centre, the mother and baby llamas. They are the zodiacal animals emblematic of the nurturing of new life.

We therefore have a whole complex of associations and relationships, involving the seasonal cycle, birth, renewal, fecundity, abundance etc. This complex embraces the celestial, natural, human and political spheres of Andean knowledge and culture.

It is one that also embraces the axis, manifested here as the Galactic Centre, as the source of all existence. It was no coincidence that rituals to ensure the abundance of the forthcoming harvest were enacted, at this time of year, both in Cusco and Tiwanaku, as the temporal and political centres of their respective cultures. Neither is it arbitrary that both cities happened to lie beneath the band of the Milky Way as it crosses the ecliptic.

This is a fundamentally different way of conceiving of the world than most of us, in our western post-enlightenment culture, have been taught. We naturally divide things up into separate and discrete parts; into neat categories.

We are not encouraged to see the patterns and inter-relationships between the phenomena around us, be they celestial, political, natural or physical. For the Andean shaman, (called a paqo), the world is much more like a hologram of inter-connectedness. Perhaps it is more akin to how Michael Talbot wrote about the physicist David Bohm’s theory of implicate order:

The idea that consciousness and life (and indeed all things) are ensembles enfolded throughout the universe had an equally dazzling flip side. Just as every portion of a hologram contains an image of the whole, every portion of the universe enfolds the whole. This means if we knew how to access it we could find the Andromeda galaxy in the thumbnail of our left hand. We could also find Cleopatra meeting Caesar for the first time , for in principle the whole past and implications for the whole future are enfolded in each small region of space and time.

Shaman at Amaru Muru
A modern-day Andean shaman, or paq’o, stands before the ‘doorway’ of Amaru Muru in Peru, not far from the present-day shore of Lake Titikaka. (© Dave Truman).

Could it be that the Andean shaman knows something more than we do? Where Talbot makes theoretical associations and speculations, the shaman has an established canon of correspondences that he can draw upon. The shaman knows that the axis defines his universe and that the axis is the centre of the city, world and galaxy. The world around is one that is replete with meaningful patterns, as is the world within. It is my contention that this knowledge is very ancient indeed and that it can be traced back in time to equally ancient origins. It can be seen in geometry, number and proportion, as we are about to find out.

Geographically speaking, we shall take a journey northwards, along the line of the Andes mountain range, from Lake Titikaka on the borders of Peru and Bolivia to Cusco. This was the journey that many of the Inca foundation myths say was made by the dynasty that became the greatest political and social state in Pre-Columbian South America. It is also a journey through a mythical, celestial and geomantic landscape.

Lake Titikaka as the terrestrial source of creation
Sunrise over Lake Titikaka
Sunrise over Lake Titikaka, Bolivia from the Island of the Sun. In the distance can be seen the Island of the Moon (Coati) and just to its left on the mainland, the Sacred Mountain  of Illiampu.  (© Dave Truman).

Let us begin our journey with what I consider to be one the most ancient locations on the Continent; Lake Titikaka and its surrounds, which as we have seen, was once much larger than today. For those unfamiliar with Lake Titikaka, I should explain that it lies on the altiplano (high plateau) at around 12,000 feet above sea level, between the twin spines of the Andes. It straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia today, but in more ancient times Lake Titikaka and its environs have been part of various political domains, including Incan, Spanish and Tiwanakan to name but a few.

The altitude and the lack of trees lend the sparse altiplano an air of starkness, whilst newcomers to such heights can often struggle breathing and with the many rapid changes in weather and temperature. One does not have to be interested in subtle earth energies, or sacred geometry to encounter mysteries in this landscape: it is a mystery of itself. All along the altiplano, in Bolivia and as far south as northern Argentina and Chile, you will find salt lakes and salt flats.

Ceramic feline figures
Ceramic feline figures retrieved from beneath Lake Titikaka, near to the Island of the Sun. The figures may have been votive offerings. (© Dave Truman).
Ancient flooding

Titikaka, the largest lake on the altiplano and one of the world’s highest, can barely be considered a freshwater lake at all, on account of the high salt content of its waters. Its native fauna’s closest relatives are all oceanic species. It boast its unique species of sea horse and is home to world’s only inland species of gull. It is almost as if part of the Pacific Ocean had suddenly been thrust upward of 12,000 feet into the air, bedrock and all, by some Titan. This is a fitting place indeed for legends of creation and emergence.

Monument to the god Tunupa, carved into the cliff-face near to Ollantaytambo, Peru. Tunupa is sometimes associated with Wiracocha. (D. Gordon E. Robertson CC BY-SA 3.0).

However the salt water may have arrived on the altiplano – and there are various theories – we can be fairly certain that the Lake was once much larger than it currently is. The Andean legend of the god Tunupa, who is often seen as the same as the creator god Wiracocha, seems to go back to a time when its water level was much higher than today. The ruins at Tiwanaku, and Amaru Muru, would have both at one time have been on the borders of the Lake. More mysteriously still, Tiwanaku style archaeological finds have been recovered from under the existing Lake, suggesting that perhaps there had been settlements on the altiplano before the seawater arrived – however it may have arrived.. This intriguing possibility has been given a boost in recent years by aerial photographs from Google Earth of what appear to be structures underneath the surface of several Andean lakes. As ever, speculations and theories abound.


Stone head in the Tiwanaku style retrieved from beneath Lake Titikaka. (© Dave Truman).

