The Religion of the Quechua

Doctrines The present religion and beliefs of the Quechua are composed by two systems which are Catholicism and the traditional Andean religion. The influence of Christianity led them to include the idea of heaven (hanan pacha)and hell (ukhu pach). Christianity also led to a change in their conception of the nature of the world. An important aspect of this change concerned the perception of the nature of time. Prior to the influence of Christianity they conceived of time and space as a series of independent cycles; after the impact of Christianity they conceived time as a serious as interdependent spiral cycles. The Quechuas believe in a God more organizer then creator, a god that gives, but that punishes as well. This god organized the world in three eras divided into five periods. The three eras are the eras of the father, of the son and of the holy spirit. In the first era god organizes the earth and the first people who lived there, the "Ñaupa Machulas. Unhappy with the first era, he created the second era whose span was from the Inca empire to the present time. The third is yet to come.
Despite their believe in God, the Quechuas worship rather the saints of the Catholic church. The identity of these saints are frequently blended with that of the apus or wamanis that are the intermediaries belonging to the Andean pantheon.
The act of worshipping can be considered the most important part of the Quechua religious life. On one hand there is the cult to the saints, which includes the virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, who although is recognized to be the sun of God is represented in different forms to such an extend that sometimes the Quechuas believe that different representations of Christ are not the same Christ, but brothers. The cult to the saints happens basically in the feasts of the saints, that are generally celebrated at the day of that saint. The feast that sometimes might take more than one day is composed of vespers, mass, procession, some religious dances, and also of some more secular celebrations, that though secular have a religious meaning. Among these celebrations are the bull race, parades, dances, eating and drinking.
A part from the cult to the saints there is the "Pago a la Pachamama" that can be translated as "payment to the Pachamama". This is a rite celebrated by each extended family and carried out by a religious specialist called "alto misayoq" or "paqo", every august, when the agricultural year starts. According to the Quechua, the Pachamama has a physical and a spiritual reality, it is the earth that nurtures men, therefore, it is important to offer her a payment.
Another important rite is the death rite, where they bury with the dead some of his/her belongings, believing that these belongings might be used in the other life. In this occasion they also wash the deceased's clothes with the aim of purification. On the day consecrated to the dead, they also offer food to them. Their wedding is divided into two ceremonies. The first called servinakuy is based on the Quechua tradition and happens while the couple is still quite young. Later on they have the casarakuy that is the Catholic wedding. According to some people, the servinakuy is a kind of test to be passed, but according to other, it is not a test, but just a first stage of one single wedding.
The baptism that is considered a rite of passage from being savages to being someone, to being a Christian. Other rites such as confession and holy communion are exercised to a much lesser extent.
Catholic rituals are carried out by the Catholic priest who though respected on account of his office is viewed with suspicion because of the churches historical associations. The Andean traditional rite is carried out by an Andean priest known generically as paqo. However, depending on his function and his ability his name, as well as his hierarchical status vary. The paqo does not belong to an organized institution like the catholic one, however, they belong to small organizations in different areas. Generally the paqo is transmitted from father to son, and whoever decides to become a paqo has to undergo an initiation called "servicio" (service). Some claim that the reasons why the two systems can coexist might be the lack of a strong organized institution heading the paqos.
Their ethic is based on the ancestral Andean inheritance. It is based on the principle of reciprocity. According to them there are four kinds of attitudes that are considered sins because they go against this principle of reciprocity. They are theft, deceit, laziness and incest that is considered by them as the sexual relation between relatives, even spiritual relatives.
Because of the Christian inheritance, they believe in the body and spirit. The spirit, however is divided into two parts: one the anima -breath, which in some regions is related to health and to the spiritual part of beings while they are still alive. According to the Quechuas, men have 4 animas and women have 7. The other part of the spirit is the soul, that is the reality that separates from the body once the person is dead. After death, the soul remains on the earth for eight days in order to fulfill those activities which the deceased had left undone such as visiting places and reminding relatives of their obligations, financial commitments, and appointments. The soul can go to God if the person had led a good life, or become an animal, or a bad women if the person committed serious offenses such as incest and witchcraft.

History The Quechuas live in the Andean region of Peru and speak the Quechua language, two thirds speak Spanish as well. Although there are religious differences among the various Quechua peoples, it is possible to talk about fundamental unity among these people. If one delimits their area to the Andean trapeze (this includes Cusco, Puno, Ayacucho, Huancavelica and Apurímac).
As a result of the Spanish domination on the sixteenth century the Quechuas were converted to Christianity. In order to achieve their domination, the Spanish destroyed the Inca religion, catechized the Indians and embarked upon a strong campaign to extirpate the local cults that existed before and within Inca culture.
However, because the structure of the cult and the structure of the family were closely interrelated, the cut subsisted despite the Spanish attempt to suppress thier religion. I survived, however not without problems. The period up until 1660 was caracterized by the infonrced imposition of Christianity by the Spaniards, and the fierce resistance of the Quechuas. From that time, however, the population started reinterpreting Catholicism through their autochthonous religious elements, and Catholicism became very influential until the beginning of the twenty century, when there was a decrease in the number of priests and therefore a reduction on the catholic practices, without really affecting manifestations such as the saints feasts. Around 1950 there was a new change due to changes in the catholic church, the development of Pentecostal religions, and a bigger exodus to urban areas.

Symbols cross

Adherents between 6 000 000 and 7 000 000

Main Centre
 The movement has no headquarters or main centre.