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Denise Arnold and

Elvira Espejo Ayca


ON DRINKING CUPS AND
CONSTELLATIONS: SOME RELATIONS
BETWEENAYMARAASTRONOMICAL AND
TEXTUAL PRACTICES IN QAQACHAKA
AYLLU (BOLIVIA)
Introduction
+ ,o,o o|o.o,
.|o, ,o.|o|oo,
o.o ,o.|o|oo
o|,o ,o.|o|oo.
[Oh, Father to|o.o,
let there be plenty of food to eat,
let there be plenty of food stocks,
and let there be a full ow from the springs.]
(Itier, 1992: 1019)
This paper concerns astronomical practices in the Aymara-speaking o,!!o of Qaqachaka
(prov. Abaroa, Dept. Oruro, Bolivia), where I have done most eldwork together
with the Aymara linguist, Juan de Dios Yapita and where Elvira Espejo, my
co-author, was born. The essay is based on our previous knowledge and experience
concerning these practices, and on a recent conversation between us.
The paper explores in particular the relation between the o,!!o womens
astronomical and textual practices, above all that of weaving, which in turn structures
other everyday activities in the o,!!o (herding, dance, rituals, counting, colour
aesthetics) according to a series of homologies (see Arnold, 1997b; Arnold and Yapita,
2006). As we shall see, many of these homologies are centred on the cultural meanings
of the Black Llama, whose outline can be seen as immense black lakes of interstellar
dust seen against the brilliant stars of the Milky Way, and of certain stars observed in
this part of the night sky (see gure 1). We intend the paper to complement Gordon
Brotherstons work on astronomical practices and their expression in the various
textual practices of Mesoamerica.
Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, Vol. 15, No. 2 August 2006, pp. 183-213
ISSN 1356-9325/print 1469-9575 online q 2006 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13569320600782245
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FI GURE 1 The dark lakes in the Milky Way, among them the celestial Black Llama, as seen by
Pucher de Kroll (1950), Gaposhkin (1960), and used later by Urton (1981) and Arnold and Yapita
(2001).
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Various studies have identied the so-called dark-cloud constellations or black
zodiac in the Milky Way (Pucher de Kroll, 1945; Gaposhkin 1960; Urton 1981). Others
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examine the importance of the Black Llama constellation in Andean societies, past and
present (Zuidema and Urton, 1976; Urton, 1978, 1981: 109 ff.; Berenguer and
Martinez, 1986; Arnold and Yapita, 2001; Arnold, 2004 etc.), or of certain stars such as
Venus (Bauer and Dearborn, 1998; Villarroel, 2004). But few give ethnographic details
of contemporary astronomical practices and their relation to other aspects of daily life,
such as weaving, organized according to a gendered division of labour.
A more recent tendency in the literature on Andean astronomy is the
contemporary esoteric studies of authors such as Carlos Milla Villena (1992),
concerning Andean constellations, particularly the so-called c|o|oo or Southern
Cross. But these, too, fail to specify their sources of information, their regions of study
or regional observational practices, and tend rather toward a universalist and linear
model of Andean astronomy that ignores local variations and contemporary practices.
As a way of lling these lacunae, we examine here the astronomytextile relationship
ethnographically in c rituals in which both practices acquire a special importance:
marking the animals (Sp..! c..c), known as |.!!|o in Aymara, and their mating, known
as o.|o,oo. We describe both rituals ethnographically elsewhere (Arnold and Yapita,
1997, 1998, 2001, 2004). We showed that, in Qaqachaka, the marking of the animals is
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an annual recounting of the new offspring in the herds. In local oral history, the ritual has
strong historical ties to an Inka presence in the region (possibly of ..o.), and Inka ways
of measuring their ocks. Local people say that this is why the knotted cords, called |.o in
quechua or .|.o in Aymara, are still used in the ritual today as a mnemonic device for
tying and so recording the number of new young animals in the ocks. At the same time,
the marking of the animals is a kind of rite of passage, especially for the female animals,
since it marks the date at which the young females reach adolescence and sexual maturity.
This stage of their lives is celebrated with a ritual in which the owof blood fromthe ear-
notching announces an animal menarche. The importance of blood-red, with its strong
Andean association of female fertility, is repeated throughout the rite, even in the music
that accompanies it (Dransart, 1991: 156).
For its own part, the ceremony to mate the llamas demands human intervention in
order to ensure the successful reproduction of the next generation of animals. Here,
special attention is given to the use of certain colours, in particular weavings, read
together with the pertinent astronomical observations, to ensure that the offspring have
eece of the same colours.
In Elviras family, the marking (|.!!|o) of the Andean camelids (llamas and
alpacas) is usually held at Christmas (:o.1o1), the sheep marking in February, and the
llama mating ceremony ( o.|o,oo) follows at Carnival. In each ritual, astronomical
observations are considered essential to determine the starting dates for the
ceremonies, and to contribute to the eece colouring of the new offspring and the
trajectory of their animal lives.
Learning regional astronomical and textual practices
In order to understand the astronomical context of these rites, it is rst necessary to
consider how children learn about astronomy in the region of Qaqachaka, whether the
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names of the stars, their groupings and forms, or the sites from which they make these
observations.
In Elviras experience, the starting point for teaching about the stars is the
observation of the Grandfather Star, +.|o.| Po.oo.o, since this star appears rst of
all at night, and then the smaller ones appear (,oo .o.o|.). First it is necessary
to distinguish this star in the company of an older person, for example a grandfather or
grandmother seeking kindling or driving a llama a little late in the day. Elvira learnt
thus from her maternal grandmother, who would ask her again and again while coming
down the hillside:
And which one is Grandfather Star?, so that I would be a hundred per cent sure.
Then, she would start to teach me about the other stars. This is because the
Grandfather Star is easily recognized; it is larger than the rest and shines strongly
with a yellowish tinge.
Another factor in this process was learning the size of the stars. You started with the
larger stars and then passed on to learn the middle-sized ones and nally the smallest
ones, considered to be their offspring, or oo. For example, when looking at the
Great Pathway (jo.|o 1|o||.) of the Milky Way, the smaller stars were considered to
be like seeds. Typically, her grandmother would say:
u|o +.|o.| Po.oo.o .o, ..||o . . . . . . o.|.. jo. Po.oo.o .oo.
[You know the Grandfather Star, and now . . . mmm . . .youll know the one that
follows: the Person Star.]
At the same time, her grandmother used to advise her not to count the small stars,
because I would have the same quantity of babies!. Likewise, the small stars were
considered to be like mens seed and therefore women were not to count the little
stars, only observe them. They could only be counted when they became extended
vertically and appeared larger.
Once the position of the Grandfather Star or +.|o.| Po.oo.o was learnt, this
oriented the direction of the other stars. For example, +.|o.| Po.oo.o always appears
toward the right (|o.o.... .o.) when observed from a certain place.
The size and brilliance of a star of a certain group also inuenced the weaving
practices of the young ayllu weavers in setting out their textile designs, whereby the
gure of the largest and most brilliant star, +.|o.| Po.oo.o, would have 12 points or
more, in a weaving design that is also relatively larger in scale, whereas woven gures
of the smaller stars would have only two or four points, in relatively smaller designs.
