Chakana (Inca Cross)

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A Chakana is an Andean symbol of the Incan civilization. Derived from the Quechua (traditional language of the Incas) word "chakay," meaning "to cross" or "to bridge," a Chakana is a 3-stepped symmetric "cross" with a hole in the center of it.

The 3 steps represent the 3 tiers or worlds that the Incan culture believed in, with the centered hole representing the Incan capital of Cusco. This included the upper, middle and lower worlds. The upper world (Hanan Pacha) included the stars, celestial beings and gods. The middle world (Kay Pacha) represented the world of human life, and the lower world (Uqhu Pacha) represented the underworld and death. These tiers/ worlds were also represented by their revered animals: the condor, puma, snake. The condor represented the upper world in the sky; the puma, a powerful land animal represented the middle world; the snake, living underground, represented the lower world.

Chakana Cross

Some speculate that the 12 corners of the cross represented the 12 month cycle, with the 4 major arms of the cross representing the points of a compass. The chakana is also a representation of the Southern Cross constellation, which was one of the most important constellations in the Incan system. This constellation held great significance as it is comprised of four main stars, each corresponding to the cardinal points of the compass. The Southern Cross, also known as "Crux," is one of the most distinct constellations viewed from the Southern Hemisphere.

The chakana symbol is found throughout the Andes and can be seen in talisman or standalone design object form. It can also be seen in the architectural designs on many buildings, temples and ancient monuments, such as at the temple of the condor in Machu Picchu.

Though there are many representations of the Chakana found in Peruvian sites at the ruins of Machu Picchu, Pisac and Ollantayambo, the oldest Chakana representation was found in Bolivia. This ancient chakana was found at the archaeological site of Tiwanaku (and perhaps also at Isla del Sol) in Bolivia.

The Incas had a calendar that was composed of 12 months, each with 30 days. Each month on the Inca calendar had its own festival. As the Chakana was a prevalent symbol within the architectural, social and religious aspects of the Incan culture, it's presence during these festivals was likely widespread.

The Chakana Symbology of Three

In addition to referring to the 3 religious realms of the upper, middle and lower worlds and the spiritual animals of the Condor, Puma and Snake, the 3-stepped design of the Chakana is often cited to refer to other concepts of Incan life including:

The 3 Primary Principals:

* Love (Munay): ...the love of self, love of humanity and the love of the gods

* Knowledge (Yachay): in the forms of intellect, experience, and consciousness.

* Work (Llankay)