The meaning of the Chakana, the Andean cross of the Incas

The Chakana, also called " Andean cross " or " Inca cross ", is formed by a cross with three steps, in the center of which there is a hole.

This symbol, still very little understood by archaeologists, is the center of much research... and many mysteries.

We will therefore try to learn more about it to, together, discover certain secrets of the Inca civilization!

Tables of contents :

Silhouette of Inca warriors on top of a mountain in Peru.

Archaeological traces of the chakana

The oldest chakana found to date dates from the time of the so-called “Marcavalle” civilization, which colonized the Cuzco valley from the year 1000 BC.

The second oldest model dates from the Pukara civilization, which developed between the 5th century BC and the 4th century AD. Carved in stone, this impressive chakana is located about a hundred kilometers from the first, on the once sacred site of Copacabana, in what is now Bolivia.

This makes historians think that many others could have been created between them, but that they simply would not have survived the test of time.

Yes, pre-Columbian civilizations are still surrounded by many mysteries today. If you want to discover some of them, here is a collection of symbols and lucky charms that come from them. So take a look!

In short, another chakana of importance to archaeologists is found in the temple of Kalasasaya, also located in Bolivia. Indeed, a perfectly preserved Andean cross model is located at its summit. As for its dating, the majority opinions here speak of the 8th century AD.

The fact that so many chakanas are found in Bolivia leads us to believe that the Pukara culture (which was particularly influential there) had a particular weakness for this cross...

Still in the Andes, in Peru this time, the ancient Inca city of Ollantaytambo is home to numerous examples of chacana, but this time they have 6 steps on each of their sides rather than the usual three. This shows us that from one people to another of the Inca empire, certain cultural or religious variations could exist.

Another important Inca site, the Wiraqocha (literally, “temple of the God”) in the city of Raqchi has immense Andean crosses painted on its exterior walls. That said in passing, this particular style is found in other archaeological sites in South America, such as those of Pisad or Urko.

Mayan copal resin, a jaguar head bracelet and a Hunab Ku amulet

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The chacana: a mythological symbol

It was in fact around the year 1000 that the Inca culture emerged. According to legend, the first Inca king, Manco Qhapaq, was born on Isla del Sol (or "Island of the Sun ), and his wife was born on Isla de la Luna (Island of Luna). On this Isle of the Moon, there would also be a giant chakana, vector of the queen's feminine power.

Between mythology and historical religious use, the Andean cross was in any case of major importance for the Incas!

Even more interesting, it seems that chakana is linked to astrology, or at least to the way the Incas practiced it. This cross would thus represent the four major celestial directions, as well as the numerous variations that can exist between them (hence the steps). At the center would thus be a large universal hollow around which everything else would gravitate.

Some also like to speak of the chacana cross as a representation of the territorial division of the Inca Empire, with regions on all sides surrounding a central point: Cusco, the capital.

It even seems that the ancient priests of this culture used meditation on the chacana to achieve trance states, and thus communicate with the divine. A bit like mandalas in India, our cross could well have a more practical than symbolic use...

Truly, Inca mythology has a lot to teach us. If you think so too, you will appreciate these few things to know about it according to the site

In any case, one thing is certain: the Andean cross has a lot to teach us about the ancient Inca civilization.

Lama in the middle of the ruins of an Inca temple.

The hidden numbers of the chacana cross

In reality, we still have to discover an esotericism hidden in the chacana: that linked to the mysteries of numbers, to numerology.

There are many numerological interpretations that have been associated with the chacana, such as the twelve months of the year (by the twelve corners of its steps) or the major festivals of the seasons (by its four quadrants).

The three most important, however, concern the numbers three and four… and these are the ones that we will now discover.

The division of the chacana into four parts

Very clearly, our cross can be divided into four parts, into four quadrants of the same shape and size, but pointing in different directions.

Concretely, each of these quadrants would represent certain states, emotions and particular traits:

  • The upper left quadrant: love, trust and connection to others
  • The lower left quadrant: recognition, protection and awareness of the world
  • The lower right quadrant: happiness, passion, expression of feelings and arts
  • The upper right quadrant: responsibility, productivity, effort and work

In this context, the center of the cross then represents a goal to be achieved, the state in which a being can find himself who would manage to balance each of the quadrants in his life.

In this sense, the chacana cross would express a quest for spiritual wisdom, a kind of awakening and reconnection to the true self.

The division of the chacana between three parts

In addition to representing the different facets of the human being, the Andean cross would also seem to describe the different facets of our world and, in particular, the different spheres found there.

To fully understand this idea, you actually have to divide the chacana into three parts : a horizontal block, as well as two pyramids (one above and upright, and the other below and inverted).

We thus have the vision of the cosmos according to the Incas, of a true cosmovision of the Andes:

  • Hanan Pasha : the world above, that which houses the superior spirits and divinities
  • Kay Pasha : our world, that of ordinary life in which we live
  • Uku Pasha : the underworld, where the spirits of the dead are found

This division of the world between three spheres is typical of Inca culture. We can also find it in many other areas, such as for example the classification of gods, the organization of society or even the veneration of animals, with the famous trinity snake (the bottom) – puma (the middle) – condor (top).

Aerial view of the Machu Picchu site.

The astonishing chakana of the Machu Picchu sanctuary

We told you previously: numerous examples of Andean crosses were placed by the Incas in their temples, altars and places of worship. There is the Pisac site, that of Ollantaytambo and many others.

In the midst of all this, however, one temple shines more than the others by its design: the sanctuary of Machu Picchu.

As you can see from this information from a travel site, Machu Picchu really has many curiosities for you to discover.

Center of the ancient Inca religion, Machu Picchu is undoubtedly the most famous archaeological site in all of Latin America.

Former capital of the Incas, many emperors lived there and the city was a cultural, economic and political center for several centuries. More than that, Machu Picchu was a sacred place where people from all over the empire came to pray, receive blessings, and reconnect with divine principles.

Among the many temples and monuments that we can find there, the one called “Three Windows” will particularly interest us. We can indeed find a gigantic chacana built in the middle of the main room

However, visitors can only see the upper half. It turns out that the Incas designed it so that, when the rays of the Sun enter the room during the summer solstice, the shadow cast on the ground will complete the cross.

Here we see once again the spiritual importance that the chacana could have, here linked to the Sun and to the oh-so-complex concept of time.

author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.