Between these two extremes, other medium-sized gures of the middle-sized stars are
made (see gure 2).
On a larger scale, the more general observations of the Milky Way are
incorporated into the textile design called o,..o, which is like a herding river for the
llamas. The principal zigzag design in this case imitates the curved form of the Milky
Way or Great Road (jo.|o 1|o||.), while the textile designs on its edges imitate the
stars and also the earthly herd animals: llamas and alpacas (see gure 3). These curved
elements also replicate the daily up- and downhill wanderings of the animals, guided by
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the leading herd animal (1.!o..c), expressed in the design as a coloured point in the
form of an eye. This reiterates the presence of the Grandfather Star, +.|o.| Po.oo.o,
which is the rst to appear in the evening and the last to vanish at dawn, just like the
leading herd animal.
This would imply that in Qaqachaka, as elsewhere in the Andes, +.|o.| Po.oo.o is
a more generic name for Venus (Sp. to...c), like both the Evening Star (Sp. i..!!o 1.!
+o.1....) and Morning Star (Sp. i..!!o 1.! +o....) (see Villarroel, 2004), due to its
elliptical movement, accompanying the sun by day and the moon by night. This
difference evidently had gendered consequences. In some regions, Venus as the
Morning Star accompanying the sun is considered to be masculine, and as the Evening
Star, accompanying the moon, feminine, in a celestial version of the familiar Andean
duality. In other accounts, such as that of Garcilaso, Venus, in the more feminine guise
as the most beautiful star, must accompany the sun, whether in front or behind him
(Bauer and Dearborn, 1998: 129). Villarroel (2004) describes how the textile designs
in Chojnacota community, in another part of Oruro (Prov. Totora), draw on this dual
aspect of Venus to express gendered difference, for example in images of a bull and
cow, united by this star in a seed-like design. In Qaqachaka, however, both aspects of
Venus are regarded as masculine.
These kinds of association are evident historically, for example in the famous
cosmological drawing by the Aymara- and Quechua-speaking chronicler, Santacruz
Pachacuti Yamqui, in his r.!o..c 1. +.o.1o1. 1.. r.,c 1.! t..o (..1613). Like the
whole document of which it is part, this drawing is a complex combination of Andean
FI GURE 2 Achach Warawara: the Morning and Evening Stars.
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names and ideas situated amid the criteria of Spanish indoctrination into Christianity
during that period (see the commentary by Duviols and Itier, 1993). Figure 4
illustrates the Quechua names for Venus; as the Morning Star, Venus is called .|o..o
.c,!!c. (many-pointed star) or the more masculine o.|o.|. o.o.. (grandfather of the
day), whereas as the Evening Star, Venus is called .|co. .|..|o, (silver southern
star) or the more feminine oo.|. c.c.. (grandmother of the day).
1
Venus also gured in textile designs in Inka times. For example, in a rite of passage
at the adolescence of young Inka men, when they were given a woven belt called o.o,
and a kind of breechcloth, inspired with designs of Venus (coo.o.) that were held to
give them maturity and truthful speech (Polia, 1999: 355). Mary Frame has analysed
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these Venus designs at length, and her illustrations of both these belts and loincloths
show how this star frequently appears as an eight-pointed gure. Gordon Brotherston
has always insisted that this kind of numerical detail is not coincidental. The same kinds
of star design appear, for example, throughout another seventeenth-century chronicle,
that of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala: 1|. :o.o cc.c..o , io. cc/...c (..1613). In
these cases, the eight-pointed design would refer to the cycles of Venus in Inka
astronomy.
It is customary among Qaqachaka herders to observe these stars when they go up
to the herding huts ( oo) at certain times of year, for example from November to
February, in the stages of transhumance of the animals from the grazing points closer to
home, to others further out in the hills. In these months, the young shepherdesses walk
at night under the full moon as they come down from the herding-out huts on the
FI GURE 3 A woven gure of the Sky Pathway of the llamas: Aywira.
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hillsides to their own homes, watching the stars to see if they are nearing the tops of
certain hills, or not.
The fortress observatories called Pukara
Certain places in the o,!!o are used for these astronomical observations. One is a ritual
site called o|o.o, fortress, on the way to Taqawa hamlet, on the border with the
neighbouring o,!!o of Laymi. You cant observe from just anywhere! to|o.o are
invariably situated on those hilltops (.|oo) that have the form of a pap, neither on the
very top nor on the at plain, rather between them. Each family and community has its
own o|o.o where these observations are made, and they are remembered in rituals and
libations as .|o o|o.o, o.|o o|o.o, lesser and greater fortress.
These ritual sites have |... principal uses according to |... ceremonial stages, mainly
in the herding year. In the rst of these stages, these sites serve as offering places (!.oo),
for both families and the whole community, for example for receiving the reconstituted
skeleton of a sacriced animal in the rite called literally taking out health (o!o. o,oo),
when you suck health out of the grey matter of a craniumbefore burying it in a mountain
dug-out coffer (Arnold, 2005). In the second stage, the o|o.o sites serve as sites for
ceremonies such as the marking of the animals (|.!!|o). And in the third stage of the year,
they serve for observing the stars, for example at sowing time during September and
October, called miracle time (.!o. .o), months considered especially propitious for
these observations since there is more communication between the heavens and the
earth. On these occasions, a family will go to its o|o.o on the night of a full moon, full of
stars, to observe the Pleiades or Goat-kids (xo..!!o), and the Eyes of the Llama (which are
Alpha y Beta Centauri in the Southern Cross, according to Western astronomy). Once
there, family members collect in a textile bundle everything that has to do with the stars:
FI GURE 4 The cosmological drawing by Santacruz Pachacuti Yamqui (c.1613).
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stones, animal dung, wild plants, and so on, and the following day they take these home and
begin a series of toasts (.|o!!o) to each one of them:
u|o .|.... .|o..o,
.|...... .o.|o,.o . . .
[That which shines has given me this,
that which shines has shown me this . . .]
The fact that starlight had shone on these objects is considered good luck for the family,
and they speculate: So I think Ill have this . . . in the coming year. For example, the
dung that shone with the starlight was considered particularly propitious for the elds
(where it was buried the following day), and for generating more herd animals in the
forthcoming year.
During these observations, the direction of travel and the incipient position of the
Pleiades (oo) or the Eyes of the Llama (o.o to,.o, the Southern Cross) was
estimated in relation to some of the highest hills in the o,!!o: above all Turu (the
Grandfather Mountain), Jujchu (the Grandmother Mountain), and Phiri Phiri (regarded
as their Son). The participants in the ritual wait for the moment when these stars drift
over such a hill and become centred on the middle of the hilltop. For Elvira, its as if
the hill itself were breathing with the stars that approached ( .o.) the summit:
t|... t|....o ,oo .o., ..
[Theyve already approached the summit of Phiri Phiri, they say.]
