On the second full day of our exploration of Inca spirituality around Cusco we visited Raqchi – on the road between Puno and Cusco – the home of the world’s largest Inca temple ruins.
The ruins consist of four sections: A main temple area – the Temple of Wiracocha – of which only a partial wall still exists; (2) a series of 8 structures aligned in a north-south direction perpindicular Wiracocha; (3) a series of many huts at the corner where the temple and parallel structures intersect; and a series of aqueducts and baths.
The Temple of Wiracocha is 300 feet long — the length of a U.S. football field — by about 80 feet wide and 60 feet high, with Inca stonework covering the first 13 feet high and adobe covering the rest. There is great debate among historians as to the exact purpose for which this site was intended. Many historians cite that these were quarters for troops. But archeologists posit, that although there is some evidence of battle preparations, all such evidence was more likely a later adaptation of an earlier, original purpose.
Evaristo explained that the remaining wall of Wiracocha can be seen as having three levels.
The first level is that of the physical plane (symbolized by the Puma). It is the largest portion of the structure with a ‘doorway’ that is cut into the structure extending 15 meters high. A window above that, denotes the mental or psychic plane (symbolized by the serpent) and is a conduit for all thoughts/feelings/ideas/interpretations of meaning. A small window at the very top denotes the highest, divine, plane (symbolized by the condor).
This current or conduit brings all dimensions into one unified understanding.
Evaristo explained that although this was, toward the end of the Inca civilization’s time, used as a defense post, it’s original design was as a collection and distribution center. This was the main food / grain wherehouse for the people for hundreds of miles in every direction. Examining the broader landscape, archeologists have found smaller grain silos distributed specific periodic distances radiating out from this point along major routes.
At the height of the Inca civilization, there was incredible peace and prosperity. There was virtually no hunger and very little sickness. Early historical records describe this site has having enough stored grain to feed the surrounding population for 17 seasons. This was extraordinary for any time and any culture to have such a surplus. In a physical sense, it is obvious abundance. In a mental/psychic sense, it shows a savvy use of the land, maximizing a sustainable harvest over generations of seasons. And from a divine – or universal – perspective, it reveals a clear intention of interdependence tying together the well being of multiple communities.
The 8 structures in linear, parallel alignment carried significance in that they were an intentional weaving or symbiosis of male and female energy. Our first ritual centered around this.
We were briefed on the different types of male or female energy associated with each structure and how differing energies were both crucial to the sustainable spirituality and the overall culture. Before going into a description of our ritual, let’s explore the two types of energy that are attempting to find balance in each individual’s – and each community’s – expression.
|Intuitive perception||Logical perception|
|Flaccidity, softness||Tone, firmness|
|In, under, down||Out, above, up|
|Earth, water elements||Air, fire elements|
|Yin, (shady side of hill)||Yang (sunny side of hill)|
These qualities can be in our physical bodies, our emotional and mental perception, and in our spiritual experience and expression. We create our reality from the blending of these qualities. If we tend to favor one pole or the other too much, we can create imbalance in ourselves and in our lives. If we oppress or judge, over-control or misuse, deny or withhold energies from the male or the female, it has a reciprocal effect on the other pole and its expression. This is because the male and female energies are inherently never separate and deeply interwoven within us.
Consider this. We begin to become aware, either through a soft whispering impulse or a clear, insistent inner voice that we need to get more rest and relaxation (female aspect), and slow down from a pressured work or social pace. This is an attempt to self-nurture.
We frequently ignore the whispering voice from within, or we may register it but then judge it as being weak and whiny. Or, we may be aware of it and choose to ignore it and push a little more, because we are honoring the dictates of expectations from within ourselves (the pusher who says that you never do enough) or from outside (demanding bosses, co-workers or friends) who themselves are out of balance. In these scenarios the female is dishonored and the male is not nurtured or restored. This can lead us to create frustration, burnout, physical disease, or even an accident or other traumatic situation that can serve as a trigger to help us awaken to a need for change within ourselves.
The history shows that the Incas built the temple and surrounding quarters and granaries in the 15th century, only to have the Spanish conquistadors knock much of it down around 1540 and later build their own church in its shadow.
Before their destruction, it was suggested that the structures aligned adjacent to Wiricocha had something to do with helping to balance the male/female energy. We performed a ritual to focus and carry – alternatively – the male and female energies and to reflect on the eay that do so and the places in our body we hold these energies.
Each of the 8 different structures has one or two doors. The structure itself is one space with 7 ‘windows’ that collect or hold the energy of the space. Evaristo explained that there are ‘pui’ – which are ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’ that act as guardians or protectors of the space. They channel the energies in such a way as to help forge alignment or symbiosis of the energy. ’One of the things that made the Incas different,’ explained Evaristo, ‘and one of the reasons they were so successful in harvesting crops and feeding all their people was because they were able to maintain such a harmonious balance of energy.’
We were instructed to understand the guardians were present in each of these structures and if we were going to be in the space, it was important for us to acknowledge the spirit of the place and open our heart to reveal our intention to ‘learn and to promote’ how those energies are at work in our lives.
This meant pausing at the threshold before entering and doing an intentional ‘opening’ of our hearts and energy. Once we’d opened our heart and asked permission to enter, we’d bring our hands together over our heart and offer, ‘thanks’.
Once we entered, we’d find a ‘window’ or ‘portal’ and approach it. Then, doing the same heart opening, greeting and thanks, we’d kneel before it or lean into it. We’d do ‘breathing exercises’ and prayers of what is moving or being stored in our lives. We were instructed to tune into the body’s chakra or energy points as we breathed. Spending approximately one minute in the window, we’d breathe and pray. Then, we’d acknowledge and thank the energy of that space and exit the structure.
Once we exited, we’d cross over to the adjacent area and repeat the exercise. Once we completed the ‘set’ of structures, our group and the partner group would criss-cross on our way to the next set of structures and repeat. The entire process took about 45 minutes to conclude.