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Wayra,The Trickster Wind, Blows These Days

Every afternoon the wind kicks up during August in Cuzco. The skies shine a bright blue and the sun is hot, but the wind pushes and spins across the earth and down the mountains. It is playful and intense.

In Quechua, the traditional language of Cuzco, the wind is called wayra and it is considered a kind of transcendent force. People pay attention to it and worry about it. It shows up in stories and concerns.

People say that if you get caught in a dust devil, a turning twisting wind, it can twist your face. They call it a mal viento, a bad wind. But good winds bring fertility, rains, and growth.

Blowing Incense (Photo: Wayra)
Blowing Incense (Photo: Wayra)

Wind is often seen as a kind of person, like other people. In this case it can be a good or bad person, and people worry about how to get advantage from it and protect themselves from its bad aspect.

They say that the evil wind is a bad man that takes advantage of women. If the women are not careful he can impregnate them and they will have children who descend from the wind. These kinds of children will have faces that look twisted or pulled. You can see them around town. They also tend to have bad dreams, people say, and wander in connection with visions.

For the bad wind, people will carry garlic cloves to turn it away. Some people say you should wear copper rings or bracelets to also keep it from having an effect on you.

Wind and Light on the Water (Photo: Wayra)
Wind and Light on the Water (Photo: Wayra)

The good wind appears with sounds of blowing through straw or leaves, or whistling through the gaps in mountains. It is compared to the sound of flutes and pan pies. It is a masculine force that can bring happiness, fertility, and harmony.

When someone appears by surprise people will often ask “what wind brought you”. Or they might ask “From which suyu (quarter of the Empire) did the wind bring you”.

But the wind is tricky and needs to be brought into the world of society. In this way the wind is considered a man. Some people compare him to the wamani, the owner of falcons that fly high and can capture prey, and yet must be called back.

The old people say that the wind is a giant hidden among the highest mountains. He sleeps and his snores sends out sound and flowing air. Other people say that he appears where the rainbow is born, where each color is like the threads of different colors that must be woven together to make cloth.

Walking against the Wind (Photo: Wayra)
Walking against the Wind (Photo: Wayra)

In the city of Cuzco, it is said, many people prefer their first born to be a girl. They say that if it is a girl she will stick around, but that a boy is like the wind and will move on. In this we see a kind of solidarity of women to which men are drawn to form families, but where there is always a kind of concern, whether they are sons or husbands, of how to keep them involved in the home and family affairs.

Of course, men seem more worried about carrying on their last name and want the first born to be a boy. The name will go where ever he flows, and he can gather power and strength to protect the family.

The wind characterizes aspects of masculinity that are expected in men. It is playful and even a bit mischievous as good men are expected to be. But these are characteristics that, while valued, must be brought into relationship with life and family for men to prosper, otherwise they remain outsider tricksters.

Sometimes the wind tries to play tricks on people, even harsh ones. It likes to pull the roof of houses, or lift the skirts of women, as well as blow their hats away. It even bothers workers, making it hard for them to finish their tasks. The wind is sneaky and tricky.

Wind Sweeps over the Highlands (Photo: Wayra)
Wind Sweeps over the Highlands (Photo: Wayra)

People say they will pick up a stick and hit the wind to make it drop back and let them do their tasks, or leave them alone.

Of course, in August, especially on Sundays, the fields and flats of Cuzco fill with young and old flying brightly colored kites high into the sky. They soar on the afternoon winds. With the kites they can send their wishes in letters into the wind in hopes that the wind will pass them on and they will be heeded.

This is kind of like how when people important to you are not there to share your meal, you might blow on it to send it to them, or how people will blow on coca leaves to share them with the Apus, the mountain deities.

An Image of a Condor on the Wind (Photo: Wayra)
An Image of a Condor on the Wind (Photo: Wayra)

August is the month of wind. It is a force that moves from one place to another, and all have a lot of respect for it. This is a time in between the seasons, when the dry season is about to end and the rains have not yet come. In that, it is like people who cross from one place to another, dangerous and yet necessary for future growth.

Because August is when the wind blows, it is not an auspicious time to get married. If you marry in this month, then you can expect your marriage to fall apart, since the wind will blow your spouse away in the arms of another.

The August wind will appear unannounced and when you are unaware. It will blow against you, chill you, thrill you, or make you yelp. You cannot avoid it. In it still is carried the traditions of our ancestors and conceptions of our daily life.

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