Her idea here is that the stars that dwell in the inner world (o|oo.|o) within a
mountain, located in the subterranean lakes found there, are born again from the
mouth-like summits of these outstanding hills, when the mountain breathes them out
(oo.|.) in the precise moment in the year when they appear just above the horizon
(cf. Earls and Silverblatt, 1976).
Other occasions for observing the stars have to do with the farming year, and the
ritual duties of the authorities (o,o.o) in charge of both the collective and individual
elds of the o,!!o.
Yet another kind of observation has to do with the slow shifting or drift of
movement (precession) of the Milky Way or Great Pathway (jo.|o 1|o||.) over the
course of the year. According to Elvira, the axis of the Milky Way rst moves to the
right, and you would have to go to the place called .|o o|o.o (lesser fortress) to
observe it. Then it turns to the left, and you have to go to the greater fortress, o.|o
o|o.o, for example the one called to.o (Gateway), which is an enormous pen in the
hills where the male llamas graze.
The principle observations are made according to the three main seasons of the year:
sowing, the rainy season and harvest. During sowing, the stars are watched to knowif it is
the right moment to sowthe crops. You watch in particular to see if the stars are twinkling
or if they are dull, as well as for the moment of the full moon. Only then do you begin
to sow, working on the nights of the full moon. Later, in the rainy season ( o!!oo.|o),
you watch the stars to identify the possibility of a cold spell, which could damage the plants.
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If the stars are very bright and with a yellowish tinge, then you have to light re in the
elds, to prevent the cold from penetrating the plants and so that the clouds appear.
During the harvest, you likewise watch for the full moon, and then the grains are harvested
by cutting the stems. If there is no full moon, people are reluctant to harvest.
The ceremony of marking the animals: killpha
Now let us examine the animal marking ritual called |.!!|o. Before this ritual, you
watch the sky for a critical moment in the cycles of |... celestial bodies: the full moon,
the Pleiades and the Black Llama constellation.
Observations of the full moon (o.o) are made from the three highest mountains
already mentioned: Phiri Phiri (the Son), Jujchu (the Grandmother, situated on the
border with neighbouring Laymi) and Turu (the Grandfather, situated on the border
with Condo ayllu). You watch particularly for the moment of .!!o (scattering),
when the full moon approaches the top of these hills, as seen from the ritual sites called
o|o.o. These hills are considered sacred for these observations, which also identies
the moment when the darkness of the night sky diminishes.
In the same way, you watch the position of the Goat-kids (or Pleiades) that moves
from month to month. In this case, there are c options. Sometimes this group of stars
(which moves together) comes forward at Christmas-time, while at other times it
falls behind for February. When this grouping approaches one of the sacred hilltops,
this is the sign to begin the |.!!|o rite. People would remark that it is already
approaching the pen, and so we must carry out the |.!!|o.
The third series of observations has to do with watching the Black or Mother Llama
(1o,|o o.o), dark lakes of interstellar dust, to see when they approach these sacred hills.
When these three heavenly bodies reach their destinations, only then do people
begin to prepare the ritual bundles (.|oo) that contain all the paraphernalia necessary
to carry out the marking ceremony, including the implements for nicking the animals
ears, the woollen ear-rings to be inserted into the ears of the females, the o!!o or
.|.o (coloured threads) of dyed wool tied onto the backs and necks of the males,
their tassels and bobbles ( ooo), etc. (see gure 5).
The young women of the family begin to prepare these different textile elements
from this moment onward, inspired by the colours of the stars they see in the night sky.
Importantly, these observations also have to do with colour.
The bundles for this rite also contain the family knotted cords, the well-known
.|.o (or |.o in Quechua), in which you tie the quantity of animals involved. They say,
as they knot the animal count into the threads:
j..||o ooooo. . . . o|o o . . . o|o o|ooo. o|oo.. o.. . .
[Now, how many are there? . . . Now good . . . we shall count how many there
are . . .]
Bonres are kept up all night long at the side of the animal pens, where the participants
waft around incense and ground-up wild herbs, by way of forewarning the animals of
the incipient rite and curing them against illnesses. Elvira recounts:
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I saw it once, but I dont recall exactly how it was, but there were some bonres
. . . to turn away the foxes. And a few live coals were taken from these same
bonres, and then incense was sprinkled on them and they were carried around the
animals, as if to say that the animals were being forewarned, no? . . . They had to go
around the pens some three times, I think . . . with incense or some herb . . .
sometimes they had herbs instead of incense, if Im not mistaken. They collected
things at Christmas-time, from Qhusmi Uma (Shiny Water), which is a place we
could call sacred: straw, shrubs of, whats it called?, oo (bittermint), then there
were others, such as oooo . . . and all this was taken and ground up, right? So, as
I say, they walked around with this mixture as a kind of medicine for the animals,
giving them notice that they were going to carry out the |.!!|o ritual.
Once they had done these rounds, the participants would say my animals are already
grouped together, now Ive to carry out the |.!!|o. Then the other participants
were informed about the ritual with another round, this time of coca leaves, when
they said:
t|o.o|o ,oo o!.|..o|. ..oo. ...c !oo.o o||oo . . .
[The moon is already approaching, this mm hill, they say, so . . . we must carry out
the marking now.]
FI GURE 5 The animal marking ceremony: killpha.
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Then all of them came outside and began the ritual. It began in the evening,
awaiting the full moon, although the Evening Star (+.|o.| o.oo.o, the Grandfather
Star) came out rst.
First of all, the most fertile female in the herd was marked by notching her ears
with the family marking (whether key, window, partridge, and so on), and the
participants, especially the women, watched the degree of blood ow, and then
decorated her with earrings. Then they went on to mark the rest of the animals. In each
case, the animal owners destined each offspring for a certain member of the family:
+|o oo|., o|o o!!o. . . .
[This one belongs to my child, and this other one to my son-in-law . . .]
Gradually, a pile of ear-pieces was accumulated on two different weavings: the pieces
from the males ears are put into a coca bag, of the kind used by men, and the pieces
from the females ears on a coca cloth of the kind used by women.
The counting of the animals and the play of star colours
The animals were counted by knotting the cords of a family .|.o, using a textile
language that codies the quantity of animals in the kind of knot used, and the colours
of the animals according to the colours of the threads used (cf. Arnold et al., 2000:
Chapter 11). In this context, each knot was called the knot of the star (o.oo. .|.o)
or the eye of the star (o.oo. !o,.o), because the animals of each new owner had to
shine in quantity like the stars, and the knots (.|.o) themselves were considered to be
a part of the stars (o.oo. o..). Here again there is a vital semantic link between
woven elements (the knots), the quality of shining like the stars, and the notion of
proliferation, like the stars.
The key reference points in the night sky were always the Milky Way, considered
to be the Great Pathway (jo.|o 1|o||.) where the stars were piled up together, as
well as some other specic star groupings located there. In the context of the annual
animal counting, the Great Pathway of the Milky Way was considered to be the vein
(..|o) that constituted the principal cord of the family .|.o or |.o. Beginning with this
principal cord are born all the rest, in the sense that the knots that go in the form of
stars, mark out all the other pathways that exist in the Great Pathway. Each pendant
cord of the .|.o was of a certain person in the sense of his or her own road (|o||.)
and the tying of the knots went one after the other.
