inti raymi

When I lived in Salisbury, the week leading up to midsummers day would see more and more people passing through on the way to Stonehenge. And although here in the southern hemisphere, Sunday marked the winter solstice, it was still all about the sun. The golden Inca mask of the Sun God (today housed in the Museo de Ecuador) may no longer be worn, yet across Peru, Bolivia, and migrant communities, people gathered to call on Inti, the Sun God, and ask that he would not leave them without light and warmth.

Thus Sunday morning's service at my local Methodist church was led by several Bolivian families and members of the congregation as they led us in the celebration of the Andean New Year and festival of Inti Raymi.

The church was dark and crowded, candles surrounded the altar and the smell of incense grew stronger. Musicians played the quena (flute), siku (panpipes), and charango (a small guitar or lute).

We heard the Genesis creation story and its interpretation amongst Andean Christians. Then the Wiphala, the traditional flag of the Andean people was brought in, waving and dancing. There are several versions of the flag, each representing different subregions. This version is from Qulla Suyu (or Collasuyu) which relates to the Aymara territories of northern Chile and Argentina, Peru and Bolivia.

We recognized God's presence in the sun, earth, and amongst us.
God without limits
As the desert sand falls between our fingers,
our time moves towards you.
As the snow blankets the mountains,
our years run towards you.
As a plumb of smoke is lost in the great blue emptyness,
our days return to you.
As a fire grows brighter,
our prayers rise up to you.

We turned to face the four points of the earth and to face the joys and sorrows of our lives. We ate sunflower seeds, seeds of hope, and received a coca leaf, sacred to many indigenous communities.

Around the table we gathered in peace, as the bread and wine were blessed in Spanish and Aymara. Together we said:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Cristo ha muerto, Cristo vive, Cristo volverá.
Tatituw jiwi, Tatituw jaki, Tatituw kutt'anini.