More About Goddesses: Pachamama, Incan Goddess
Pachamama is the Incan goddess of the Earth and the goddess of fertility, specifically harvesting and planting. Her name means “mother of space and time” in English. As a deity independent from others, she is able to, on her own, sustain life on the planet for animals and plants alike. She also presides over the Andes Mountains and has the power to cause earthquakes.
Most artist conceptions show Pachamama as a goddess capable of ensuring a prosperous harvest for potatoes and coca leaves. In Inca mythology, there are four cosmological Quechua principles, namely Earth, Moon, Sun, and Water, and all trace their primordial origin to Pachamama.
A Goddess of Agriculture
One of Pachamama’s main manifestations is as the Incan goddess of agriculture. Incans had performed daily rituals in tribute of her, with women in particular going to the fields to pray to her, occasionally sacrificing an offering of cornmeal. The Incans compared the mountain peaks of the Andes to her breasts, the rivers to her milk, and the fields to her womb.
Beware the Wrath of Pachamama
While considered to be a good and benevolent goddess, it is believed that Pachamama can also get angry in a significant way. If she feels that people are not honoring her like they should, she reminds them in the form of earthquakes. She is also said to be close to the Incan gods of thunder and lightning, and can wreak havoc accordingly when she is not worshipped or thanked.
Pachamama in Modern Times
Even in today’s modern, post-Christianity society, Pachamama is still worshipped in certain parts of the Andes, whose people see her as a “good mother” and offer a toast to her prior to meetings or special events. Her worship day, Martes de Challa (Challa’s Tuesday), involves people sacrificing food and incense and throwing candies. There are even some worship celebrations where yatiris, or traditional priests, follow the ancient rites and go as far as sacrificing animals such as llama fetuses and guinea pigs. This celebration takes place at the same time as Carnevale and Mardi Gras in other parts of the world.
In August, worship to Pachamama reaches fever pitch, as this is the coldest winter month in the southern Andes. As a result, people are more susceptible to illness and believe that this is a time when evil spirits play tricks on them. To ward these spirits off, Andean people burn plants and wood, and drink the South American beverage mate for additional good luck. The first of August is when Andeans cook all night long, and offer a plate of food to Pachamama before anyone is allowed to eat. Leftover food is also cast to the ground, prefacing a prayer to Pachamama.
One interesting way in which today’s people pay tribute to Pachamama is the Sunday parade. Since 1949, Andean women, especially seniors, take part in this festival, where the oldest woman in a community is named the Pachamama Queen of the Year. This is because elderly women are thought to epitomize tradition and wisdom, as well as reproduction and fertility.
About the photo: The image 'Pachamama' is drawn by Adam Ketelsen.