As regards colour, specic colours were used for each thread, according to the
colour of each owner whose quantity of animals was marked there. The idea in this case
was that the inspirational colour used in the animal mating ceremony ( o.|o,oo) in
the previous year had come to bear, and now had to be assured there in the knots.
Once again, there is the vital link between colour and generation. Each knot of the male
type (o.o .|.o) that did not come undone easily (see gure 6) marked the quantity of
each animal group of a certain colour (see Arnold et al., 2000). For example, red-
coloured threads (.|.o) were inserted in some knots to indicate the fact that the
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quantity it marked was of animals of that colour; in other cases a white or black thread
was inserted to mark the quantity of white or black animals respectively. As a result,
you knew exactly what colours you had in your herd.
Elvira heard from her grandparents that, in the past, the Inkas of the region used
this technique of inserting threads (.|.o) into the knots so as not to lose the
llamas and alpacas of the region (implying that the added threads, like the animals
they denoted, were constrained by the knots), and that the Inkas also used the
technique of tying the beginning of each pendant thread with whippings of three
colours. The people of Qaqachaka simply followed this way of marking (see gures
7 and 8).
The shining of the animals
In the |.!!|o ceremony, the quantity and strength of the herds during the coming year
is at stake. This is why the younger animals born in the past year are compared to
certain stars in the Milky Way; the animals must live various years and few stars die,
for the stars are shining everyday. Elvira commented:
A star rarely falls, rarely . . . and it has to do with that. The animals have to last.
Therefore they do the marking together with the stars, because the animals must
endure in the same way as the stars.
FI GURE 6 A male knot (urqu chinu) in a Qaqachaka chinu.
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FI GURE 7 Coloured threads (chimpu) inserted in a historical kipu (fromthe Miccinelli collection
in Naples).
FI GURE 8 An Inka-style whipping of three colours on a pendant thread
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She added, They must travel, they must render wool, and they must render their
dung for the elds. Thats why they say: joo.. o,o ...oo 1oo!o . . . [You
will always guide me, Lord . . .] because you are stronger. Here, she was addressing
the leading animal of the ock as an aspect of the strongest celestial body of all, the
Sun Father, 1oo i., the Inka god they still worship in the o,!!o. She emphasized how
they address this sky deity, saying: You must guide me because you really will
endure for many years. The o,!!o members repeat this same idea of endurance and
longevity in their toasts and songs to the animals, in formulaic phrases such as the
following:
Poo ooo|. . . .
[For the offspring of my offspring . . .]
The tradition of animal inheritance (o.) forms an integral part of the marking
ceremony. In a logical sequence, the participants contemplate how the stars bestow
longevity to the animals, and how the llamas that do not age rapidly will have plenty of
animal offspring that can be passed on to a herders human offspring. It will go on
reproducing; it doesnt die out. Its the same as the stars, which also reproduce.
Sometimes they fall, so there must be a new one, as they say. Here again, Elvira
reiterates how the stars are like animals or people. When a star falls in the night sky,
she holds that an animal or person dies, but another is born in that very instant.
Beyond these immediate analogies are other aesthetic ideas about colour and
appearance. The o,!!o members consider that the llamas and alpacas as a whole must
shine in quantity like the stars in the Milky Way, especially the Eyes of the Llama
(o.o to,.o). This idea seems to relate starlight and colour to the animals endurance.
Thats why they say:
o.o !o,.o, ,o o.o !o,.o oo.o|..|., oo.o|.o.
j..||o o||oo.o|.. o|o ooooo. . ..
[Just as there is the Eyes of the Llama (o.o !o,.o),
So now my llamas will shine in the same way too.]
The herders hope that the llamas and alpacas will shine like these celestial Eyes. That
this Eye which is shining up there may shine the same way down here, then there can be
some communication between them, with the animals, as we would say.
In the context of Qaqachaka ideas about the quality of colour and light, and their
origins in a celestial domain, we are reminded of a local myth concerning the Origin of
Fire, often told in relation to the practices of dying wool before weaving it (see also Arnold,
1997b). The myth tells howthe Fox is instructed by his adversary toseek re fromdifferent
celestial bodies, in order to cook supper. The poor Fox goes off to visit the Moon or the
Evening Star, in order to request some re, but while he is waiting he manages to singe his
bushy tail in the re, turning the tip red. Meanwhile, his adversary back on Earth eats all the
food in the cooking pot. This tale seems to reect on the celestial origins of re, in the
context of dyeing or cooking wool over re (|o.,oo) so that the colours shine (|oo)
fromwithin, as if the starlight origins of the re were still embedded there. The colour red
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(.!o) of the Foxs burnt tail is regarded as the very essence of all colours (Arnold and
Yapita, 1998), and has a close relationship with the dark lakes of the Milky Way, as
opposed to the brilliant whiteness of the Great Pathway of stars.
Astronomical observations are also made in relation to other everyday herding
chores. In a similar semantic domain to that which relates each animal to its own star, it
is held that the older animals of a ock are particularly associated with the Grandfather
or Evening Star (+.|o.| o.oo.o). In daily practice, the Evening Star is observed to
know whether all the llamas have arrived in time in their pens. In this context, Elvira,
while herding her own llamas and alpacas, heard her grandmother say:
+.|o.| o.oo.o .|o.o|., o.|o.| o.oo o..o|. o....
[The Evening Star has already come out, but my grandfather llama hasnt yet
arrived!]
+.|o.| o.oo|o o. o...
|o..|oo.
+.|o.| o.oo.o o..o|. .o..,
M.o. o|o o.o..|o.
[The grandfather llamas have not arrived yet,
What shall we do?
The Grandfather star has not come out either,
Perhaps they will come when it comes out.
The old llamas will probably arrive when the Old Star comes out (laughter).]
These old llamas are called !oo, because they delight in walking slowly at the tail
end of the herd, and they always tarry in coming down from the hillsides. They
used to walk with the Evening Star, with that light. According to Elviras
grandmother:
The old llamas always used to arrive late, because they like to come by the light of
the Old Star, the Evening Star, because this star is also old. Therefore a woman
herder had to go and look for him; if she didnt, it was likely that a fox could get
him, lets say. And so shed go to look for him.
Elvira conceptualizes this relation as a communication between them, between the old
llama and the Evening Star.
The ritual of mating the animals: jarqhayana
Now let us consider the animal mating ceremony, o.|o,oo, when the o,!!o women
draw on a homologous set of relations between the stars and their weavings. As in the
|.!!|o marking ceremony, the beginning of the mating ceremony coincides with the
coming out of the Grandfather or Evening Star (+.|o.| Po.oo.o) and with the full
moon (o.o). Later on, during the course of the ceremony, the women likewise handle
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weavings of certain colours to inuence the colouring of the offspring stemming from
the ceremony. The difference is that, in this case, the use of colour is more inspirational
than in the marking ceremony.
