Inca ceremonies followed the Inca calendar. The seasons of the year were very important to the Inca, because they lived off the land. Their calendar was divided into twelve lunar months, named for important agricultural and religious events. Since the seasons south of the equator are reversed, the January of the Inca calendar was the equivalent of June in North America. The calendar year began with December, which is like May in the north.

Here is a brief account of the outstanding national ceremonies and festivals. There were many, many local festivals too. People who could not get to a big town or to the capital for a celebration observed the holiday at the nearest huaca. It goes without saying that whoever could get to Cuzco did so for the joy and satisfaction a religious people have in attending important ceremonies. December, Kapac Raymi, was the month of the Magnificent Festival. During this month the Inca held initiation ceremonies for the sons of the nobility. January, Kamay, was the month of the Small Ripening. February, Hatun Poky, was the month of the Great Ripening. March, Pakar Waray, was the month of the Flowers and Earth Ripening.

In April, Auriwa, the month of the Dance of the Young Maize, a white llama, brushed and groomed and covered with fine cloths and gold ornaments, was paraded in the plaza before a large gathering. The Inca, like many other Indian groups, had a myth about a Great Flood which had almost wiped out mankind and all living creatures from the earth. A white llama had survived this flood, and the llamas that paraded in the plaza each year were descendants of this first llama. In May, Aymuray, festivals were held all over the Empire to celebrate the month of the Harvest. June, Intl Raymi, was the month of the Festival of the Sun—the most important Inca ceremony. The people believed that the Sun was holding the celebration and that the nobility were his guests at the festival. The emperor himself presided over this ceremony, and every nobleman, dressed in his best and displaying all the ornaments he possessed, came to Cuzco for it.

Professional clowns entertained the gathering and made the people laugh. They wore masks and carried musical instruments—drums, rattles, bells, trumpets, whistles, and flutes. These musical instruments were made of wood, bone, reeds, shell, and metal. The clowns pranced about, pulling in people from the audience to dance with them. Some of the dances were dignified, however. To the sound of a great drum, which a servant carried on his back (the drummer was usually a woman), men and women formed a single line and joined hands. In their bright shirts, dresses, and headdresses they moved slowly across the plaza two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes the men formed one line and the women another, and danced together with great dignity from one end of the plaza to the other. The emperor, of course, did not dance. He sat on a low gold seat high up on the stone steps of the Temple of the Sun, and looked down on his people below.

The Festival of the Sun lasted for nine days. At dawn on the fourth day, all the Inca came out into the great plaza in front of the Temple, stretched their arms in front of their faces, and made kissing noises as a greeting to the Sun. Llamas and alpacas were sacrificed, and then the emperor stood up, holding two golden goblets filled with chicha. The goblet in his right hand he offered to the Sun, his father. The emperor poured it into a gold jar which was connected by tubes to the Temple. The chicha flowed through the tubes into the Temple, giving the impression that the Sun was drinking it.
From the goblet in his left hand the emperor took a sip of the chicha and then handed the goblet down for the nobles to sip and pass around among themselves. This royal gesture of friendship, of drinking with his noblemen as equals, meant a great deal to every nobleman present. Not for another year would any of them share a drink with their emperor.

The emperor, the priests, and others of royal blood now entered the Temple to offer gifts of silver and gold to the Sun. People of lesser rank "-brought gifts too, but they were not permitted to enter the Temple of the Sun. After walking up its two hundred steps, they remained outside, and the priests carried in their offerings.

Next there were more sacrifices of black llamas and alpacas, and then a priest cut open the first animal and examined its heart and lungs. If these proved healthy and unmarred, and if the lungs were still full of air, everything in the Kingdom of the Sun would be successful. If the animal was unhealthy, the people knew that there was misfortune ahead, for somehow they had displeased the Sun.

July, Chawa Warkis, was the month of Earth Purification. During this month priests made sacrifices to the huaca which presided over the irrigation system of the Cuzco valley, and similar festivals were held to honor the huacas at the irrigation canals all over the Empire. August, Yapakis, was the month of Everyone's Purification. Sacrifices, brought to Cuzco from the four provinces of the Empire, honored Water, Frost, the Air, and the Sun. September, Koya Raymi, was a dry month, and the Queen's Festival honored the change in weather. In October, Uma Raymi, the Inca held the Festival of the Water. The people prayed for rain, because the crops that had been sown in August and September would fail without it.

In November, Ayamarka Raymi, there was the Festival of the Dead. During this festival people made offerings to their dead ancestors. It is possible that this worship of ancestors was based on a fear of the dead. The Inca may have believed that unless they treated the shades of the dead with respect, the shades might molest the living.

In addition to these monthly ceremonies there were many others, which were held on special occasions, such as drought, an earthquake, or a war. During these ceremonies everyone who was not of noble rank had to leave Cuzco. Men and boys marched in procession through the streets, wearing red shirts with long fringes and ornaments, great feathered headdresses, and shell necklaces. They carried small dried green birds and white drums. At these ceremonies the only sound was the sound of the drums; the people were silent.

Human sacrifices were offered only on these solemn occasions, or at the coronation of a new emperor. It is said that at one emperor's coronation two hundred children were sacrificed—boys of ten and girls between ten and fifteen. The children were feasted before the ritual, so they would not appear hungry before Viracocha. After two days of fasting the special ceremony ended. There was feasting and dancing and people were gay again, confident that Viracocha, through the intervention of the Sun, would grant them their prayers.


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