Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa (1532–1592) was a Spanish explorer, author, historian, mathematician, astronomer, and scientist. His History of the Incas was written some 40 years after the conquest.

The account that follows of Viracocha, the Creator, is taken from this work. In keeping with the fervour of conquest and conversion to Catholic Christianity the language used is demeaning to the Inca. The mindset however is important to understand; the content has not been modified.
— Orly


As these barbarous nations of Indians were always without letters, they had not the means of preserving the monuments and memorials of their times, and those of their predecessors with accuracy and method. As the devil, who is always striving to injure the human race, found these unfortunates to be easy of belief and timid in obedience, he introduced many illusions, lies and frauds, giving them to understand that he had created them from the first, and afterwards, owing to their sins and evil deeds, he had destroyed them with a flood, again creating them and giving them food and the way to preserve it. By chance they formerly had some notice, passed down to them from mouth to mouth, which had reached them from their ancestors, respecting the truth of what happened in former times. Mixing this with the stories told them by the devil, and with other things which they changed, invented, or added, which may happen in all nations, they made up a pleasing salad, and in some things worthy of the attention of the curious who are accustomed to consider and discuss human ideas.

One thing must be noted among many others. It is that the stories which are here treated as fables, which they are, are held by the natives to be as true as we hold the articles of our faith, and as such they affirm and confirm them with unanimity, and swear by them. There are a few, however, who by the mercy of God are opening their eyes and beginning to see what is true and what is false respecting those things. But we have to write down what they say and not what we think about it in this part. We shall hear what they hold respecting their first age, [and afterwards we shall come to the inveterate and cruel tyranny of the Inca tyrants who oppressed these kingdoms of Peru for so long. All this is done by order of the most excellent Don Francisco de Toledo, Viceroy of these kingdoms]. I have collected the information with much diligence so that this history can rest on attested proofs from the general testimony of the whole kingdom, old and young, Incas and tributary Indians.

The natives of this land affirm that in the beginning, and before this world was created, there was a being called Viracocha. He created a dark world without sun, moon or stars. Owing to this creation he was named Viracocha Pachayachachi, which means "Creator of all things[26]."

[Note 26: Uiracocha (Viracocha) was the Creator. Garcilasso de la Vega pointed out the mistake of supposing that the word signified "foam of the sea" (ii. p. 16). He believed it to be a name, the derivation of which he did not attempt to explain. Blas Valera (i. p. 243) said the meaning was the "will and power of God"; not that this is the signification of the word, but by reason of the godlike qualities attributed to Him who was known by it. Cieza de Leon says that Tici-Uiracocha was God, Creator of heaven and earth: Acosta that to Tici-Uiracocha they assigned the chief power and command over all things; Montesinos that Illa-tici-Uiracocha was the name of the creator of the world; Molina that Tecsi-Uiracocha was the Creator and incomprehensible God; the anonymous Jesuit that Uiracocha meant the great God of "Pirua"; Betanzos that the Creator was Con-Tici-Uiracocha.

According to Montesinos and the anonymous Jesuit Uira or Vira is a corruption of Pirua meaning a depository. The first meaning of Cocha is a lake, but here it is held to signify profundity, abyss, space. The "Dweller in Space." Ticci or Tici is base or foundation, hence the founder. Illa means light. The anonymous Jesuit gives the meaning "Eternal Light" to Illa-Ticci. The word Con, given by Betanzos and Garcia, has no known meaning.

Pachacamac and Pachayachachi are attributes of the deity. Pacha means time or place, also the universe. Camac is the Ruler, Yachachi the Teacher. "The Ruler and Teacher of the Universe."

The meaning and significance of the word Uiracocha has been very fully discussed by Señor Don Leonardo Villar of Cuzco in a paper entitled Lexicologia Keshua Uiracocha (Lima, 1887).]

And when he had created the world he formed a race of giants of disproportioned greatness painted and sculptured, to see whether it would be well to make real men of that size. He then created men in his likeness as they are now; and they lived in darkness.

