Religion, Children of the Sun Illustration

Inca Empire for Kids
Religion & Festivals

Children of the Sun

Gods and Goddesses: The Inca worshipped many gods and goddesses. The Incas worshiped the gods of nature - the sun god Inti was one of their most powerful gods. In a farming community, sunshine was an important element. They also worshiped the god of thunder, moon, rainbows, stars, planets, and many more. The many mountaintops in the Andes mountain range were each a god. Like the ancient Greeks, the Incas believed the gods could intervene to help you or hinder you. . All Inca had one or more little statues in their homes that housed a little spirit that looked after them. They knew little gods lurked everywhere  They prayed to their gods every day.

Festivals: Life was not all work in the Inca Empire. About once a month, the priests held a huge celebration. That was the common people's day or days off from work. Everyone went to the celebration. It was a festival, put on by the government, in honor of the gods. Some festivals ran more than one day. At the major festivals, there was singing, and drinking, and dancing, and eating. The Incas were deeply religious. The joy they experienced at festival time was part of their religion.

Dreams, Omens, Signs: The Inca believed in omens and signs and the power of dreams. The Incas believed that gods as well as their dead ancestors could communicate with them through dreams, omens, and other signs. The priests were very powerful because people believed they could read the signs. Priests saw signs everywhere. They could read signs in the flames of a fire, or in the way a plant grew. One of their specialized professions for the common people was that of sorcerer.

Sacrifice: The Inca conducted sacrifices at every festival. But they only sacrificed people if something really huge was going on, like a war or a new Sapa Inca.

Huacas: The Incas also worshiped huacas - sacred places or objects. Huacas were everywhere. A huaca could be a large building, or a tiny statue that fit in the palm of your hand. Every family said daily prayers to little family huacas. Priests performed daily ceremonies at the temples, offering prayers to the huacas in their care.

Afterlife, Ancestor Worship, Mummies: The Inca people believed in an afterlife. They mummified their dead. Priests held ceremonies. Noble families held a funeral for eight days. Noble women in mourning wore black clothes for about a year. They also cut their hair really short. The bodies and tombs of the dead were carefully tended. The mummies of dead rulers remained in their palaces. These rulers were treated as if they were still alive. Servants brought them things. Their family consulted them for advice on daily affairs. On parade days and other special occasions, their mummies were carried through the streets. Even the very poor mummified their dead. It was easy. They simply set the dead body out in the cold in above ground tombs. The Incas could enter and reenter these tombs, leaving gifts of food and belongings. They could also retrieve these gifts if needed.

The Festival of the Sun God: Early each June, the Inca held their most important festival of the year - the festival of the Sun. The people believed the Sun itself was holding this festival. Everyone wore their best and feasted and were joyous. All the nobles came to Cusco. The living Sapa Inca was the host. The Sapa Inca was not only the head of government, he was also a god, a direct descendent of the sun god Inti. This was the festival each year that saved the world and kept the sun happy. The festival lasted nine days, but it was on the fourth day that the Inca did something delightful. On the fourth day, everyone in the empire would stretch out their arms to the sun and make kissing noises, to make sure the sun knew how grateful they were.

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