The House of the Moon and the Serpent

Cuzco’s Temple of the Moon is found alongside its ancient Inca Highway, or Qhapaq Ñan. It is considered the Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. The road connects Cusco with Antisuyo. The site of the Temple was undoubtedly a huaca, one of the magical and sacred shrines that were very important in their time.

The site surprises you from when you enter it. Inside its cave you will find many stone carvings that are in a good state of preservation, such as the famous Andean Trilogy composed of a carved puma, condor, and snake. It still exists even after all the efforts of the Spanish extirpators of Idolatry to destroy such images. The carving shows a weakened serpent, thin and resting, while entering into the bowls of the earth in order to come back out later strong, fat, and vigorous. The serpent, we are told, signifies wisdom in the Andean world. It also represents the Ukhupacha, the world within.

A Man Meditating inside the Cave (Walter Coraza Morveli)
A Man Meditating inside the Cave (Walter Coraza Morveli)

This is one of the classic three worlds of Andean cosmology. The include besides the Ukhupacha, the Akapacha, this world, the surface of the earth and the present day, as well as the Hananpacha, the world of the sky above us.

Inside the Temple of the Moon’s Cave, it is cool and the stone has been polished. You can see what appears as a large, smooth flat surface, a table or altar. A light comes in from a hole above. The work of carvinf is surprising and makes us appreciate the Incas’ skill. Inside the cave we can also appreciate the head of a LLama in profile and what looks like a fourth of the Chacana, the Andean cross.

The Three Inca Sacred Animal Carved in the Stone (Walter Coraza Morveli)
The Three Inca Sacred Animals Carved in the Stone (Walter Coraza Morveli)

We find here an Inca ceremonial apparatus that was carefully worked, taking advantage of the natural stone of the place and its energetic properties in order to create a magical temple. The INca took advantage of a natural break in the rock and worked it into a cave. Above the grotto there is a small aperture that was modified by the workers so that at midnight the full moon close to the winter solstice can enter and illuminate the cave fully.

Other full moons fill the site as well over the course of the year and in this way make the Temple of the Moon a place of astronomical observation. Even today it is used to carry out ancient Inca rites inside it. There used to be figures of sacred animals sculpted in the rock. Of these only hints remain since they were methodically destroyed during the conquest by the Extirpators of Idolatries, the Spaniards who wanted to destroy Andean religion.

Inca Road " Khapac Ñan" by to the Temple (Wayra)
Inca Road ” Khapac Ñan” by to the Temple (Wayra)

This place has utilized for centuries to communicate with the world of Ukhupacha (also called Urinpacha) the inner world of the Incas. The guides who take tourists to the site say that it is a place where you can hear the Apus, the mountain Lords, speak and it is a place where they did ceremonies using the energy of nature.

Andean priests are the intermediaries between gods and men, between the earthly world and the spiritual world. The name of the great priest was Willaq Uma, the wise head, the servant or slave of the sun.

The priests would come to these huacas because they were losing their connections, the holy places where only they could enter in order to renew their energy. They also would perform ceremonies here to improve agriculture. When there was not a good harvest they would have to come to these places to renew their energy. They would bathe themselves with coca leaves, with crystals, belts of seven colors like the seven chakras of the body. They would put them on the altar during a full moon.

A View Outside of the Temple (Walter Coraza Morveli)
A View Outside of the Temple (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Not just anyone could enter this kind of place. While inside you feel a very different type of strong energy. It particularly grabs you when you enter with no shoes on.

There are other places where you can receive energy, such as some ponds. There you bathe and perform ceremonies to purify yourself and your spirit.

But this site, the Temple of the Moon was and continues to be important. A myth tells us that inside the temple lives a great serpent and that it appears during times of full moon.


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