Before carrying out the rite, the participants wait for a clear night with a full moon,
as it is important to see the stars during the ceremony. They go to the observatory
called o|o.o situated about 3 km from the community. In times past, the lesser and
greater fortresses ( .|o o|o.o, o.|o o|o.o) were considered sacred for performing
the mating ceremony and it was never performed in the village; nowadays they
generally perform it in the village, since people are lazier.
During the mating rite, in a gendered division of labour, the men control the
participation of the male animals while the women focus more on the colouring of the
resulting offspring (see gure 9). If there is a particularly strong male that could crush a
female, then the men have to restrain it with ropes. The men also participate indirectly
in controlling the colouring of the resulting offspring by using special decorated ropes
with splendid colours and complex patterns (see Arnold and Yapita, 2001). In addition,
the men inuence the colouring of the herd animals by picking out the male studs.
Sometimes they go some distance to seek good sires in the high hillsides of the o,!!o
(around Mount Turu or Jujchu). At other times, they go even further, to Mount
Asanaqi or Sajama, where the pasture is better and likewise the quantity of the llama
meat and eece, to hire a sire with pretty colours, in exchange for a whole ooo,c full
of food (o.o), say corn, or the dehydrated potato called .|oc.
FI GURE 9 The mating ceremony: jarqhayan a, with the beautiful ropes woven by the men.
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The desire for star colours
Meanwhile, the women participants try to predetermine the colours of the herd
animals by using weavings of particular colours, which have their celestial counterparts.
This process begins in earnest as the Evening Star comes out on the day selected for the
ceremony, when the women take up their coloured mantles (ooo,c) according to the
offspring colouring they desire the most.
In the case of llamas, if a woman wishes to have a dark-brown offspring (.|o.)
in her ock, then she places an ooo,c of this same colour over the mating sire as if to
cover him. The idea is that the offspring of this mating will have the same dark
brown. Likewise, if she wants a black-coloured offspring (.|.,o.o), she would place a
very black ooo,c (of the colour called .|.,o. .|.!o) over the mating sire, or if she
wants pied offspring (o!!o), she would place over him a striped food sack of similar
colours. As a result, according to Elvira, sometimes theyd turn out the same pied
colouring, o!!o, or like a condor (|oo..) if shed put over him a weaving of that
colour.
This aspect of the rite, of relating an aguayo or poncho colouring with the colour of
the offspring resulting from the mating, has a strong nexus with starlight. For example,
if a herder wants a baby llama of a dark-black hue, in this case the twinkling of the star
should not enter in any way underneath the textile placed over the sire, because the
starlight would lighten the colour. In this case, the star should not be allowed to
penetrate this mating and the herder should cover the sire completely with black
weavings, so that not a single ray of light could get in. Only in that way will the
offspring turn out completely black (.|.,o. .|.!o).
On the other hand, if the herder wants a totally white offspring, then she would
not cover the sire at all, so that the offspring shines completely with the light of all the
stars. Or if she wanted just a little white in the offsprings colouring, then she would
cover the sire with a dark brown aguayo (.|o.) but with a little white in it.
Alternatively she may allow a little starlight to enter underneath the mantle.
The women also use weaving designs to inuence the colour of the resulting
offspring. For example, in order to have an all-black baby llama, the women might
place over the site a weaving with a completely black plain area ( oo), but with some
gures of stars or wild animals. They hold that the stars penetrate into these designs
and that these gures answer the stars back, and that both of them come to
understand each other, in the sense that the gures shine as do the stars. However, the
black plain area does not shine. That is why, in order to obtain an all-black llama
(.|.,o. .|.!o), the stars should not penetrate through to the mating sire. In this case,
a dark-black colouring is compared to the darkness of the night sky.
If, for some reason, the night sky becomes overcast, the herders believe that this
darkening will make the offspring have a darker eece, and they compensate by
covering the sires with weavings of lighter colours. As Elvira says, Its all of a game.
Elvira told how her grandmother once wanted an all-white baby llama during a
ceremony with a particularly overcast sky. Her grandmother did not have one single
white ooo,c at home, because these are not generally woven in Qaqachaka, and in
these circumstances she had to seek at the last moment some white rustic cloth (/o,.o)
woven by the men in the family, to cover the sire during the mating.
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A woman also draws on the star-colour-weaving relation to inuence the sex of the
young animals she desires for her ocks. For example, if she wants males (o.o.o.o),
then she covers the sire with a weaving that has some threads spun to the left (.|.o.
ooo |oo), usually a poncho or aguayo with a herringbone effect (|o..) at the
borders. Such garments, woven with left-spun warps (|o..) on the textile edges (..o)
or in the central seam (.|o|o), ensure that the offspring will be male:
+|o |o...
o|o o.oo|oo|. |oo
o|o o.o oo.|ooo|. . . .
[This has |o.. (a herringbone effect)
These are good for having males,
This is so there will be more male offspring . . .]
In the case of sheep, the practice is a little different. Since sheep mate year-round, a
woman herder must take advantage of the marking rite to drape an aguayo of the colour
she desires over the wall of the pen, in order to generate this certain colour in her ock.
Elvira commented how weavings are generally woven taking this factor of the
colouring of the future animals into account. Sometimes, though, weaving labour at
home is not sufcient to full the ambition of a shepherdess for a multiplicity of colours
in her ock. For example, sometimes a shepherdess wants different coloured llamas in
her ock, of say four, ve or six colours, and not all these colours can be found among
the weavings in her household. At home, there may be only three colours. In this case,
the woman with foresight would have to go to borrow from someone, say her aunt or
someone else in the community (just as her grandmother did), and say please lend me
a textile of such a colour, I dont have one and I need it; then they would bring out the
textile and lend it to her. She would do this taking into account the days left before the
ceremony, according to her astronomical observations.
Even the edges (called |oo) of food sacks are woven with reinforced seams so
that they dont wear out, and these strong seams (|ooo) are woven in white with
black or a coffee-brown colour, thinking of the beautiful colours of the animals in the
ocks. Oh, condor, I shall get a condor-colour this time, theyd say, as they reinforce
the corners of the sack, with black at the ends and white in the middle, and the
offspring would come out just like baby condors. In the case of alpacas it was the same.
Likewise, a woman would insert coloured threads (.|.o) into their aguayos, or in the
bobbles at the corners, in order to have at her disposal a maximum colour range when
the mating ritual came (see gure 10).
Libations (challa) and song
While the women concentrate on the colours in the woven garments and their structural
techniques, thinking of the coming offspring, the men begin to toast the results of the
ceremony, this time with the force of their words. As Elvira says, The men always help
with their strength. Later on, after draping the coloured aguayos and ponchos over the
mating sires, the women too begin to toast the events and sing to the animals:
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1o o||o |o.|o.o o||o !o,.o.o . . .
[Now we have light, now we have eyes . . .]
The women also remember the stars in their songs:
Po,o, ...oo o, 1oo!o, . . .
[So you will guide me, oh Father . . .]
And record in their toasts the names of the stars, the moon, and so on.
