Pachamama


Pachamama is a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. Pachamama is usually translated as Mother Earth, but a more literal translation would be “Mother world” (in Aymara and Quechua mama = mother / pacha = world or land; and later widened in a modern meaning as the cosmos or the universe). Pachamama and Inti are the most benevolent deities; they are worshiped in parts of the Andean mountain ranges, also known as Tawantinsuyu (the former Inca Empire) (stretching from present day Ecuador to Chile and northern Argentina being present day Peru the center of the empire with its capital city in Cuzco).

In Inca mythology, Mama Pacha or Pachamama is a fertility goddess who presides over planting and harvesting. She causes earthquakes. Her husband was either Pacha Camac or Inti, depending on the source. Llamas are sacrificed to her. After the conquest by Spain, which forced conversion to Roman Catholicism, the figure of the Virgin Mary became united with that of the Pachamama for many of the indigenous people. Roman Catholicism is a syncretic religion, and the people worship Pachamama through it, in an indigenous ritual in some parts of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

Since Pachamama is a “good mother”, people usually toast to her honor before every meeting or festivity, in some regions by spilling a small amount of chicha on the floor, before drinking the rest. This toast is called challa and it is made almost everyday. Pachamama has a special worship day called Martes de challa (Challa’s Tuesday), when people bury food, throw candies, and burn incense. In some cases, celebrants assist traditional priests, known as yatiris in Aymara, in performing ancient rites to bring good luck or the good will of the goddess, such as sacrificing guinea pigs or burning llama fetuses (although this is no longer common). The festival coincides with Shrove Tuesday, also celebrated as Carnevale or Mardi Gras.

Ritual

The central ritual to Pachamama is the Challa or Pago (Payment). It is carried out during all the month of August, and in many places also on the first Friday of each month. Other ceremonies are carried out in special times, as upon leaving for a trip or upon passing an apacheta. According to Mario Rabey and Rodolfo Merlino, Argentine anthropologists who studied the Andean culture from the 1970s to the 1990s, “The most important ritual is the challaco. Challaco is a deformation of the Quechua words ‘ch’allay’ and ‘ch’allakuy’, that refer to the action to insistently sprinkle. In the current language of the campesinos of the southern Central Andes, the word challar is used in the sense of “to feed and to give drink to the land’. The challaco covers a complex series of ritual steps that begin in the family dwellings the night before. They cook a special food, the tijtincha. The ceremony culminates at a pond or stream, where the people offer a series of tributes to Pachamama, including “food, beverage, leaves of coca and cigars.

Rituals related to the Pachamama are practiced together with those of Christianity, to the point that many families are simultaneously Christian and pachamamistas. Pachamama is sometimes syncretized as the Virgin of Candelaria.

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