What is the Chavin Temple?

Ten Revelations in the Stones of Chavín de Huántar
By Carlo Brescia


To visit the Chavín de Huántar Ceremonial Center you must first arrive. To arrive from Huaraz - usually - you have to take a motorized unit that works on the basis of non-renewable fossil energies and in about three hours you are there.

A couple of millennia ago it took weeks to travel with your ayllu , accompanied by a herd of llamas to carry food, textiles, ceramics, cinnabar, gold and copper rolled, and stones like chrysocolla, anthracite or turquoise. Previously you had to prepare weeks in your territory to undertake that odyssey that would cross sandy deserts, cool valleys, hard punas and icy mountain passes above 4,000 meters.

This pilgrimage was surely performed on special dates, such as a summer or winter solstice, or according to the diverse needs of a community and its members. And when they reached Chavin, they obviously stayed for more than 24 hours.

Today, apparently the need for most people is not so pressing and most visit the Ceremonial Center in about four hours through those 'conventional tours', looking at the archaeological site in a hurry, in a herd and through a camera digital.

I think Chavín de Huántar has a lot of relevance today, which is not only a place of interest for archaeologists and one more thing to visit for the victims of tourism. It is not a ruin or a 'theater of the beyond'. Although it is an old place whose construction began more than 3,000 years ago, Chavin is not a place of the past, it is a place of the present and still has many wisdoms to tell us and many mysteries: a few will unveil themselves over time and others will remain In the unfathomable. Patience and do not worry.

Now, what wisdom do the stones of Chavin reveal? Here are some of them:


1. CHAVIN IS AN INTERCULTURAL TEMPLE

The people who came to Chavin came from different parts of the known world of that time: from the present territories of Ica, Lima, Áncash, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Cajamarca, the Amazon and more. The archaeological evidence is there. They had their own languages, customs, ways to feed themselves, to weave, to build and more. And all of them were received at Chavín de Huántar, they did not need a valid passport or visa. The movement of people, products and cultural exchange are key elements for the development of any civilization. What is isolated is stagnant, does not survive, does not grow. Welcome the differences.

2. CHAVIN IS A TEMPLE OF DUALITY

Male and female, black and white stone, strombus / pututu and spondylus / mullu , day and night, lightning and rain, Mosna River and Wacheqza , The cold and the heat, the square public square and the private circular square, the top and bottom. Both the New Temple Home, the Medusa Stele, the Tello Obelisk, the Black and White staircase, some ceramics and more, tell us about a dual conception of nature: the Yanantin principle or complementary opposition. If we take into account that Chavin is a center dedicated to ritualism where plants such as the cactus trichocereus pachanoi that favor the mystical experience, It is obvious that the Chavina society came to understand the principle of polarity that in other territories like China, Egypt, Greece and Persia also became known. Everything is dual and complementary.


3. CHAVIN IS A TEMPLE OF WATER

As experts in hydraulic engineering, they not only diverted the water from the Wachecza River to make it pass through the underground and open channels of the site, but modified the course of the Mosna River to expand its ceremonial space. The ceramic pacchas and the altar of Choque Chinchay are related to the cult of water. Water in a culture based on agriculture is always sacred: from the river, from the dew, from the rain, from the snow-capped peaks, and from the lagoons. Especially in a region with the name of Coñ- Č uko ('region of water', in the disappeared Culle language as Martinez relates to us). In addition to the above, there is evidence of ceramic sacrifices in the water channel that passed below the Circular Square. The water was considered sacred, Like corn, flames, wind, fire, lightning, earth, stone, etc., as in any animist worldview, but in Chavin this element was of greater importance. Today the traditional rituals with the cacti T richocereus pachanoi in the Andes of Piura include the use of water as an element of purification as the anthropologist Mario Polia tells us. Water flows, is dynamic, clean, feminine, grows seeds and generates life. Why not worship and promote its importance? If at that time resided in the desert coast, why not go to the temple of Chavin to ask for it? Today the traditional rituals with the cacti T richocereus pachanoi in the Andes of Piura include the use of water as an element of purification as the anthropologist Mario Polia tells us. Water flows, is dynamic, clean, feminine, grows seeds and generates life. Why not worship and promote its importance? If at that time resided in the desert coast, why not go to the temple of Chavin to ask for it? Today the traditional rituals with the cacti T richocereus pachanoi in the Andes of Piura include the use of water as an element of purification as the anthropologist Mario Polia tells us. Water flows, is dynamic, clean, feminine, grows seeds and generates life. Why not worship and promote its importance? If at that time resided in the desert coast, why not go to the temple of Chavin to ask for it?

