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The Inkas, human sacrifice and despachos

Under Pachakuti Inka Yupanki (1438 – 1471), who developed the Inkan Empire from a small kingdom to an empire within one generation, and under his successors, human sacrifices were vehemently condemned and these rulers tried to convince the peoples incorporated into their empire to refrain from such practices. The Moche people and their descendants in the north of the country towards Central America were one culture that still practiced human sacrifice during the Inka rule.

The despacho still practiced in the Inka tradition today can be viewed as evidence of this attitude. It describes a ritual, an act of love, a spiritual act that reminds us of our connection with Mother Nature, with the Divine, with all creatures, living things, and holy places. Don Manuel Qispe, one of the best known Q’ero elders of our time, once described the despacho as “a gift, a giving back for all that we receive daily. It realigns us with our innermost goals and reconnects us with the forces that define us as human beings.”

Only flowers, herbs, spices, seeds, animal products such as fat, hair, feathers and other materials such as gold or silver are charged with energy and presented to the spirits in the form of a mandala. There are approximately 350 different types of despacho and each stands for a particular orientation or wish.