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The Legend of the Vanishing Bride

The Vanishing Bride

A legend of Viracocha and Huayna Capac

Translated from Francisco de Avila’s “Tratado y relación de los errores, falsos Dioses, y otras supersticiones… de Huarocheri” Chapter 14.

Viracocha is the great creator god in the pre-Inca and Inca mythology. He was one of the most important gods and seen as the creator of all things, or the substance from which all things are created. In the legend of the Vanishing Bride he appeared before the Inca Huayna Capac who was the eleventh Sapa Inca (ruler and governor of the Inca Kingdom) from 1493–1524.

The Legend of the Vanishing Bride

Shortly before the arrival of the whites (referring to the Spanish conquerors), Viracocha betook himself to Cuzco, where he met with the Inca Huayna Capac and he said to him: "My son, let us be off to Titicaca. There I will reveal to you who and what I am."

When they got there, he spoke again: "Inca, summon your people, that we may send forth to the Underworld all the magicians and all those who are wise." He spoke, and at once the Inca gave out the command.

Then his people arrived, some saying, "I am created of the condor," others saying, "I am created of the hawk," still others, "I fly like the swallow."

Then Viracocha gave them this order: "Go to the Underworld! Say to my father, 'Your son has sent me. Let me have one of his sisters.' This, then, is what you must say," he commanded.

Then he who was created of the swallow, together with the other created beings, set out for the Underworld, to return in five days.

Now it was he, the swallow man, who got there first; and when he had arrived and had delivered his message, he was given a small chest, together with the following command: "Do not open this. The lord Huayna Capac himself must open it first," he was ordered.

But while this man was carrying the chest and when he had nearly reached Cuzco, he thought to himself, "I will see what it really is." Then he opened it, and there before him was a woman, very delicate and pretty. Her hair was wavy, it was like gold. She wore a splendid garment, and as she lay in the chest, she was very small.

But the moment he saw her, she vanished. He arrived in Cuzco, very troubled; and Viracocha said to him, "Were you not created of the swallow, I would have you killed at once. Turn around, go back!"

Then he went back to the Underworld and brought her forth again. Along the way, as he was bringing her, whenever he felt hungry and thirsty, he would merely speak the word and at once a table would be spread out before him and a place to sleep.

And so he delivered her in just five days. And when he arrived with her, Viracocha and the Inca received her with great joy.

But before the chest was opened, Viracocha spoke out, crying, "Inca! We will leave this world," and he pointed, saying, "I will go to this land," and he pointed again, saying, "You and my sister will go to that land. You and I will never see one another again."

Then they opened the chest. The moment they opened it the earth was aglow.

Then the Inca Huayna Capac uttered these words: "Never will I return from this place. Only here will I live with my sun maiden, my queen." Then to one of his vassals and kinsmen he gave this command: "You! Go in my place! And say, 'I am Huayna Capac'! Now return to Cuzco!"

And in that moment, he and his bride disappeared, and so too did Viracocha.

Then sometime later, when the supposed Huayna Capac was dead, his successors began quarreling among themselves. They fought over who would be ruler, each saying, "I am first," and it was then that the whites arrived in Cajamarca.

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