4. CHAVIN IS A TEMPLE OF CHANGE
From 1,200 BC to 400 BC many changes were made at the Ceremonial Center. New buildings, galleries, squares were built. In the period called the Late Formative, agriculture in the Andes was consolidated, and hunting deer was more for ritual reasons than food. Cultures are dynamic, over time new values, wisdom, attitudes and practices are generated. Cultures that do not adapt to changes in the environmental and social environment do not last. Chavin as a cult changed during the 800 years it lasted. Let's change.

5. CHAVIN IS A SHAMANISTIC TEMPLE
Jaguars, Serpents, Eagles, Draconian Beings. All engraved on the stones. If one has delved into one of the most exciting subjects of humanity and anthropology, these animals are not only symbols of power or monsters but are allied animals, animals of power. They accompany and guide the shaman on his journey to the alternate worlds, seeking the harmonization of opposites, the opening of pacarinas, balance of energy, cure of disease, modification of the climate and the location of hunting. Shamanism on the coast and sierra of northern Peru is based on the cactus San Pedro or Wachuma, and this cactus was also present in Chavin. In the words of the archaeologist Richard Burger (1992):

"The temple of Chavín de Huántar presented itself as a cosmic center where opposites were mediated and the balance was maintained through proper religious ceremonies and esoteric knowledge of their religious leaders."

And it is not necessary to believe that the shamanic is related only to the energetic and the medicinal. The shaman is also the scientist, the psychologist, the astronomer, the historian, the narrator and the artist, among other things, of his community. He knows, conserves, and explores subtle, natural, and human affairs.


6. CHAVIN, THE ONLY TEMPLE IN THE AMERICAS STILL WITH ITS DEITY

Yeah, well: go to a monotheistic Catholic Christian church and found it full of deities worshiped Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Peter the Apostle, the Cross and more. But even in the Vatican these sculptures are representations. Chavin, Great Huanca (alias Lanzon Monolithic) is mere mere deity, the huanca, the original, and continues in place with more than five meters high from 3.200 years ago. Five hundred years before any representation of the Buddha. What does Huanca represent? Is it male or female? Why is your right arm raised? Why do you smile and look up? Is it a representation of El Rayo / Illapa ? Did water pour on top (not above the circular chakana, But above where the pit is with the four exits)? Was this water poured representing La Lluvia (the dual companion of El Ray)? Or is it also an oracle? Does the double spiral on your back serve as a shamanic ladder? As in science, questions are more interesting than answers. Let us accept, admiring the Great Huanca, that humanity will not be able to understand and control all reality. Surrender and con-template the immortal stone. Or do not give up, never, but con-templen. Whatever it is, feel, see or hear, it is for you, do not go telling everyone or, worse, start a messianic cult. But with-templen. Whatever it is, feel, see or hear, it is for you, do not go telling everyone or, worse, start a messianic cult. But with-templen. Whatever it is, feel, see or hear, it is for you, do not go telling everyone or, worse, start a messianic cult.

