Perched on the corner of Cuesta del Almirante, the Inka Museum gives visitors a very brief glimpse into the ancient history of Peru. You will know when you are there by the dancing water fountain just outside.
The two-storey building is sectioned into the different epochs of Andean cultures, giving you a brief introduction to each before launching into a fully-blown unfolding of the Inca Empire which began in the 14th Century.
Although the majority of building work in the ancient temples found throughout Peru are attributed to the Inca, they were actually built by earlier civilisations. The Inca mostly built on top of existing sites.
Ancient History in the Inka Museum Mirrors Other Cultures
The first room of the Inka Museum is small with glass cabinets pressed up against the wall. Opposite, the first thing you notice when you enter is a large headdress made from gold.
“That is the sun God, Choquechinchay,” Javier tells me.
The first recorded culture in the Andes was the Chavin around 1500 BCE. However, temple complexes discovered this Millennium at Caral and Sechin Bajo show that advanced cultures in the Andes existed as far as 5000BCE – in line with the Mesoamerican tribes in the Middle-East.
The artefact of Choquechinchay looked familiar – like the figure of Wiracocha carved into the sun gate at Tiwanaku. The Tiwanakans were the “cradle of Andean cultures” and it seems their Sun God was passed down through other cultures in the regions over several thousand millennia.
“Choquechinchay was also known as Titi,” Javier says. “Titi in Aymara is the word for Puma.”
Javier then pointed out something I had become quite familiar with in Inca architecture. Choquechinchay had the hair shaped to appear like a serpent, the face of a puma and the hands of the condor.
“Around his head are 19 serpents,” Javier tells me.
“Why 19,” I ask.
“Yes, 19.” He either didn’t understand my question or he didn’t know the answer. I asked again, slowly and precisely. He didn’t know the answer. That information is not in his script.
There are 19 niches build into the walls of Q’enko, another ancient ruin just up the road from Sacsayhuaman, also in modern day Cusco. Nobody knows why.
In his acclaimed book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” Paramhansa Yogananda writes:
The “astral” body is said to be composed of 19 elements: intelligence; ego; feeling; mind(sense consciousness) and five instruments of knowledge; the subtle counterparts of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch; the five instruments of action, the mental correspondence for the executive abilities to procreate, excrete, talk, walk, and exercise manual skill; and five instruments of life force, those empowered to perform the crystallizing, assimilating, eliminating, metabolizing, and circulating functions of the body. This subtle astral encasement of nineteen elements survives the death of the physical body.
Flower of Life is Found Throughout Ancient Cultures
Furthermore, the symbol depicting the Flower of Life has 19 interlocking circles. The flower of life is connected to the ancient teachings of esoteric wisdom, the understanding of the self.
Each human has a unique talent which can be nurtured to change your personal world. It is said by spiritual teachers that by living that pure true self beyond your limited beliefs, you slowly change the world around you and experience greater freedom and possibilities.
The flower of life is considered one of the most powerful sacred geometry patterns and is said to have emerged from the Great Void – that everything is made from the creator’s thoughts.
The tree of life can be dated back to the Egyptians but is also found in Christianity locked into the Tree of Life. This is the symbol you see in the windows of churches and cathedrals like West Minster Abbey.
In Muslim symbolism, we find the star tetrahedron, otherwise known as the Merkaba – or the tree of life. Furthermore, the Koran has the number 19 encoded in it throughout. The star tetrahedron is also associated with Judaism.
In other words, almost all major religions share the same powerful symbol that is connected to ancient teachings of esoteric wisdom – yet none of these same religions teaches people how to understand themselves.
It should be noted that the symbol has been used in churches all over the globe – most significantly by the Knights Templar.
Ancient Shamanic Ceremonies
There is little I found of interest in the Inka Museum that I had not seen and heard in other museums. The information provided by the museum barely scratches the surface of ancient cultures and do not connect the dots. Andean history is practically lost.
One artefact that did interest me was a large wooden pipe known as an Akilla. It had a serpent carved into a long handle. Javier told me it was used to drink Chicha, a sacred drink made from corn.
Spiritual ceremonies were common practice amongst the priesthood and there is evidence throughout Peru to support the ancient cultures here were into hallucinogens. They probably used mind-altering drugs to help them transcend astral dimensions.
It was also common practice for Shaman to smoke tobacco during transcendental ceremonies to enter into the spiritual world. Inhaling smoke stops the oxygen getting to your brain which is how smokers have a brief sense of euphoria and one of the reasons why smoking is addictive. Johannes Wilbert states something similar in an article titled: Tobacco and Shamanism in South America.
“In ritualistic use, tobacco was consumed in quantities large enough to cause hallucinations.”
Tobacco plays a central role in the spiritual training of Shamans. It is used in many rituals and even mixed with the juice of the Ayahuasca plant in preparation of the ceremony. Taken in high doses, tobacco is toxic and Shamans undergoing initiation would take amounts that would take them to the edge of the grave. The belief is that “he who overcomes death by healing himself is capable of curing and revitalizing others”.
It occurred to me in the Inka Museum that I was looking at an artefact used for a particular purpose by the ancient Indians. Yet I was been told it was used for something entirely different.
For the record, Chicha is a mildly alcoholic drink used at ceremonies to foster a sense of solidarity in the community. It is still part of the culture in South America today. In other words, it is perfectly harmless and can’t help you reach altered states of consciousness that open up the third eye and see beyond the material realm in the same way Shaman’s use tobacco.
However, it is possible that ancient cultures added ingredients that were more potent that modern Chica. Is this another example of historians and scholars keeping the truth about esoteric practices darkly veiled? All the evidence is here in the ancient sites of Peru.
Further into the museum is more evidence of a change in ancient cultures. The tide well and truly turned after the invasion of the Spanish who had begun inflicting their European ideals on the Inca since their arrival. As we had learned in Chuquito, the indigenous peoples of South America who refused to convert to Catholicism were flogged to death.
In the Inka Museum, Javier introduced me to ceremonial cups called Qero. I had seen a number of similar artefacts in Tiwanaku (Bolivia) and several other sites throughout Peru. The Qero are typically decorated with deities and archetypical animals; snakes, pumas, fish and other sacred animals in the artwork.
The Inca used the same images in their artwork, ceramics, and even their architecture. It is interesting to note that after the conquistadors invaded the artwork on the Qeros no longer feature sacred images. Instead, they show soldiers on horseback slaying Indians. Already ancient traditions were dying out, and soon they would fade to a dim memory of the past. Out of sight, out of mind.