Wiracocha, the Andean creator god, has long been associated with Lake Titikaka in Andean myth. In primeval times, he was said to have brought into being the very first peoples, by fashioning them from clay, only to turn the first of them to into stones. Other myths speak of Wiracocha’s turning the earliest human ancestors into foxes, condors and other animals and birds. This was said to be the origin of the huaca, (plural huacas). It is difficult to define a huaca in any functional or logical way. In some senses it translates as ‘shrine’ in English, but that would be way off the mark. It is really a concept that ties a human lineage to certain sacred places, to a particular animal, to a particular constellation,  or even to a particular ‘dark cloud’ shaped like the same animal within the band of the Milky Way overhead. There are many huacas, but each has its own specific set of correspondences and associations.

Lines across the landscape
Nazca Lines
Photograph of the Nazca Lines in Southern Peru taken from space. Although the Nazca Lines pre-date the Incas by many hundreds of years, researcher Tony Morrison, amongst others, considers the Inca system of cesques and huacas were based on theose of earlier peoples, such as the Nazcans. (Public domain, courtesy of NASA).

Geographically speaking, huacas were arranged in straight lines called cesques across the countryside. Often they were piles of stones, but they could be other objects, or natural features in the landscape. In later Inca times, they were an important feature of the geomancy of Cusco, as well as the whole of the Inca realm. I came across what can only have been a convergence of cesques and huacas close to the shores of Lake Titikaka. It is somewhere that is charged with a particular, almost palpable, presence, which contains a huaca called Amaru Muru.

Amaru Muru: portal to  a different reality?
Amaru Muru
The megalithic doorway that has been cut into a sandstone cliff at Amaru Muru, Bosque de las Piedras, Peru. Photograph taken with an Oldfield Filter®. (© Dave Truman).

At a place called Bosque de las Piedras, (Forest of Stones) that lies between the Peruvian city of Puno and the Bolivian border, you will see the shapes of lizards, grotesque fairytale giants and whales all sculpted from the red sandstone. It is as if whatever formed these cyclopean stones had wanted to play a trick on you, to disorientate you and to challenge all of your preconceptions about how the world is and how it came about. The boundary between what is natural and what has been created by humankind seems to have become blurred here. The very shapes of the stones speak of times when living creatures were rocks and rocks were living creatures. Above all else, you feel the sheer antiquity of the place.

From your first glance, Amaru Muru defies categorisation by the rational mind and amplifies your sense of disorientation. Nestled underneath huge folds of sandstone stands a sheer wall on the side of which is etched a square groove, some 23 feet high and wide. Inside the square is a niche, which being about 6 or more feet high, seems to be some kind of doorway. A doorway that leads nowhere other than into the rock itself. So speaks the rational mind, which also wonders why and how the niche was carved, or even if it was carved at all, because it appears to have been melted, or dissolved, away from the stone façade somehow. There are even stone outcrops nearby that display similar signs of melting, or dissolving. That particular mystery is not unique to Amaru Muru and you will find similar signs of stones, including the hard and granite-like andesite, having seemingly been worked in this way on numerous sites in the Andes. Some sites even show signs of stones’ having been vitrified somehow.

In Peru, legends and superstitions inhabit the aether. When I visited Amaru Muru, I was told of how a couple of newly-weds had disappeared through the doorway, never to return to this world. That is a common motif in many of the stories associated with the site, Most accounts of Amaru Muru include the notion of passing through this portal, or ‘doorway’, into another realm of reality. In recent years, the site has become popular with North American and European tourists, who are seeking to experience something of the spiritual reality that lies behind appearances. I encountered just such a group during my visit there. They participated in a ceremony, under the guidance of two Andean paq’os, which included each person’s kneeling in front of the ‘doorway’ for a while. Several of them reported having passed through the ‘doorway’ into somewhere else.


Close up of Amaru Muru taken with an Oldfield Filter
Close-up of the ‘doorway’ of Amaru Muru taken with an Oldfield Filter®, taken shortly after the shamanistic ceremony had finished. (© Dave Truman).

The shamanistic ceremony certainly seemed to have engendered some kind of effect on the subtle energies around the ‘doorway’ as I discovered when I took a few photographs with my digital camera using an Oldfield Filter®. Some pictures showed that light seemed to be bent in a curve around the ‘doorway’ and the surrounding façade. Although the pictures taken before the ceremony had shown vivid colours, there was no curvature of light beforehand.

In some strands of contemporary Andean culture, Amaru Muru is associated with Lemuria and with a golden Solar Disc that was taken to the site from Lemuria (or sometimes Mu) at a time of great earth changes, in order to preserve the spiritual wisdom of civilisation. Here, according to one version of the legend, was founded the Monastery of the Seven Rays, which was instrumental in guiding and forming the nascent Tiwanaku culture, after the great cataclysm that had destroyed the continent of Lemuria. There then follows an account how the early Tiwanaku culture turned away from the spiritual principles taught to them by the Lemurians and of its being destroyed, interestingly enough, in a great flood.

Pachakutec worshipping Inti at the Korikancha
The Sapa Inca Pachakutec worshipping a golden disc of the Sun in the Coricancha in Cusco. By the chronicler Martín de Murúa. (Public domain)

This is not the place to recount all of the many and colourful contemporary versions of stories associated with Amaru Muru, some of which contain probable influences from the Bible and from popular accounts of Atlantis. Even the story of the Golden Disc may originate in the removal of a great solardisc of made of gold from the walls of the Coricancha – the great Inca Temple of the Sun in Cusco – so that it could not be looted by the invading Spaniards. On the other hand, the flooding of the Twanaku villages could be a genuine memory of sunken cities beneath the lakes of the Altiplano, as mentioned previously.



Read part 2 ⇒

© Dave Truman