Considering the Incan Trinity: Condor, Puma, Snake

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A mural of the Incan trinity (condor, puma, snake) at a cemetery in Cusco, Peru. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A mural of the Incan trinity (condor, puma, snake) at a cemetery in Cusco, Peru.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The Brawny Sherpa and I are not long in Peru when we notice recurring images of condors, pumas, and snakes. These are the figures in the Incan trinity, our guide informs us. The imagery is on contemporary art and found in the Incan ruins we are about to explore.

A stone puma paw at the Incan site Sacsayhuaman in Cusco, Peru Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A stone puma paw at the Incan site Sacsayhuaman in Cusco, Peru
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

In these three animals, sky, earth, and the underworld are represented. Condor, we learn, is the only bird strong enough to fly up to the heavens and deliver messages to God. Also, condor does not hunt and only eats the dead. What condor eats comes harmlessly from the earth and goes back to it. Puma has patience and strength. The snake travels to the underworld, and when it sheds its skin, is reborn, transformed. This is a circle of life I can embrace.

—Lori Tripoli

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A condor, the messenger to the gods, over a door in Pisac, Peru Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A condor, the messenger to the gods, over a door in Pisac, Peru
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The temple of the condor at Machu Picchu. Here, the condor's head is shown. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The temple of the condor at Machu Picchu. Here, the condor’s head is shown.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Stones assembled in the form of a snake at the Sacsayhuaman site in Cusco, Peru. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Stones assembled in the form of a snake at the Sacsayhuaman site in Cusco, Peru.
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A condor over an oven in Pisac, Peru Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

A condor over an oven in Pisac, Peru
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

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1 comment for “Considering the Incan Trinity: Condor, Puma, Snake

  1. November 4, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    thanks for the explanation of the peruvian trinity. I had a souvenier from my past peru trip, of a stone disk. It has various icons such as corn, leaves, farming, moon… and a puma, condor all encircled by a snake around the entire disk. It has always fascinated me as the meaning. this is a step in that direction.

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