Viracocha ordered these people that they should live without quarrelling, and that they should know and serve him. He gave them a certain precept which they were to observe on pain of being confounded if they should break it. They kept this precept for some time, but it is not mentioned what it was. But as there arose among them the vices of pride and covetousness, they transgressed the precept of Viracocha Pachayachachi and falling, through this sin, under his indignation, he confounded and cursed them. Then some were turned into stones, others into other things, some were swallowed up by the earth, others by the sea, and over all there came a general flood which they call uñu pachacuti, which means "water that overturns the land." They say that it rained 60 days and nights, that it drowned all created things, and that there alone remained some vestiges of those who were turned into stones, as a memorial of the event, and as an example to posterity, in the edifices of Pucara, which are 60 leagues from Cuzco.

Some of the nations, besides the Cuzcos, also say that a few were saved from this flood to leave descendants for a future age. Each nation has its special fable which is told by its people, of how their first ancestors were saved from the waters of the deluge. That the ideas they had in their blindness may be understood, I will insert only one, told by the nation of the Cañaris, a land of Quito and Tumibamba, 400 leagues from Cuzco and more.

They say that in the time of the deluge called uñu pachacuti there was a mountain named Guasano in the province of Quito and near a town called Tumipampa. The natives still point it out. Up this mountain went two of the Cañaris named Ataorupagui and Cusicayo. As the waters increased the mountain kept rising and keeping above them in such a way that it was never covered by the waters of the flood. In this way the two Cañaris escaped. These two, who were brothers, when the waters abated after the flood, began to sow. One day when they had been at work, on returning to their hut, they found in it some small loaves of bread, and a jar of chicha, which is the beverage used in this country in place of wine, made of boiled maize. They did not know who had brought it, but they gave thanks to the Creator, eating and drinking of that provision. Next day the same thing happened. As they marvelled at this mystery, they were anxious to find out who brought the meals. So one day they hid themselves, to spy out the bringers of their food. While they were watching they saw two Cañari women preparing the victuals and putting them in the accustomed place. When about to depart the men tried to seize them, but they evaded their would-be captors and escaped. The Cañaris, seeing the mistake they had made in molesting those who had done them so much good, became sad and prayed to Viracocha for pardon for their sins, entreating him to let the women come back and give them the accustomed meals. The Creator granted their petition. The women came back and said to the Cañaris—"The Creator has thought it well that we should return to you, lest you should die of hunger." They brought them food. Then there was friendship between the women and the Cañari brothers, and one of the Cañari brothers had connexion with one of the women. Then, as the elder brother was drowned in a lake which was near, the survivor married one of the women, and had the other as a concubine. By them he had ten sons who formed two lineages of five each, and increasing in numbers they called one Hanansaya which is the same as to say the upper party, and the other Hurinsaya, or the lower party. From these all the Cañaris that now exist are descended[27].

[Note 27: The same story of the origin of the Cañaris is told by Molina, p. 8. But the mountain is called Huaca-yuan; and instead of women the beings who brought the food were macaws. Molina tells another story received from the people of Ancas-mayu. Both seem to have been obtained by asking leading questions about a deluge.]

In the same way the other nations have fables of how some of their people were saved from whom they trace their origin and descent. But the Incas and most of those of Cuzco, those among them who are believed to know most, do not say that anyone escaped from the flood, but that Viracocha began to create men afresh, as will be related further on. One thing is believed among all the nations of these parts, for they all speak generally and as well known of the general flood which they call uñu pachacuti. From this we may clearly understand that if, in these parts they have a tradition of the great flood, this great mass of the floating islands which they afterwards called the Atlanticas, and now the Indies of Castille or America must have begun to receive a population immediately after the flood, although, by their account, the details are different from those which the true Scriptures teach us. This must have been done by divine Providence, through the first people coming over the land of the Atlantic Island, which was joined to this, as has been already said. For as the natives, though barbarous, give reasons for their very ancient settlement, by recording the flood, there is no necessity for setting aside the Scriptures by quoting authorities to establish this origin. We now come to those who relate the events of the second age after the flood, which is the subject of the next chapter.



