Seqe and Wakas

 
Seqe and Wakas in Inca Society
 
 
 
 
The Inca capital city and its immediate surroundings contained numerous shrines, temples and other sacred places; rocks, caves, springs etc., venerated by the population of Cuzco. All these places were called wakas. The wakas were connected with each other by imaginary lines that radiated from Qorikancha and were known as seqes. In Quechua seqe means "line".
 
Qorikancha was the centre from which the seqes spread. Around sixteen important wakas were located within the walls or close to it. Among these wakas were buildings, squares, sacred stones and fountains. The most detailed and complete description of the seqe system is contained in the treatise - History of the New World (1653) - written by the Jesuit Bernabe Cobo. Cobo, in his turn, copied the list of the seqes from another manuscript, now lost, by Juan Polo de Onegardo. Benabe Cobo lists and describes three hundred and twenty eight wakas connected with each other by forty one or forty two seqes. Each seqe line linked from three to fifteen wakas. The seqes were distributed among the four provinces of the Inca Empire. The provinces Chinchaysuyu, Antisuyu and Qollasuyu had nine seqes each, while in the Kuntisuyu province fourteen or fifteen seqes.
 
 
 
 
 
Fernando our guide pointing to the "Navel" of the picture, we would visit the navel later this afternoon.
 
 
 
The painting made by the Cuzco artist Miguel Araoz Cartagena shows us a scheme of the seqes of Cuzco. Qorikancha is the centre of the radiating lines. The four background colours mark the four provinces of the Tawantinsuyu Empire: the orange colour corresponds to Chinchaysuyu, the yellow to Antisuyu, the green to Qollasuyu and the red to Kuntisuyu. The lines represent forty one seqes. The points on the lines symbolise the three hundred and twenty eight wakas on the seqes.
 
In the 1970's the anthropologist Tom Zuidema developed a hypothesis according to which seqe system was closely related to the Inca calendar. He suggested that each day of the year corresponded to one of the wakas. On that day cult was rendered to it and offerings were made. Besides Zuidema presumed that the wakas served as places for astronomic observations.
 
 
 
Milky Way in Inca Astronomy
 
 
The deities venerated in Qorikancha were personified celestial bodies and meteorological phenomena. In order to understand these beliefs, it is necessary to make reference to Inca astronomy, which is known to us through some brief mentions in colonial chronicles and through the folk astronomy of Quechua communities of today.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The painting by the Cuzco artist Migual Araoz Cartegena shows the Milky Way over Cuzco, in the months of July and August, when the sky is clear and most of the astronomical phenomena venerated by the Incas can be easily observed. In the Andes, the Milky Way is called "mayu" (celestial river). Unlike the Western constellations composed of groups of stars, the Andean culture distinguishes dark spots against the light background of the Milky Way and identifies them with silhouettes of animals that have come to drink its waters and darken its shining with their shadows. These spots are called "yana phuyu" (black clouds). On the right hand side of the painting Machaguay, or the big water serpent, appears. In the centre, two small figures of Yutu (partridge) and Hamp'atu (toad) can be seen. They are followed by the female llama with two shining eyes corresponding to the stars Alpha and Beta Centauri. Underneath in the upside-down position is her cub, the baby llama. The llamas are chased by the fox (Atoq) with red eyes. In some communities, a figure of the shepherd, with his arms extended towards the llamas, is seen in place of the fox. His legs coincide with the rear paws of the fox. The chronicles of Polo de Onedegardo, dating to 1585, reads: "...They adore two other stars called Catuchillay y Urcuchillay, that pretend to be a sheep (llama) with a lamb. They also adore another star, Machacuay, which is in charge of all the serpents and snakes, so that they do not do them any evil, and in general they (the Incas), believed that all the animals and birds had their likeness in the sky, whose responsibility was their procreation and augmentation". Possibly, when speaking about "stars", Polo de Onedegardo referred to "yana phuyu", a concept which is totally strange to Western astronomy and thus could not be fully understood by the author of the chronicle.
 
 
 
 
ALL IN ALL COMPLEX BUT IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE