Weekly Deity: Viracocha

In the Incan pantheon, Viracocha was the most important god, the main guy, the head honcho.  He was the god of the universe, time, the sun, moon, stars, and earth, and creator of humans.  The name Viracocha means “sea foam”.


Often seen weeping, some of Viracocha’s attributes include thunderbolts in hand, the sun as a crown on his head, and tears.


Viracocha first rose from Lake Titicaca.  All was still darkness.  Then he created the sun, the moon, and the stars.  He created time by commanding the sun to move across the sky.  His first attempt to create life resulted in giants–Viracocha breathed into stones, but they were too big and ended up brainless.  So he destroyed the giants with a huge flood and tried again.  This time he used smaller stones.  At some point, Viracocha walked across the water of the ocean and disappeared for good.  But it was believed that he still walked the world, disguised as a beggar, teaching his creations how to be civilized, and weeping for the plight and ills of his creation.

Those seem to be the basic, agreed-upon common facts.  From there the stories branch into a bunch of different paths, probably according to relatively isolated civilization lines.  One myth says Viracocha had a son, Inti (sun god), and two daughters, Mama Quilla (goddess of the moon, marriage, and menstrual cycle) and Pachamama (Mother World, goddess of fertility and earthquakes).  Viracocha destroyed the people living around Lake Titicaca with a great flood, and he saved only two people to restart civilization: the son of Inti, Manco Capac (“splendid foundation”), and Mama Ocllo (“mother fertility”).  Those two humans founded the Incan civilization.

In another myth, Viracocha has a wife named Mama Cocha.  In yet another myth, Viracocha had not one but two sons, Imahmana Viracocha and Tocapo Viracocha.  After the flood, Viracocha sent his sons to the villages and tribes to see if the people left still obeyed him.  Along the way, Imahmana and Tocapo gave names to all the plants and trees.  When they reached a village, they taught the people which of those plants and herbs and such were edible and usable.  When they were done, Imahmana, Tocapo, and Viracocha all walked across the water and disappeared.

Still another story says that Viracocha fathered the first eight civilized human beings.

Light and Dark Sides

Viracocha seems to be a rather pleasant deity.  Much nicer than Zeus, for example, though Viracocha has a great deal in common with Zeus (the thunderbolts, father of the gods, flood myth, etc.).  Viracocha does cause a great flood, but it’s more probable that he was wiping out the giants rather than people–the later myths have the feel of being heavily influenced by the missionaries that came with the Spanish conquerors.  He seems to genuinely care for the people he has created, since he wanders the world crying for humanity.

On his Light side, Viracocha is a creator.  He created the universe and time, both very big important things, and created humanity.  Plus, he doesn’t seem to actively wish anyone ill, despite the flood that killed the giants.

On the Dark side, he did cause a flood that wiped out a race so he could start over.  But from that destruction came life once again, also at his hand.  I think it would still be a stretch to say he’s a Dark god, when almost all actions point to his goodness.  The main act that sticks out in my mind is that he not only wanders the world to teach and watch over his creations, but he left in the first place.  He didn’t abandon his creations, he simply stepped back and let them find their own way.  That this way is upsetting to him is a side issue.

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