It is related that everything was destroyed in the flood called uñu pachacuti[28]. It must now be known that Viracocha Pachayachachi, when he destroyed that land as has been already recounted, preserved three men, one of them named Taguapaca, that they might serve and help him in the creation of new people who had to be made in the second age after the deluge, which was done in this manner. The flood being passed and the land dry, Viracocha determined to people it a second time, and, to make it more perfect, he decided upon creating luminaries to give it light. With this object he went, with his servants, to a great lake in the Collao, in which there is an island called Titicaca, the meaning being "the rock of lead," of which we shall treat in the first part. Viracocha went to this island, and presently ordered that the sun, moon, and stars should come forth, and be set in the heavens to give light to the world, and it was so. They say that the moon was created brighter than the sun, which made the sun jealous at the time when they rose into the sky. So the sun threw over the moon's face a handful of ashes, which gave it the shaded colour it now presents. This frontier lake of Chucuito, in the territory of the Collao, is 57 leagues to the south of Cuzco. Viracocha gave various orders to his servants, but Taguapaca disobeyed the commands of Viracocha. So Viracocha was enraged against Taguapaca, and ordered the other two servants to take him, tie him hands and feet, and launch him in a balsa on the lake. This was done. Taguapaca was blaspheming against Viracocha for the way he was treated, and threatening that he would return and take vengeance, when he was carried by the water down the drain of the same lake, and was not seen again for a long time. This done, Viracocha made a sacred idol in that place, as a place for worship and as a sign of what he had there created[29].

[Note 28: Uñu pachacuti would mean the world (pacha) overturned (cuti) by water (uñu). Probably a word coined by the priests, after putting leading questions about a universal deluge.]

[Note 29: This servant of Uiracocha is also mentioned by Cieza de Leon and Yamqui Pachacuti. Cieza appears to consider that Tuapaca was merely the name of Uiracocha in the Collao. Yamqui Pachacuti gives the names Tarapaca and Tonapa and connects them with Uiracocha. But he also uses the word Pachacca, a servant. These names are clearly the same as the Tahuapaca of Sarmiento. Tahua means four, but Sarmiento gives three as the number of these servants of Uiracocha. The meaning of paca is anything secret or mysterious, from pacani to hide. The names represent an ancient myth of some kind, but it is not possible, at this distance of time, to ascertain more than the names. Tonapa looks like a slip of the pen, and is probably Tarapa for Tarapaca. Don Samuel A. Lapone Quevedo published a mythological essay entitled El Culto de Tonapa with reference to the notice in the work of Yamqui Pachacuti; but he is given to speculations about phallic and solar worship, and to the arbitrary alteration of letters to fit into his theories.]

Leaving the island, he passed by the lake to the main land, taking with him the two servants who survived. He went to a place now called Tiahuanacu in the province of Colla-suyu, and in this place he sculptured and designed on a great piece of stone, all the nations that he intended to create. This done, he ordered his two servants to charge their memories with the names of all tribes that he had depicted, and of the valleys and provinces where they were to come forth, which were those of the whole land. He ordered that each one should go by a different road, naming the tribes, and ordering them all to go forth and people the country. His servants, obeying the command of Viracocha, set out on their journey and work. One went by the mountain range or chain which they call the heights over the plains on the South Sea. The other went by the heights which overlook the wonderful mountain ranges which we call the Andes, situated to the east of the said sea. By these roads they went, saying with a loud voice "Oh you tribes and nations, hear and obey the order of Ticci Viracocha Pachayachachi, which commands you to go forth, and multiply and settle the land." Viracocha himself did the same along the road between those taken by his two servants, naming all the tribes and places by which he passed. At the sound of his voice every place obeyed, and people came forth, some from lakes, others from fountains, valleys, caves, trees, rocks and hills, spreading over the land and multiplying to form the nations which are to-day in Peru.

