The Secret of the Incas : Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time

Overview

Step by step, Sullivan pieces together the hidden esoteric tradition of the Andes to uncover the tragic secret of the Incas, a tribe who believed that, if events in the heavens could influence those on earth, perhaps the reverse could be true. Anyone who reads this book will never look at the ruins of the Incas, or at the night sky, the same way again. Illustrations.

From the Hardcover edition.

"'This book is the story of an experiment,' to quote the author (p. 12)....

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Overview

Step by step, Sullivan pieces together the hidden esoteric tradition of the Andes to uncover the tragic secret of the Incas, a tribe who believed that, if events in the heavens could influence those on earth, perhaps the reverse could be true. Anyone who reads this book will never look at the ruins of the Incas, or at the night sky, the same way again. Illustrations.

From the Hardcover edition.

"'This book is the story of an experiment,' to quote the author (p. 12). Focuses on myth as the key to understanding the Incas' past. Many conclusions differ from those of standard scholarly literature. Some examples that run counter to orthodox views on Andean peoples are the notion that Andean myth recounts significant precessional events; the view that the three worlds of Andean cosmology were understood, on one level, as locations on the celestial sphere, united by the Milky Way; and the idea that Andean peoples not only had names for all the planets visible to the unassisted eye, but also associated them with important deities. Uses ethnoastronomical studies of Gary Urton and R. Tom Zuidema"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A sometimes murky, frequently meandering excursion into the meaning of ancient Andean beliefs, arguing that in a series of sophisticated myths Incan soothsayers foretold their own civilization's doom at the hands of Pizarro and his conquistadors in 1532.

Sullivan, a scholar of Native American cultures, begins with a question that has perplexed historians of the Spanish conquest: How could the vast Inca Empire, with its millions of subjects, have been conquered overnight by a band of 170 Spanish adventurers? Sullivan digs into the history and mythology of Andean civilization to find what he feels is the answer: For hundreds of years the sages of the Andes had believed that astronomical transitions presaged earthly cataclysms; reading changes in the night skies in the 1400s, Incan priest-astronomers foretold the imminent destruction of their own recently founded empire. Sullivan argues, in a sometimes hyperbolic first-person account ("In that moment I had, I believed, touched for an instant the terrible burden and tragic urgency of the Inca vision"), that the Incas followed the planets, recorded precessional events in their myths, and equated social and celestial changes. He further asserts that elements in Incan culture preceding Pizarro's arrival—constant warfare and the Incan ritual of human sacrifice—represented an attempt to halt the march of time and prevent the apocalyptic events foreshadowed by changes in the night sky. The Incas assumed that the arrival of Pizarro represented the culmination of the prophecy and the failure of their own efforts to prevent its occurrence.

The thread of the author's argument can be hard to follow. Still, Sullivan's deep feeling for Andean folk materials, and the originality of his observations about Andean astronomy, make his text worthwhile for those interested in the history of South American civilization and for those who, in the wake of Joseph Campbell's works, seek enduring meaning in ancient mythology.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517888513
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/1997
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 1,029,409
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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