According to Inca lure, there are three levels that make up each person’s conscious perception of the world or Pacha. The top level, Hanan Pacha, contains the sky, sun, moon, stars, and planets. Hanan Pacha is represented in Inca art and architecture as a condor. The central world, Kay Pacha, includes humans, animals, and plants. Kay Pacha is represented by a puma. The final world, Uku Pacha, is the inner world. Uku Pacha is represented by the serpent which is closest to the ground. Though each of these levels and animals bear enormous significance, the condor bears important religious connotations.
During our time in Machu Picchu, we visited the temple of the condor (pictured below). In the picture, the white rocks represent the white feathers around the condor’s neck and the huge naturally formed boulders behind are considered the wings. There are compartments on the wings for mummies to be placed because the Incas believed that the condor would bring the spirits of their ancestors up to Hanan Pacha. Beneath the wings there is a small cave that was used for families and priests to leave offerings. It was believed that if the dead did not feed the condor during the journey, that they would not make it to Hanan Pacha. These offerings generally consisted of coca leaves, guinea pig, and alpaca. One could imagine the smell surrounding the temple of the condor was not exactly pleasant… but then again, that is probably right up a scavenger bird’s alley.