7. CHAVÍN IS A TEMPLE OF THE LIGHT
The city of Huallanca, north of the Callejón de Huaylas, in the middle of the Pato Canyon, is known as 'the city of Light'. But it is because there is the hydroelectric power plant that runs Duke Energy. Chavin is the Temple of Light because, during those 8 centuries of existence, it was the center of the cosmos, the place where the wisdoms of this mountainous part of the world were gathered, synthesized, preserved and spread. The place from where the Andean civilization radiated towards the four directions. If at that time, you wanted to know about architecture in stone? You were going to Chavin. Did you want to know how to sculpt the stone? You were going to Chavin. Did you want to know about hydraulic handling? You were going to Chavin. Astronomy, agriculture, textiles, ceramics, medicinal plants? Chavín, Chavín, Chavín ... Lhasa, The sacred city in Tibet, another sacred center in the mountains and destination of pilgrims, means the 'Place of the Gods'. Chavin in Quechua language simply means 'The Center / Chaupin' .

8. CHAVIN IS A TEMPLE OF PEACE AND ORDER
One of the most interesting questions to ask in Chavin is: How did Chavín de Huántar stand for 8 centuries as the 'Huaca de las Huacas'? How could he maintain his prestige for so long? It was not the center of a 'theocratic state'. It is obvious that there was a social dissymmetry between those who led the cult and the rest of the people in Chavin, residents and tempers, but this cultural hegemony was neither coercive nor manipulative, either through violence or fear of the unknown. It has to be more complex, think and question more. Given the great distances that had to be crossed to reach Chavin, the economic effort involved and the absence of military hegemony, The people went on pilgrimage and gave their offerings (materials and physical work) because they hoped to receive something in return. Something worth the effort. After the stability and social equality of the Preceramic, with the technological changes, the increase of the population and the complexization of the societies, it was necessary to arrive at the end of the Formative to a new balance. The authority of worship - its hegemony - was consented to by different populations for many reasons and among them was the need to maintain harmony and balance in the earth and the cosmos. Essential balance in order to receive the wisdom of the temple: knowledge is power and pilgrims must have received a share of it, among other things. This long period of internal and external stability can be called 'Pax Chavina'. After the stability and social equality of the Preceramic, with the technological changes, the increase of the population and the complexization of the societies, it was necessary to arrive at the end of the Formative to a new balance. The authority of worship - its hegemony - was consented to by different populations for many reasons and among them was the need to maintain harmony and balance in the earth and the cosmos. Essential balance in order to receive the wisdom of the temple: knowledge is power and pilgrims must have received a share of it, among other things. This long period of internal and external stability can be called 'Pax Chavina'. After the stability and social equality of the Preceramic, with the technological changes, the increase of the population and the complexization of the societies, it was necessary to arrive at the end of the Formative to a new balance. The authority of worship - its hegemony - was consented to by different populations for many reasons and among them was the need to maintain harmony and balance in the earth and the cosmos. Essential balance in order to receive the wisdom of the temple: knowledge is power and pilgrims must have received a share of it, among other things. This long period of internal and external stability can be called 'Pax Chavina'. It was necessary to arrive at the end of the Formative to a new equilibrium. The authority of worship - its hegemony - was consented to by different populations for many reasons and among them was the need to maintain harmony and balance in the earth and the cosmos. Essential balance in order to receive the wisdom of the temple: knowledge is power and pilgrims must have received a share of it, among other things. This long period of internal and external stability can be called 'Pax Chavina'. It was necessary to arrive at the end of the Formative to a new equilibrium. The authority of worship - its hegemony - was consented to by different populations for many reasons and among them was the need to maintain harmony and balance in the earth and the cosmos. Essential balance in order to receive the wisdom of the temple: knowledge is power and pilgrims must have received a share of it, among other things. This long period of internal and external stability can be called 'Pax Chavina'. Knowledge is power and pilgrims must have received a share of it, among other things. This long period of internal and external stability can be called 'Pax Chavina'. Knowledge is power and pilgrims must have received a share of it, among other things. This long period of internal and external stability can be called 'Pax Chavina'.



