Customs

The Souls of the Condemned Roam by Night

For much time now the condemned appear and frighten people. They are always there. People say that the souls of those who really commit a lot of sins in life and who do not leave this world in a calm state have to pay for their bad actions. They pay for those sins by suffering every night.

When dogs suddenly begin barking around midnight is when you wake up and hear how these souls suffer. Then the dogs will join in howling. This happens generally on the hillsides of the city or the back slopes, in the distant, isolated areas. The strong people who live there feel these evil vibes and rapidly know they are hearing the sounds of the condemned. These people will try to take charge of the situation and become calm and serene. They try not to get frightened.

But there are always weaker people who do get frightened. Their fear attracts the condemned who then begin to bother them. They make the windows sound, push at the doors, and sometimes even will call them by their name. It is really frightening. When this happens people can only wait in fear for morning to take the condemned away.

A Pond and Spring above Huayracpunco
A Pond and Spring above Huayracpunco

A few years ago, when people were just starting to build houses on the hillsides, there were only a few scattered homes. Everything else was forest with enormous trees. All the houses would draw water from the springs up above the houses and take it home in buckets. Everyone would go for water in the morning. Sometimes the water would run out and they would have to go for more at night. They would tie a cord around their chest so that the condemned would not appear before them and also so that the machos, the ancient ones who watch over the huacas and the stones would not bother them.

Every time it would get dark families would begin to feel a little fright. They would quickly go into their houses and lock their doors just in case something might happen. When the children would cry the condemned would come and quickly people could feel them nearby. If you could not calm the children down, the condemned would push against the door for a long time. Everyone would stay inside frightened, hoping they would go away, while the dogs kept barking and howling.

A Forest of Native Trees
A Forest of Native Trees

My mother and my uncles would tell about the neighborhood in which they grew up, Huayracpunco (The Wind’s Gate on one of Cuzco’s slopes.) It has a stupendous view of the city below but it used to be that very few people lived up there. My family says that often my grandmother and my grandfather would not come home to sleep because they had to stay and watch their shop where they worked in the city. My grandparents were tailors and they made fine suits.

In those days my aunts would be alone in the house and the condemned would almost always come to frighten them whenever there were no adults at home. They say it is because our house was on the huacas. The condemned and the ancient ones would appear and frighten my family. At night the dogs would bark and howl as the condemned also made sounds outside. My aunts and uncles would hear the noise outside the hosue. They could hear the voices of people who would come into the patio. My aunts and uncles would look out the windows but could see no one there. Still they could hear steps. My aunts already knew what was going on and they would try to stay calm, hugging one another. Though they feared somehow the condemned would get in the house they tried to stay calm. If not the condemned would take away the youngest among them.

Cuzco's Moon
Cuzco’s Moon

On Sundays when the whole family would come together and my grandparents would be there my aunts and uncles would feel ok. If the adults would stay the night they were content. But one night they ran out of water and my grandmother had to go collect some. She went out well prepared with the cord tied around her chest and her bucket. They say that when she was drawing water a wind pushed against her and got into her stomach. She suddenly felt nauseous, but could not vomit out the wind. She came home not feeling well at all. A few months later she felt her heart act up. Since at that time technology was not as advanced the doctors did not know how to help her. They did not know what her illness could be.

Her heart would hurt strongly. My grandmother would tell them about it and about the experience she had by the spring. Finally she spoke with a wise woman. She told my grandmother that when she felt the wind push against her she should have vomited That way she could get the wind out of her body. The woman told her that nobody could cure her of the evil wind. A year later my grandmother died. That was the experience my family lived.

There always were strong people who did not believe in these evil spirits because they never felt them around them. One day a wise man said grab the sleep crystals from the dogs eyes and then you will see the condemned and the suffering souls. They tried that to see what would happen and from then on they had no more doubts about the existence of these condemned souls and evil beings.

Looking down from a now populated Huayracpunco
Looking down from a now populated Huayracpunco
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