Later in the evening, the women take time to remember in toasts all the
pathways (|o||.) throughout the lives of their llamas, beginning with the place of
birth of a certain llama, in the pens of other o,!!o, and recording in this way the history
of the llamas from the time of the Inkas onward. Gradually, they name the places along
the pathways where the llamas dwell (something like the structure of a city like La
Paz), mentioning in particular the fortresses they have frequented: Pinkillir Qasa
(Fluted Gap), Uma Phusu (Blowing Water), Purta (Gateway) and so on. In addition,
they name the places the llamas frequent every day, given that their daily routes are
always different. They go one day to one place, then the following day to another,
seeking the best pastures, and they do a complete circuit of the o,!!o in the whole year
rather like completing the layout of a loom (see gure 11).
FI GURE 10 Coloured threads (chimpu) in the womens mantles.
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Only then do they turn to the ritual corner (.|.o), which is the name for their
pens, and nally they name the stars associated with the animals.
The dance of the stars
After the ritual, the participants leave the o|o.o site to return to the village. The
women collect up the coloured weavings they draped over the mating llamas and
alpacas, in order to obtain young of the same colours, and then they return dancing, in
a row of women on one side and a row of men on the other. In a kind of throwing
game, they toss the weavings back and forth amongst them: This will be prettier for
you, and this will be prettier for you . . ..
And thus the women would begin to sing:
c|o. oo,o. ooo.o,
ioo,o|.. o. o.oo. . . .
[Ive put a brown aguayo over you,
Youll not go in vain . . .]
Elvira claried howthe throwing game replicates the idea that you wont go in vain, since
brown offspring will really result fromthe brown-coloured aguayo Ive draped over you.
The vital interrelationship between the night sky and earthly matters inuences this
nal part of the mating ritual, as the participants comment amongst themselves when
tossing the textiles: With the oncoming darkness of the sky, my llamas will turn out
FI GURE 11 The daily routes of the llamas in a woven form.
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the same dark hue (.|.,o. .|.!o), nice and dark like the sky (.|.,o. .!o
.|oo|o.oo), due to this weaving.
According to Elvira, the very dance on this occasion is performed in a pattern like
the stars, since the dancers make a zigzag gure as they toss the weavings to and fro,
like a loom, but with the weavings. It is as if the dancers were braiding among
themselves the guiding thread of the Goat-kids Pathway (the Pleiades), while at the
same time they were braiding together all the stars with their different colours (see
gure 12). Elvira commented thus:
Lets say like the stars because when the Pleiades come out, they come out as a
line, dont they, just like a huge vein. . .. This vein is really clear, you see it like
this, huge like a great thread, isnt it? So, this vein would be the middle axis, with
the two rows of men and women, dont you think, and at the other side are the
stars. . .. Then these stars start to braid with the aguayo weavings. The men throw
them here and the women throw them there, and its as if they were braiding all
the colours of the stars. . ..
Here, the dancers replicate the complex structures and colours of a weaving, both
celestial and earthly, in which the threads of different colours go in all directions. The
textile patterns in these dances even inspire the women in the months ahead to weave
entirely new and much more complex weaving structures, of eight warp groupings and
more, in the new weaving creations of the o,!!o. In this way, weaving creativity derives
its inspiration directly from the sense of movement of the stars.
These kinds of cultural practices are at odds with Western theories of colour, wherein
the mixture of different colours of light is considered to result in a white tonality or where
the mixture of coloured dyes results in a black tonality. In Qaqachaka, instead of such
universal theories of practice, there are c other possibilities. On the one hand, the
women weavers hold a more individual sense of the colours pertaining to each person or
family, for example according to the colouring of the threads (.|.o) they tie in the .|.o
knots during the marking ceremony. On the other, there exists the sense of the whole
FI GURE 12 The dance of the stars.
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repertoire of colours used by a community. In this more communal context, the weavers
think of the combined colours of the stars that come out fromthe Great Pathway or White
River that is the Milky Way. In order toavoid scattering them, it is consideredan obligation
of community members to braid constantly all these colours in the threads of their
weavings, or in the mating dance ritual, and so combine constantly at a communal level all
the colours of the stars found in the night sky.
As their point of reference, the women focus on the middle colours, and then
dene the darker colours (by adding more black) and the lighter colours (with the
addition of more white). As Elvira observed:
For example, black comes out of a dark coffee-brown colour (.|o.). Its the
reverse. Because in the West theres not this sense of the intermediate. Its always one
extreme to the other, and the diffusion of those gives the middle tones. In the Andes
its different; there are always |... elements. There exists man and wife, say, but
between them is the child (oo). And if we were to talk about territory, they always
speak about valleys, the head of the valleys and the highland ( oo) . . . there are those
|... elements again, and there the |... regions intertwine. Its always three, not
simply two, such as left and right (|o. .|.o). Its another theory of colour.
Another dominant idea is that each star shines with its own distinct colour and that
the llama has to shine with its own colour, just the same. However, the notion of
shining or twinkling, as we say in the West, has an added dimension of sound. We
are in the realm of the sound of light described by Platt (1992), and others. The
Aymara verb .|...|..o is used to describe this characteristic twinkling, for
example of the Evening Star, as with twinkling eyes (+.|o.| Po.oo.o .|...|...).
They say .|...|... ,oo .o.: Its twinkling, its already come out:
For example, some stars shine from the middle . . . some say that the Evening Star
(+.|o.| Pooo.o) shines a brownish yellow (.!!o oo), no?, while others say
its white ( oo). So they imitate the stars, according to what they see when
they drape the textiles, dont they? And the llama must shine just the same. . .
Other stars are said to run fast and at that moment they change their colour. In
another moment it could turn a coffee-brown colour, for example, as it passes behind
some branches.
The precession of the black male llamas
Other astronomical practices are in the hands of the men of the o,!!o. Traditionally an
important series of astronomical observations was made during the long journeys by
the llama herding men from places such as Qaqachaka in the highlands to the warm
valleys of Chuquisaca, in search of bartering products between the two distinct
ecological niches. The basic exchange was of salt from the altiplano for valley corn.
During these journeys, the llama herders observed the Milky Way, or the Great
Pathway (jo.|o 1|o||.), as their frame of reference, sometimes calling it directly o.o
1|o||. Llama Trail. Within the curved axis of the Milky Way, they observed the
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Evening and Morning Stars (+.|o.| Po.oo.o), the Eyes of the Llama (o.o to,.o), and
the groupings called the constellation or black lakes, especially the Male Llamas
(u.o.o.o) and their celestial wallows (Po!oo or |o,oo). They would also watch
the way the stars in the Milky Way spread outward (.!!o .o), as these observations
told them about the direction of the route they should take and the fortune of the trip.
In the book r... c t!...., r... c :c (Arnold and Yapita,2001), we describe the
commentaries of the llama herders and their wives as they set off on the journey, when
they observe the Black Llamas, especially the Mother Llama (1o,|o o.o) feeding her
young through a celestial umbilical cord. At this time of the year, they compare her pee
with the salt from the salt ats where the llama herders go to fetch the salt to barter for
valley corn. The historical counterparts of these contemporary practices are found in
certain chapters of r.c , 1.o1...c. 1. Po.o.|... (for example, Chapter 29) compiled
in the sierra around Lima by the extirpator of idolatries, Father Arriaga, at the
beginning of the seventeenth century (..1607).
