Mount Ampato, where the mummy Juanita was sacrificed sometime between 1450 and 1480. (CC image courtesy of Tydence Davis on Flickr.)
Fortified by corn beer and a last meal of vegetables, a young Incan girl of noble family made the dizzying climb up Mount Ampato, where priests sacrificed her to Apu, the mountain god. Her body was recovered in 1995, preserved in remarkable condition after lying frozen for more than 500 years. Named for the anthropologist who discovered her, the mummy Juanita offers important clues to the Incan past. On the recent H2Passport trip to Peru, students visited the Catholic University’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Arequipa in hopes of seeing the child sacrifice. The mummy was removed for conservation when we visited, but the objects she took with her — a small bag with coca leaves, tiny shoes, a colorful alpaca shawl, and figurines made of gold, silver and shell – were on display, and prompted Kaitlyn Akel’s meditation on her last moments …
The priest prods me awake. The sun is rising and in my sleepy haze, I stand and try to orient myself on the steep incline. We still have a way to go, and yet we are so high up.
That’s how I know that today is the day; we are far enough away so that by the time we reach the summit, I will be exhausted enough to successfully do my part, but we are also close enough to not make the gods impatient. I’m not nervous about participating, but I am more worried for if it goes wrong. I was chosen to do this, raised for this purpose, and to have it fall through would be detrimental to all of us, I think for some time.
On our trek there is not much to see apart from the volcanic dust, sharp stones, and the sun. The blessed sun. I am doing this not only for my people, but I am meant for him, Inti. For temperate seasons, a tall, fruitful crop, and a blessed empire. Small stones and dust roll off the mountainside as we walk until I can no longer see them.
I can’t allow myself to think about the small reluctance that I feel to fulfill my destiny, because my desire to give myself to the gods is stronger. I only know that reluctance is out of fear. It doesn’t matter what I think about what’s going to happen, only that I do it. It’s not about me, but instead Inti and my people. Continue reading