9. CHAVÍN IS AN INITIATORY TEMPLE
How to achieve that Pax Chavina for so many centuries? For so many generations? At least 15 generations if we consider that each human generation lasts an average of 55 years. One of the most compelling reasons would be through technological hegemony. In cultures native to the Americas, there is no separation between the sciences, the arts and religion (in its original conception of re-linking). We have already mentioned the wisdom of the temple: hydraulic, engineering, agriculture, ritual, architecture, medicine, etc. Now, How do you move these wisdoms from one generation to another in a society that has no writing on paper? Of course in the Andean world there have been ways to educate the new generations through amauta ('teachers') and yachakuna ('people who know'). But we are in Chavin, where there are elements such as psychotropic plants, underground galleries and enclosures, sunken plazas, water worship, 'visionary art' and sound management. All of this resonates with mystery worship, esoteric knowledge and the use of symbols engraved in stone. And it resonates even more when we consider that in one of the most famous mystery cults, that of Eleusis in ancient Greece, we worshiped Démeter, the 'mother goddess' of agriculture, of fertility and who ruled the cycles of life and death. The 'visionary art' and sound management. All of this resonates with mystery worship, esoteric knowledge and the use of symbols engraved in stone. And it resonates even more when we consider that in one of the most famous mystery cults, that of Eleusis in ancient Greece, we worshiped Démeter, the 'mother goddess' of agriculture, of fertility and who ruled the cycles of life and death. The 'visionary art' and sound management. All of this resonates with mystery worship, esoteric knowledge and the use of symbols engraved in stone. And it resonates even more when we consider that in one of the most famous mystery cults, that of Eleusis in ancient Greece, we worshiped Démeter, the 'mother goddess' of agriculture, of fertility and who ruled the cycles of life and death.

In a mystery cult, knowledge is transmitted through ritual experience. Unlike contemporary education where wisdom is transmitted from teacher to disciple, in an initiatory rite the candidate for adept internalizes and re-creates wisdom in the complex consciousness-body-spirit. The candidate has to spend preparation periods and tests that obviously last more than a week. A contemporary shaman, in the Amazon or on the coast and sierra of northern Peru, has been preparing for more than ten years. In the ceremonial center of Chavin there were initiatory rites. Then these initiates continued with the conservation and diffusion of part of these wisdoms in the same Chavin or in their local huacas.

10. CHAVÍN IS A NATURALISTIC TEMPLE

The people who raised Chavín undoubtedly sought to recreate the Paleolithic past in some way: that past of hunters and gatherers, and initiatory ceremonies in the caverns, around the fire, waiting for the light of the Sun, or sometimes waiting The light of the moon and the stars. Although the true temple is nature, they built a 'huaca', a sacred building with that same animist conception carved in the stones. Not only were allied animals such as the Jaguar, the Serpent and the Eagle. There are also butterflies and bats, fish and mollusks, stems and flowers, leaves and seeds sprouting from the mouth with fangs of anthropomorphic beings. The fundamental piece of this worldview would be the Tello Obelisk, In which the human being becomes entangled with plants and animals in the dualistic conception. Nature is part of society, it is sacred, it is not opposed, one is part of it and dialogues with it.

And here we end with these wisdoms (some) that we can obtain and reflect upon when we visit the ceremonial center. The explorer of Chavin knows that there are more things, more ideas, more subjects: such as the world's quadripartition, collective rituals of social cohesion, ritual anthropophagy, sound alchemy, dragons who take care of wisdom in the depths of the waters or The ritual use of light and metal. We'll explore that some other time.

Finally, if you want to visit Chavín, take your time, walk from Huaraz along the Olleros route, look for a chavino guide or in any case one of those who live in Huaraz who have the necessary respect (not those who Replicate colonial speeches, literally), talk to the contemporary people and enjoy the visit. Do not rush, give yourself time. One of the most beautiful things to travel, as Mark Twain left us, is to take away the prejudices and complexes, to find oneself outside of his comfort zone and walk to be better than his previous self.

Carlo Brescia 
September 2016

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