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The Amazing New Adventures of Larry and Mark - Peru, Land of the Incas

Chapter 48


The Chakana or Inca Cross


No matter where you go, you will always come across markets selling hand goods and trinkets. 

When we first started walking about Cusco, we couldn’t help but notice that this cross-like

symbol was popping up on a lot of jewelry:



Willow explained that this was the “Inca Cross,” or Chakana.  Life and society in the time

of the Inca rulers and their subjects was based upon certain principles of belief and behavior,

symbolized by the Chakana or Inca Cross. It continues to hold meaning to current-day Andeans.



The word comes  from the Quechua  word "chakay," meaning "to cross" or "to bridge."  At

first look, it could be a cross with points between the arms, or a square with cutout sides,

or a circle with jagged edges.  But each part of this symbol - the four tripe steps with a

hole in the middle - symbolizes something in Andean mythology.



While we were still in Cusco, Willow went home and printed out this complicated explanation

of this symbol.  I have edited a few spelling errors.  There is so much meaning packed

into this little cross.  In looking over many explanations of this symbol, different websites

place meanings in different spots, but the symbolism remains the same.

The three upper right steps represent attainment of levels of consciousness in the three “worlds:”
Upper world of stars and gods (represented by the Condor)
Middle world of earth and humans (the Puma,)                    
Underworld and death (the snake)                                       

These worlds do not correspond with the Christian views of “heaven, earth, and hell.”


The central hole is the Inca capitol of Cusco - considered “the navel of the Inca empire,”

the heart of the civilization, the portal from one world to the next, and the “eye of God.”.
In addition, the Chakana illustrates other aspects of Incan life, including the three primary principals:


* Love (Munay): ...the love of self, love of humanity and the love of the gods        


*Knowledge (Yachay): in the forms of intellect, experience, and consciousness.


* Work (Llankay)                                                                                                   



There was prohibition against laziness, stealing, and lying in
the values of the Inca: each could be punishable by death.


The last quarter of the Inca Cross reflects the 3-tier system of work and service,  the

division of labor and sharing of the harvest across the village, imperial and temple levels.


The four arms of the cross represent the four directions of the compass, and the four great

elements fire, water, air, and earth.  They also stand for the Southern Cross, the most

important constellation in the sky in the Southern Hemisphere.


The whole symbol also represents the twelve months of the celestial year.


More recently, the chakana has held significance for pagans as well as for New-Age groups around the world.  The Inca are believed to have used the chakana as a measuring tool to determine the path of the sun and to predict the seasons.  When drawn to its normal proportions, a diagonal from northeast to southwest shows the axial tilt of the earth.




The Chakana is the paramount symbol in Incan culture, and can be found

on buildings and temples scattered throughout formerly Inca territory.


Baños de la Ñusta (Bath of the princess),
 at the base of the ruins in Ollantaytambo.



Here is Willow reaching out to a stone wall at Ollantaytambo, which shows the engraved Chakana.






 Many Peruvians and others wear jewelry of the Incan Cross, for they consider it a

charm to ward off evil energy.  It is frequently made of the mineral serpentine:



Chakana symbol at a Catholic church  in Cusco



Temple of the Three Windows, Machu Picchu





Another location in Machu Picchu



In the house in Ollantaytambo Old Town.



At the Temple of the Condor in Machu Picchu



Finally, in the front yard of a ceramics shop we will be
traveling to shortly:






Larry Reich


You may reach me with comments:


Laurence Reich





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