If you visit Peru you will likely run across decorated ceramic bull figures called Pucará Bulls. When the Spanish brought bulls to Peru during their conquest, these animals quickly became part of indigenous Inca culture. Originally made in the area of Pucará, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Puno, these small figures have now become recognized as a symbol of contemporary Peruvian culture. To show their appreciation and respect for the animal that has supported their growth and development throughout history, artisans created small figurines known as the Torito de Pucará that translates to “small bull of Pucará. These small animals now serve as a visual reminder of the history and power of the bull to the Incan culture. Thus, the tradition of the “Torito de Pucará” was born.
The Inca referred to their empire as Tawantinsuyu, “the four suyu”. In Quechua, tawa is four and -ntin is a suffix naming a group, so that a tawantin is a quartet, a group of four things taken together, in this case representing the four suyu (“regions” or “provinces”) whose corners met at the capital Cuzco. The term Inka means “ruler” or “lord” in Quechua and was used to refer to the ruling class or the ruling family. The Incas were a very small percentage of the total population of the empire, probably numbering only 15,000 to 40,000, but ruling a population of around 10 million persons. The Spanish adopted the term (transliterated as Inca in Spanish) as an ethnic term referring to all subjects of the empire rather than simply the ruling class.
The Inca Creator God Viracocha
Like the Romans, the Incas permitted the cultures they integrated into their empire to keep their individual religions. In the heterogeneous Inca Empire, polytheistic religions were practiced. Some deities, such as Pachamama and Viracocha, were known through throughout the empire, while others were localized. Viracocha is the great creator deity in the pre-Inca and Inca mythology in the Andes region of South America, worshiped by the Wari and Tiwanaku cultures. He was represented as wearing the sun for a crown, with thunderbolts in his hands, and tears descending from his eyes as rain. According to Inca tradition, Viracocha had white skin, which explains why some of the Inca at first thought that the bearded, pale-skinned Spanish soldiers were representatives of their creator god. Viracocha eventually disappeared across the Pacific Ocean (by walking on the water), and never returned. The word “Viracocha” literally means “Sea Foam.
In one legend Viracocha had one son, Inti, and two daughters, Mama Killa and Pachamama. In this legend, he destroyed the people around Lake Titicaca with a Great Flood called Unu Pachakuti, saving two to bring civilization to the rest of the world, these two beings are Manco Cápac, the son of Inti (sometimes taken as the son of Viracocha), which name means “splendid foundation”, and Mama Uqllu, which means “mother fertility”. These two founded the Inca civilization carrying a golden staff, called ‘tapac-yauri’. In another legend, Viracocha had two sons, Imahmana Viracocha and Tocapo Viracocha. After the Great Flood and the Creation, Viracocha sent his sons to visit the tribes to the northeast and northwest. During their journey, Imaymana and Tocapo gave names to all the trees, flowers, fruits, and herbs. They also taught the tribes which of these were edible, which had medicinal properties, and which were poisonous.
Earth Goddess Pachamama
Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is also known as the earth/time mother. In Inca mythology, Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. Pachamama is the wife of Pacha Kamaq and her children are Inti, the sun god, and Killa, the moon goddess. The four cosmological Quechua principles – Water, Earth, Sun, and Moon – claim Pachamama as their primordial origin, and priests sacrificed llamas, cuy (guinea pigs), and elaborate, miniature, burned garments to her.
In the agricultural activities of Tawantinsuyo (subjugated Inca people) they practiced a variety of ceremonies and rites that were considered vital for good production and a good harvest. When they cultivated a food product, the best of the harvest was selected for carrying out a ceremony in thanksgiving to the Pachamama, the Earth Mother for this food. By doing this ceremony they were able to have their harvest give more than what they simply lifted from the earth. They called the best fruits and vegetables “conopas” and they believed that each of the products of the ground had a spirit that protected them. Domestic animals also had protective spirits and these were called illas. These were miniatures of animal made in stone that were buried in the corrals or hills in order that they might protect the animals and increase their production. The small statues of stone generally had the shape of a llama or an alpaca. They were said to control the power of reproduction for the animals in benefit of their owner. Called enqa, as well as illa, and mullas in Aymara, they were also an amulet for the protection of the families and communities. These alpacas had a hole in their loin where one could put alpaca fat and then bury them in the Earth in order to obtain protection for their agriculture as well as a good harvest. They also used illas to protect their flocks of alpacas and llamas, as well as to guarantee their reproduction.
Rooftop Pucará Bulls
In pre-Hispanic culture, Pachamama was often a cruel goddess eager to collect her sacrifices. As Andes cultures form modern nations, Pachamama remains benevolent, giving, and a local name for Mother Nature. In the context of religion, Pachamama became a version of the Virgin Mary or even the Virgin of Candelaria, patron of the city of Puno. The introduction of European cattle to Peru changed the role of alpaca and llamas to produce of wool rather than meat. It was natural that the bull would replace the llama to protect the household on the rooftops, accompanied of course by the obligatory cross of Christianity. The connotation of the bull coupled with its strong stance planted in the ground and its extravagant eyes facing to the sky has become a symbol for resilient and robust Peruvian culture. The bulls and cross on the roof, appear to be an example of the blending of the Catholic religion and native beliefs.
The cross and ladders that frequently accompany the bulls on the roof tops, or sometimes appear without the bulls, are obviously Christian symbols, the cross of the crucifixion and the ladders from the removal of Christ’s body from the cross. Presumably these are present to ward off evil spirits. According to locals, the cross is usually made of iron to stop the negative energies of lightning. On some rooftops a sun and moon, representing the old Inca gods Inti and Killa, are added. Also added on occasion are clay pots or even coke bottles, a reference to the “challa”. In deference to Pachamama, people in Peru usually toast to her honor before every meeting or festivity, in some regions by spilling a small amount of chicha on the floor, before drinking the rest. This toast is called “challa” and it is made almost every day. There is even an 18 day festival of the Virgin of Candelaria In the first fortnight of February in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
There are many more aspects to the symbolism of the Pucará Bulls but I will stop here, suffice it to say Pachamama is alive and well in Peru. I hope you enjoyed the post, Peru is a melting pot of old and new, please leave a comment.
Pucara Bulls: http://www.goodlifetravels.com/pucara-bulls/
Pucara and the Cult of the Peruvian Roof Ornament: https://notesfromcamelidcountry.net/2012/10/23/pucara-and-the-cult-of-the-peruvian-roof-ornament/
Rooftop Bulls: http://cuzcoeats.com/toritos-en-los-techos/
Symbolism of Torito de Pucará: http://www.cpap.pe/node/71
Aymara Language: http://www.native-languages.org/aymara.htm
Quechua Language: http://www.native-languages.org/quechua.htm
Virgin of Candelaria Festival: http://www.go2peru.com/peru_guide/puno/candelaria_feast.htm
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