Oral Literature. Inca. The Island of the Sun

At that time Viracocha, the creator God, looked down upon the earth. He saw it was bare, shrouded in impenetrable darkness, for daylight did not yet exist.

Taguapac, his woman, and her children, the only human creatures, had found refuge under a rock in the heart of the Andes. They led a life of hardship, because the land, plunged into endless night, produced no fruit. Viracocha’s heart moved with compassion as he saw the hardship in which his creatures lived and decided to intervene.

He called Inti, the sacred bird, and Titi, the puma with piercing eyes, to his side. Viracocha said to Inti, who had perched himself on his right: “Turn your gaze towards the earth and let darkness and light come upon it at regular intervals.”

Obeying its God, the sacred bird opened its eyes wide: the pupils shone half with a golden light, half with a deep blue. Suddenly one side of the earth was bathed in a vivid light, while the other side remained immersed in darkness.

The creator God spoke again. He turned to Titi, the puma, and commanded him: “Aim your gaze towards the dark part of the earth and set fire to the stars hanging in the sky.”

Immediately Titi turned his gaze towards the stars scattered across the sky. And they lit up and shone; they seemed to throb with joy as if they wanted to dance before their Creator.

Caressed by the sun’s rays, the earth began to produce flowers and fruit. Taguapac, his wife, and his children no longer wandered here and there in search of food and shelter. The light of God had reached them and given them souls. Now they knew how to provide for themselves, while from the bottom of their hearts, for the very first time, a sense of gratitude to the Creator and the need to raise a prayer of thanksgiving to him rose up.

Even God was moved by this transformation of his creatures and wept with tenderness. His tears, which fell copiously on the mountain peaks, formed a small lake at the bottom of the valley, which was given the name Titicaca. Its waters were a beautiful colour, a deep turquoise blue.

Years passed and men multiplied on the face of the earth. With the passing of time, distracted by a thousand interests, they gradually forgot the tenderness of God. The nights were still animated by dancing and singing, but no longer were hymns of praise and prayers heard, but music and wild dancing that certainly did not help souls to rise up to their Creator.

Only the shamans, here and there, tried to draw the attention of men to a more ordered life. They passed through towns and villages proclaiming: “Brothers, your way of life offends the gods. Convert, if you do not wish to be destroyed by fire and water.”

But no one paid attention to them. On the contrary, they were often mocked and driven away with whips and sticks. Only a few, deeply moved by the shamans’ message, decided to change their lives and withdrew to the mountain whose summit rose in the middle of Lake Titicaca. This decision was much criticised by those who remained in the towns and villages. “How stupid they are – people said – It is well known that if lightning strikes the earth, they will be the first to be struck”.

One day, towards sunset, the shadow of a small red cloud obscured the sun. At first, no one worried; but little by little the whole sky was covered by a blanket of ominous red clouds. The sun had long since dropped below the horizon line, but a sinister light continued to illuminate the houses and the countryside. Terror was painted on the faces of the people: the gods were about to take revenge for the lack of care shown by men.

Suddenly the earth shook fearfully; many houses collapsed. The echo of the cries had not yet died away when a second interminable tremor caused even the strongest walls to collapse. There were violent downpours mixed with a rain of fire. They crashed down upon the earth, destroying everything.

The following day, a vivid dawn lit up the destruction and ruins. The small Lake Titicaca had swollen out of proportion: in the valley, its length now reached almost a hundred kilometres, and an island emerged in the middle. When the first rays of the sun reached the highest point of the island, those who had found refuge there came out of hiding.

With dismay they observed from above what the earthquake, the rains of fire and the flood had accomplished: on the shores of the lake and in the vast plain they could no longer see any sign of life. On the island, the survivors of the disaster congratulated each other on having survived. They soon felt the need to thank the Creator who had spared them from the fury of his wrath. They gathered in a clearing and raised to the god Viracocha and the other gods the prayer of thanksgiving and hymns of praise. All agreed to call their refuge ‘the Island of the Sun’.

It was now a matter of choosing the most suitable place to rebuild the dwellings and start cultivating the fields again. Once again it was the mercy of the God Viracocha that came to them. As the survivors were gathered in prayer under a large plant, a golden staff appeared, surrounded by a radiant glow. From above, a voice announced: “Receive from God Viracocha this staff; try to thrust it into the ground. Where the stick penetrates the ground, stop, that is the fertile land that your God has destined for you.”

The small group of men and women set out. The day was clear, the air of incredible purity. Below, the water of the lake reflected the colour of the sky, deep blue. Every now and then, the pilgrims stopped, and the older shaman grabbed the golden staff, pointing it at the ground; but the earth seemed reluctant to receive the staff.

Finally, the group came to a vast valley and there they stopped to rest. When the shaman planted the stick in the ground, he saw that the stick penetrated the ground. A spontaneous cry of joy went up from those present: the God Viracocha had answered their prayers.

Thus, the first houses sprang up. Soon cultivated and fertile fields appeared on the plains and along the shores of the lake; the first shoots of maize and beans sprouted, while fruit plants became more and more robust with each season.

In the valley, a city was emerging: Cuzco, the ‘Navel of the Inca world’. Irrigation canals and brick and shoe factories were built; men tamed llamas, while women became increasingly skilled in the art of weaving. Improvised artists modelled vases and bowls, painted in bright colours.

Remembering the faults of the past, people lived in fear of offending the gods. To them they offered the first fruits of the fields and all sorts of sacrifices; children were brought up to worship the sun, the moon and the gods of storms and crops. With a calendar spanning the four seasons, commemorations and festivals were fixed. The ‘Descendants of the Sun’, the ‘People of the Hot Valley’, thus expressed their gratitude to the Creator, the God Viracocha. (A legend from the Inca people, Peru – photo: Island of the Sun.Titicaca lake.123rf)

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