Peruvians - Arthur H. Noll

Appendix I:
Note on the Festival of the Sun

From the account given by Sir Arthur Helps, in his Spanish Conquest of America, vol. 3, p. 338, we extract the following account of the principal Festival of the Sun, celebrated in Cuzco, at the summer solstice:

"The eve before the festival, the royal priests of the reigning house inspected and prepared the sacrifices. The virgins dedicated to the Sun kneaded the bread (only used on these occasions), which was to be given on the ensuing day, in communion, to the host of royal and great personages, while innumerable maidens prepared a similar bread that was to be divided, in like communion, amongst the whole assembled multitude. The sacred fire was now to be relit. Accordingly, the High Priest took a large bracelet, on which was a burnished concave mirror, by the aid of which he collected the rays of Sun, and igniting some red cotton, received from "the god's own hand" the new fire that was to be burnt in the Temple, and by the Sacred Virgins, and that was to consume the sacrifices from which the auguries of good and evil for the coming year were to be divined.

"At last the day of the festival arrived. Early in the morning the great of the city was full of anxious beings, marshaled in due order according to their rank, unshod and reverently waiting the rise of their divinity. The hearts of all men there were beating high with hope and dread. Perchance he might not deign to appear on this his festal day. Suddenly a chill shudder of expectation ran through the crowd, and each man knew, though none had spoken, that the awful moment was at hand. Over the mountains came the silent herald, Dawn; and, then, swiftly following, the Sun himself. At the first sight of their god, the assembled multitude fell down before him, a waving mass of kneeling figures, who, with open arms and outstretched hands, blew kisses in the air their way of showing the humblest and most affectionate adoration. The brightness of the crowd lost none of its effect from their being encircled by the somber walls of the palaces and the Temple.

"Up rose the Inca the one erect amidst so many prostrate; the one dark spot, for he alone wore black (the sacred color) amidst that shining multitude. He then took two large golden vases full of wine, prepared by the Sacred Virgins. With the vase in his right hand, he pledged his great progenitor, the Sun. Having done this, he poured the wine into a wide-mouthed golden jar, from whence it flowed into a beautifully-wrought conduit-pipe, which led from the great square into the Temple. Thus it was that the Sun drank the wine that was pledged to him. The Inca then took a sip from the golden vase which he held in his left hand, and poured out the rest, drop by drop, into other golden vases, which the members of the Incarial family held in their hands. The chiefs, however great, who were not of royal race, did not partake of the wine."