Others affirm that this creation of Viracocha was made from the Titicaca site where, having originally formed some shapes of large strong men[30] which seemed to him out of proportion, he made them again of his stature which was, as they say, the average height of men, and being made he gave them life. Thence they set out to people the land. As they spoke one language previous to starting, they built those edifices, the ruins of which may still be seen, before they set out. This was for the residence of Viracocha, their maker. After departing they varied their languages, noting the cries of wild beasts, insomuch that, coming across each other afterwards, those could not understand who had before been relations and neighbours.

[Note 30: Jayaneo. This was the name given to giants in the books of chivalry. See Don Quijote, i. cap. 5, p. 43.]

Whether it was in one way or the other, all agree that Viracocha was the creator of these people. They have the tradition that he was a man of medium height, white and dressed in a white robe like an alb secured round the waist, and that he carried a staff and a book in his hands.

Besides this they tell of a strange event; how that Viracocha, after he had created all people, went on his road and came to a place where many men of his creation had congregated. This place is now called Cacha. When Viracocha arrived there, the inhabitants were estranged owing to his dress and bearing. They murmured at it and proposed to kill him from a hill that was near. They took their weapons there, and gathered together with evil intentions against Viracocha. He, falling on his knees on some plain ground, with his hands clasped, fire from above came down upon those on the hill, and covered all the place, burning up the earth and stones like straw. Those bad men were terrified at the fearful fire. They came down from the hill, and sought pardon from Viracocha for their sin. Viracocha was moved by compassion. He went to the flames and put them out with his staff. But the hill remained quite parched up, the stones being rendered so light by the burning that a very large stone which could not have been carried on a cart, could be raised easily by one man. This may be seen at this day, and it is a wonderful sight to behold this hill, which is a quarter of a league in extent, all burnt up. It is in the Collao[31].

[Note 31: Not in the Collaos but in the valley of the Vilcamayu. Afterwards a very remarkable temple was built there, described by Squier.]

After this Viracocha continued his journey and arrived at a place called Urcos, 6 leagues to the south of Cuzco. Remaining there some days he was well served by the natives of that neighbourhood. At the time of his departure, he made them a celebrated huaca or statue, for them to offer gifts to and worship; to which statue the Incas, in after times, offered many rich gifts of gold and other metals, and above all a golden bench. When the Spaniards entered Cuzco they found it, and appropriated it to themselves. It was worth $17,000. The Marquis Don Francisco Pizarro took it himself, as the share of the General.

Returning to the subject of the fable, Viracocha continued his journey, working his miracles and instructing his created beings. In this way he reached the territory on the equinoctial line, where are now Puerto Viejo and Manta. Here he was joined by his servants. Intending to leave the land of Peru, he made a speech to those he had created, apprising them of the things that would happen. He told them that people would come, who would say that they were Viracocha their creator, and that they were not to believe them; but that in the time to come he would send his messengers who would protect and teach them. Having said this he went to sea with his two servants, and went travelling over the water as if it was land, without sinking. For they appeared like foam over the water and the people, therefore, gave them the name of Viracocha which is the same as to say the grease or foam of the sea[32]. At the end of some years after Viracocha departed, they say that Taguapaca, who Viracocha ordered to be thrown into the lake of Titicaca in the Collao, as has already been related, came back and began, with others, to preach that he was Viracocha. Although at first the people were doubtful, they finally saw that it was false, and ridiculed them[33].

[Note 32: A mistake. See Garcilasso de la Vega, ii. p. 66.]

[Note 33: This story is told in a somewhat different form by Yamqui
Pachacuti, p. 72.]

This absurd fable of their creation is held by these barbarians and they affirm and believe it as if they had really seen it to happen and come to pass[34].

[Note 34: The tradition of the exercise of his creative powers by Viracocha at lake Titicaca, is derived from the more ancient people who were the builders of Tiahuanacu. Besides Sarmiento, the authors who give this Titicaca Myth are Garcilasso de la Vega, Cieza de Leon, Molina, Betanzos, Yamqui Pachacuti, Polo de Ondegardo, and the anonymous Jesuit. Acosta, Montesinos, Balboa and Santillana are silent respecting it.]



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Iroquois: Hi-Nun

Pacific Coast: How Raven brought Fire

Pacific Coast: How Raven brought Fire