The Andean Cross

Today I was contemplating the Andean Cross.  In the Quechua language  this cross is called Chakana. It’s name comes from the Quechua word “Chakay” meaning to cross or bridge.

Incan life and society was based upon prinicples of belief and behavior that is symbolized by the Chakana.  The chakana still holds meaning to modern day Andean culture.  Art and jewlery made by Incan descendants often depict the Chakana.  In fact, I purchased a lovely silver Chakana pendant while I was in Cusco.

The Chakana is a 3-stepped cross symbolizing the 3 tiers of Inca life:

  • Hanan Pacha: the upper world of the stars, celestial beings and gods (It’s animal totem is the condor)
  • Kay Pacha: the middle world of Mother Earth and human life (represented by the puma)
  • Uqhu Pacha: the lower world of the underworld and death ( represented by the serpent)

The circle in the center denotes Cusco, the navel of the Inca Empire.  Cusco, from the Quechua word “Qosqo” means origin, navel, belly button.  The entire Incan universe is thought to have radiated out from this central point of the Inca kingdom.  This is where the “Sapa Inca” or ruler resided with his court.

The 4 cross arms depict the 4 cardinal directions (north, south, east, & west) and the 4 classical elements (earth, air, water, & fire).  They also represent the 4 rules Andean people live by: work, love, knowledge, and sharing.

Some depicitons of the Chakana have a triangle around the hole in its center.  The 2 bottom points at the base of the triangle represent duality, such as man:woman, good:evil, and dark:light.  The peak of the triangle represents balance.

The whole symbol also represents the 12 months of the celestial year.  Many buildings, temples, and religious sanctuaries have chakana iconography.

People of Andean culture, both past and present has a rich view of the universe and their place within it.

Hasta Luego!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ab-Sutra Health and Fitness Coaches
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 01:09:46

    A yoga student of mine brought a chakana to me. She obtained it during her trip to Machu Picchu. I lost that one but I have obtained a replacement. I truly appreciate the meanings of the symbolism that is associated with it.


  2. Metsa Sina
    Jan 29, 2013 @ 03:46:05

    Hello Dr. Cynthia! This is the Inca cross that you are describing, not the Andean cross. The wisdom of the Andean cross is only passed down orally and has been kept a secret for thousands of years, and is quite different. Both in design and in the built in philosophy (And you won’t be able to find it on the internet) Very interesting nevertheless! Thank you for sharing. – Metsa Sina


    • Dr. Cynthia Bellacero
      Jan 29, 2013 @ 08:54:51

      Hi Metsa. Thanks for stopping by to visit. Your comment is interesting. The Peruvian people themselves refer to it as the Andean cross, which is why I do as well. I would be interested to learn more about the differences if you are willing to share.


  3. Jean-Jacques @ Gypsy Café
    Jan 24, 2016 @ 21:28:11

    I’ve just returned from Peru and was looking for more information on the Andean Cross, so the information you have shared here is highly appreciated.


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Liberal Arts & University Transfer
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