On these journeys to the valleys, the llama herders had to sleep out during the cold
nights of May and June, in the places called o.o or o.o.o, where they piled up the
sacks containing the products for barter with their valley counterparts. When resting at
night, they would look up at the Great Pathway (jo.|o 1|o||.) of the Milky Way, and
the stars to all sides, and say:
x|oo, |o||.o o.o|o.o|.o, o.oo. .oo.
[Walking those pathways, you go looking at the stars.]
They perceived their route as passing through the axis of the Great Pathway. They
would seek out the position of the Evening Star (+.|o.| Po.oo.o) and other stars in
relation to this main axis (or middle pathway), where the Pleiades were found,
because it told them about the happenings of the journey, and whether they would
encounter a thief or not. According to Elvira:
. . . sometimes they say that the Grandfather Star would enter into the middle.
This means that they would encounter a thief, so they would have to take
precautions at that moment . . . they had to guard their things. For example, they
put pots in their sleeping places ( o.o) to simulate the heads of sleeping men, right?
Theres a tale where a thief would come and look at the pot and say: Hes there on
top, Ill kill him. Then he would take a stick and BANG . . . he would strike the
pot but not kill the owner, no? [laughter]. And who had warned him about this? It
was the star, wasnt it? And so there were things like this. Its always the Evening
Star, +.|o.| Po.oo.o, which has to be further away from the grouping, from that
pile (oo, the Pleiades) . . . it cannot go inside.
The metaphysics of star gazing
Watching the stars has an added metaphysical dimension, to do with recalling the stages
in a human lifetime or with the dead of the o,!!o, as if the stars embodied the spirits of
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the dead and also certain aspects of a persons spirituality (see gure 13). Regarding the
dead, Elvira observed that:
The stars could be like the heads of the dead, couldnt they?, because the heads or
skulls in the rite of sucking out health (o!o. o,oo) are looking upward, so,
toward the moon or the stars, as if they were remembering something. . ..
Regarding the living, she was more sanguine:
I know that the stars give colours to the animals, but I dont know if they give life
as well . . . or perhaps they do give life too.
To illustrate the relation between the stars and the stages of a human life, Elvira
remembered how her maternal grandmother used to read the shadows traced by the
stars in the form of a person walking at night and how the shadows cast by the stars and
the moon revealed the different lives or personalities of somebody:
Now we are going to walk to the place called Wila Utjana [Red Place] on such a
night . . . and on that night there will be a full moon, my granny would say.
Alright. And we would start walking. We would walk and walk, and she would
make me look at my shadow: the rst, the second and the third . . . I think there are
six shadows in all, right? A person has six shadows. And she would say: This is
FI GURE 13 The ancestral skulls that look toward the stars.
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each stage in life: the stage of childhood, of youth, maturity, such and such, and the
one on the middle is to seek friends and boyfriends, so my granny told me. And
she would have a star show you the different stages of your life. Some persons,
though, may have only three or two stages. This means that they will only pass
through these two or three stages of life and then die.
For their part, specialist astronomers in rural communities such as Qaqachaka are still
charged with observing the stars for more philosophical reasons. These wise ones (,o...)
must communicate with the stars, with the moon and the sun, as a part of their personal
life trajectory in wisdom and curing. They puzzle about the stages of the full moon and
the dark of the moon, and in these moments, they always chew their coca leaves.
Moreover, any person that has a healing hand is deemed to communicate with the
heavenly bodies. In this context, the heavenly bodies are held to communicate directly
with the body of the person who knows how to heal, rendering their light to help in the
acts of healing. Elvira explained how Sometimes red or white marks [!o|o ] appear on
the body, roundish in form and sometimes incomplete, on the chest or else behind the
neck, and these seemto be the eyes that heal. According to Elvira, When these things
appear it means that the full moon has reached completion, and so a ower-mark
appears somewhere on the body, but one doesnt realize, or one doesnt know when it
appears, but it does appear, above all on the wise-ones [,o... ]. At this moment, you
communicate with the stars or with the moon. It is like the plant called |o!o..o (Sp.
c..) or the other one called o.o .,o (fontanella), which spill out their owers to all
sides. As Elvira says, At this moment, you can look at the stars and communicate with
them, and moreover you can chew your coca to have a good hand . . . for healing.
The drinking cup of the constellations and other
conclusions
By way of conclusion, it is necessary to compare the daily pragmatics of astronomical
practices in an Andean o,!!o such as Qaqachaka with what present-day intellectuals in
the region, for example the Peruvian architect Carlos Milla Villena, presume are the
astronomical practices of the place.
There are many differences in the way that Carlos Milla Villena and the people of
Qaqachaka practise their astronomical observations. One is the way in which Milla
Villena attributes importance to the visual images of the heavenly bodies as lines traced
on the page, according to his contemporary architectural training, while he ignores the
important body of narrations in oral tradition that accompanies them, and ignores
completely any woven dimension to these practices. So, while Milla Villena draws the
trajectories of celestial movement as straight lines, like architectural drawings, the
community members of Qaqachaka are conscious of the more complex trajectories of
the heavenly bodies. This is evident, for example, in the Dance of the Stars toward the
end of the animal marking ritual, when the participants cast the coloured textiles from
one to another, replicating the more haphazard movement of the heavenly bodies
according to their own experience. As Elvira says, the braiding in this case is not in
straight lines and besides the Great Pathway of the stars always goes in the form of a
curve, its not straight either . . . which is why they say the River of Stars.
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Elvira also made a connection between the seasons of the year, astronomical
observations and the gures the women weave in their textiles, as three-dimensional
structures rather than straight lines. For example, in the rainy season, its difcult to
see the stars for the clouds in the night sky, and in these months its more common to
weave the gures of the stars as surface-designs in the cloth, but these gures did not
enter into the depth of the textile structure. However, at the end of the rainy season,
by February, and especially in the dance at the ends of the animal marking ceremony,
the women are more attentive to changes in the very textile structure.
Another story toldby Elvira about her childhoodemphasizes these differences. It has to
do with the customof leaving two stone drinking cups, called ..c, at the sites of the great
waterfalls called o.|o, as a kind of offering to the spirits of the dead (the ..o o,|o) that
are held to dwell there during the rainy season. In the past, these ..c were well looked
after and animals were not allowed near them. Nowadays, however, even the goats are
allowed to roamthere, pee on the stones and damage the ..c. Elvira narrates once more:
At Carnival, my grandmother used to sing to the sound of a large guitar:
+.|o, .o, .|o, .o,
o!!. !oo.o .|.o
+oo, o.|o ooo . . .
[Tell me morning, tell me mists,
Even the lamp adorned with silver,
When the carnival spirits are going off . . .]
