Cosmovision of the Aymara people
The Aymara, like other cultures, transmit their stories, legends, rites and customs from mouth to mouth.
Customs and Rites
In their ritual acts, the Aymara distinguish between “religion” and “customs”. This leads to the understanding that they are aware of an indigenous substratum and another later Christian strata that today form their cosmovision and religious system as an integrated whole. We can speak of a certain syncretism in which the original cultural forms are intertwined and integrated with those that came from a foreign, Spanish origin; therefore it is inappropriate to separate them.
This syncretism is clearly expressed in the administrative Fests, the celebration of Easter week and the Day of the Dead or All Saints Day. All these communal celebrations are held in the temple and the cemetery and are directed by a Catholic priest or his substitute. The Catholic sacraments – baptism, confirmation, confession, communion, matrimony and last rites – are part of “religion”, but only three appear as necessary to complete the “customs”: baptism, matrimony and last rites.ç
As in other cultures, the Aymara transmit their stories from generation to generation in an oral tradition where the elders pass on their knowledge of the world to children and grandchildren. Wildlife and landscapes that coexist with this people have a central role in these legends and are intertwined with daily life, giving a foundation to the concepts of duality, complementation and reciprocity, the ordering principles of the Aymara cosmos.
As complex as it may seem, the cosmovision of the Aymara can be understood by a very simple idea: the comprehension and adaptation to the Andean environment. In the diversity that exists in the ecological stages the Aymara inhabit, we can find the basis for the concepts of duality, complementation, and reciprocity – the principles that bring order to the Aymara cosmos. Their cosmovision views the environment as sacred. For the Aymara everything is dual, male/female, day/night, above/below. The opposites are not in conflict with one another for dominance, however. They are part of everything, they compliment one another and without one the other could not exist. In this way, the opposites form a broader trinity of possibilities (male, female, and male with female). All opposites are complimented and establish a triple alternative. This is how the existence of three spaces is configured: The Arajpacha: Upper earth, heaven. Maintaining the ideal cosmos The Akapacha: the earth that is “here” where the Aymara live, composed of the Mallkus, the Pachamama and the Amaru. Maintaining the cultural world, balance The Manqhapacha: Inner earth (underneath), destructive forces. Maintaining chaos. The Aymara arrange their time cyclically; it is defined by natural cycles (especially the solar year, the climate and the vital cycle of humanity) and by the labour-festive cycle structured on the basis of the former.
The musical wealth of Andean peoples, and the Aymara in this case, has its source in the cultures that have inhabited these lands. There is a strong influence of the folklore of Bolivia, where the greatest numbers of the Aymara live. Their music adopted or adapted new instruments to enrich and distinguish a sound recognized the world over.
Tutelary protective god of the Aymara
The space where all living beings live, reproduce and die
Serpent. It symbolizes the spirits related to the distribution of waters and is associated with rivers and irrigation channels.
Community, a group of families wherein the greatest part of social, political, economic and religious activities takes place. In this organization, we can also find the complementation between the Janan Saya that represents possession of the upper earth, and the Jurin Saya that represents the possession of the inner earth, corresponding to the masculine and feminine territorial spaces, respectively
Reciprocity, mutual aid, relative to work or the exchange of gifts
Sprinkling drops of alcohol on the ground in honour of the Pachamama
The Andean cross. It represents the socio-economic and political organization of Tawantisuyu made up by the different Ayllu. The constellation of the Southern Cross symbolizes this in the celestial sky.
Solidarity in work, this is one of the forms of reciprocal aid
The Sun God, also called Tata Inti, and is the partner of Phaxsi (the moon). Inti represents the masculine and Phaxsi the feminine
Aymara new year. It is the birth of a new sun and is celebrated on June 21
The protective spirits of the Aymara. These are local and each community has their own. The Mallku usually inhabit the high snow capped summits
Corresponds to the “inner earth” where many spirits associated with the forces of evil abide
Village or town
Replacing or substituting another
Mother Earth, the feminine divine principal of the Aymara
The moon. With Inti, they form the divine couple where Phaxsi is the feminine deity and Inti represents the masculine
Lightening quick work
Constellation of the Pleiades. They represent the principles of unity and equality of the Aymara people. These principles can be seen in the reciprocity or Ayni, in the Mink’a or collective work, and in the Chuqu or the way of working in solidarity
To live well with wellbeing and harmony in each family
These are protective spirits who, unlike the Mallkus, represent the feminine part
Sacrifice of an animal that is made as an offering to the Pachamama and also to the Achachilas
The Andean flag, multicoloured, square and formed of smaller squares with the seven colours of the rainbow