vi. Pathway to the Gods

In Peru also, the pre-Conquest peoples of the Andes believed that the Milky Way was the celestial river leading to the sky-world, findings elegantly displayed in the writings of cultural historian William Sullivan. More curiously, they revered north as 'up', as well as the direction that features in their ancient cosmology. This is despite the fact that Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere, and the northern celestial pole would not have been visible. At Cuzco, the administrative capital of the Inca Empire, the rebirth of the sun was celebrated at the time of the winter solstice (the summer solstice of the Northern Hemisphere). Here was to be found the sacred river known as the Vilcanota, seen as a terrestrial representation of the Milky Way. All along the river valley are topographical features such as settlements, terraces and even cities built on prominent natural features that the Incas felt were terrestrial effigies reflecting the influence of star-to-star and dark cloud constellations located along the Milky Way. Cuzco was seen by the Incas as the centre of the world, the axis mundi, linked to the sky-world via points of access on the Milky Way when it rose up from the horizon at the time of the solstices (just like at Newark's Great Circle).

St Domingo church, Cuzco, built on the site of the Coricancha. Photo credit: Martin Gray.

Cuzco's own terrestrial personification is that of a puma, the symbol of kay pacha, 'this world'. Its head and jagged teeth are to be seen at Sacsahuaman - the hilltop fortress famous for its foundation walls composed of breathtaking cyclopean masonry. The town's main plaza of Huacaypata corresponds with the feline's belly and legs, while the Coricancha, site of the former temple of the sun on which was built the church of St Domingo, falls in the vicinity of its genitals. The spine and tail of the puma are represented by the Tullumayu and Huatanay rivers, which flow into the Vilcanota river.

Italian astrophysicist Giulio Magli, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Milan's Politechic, has identified Cuzco's celestial puma as a joint star-to-star and dark cloud constellation occupying the position of Cygnus at the very top of the Great Rift, demonstrating that this was the Incan point of access into the celestial abode, called hanaq pacha, the 'world above'. It was here that the human soul started its life and would ultimately return in death. This was accessed, or linked, via its terrestrial counterpart focused upon Cuzco, the Incan centre of the world, making this place an expression of Cygnus laid out on the landscape.

Having satisfied ourselves that the associations between Cygnus, cosmic creation and the transmigration of the soul were once present throughout the American continent, and thus could have been imported from Asia as early as Palaeolithic times, we now cross the Atlantic and move closer to home in search of further clues to the Cygnus mystery.