And my granny used to say that the ..o o,|o spirits are this, and the ..o o,|o do
that. She used to start to tell stories so, all about the ..o o,|o, really FAR OUT it
was a whole month in which you spoke about the ..o o,|o. And I would ask
myself:
Why do they put sweets into the ..c Because they always say that sweets
should be put there. And she would answer:
Because they are hungry, the ..o o,|o are hungry. But I insisted:
But why do you put them there, granny?
Ill tell you later, later, she said.
With luck, there was a clear night and the possibility of walking to the village, passing
by the place of the great cascade. There, Elvira and her grandmother found the ..c
and, besides, a group of ..o o,|o whirling spirits (see Arnold and Yapita, 2001).
Elvira told how her grandmother had the custom of making an offering to this place,
as well as to the ..c, before observing the stars in the circling water there (see
gure 14).
One day, evening came upon us at the place called Qhusmi Uma (Shining Water).
It was late and she said:
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Its late, and we cant pass that way because its the month of the ..o o,|o, and
they will attack us.
My grandfather had already died by then. And she said:
Well go to Qalawani.
Qalawani is farther uphill. So, we returned to the Qalawani road and, all of a
sudden, the full moon came out. She said:
No. . .. Its clear enough, we shall be able to see the road. So lets go on, there are
only a few clouds. I think we can get to Qaqachaka alright. And we walked on.
And just then we turned away from the road, and she said:
Lets look at the ..c. I want to know a little about the ..o o,|o. She had her
sweets and her alcohol.
And at the big cascade, as the water fell down, it shone, didn it? It shone with the
stars, too much!
Heck, it really twinkled and twinkled, and even rustled. It was shining, and I was
trembling; it was fearful. And the ..c, as it had rained that day, were full of
water. And my grandmother began to look at the ..c full of water, didnt she?
And she said:
Oh, how nice it is, how nice [o!.| |oo. ||o o!.|.].
She was watching the stars in that water, in the ..c, both of them. Then, she was
communicating at the same time with the ..o o,|o, and with the stars in the
..c, in the ..c where the stars were, and she said:
FI GURE 14 One of two qero drinking cups, with reections of the turning axis of the stars.
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jo. .|o.|o oo., ,o o|o. ooo..
She began to get hold of the white sweets and put three of these in the ..c, and
then she began to watch again. So she herself was correcting the stars lets say,
through her offerings of sweets. She was evidently reading from one side of them
and then from the other. She read it, and then we left.
Therefore those ..c were not simply for the ..o o,|o spirits; they were also for
reading the stars, and then the ..o o,|o could drink that water, couldnt they?
Because she had paid them, she said, for she had placed the sweet offerings there.
She had paid that qero and therefore, as she had paid with the sweets, the ..o
o,|o would not affect her and would let her see her drinking cups of
constellations. Thats what she used to say.
The ..o o,|o are so called because of their constant turning, which is related by the
Qaqachakas to the great turning of the Milky Way over the course of the year. In the
West, this turning is often compared with that of a mill-stone, for example in the well-
known text by Santillana and von Dechend (1969). In Qaqachaka, though, this
movement is compared with that of the ..o o,|o, and the inspiration of weavers in
their woven world. Elvira narrates:
My mother was talking about this turning of the stars, this turning that gives birth,
lets say, to the spirits of the dead called ..o o,|o. These ..o o,|o are in the air,
and they come to encourage the weavers, because that encouragement through the
turning of the stars enters the heart of a weaver, and the weaver then expresses it
in her cloth, doesnt she.
Thats why they sing in the feast of Santa Cruz at the beginning of May this verse in
Spanish, which they say comes from over toward the neighbouring o,!!o of
Jukumani:
+, .c c, o, .c c,
u. ..1c .c .! ..c 1. !o ...!!o
cc .! ..c 1. !o ...!!o |. ..1c,
:o/..1c c1c !c .c!c.. 1. !c |.!c.
[Oh my God, oh my God,
Ive woven with the turning of the stars,
With the turning of the stars, Ive woven
Knowing all the colours of the threads.]
They say this song refers to the cascade of water called Qulimiri, where the water
swirls in the form of the stars.
Such homologies relate the turning movement of the Milky Way, that of the ..o
o,|o, the stars and even swirling water. Another sacred site, from where the animals
emerge according to the myths of Qaqachaka, is called Qasir Quta (Weeping Lake),
which equally turns and turns and turns. As Elvira says:
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When the star is turning in the upper world, so the waters are turning below in the
same way, and the ..o o,|o are moving and they enter further in. Its like a
spindle that goes in and out.
She concluded So, theres lots to do with weavings in all of this, but wed have to
develop a better theory to speak about it, wouldnt we [laughter].
Notes
1 Other chroniclers give alternative names for Venus, such as uoo c.c!!o., jo.|o
Po.o o.o, to.o.. cc,!!o., +o.!!o, to.|o|oo.o. or c|o.|o oo.o., and +oo.o (Bauer
and Dearborn, 1998: 129, cited in Villarroel, 2004), also c|o.o cc,!!o. or to.o..o
cc,!!o., according to Guaman Poma (..1613), and coo.o., according to Polia (1999:
Q3
355). According to Antonio de la Calancha (1976: 833), Venus was said to have
Q3
been born from the foam of the sea, like Viracocha. In Inka times, Venus was
evidently an important design in tocapus, having to do with expressing the wisdom
of the wearer.
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Denise Arnold is an Anglo-Bolivian anthropologist specialized in Andean anthropology
and literature. She holds postgraduate degrees in Architecture and Environmental
Studies, and a doctorate in Anthropology from University College London (1988). She has
been Leverhulme Research Fellow and ERSC Senior Research Fellow in England, and is
currently teaching at the Universidad PIEB and the Universidad Mayor de San Andres in
La Paz, Bolivia. She is visiting Full Professor at Birkbeck College London, and Director of
the Instituto de Lengua y Cultura Aymara in Bolivia. Among her recent publications are
The Nature of Indigenous Literatures in the Andes: Aymara, Quechua and Others,
Vol. III of Latin American Literatures: a Comparative History of Cultural Formations (edited
by Mario Valdes and Djelal Kadir, 2004, Oxford University Press); The Metamorphosis of
Heads: Textual Struggles, Education and Land in the Andes (Pittsburgh University Press,
2006); and Mujeres en los movimientos sociales en Bolivia, 20002003 (La Paz: CIDEM-ILCA,
2005).
Elvira Espejo is a painter, weaver and storyteller. Her rst book of tales, Ahora les voy a
narrar, was a nalist in the Indigenous Literatures Competition organized by Casa de las
Americas in Cuba (1994) and was then published in Bolivia by Casa and UNICEF. She
studied Fine Arts at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes, in La Paz, and has
experience in multimedia. She has had several individual exhibitions of her work
including El arte del altiplano (2005) at the Cadeco Gallery, and has taught courses on
visual languages (Duke in the Andes), and on Andean textiles. She has recently
published some childrens books of her own tales (Sawu parla, 2005; Atipasin parla, 2005),
and formed part of a teamworking on interactive DVDs of Aymara tales in the Instituto de
Lengua y Cultura Aymara, in La Paz, Bolivia.
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