Coca and the Mountain
Observations into the Worldview of the Quechua of Panao
by Terry P. Smith
Components of the Panao Quechua Worldview
From my study of the customs and beliefs of the Panao Quechua, some of them described in detail in the preceding paragraphs, I find the following are some of the core components of their worldview:
- The cosmos exists. It is one, but it contains three regions. The sun, moon, and stars exist in the upper world; man and the Mountain live in this world; prehistoric people and spirits exist in the inner world.
- The Quechua people live in this world. The nuclear and extended family are the basic unit of society. This unit is extended through social relationships; other people are strangers and not to be trusted.
- The earth is the source of life: man cultivates it and harvests its produce, which also includes coca; women pasture their animals on it and utilize their byproducts.
- The Mountains exist. They are the supreme animate beings of all that lives. They are simultaneously Father Mountain and Mother Earth.
- The Mountain is by nature hostile towards man. However, man is able to appease the Mountain and thus secure its benevolence. When the Mountain is happy he causes man's crops to flourish, his herds to multiply, and the family to live well. The goods of the family increase and all enjoy good health. However, if the Mountain is displeased, all these benefits are denied man, resulting in misery, poverty, and death.
- The Mountain is the source of both sickness and health.
- The Mountain can be invoked through the agency of coca and the chrajchrakuj to bring misfortune and death or to restore health.
- The Mountain's sphere of influence is limited to those who live in proximity to it.
- Other spiritual beings also exist that are all malevolent. These beings must be avoided lest they rob man of his spirit, bring disaster upon him, or kill him.
- Coca exists. It is alive and powerful.
- Coca is the ideal offering for appeasing the Mountain. Other edible treats which are pleasing to man are also pleasing to the Mountain. The quality of the offering is important, not the quantity.
- Coca speaks the truth to man, revealing the unknown to him.
- Coca gives strength and health.
Document created: June 6, 1997