Commentary, Customs

The Solstice, Andean New Year

Andean Solstice , Andean New Year (Walter Coraza Morveli)

The sun is at its weakest and the days the shortest. It is the winter solstice here in the Southern Hemisphere. This was a matter of importance for the Incas, and probably earlier civilizations here. They measured with care the passage of the sun through a series of markers carefully placed in and around the city of Cuzco. And, the sun’s movements triggered rituals, such as Inti Raymi, to participate with the sun in its weakness and coming growth.

The solstice rituals are still very important in Cuzco, although the solstice itself is seldom mentioned. It lies behind Inti Raymi itself which is coming in some three days, and in the performance of Corpus Christi, the one coming and the other just past.

At Qoyllur Rit’i the Ukukus, those half bear half person individuals of such importance here, gathered on a ridge by the glacier and chanted with the rising sun. In much of the indigenous Andes people gather to receive the dawning sun with celebration and awe.

If awe is the base of the sacred then this is one of the most sacred moments in the Andes,

Waiting for the Sun to Rise (Wayra)
Waiting for the Sun to Rise (Wayra)

Indigenous movements, such as those in neighboring Bolivia have re-created a ceremony to recognize this important moment. While not specifically traditional, in the strictest sense of the word, it is an invented–or better re-invented tradition, to recognize the value of Indigenous people and their rights to exist as people with culture and identity in Bolivia and, by extension, in Peru.

In Quechua this day is calle Mosoj Wata and in Aymara Machak Mara, the Año Nuevo Andino, the Andean New Year.

People have gathered with Andean priests to receive the new sun with respect and devotion, while making offerings to it and showing the value it has for them. This is a powerful and growing moment.

Happy Andean New Year to all.

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