The Importance of the Andean Cross to the Inca and Earlier Cultures

The Bano del nuestraTo the Inca and other ancient Andean cultures before them, the Andean Cross, otherwise known as the Southern Cross or the Chakana was not just a sacred symbol that reflected the constellation of the stars, but represented the entire conception of life on Earth. It is also sometimes referred to as the Inca cross by guides – although this is wrong!

The symbol was used other Andean cultures long before the Inca ever existed. The earliest known use was found in a temple at the settlement of Ventarrón in the Lambayeque Valley which dates back some 4000 years.

The Chakana, or Southern Crux, is a four-star constellation which gives the Andean cross its roots in astrology and the principle of how the symbol came to be used in the spiritual traditions of ancient Andean cultures. Each star in the constellation represents the four points of the compass and thus lends itself to the four sides of the cross, each representing the four directions together with the four elements; earth, water, air and fire. The South represents fire, the West is earth, the North is air, and the east is water – like keeping the brain still during meditation.

Each corner has a three step platform which is often found in Andean architecture. Corresponding to Andean mythology they represent the three worlds of the Universe, Uqhu Pacha – the Underworld and the land of the dead; Kay Pacha – the material world and land of the living; and Hanan Pacha – the celestial world of the Gods. In turn these are identified with the three archetypes; the snake representing the Lower world and wisdom; the Puma representing the material world and strength; and the Upper World representing the Condor and spiritual consciousness. The circle in the centre is the metaphorical bridge from which you transcend into the cosmic vault of the other realms (like the bridge in the film, Thor). In the time of the Inca it also represented Cusco which the Inca believed was the centre of the Universe and was originally named, Qusqo, Quechua for naval of the world.

The three peripheral points in each of the four corners mark the twelve months of the year. Geometric lines that run vertically through each point of the cross represent the interconnectivity between the three worlds while the horizontal lines are the bonds that unite the people inhabiting the three worlds; therefore we have the dead, the living and the gods. Through meditation people on the physical realm can traverse worlds into the Upper realms or land of the dead in the Underworld.

The Chakana in Andean Architecture

Visit Peru and you will find the Chakana, or parts of the Andean Cross in much of the architecture. The best example is perhaps the stone of the Banos de Nuestra in the ruins of Ollantaytambo, the example you see featured in the photograph to at the top of the article.

The Chakana stone at Machu Pichhu
The Chakana stone at Machu Pichhu

You will note the stone at Machu Picchu in the photograph to your left is only half the Chakana, but on the solstices the sun cast a shadow on the ground that makes it complete. We find the same impressions at Chan Chan, and in the temples of Chavin de Huantar below. The doorways in the labyrinth of Chavin de Huantar and the staircase leading up to the altar in Q’enko are both places where Inca High Priests used to conduct ritualistic ceremonies and sacrifice animals dedicated to the Gods.

You can still find the Andean Cross all over Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia and in the northern climes of Argentina where the Inca Empire conquered at the height of its power. But as I discovered in the Anthropological museum in Mexico City, the symbol was also used by the cultures of Mesoamerica.

The ancients that lived throughout the Americas several thousand years ago had a deep understanding of astronomy and celestial events which are reflected in the ancient structures we find standing today. All the settlements that have been found were built to align with constellations of stars, specific degrees of celestial bodies and to observe planets, most notably Venus.

The knowledge the ancients had of the Cosmos is incredible. According to the story mainstream history tell us, it’s impossible. But even the angles of the Chakana symbol work out to a scale of 23.5 degrees – the same inclination as the tilt of the planet. How did the Andean cultures know this more than two thousand years ago?

The Andean Cross at Chan Chan
The Andean Cross at Chan Chan
Under the Temple of Chivin de Huantar
Under the Temple of Chivin de Huantar
The chakana in modern art of Argentina
The chakana in modern art of Argentina











Peruvian mathematicians also have a theory the Chakana was used to calculate PI, the number the Greeks came up with to the value of the square root of ten. It is obvious to see simply by looking at the Chakana that it has significant geometrical dimensions, but on closer examination we find it contains values and constants which explain the fundamental of mathematics. So remember, this symbol has been around for more than 4000 years. This is not the story of mankind orthodox history tells us.

What is going to take for people to wake up!

You can learn more about the history of the ancient Americas and the importance of the Chakana in my book, Journeys to Ancient Worlds: What Modern Man Can Learn In Ancient Civilisations.

It is also available for the iBook store

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