What does the chacana or southern cross mean and what message could it contain?

Maybe you’ve ever seen the southern cross or chacana (also known as chakana) somewhere and wondered what it means. In Quechua, its name means stairway to heaven, and every May 3, celebrations and rites are held in its honor, because it is considered sacred by the native Andean communities.

The chacana owes its origin to a constellation made up of around 50 stars, which is easily visible in the towns of the southern hemisphere and is known as the Southern Cross.

It is also linked with crops and harvests, and has even been used as a guide for sailors.

It is believed that it is an element with a history that even precedes the Incas, being more than 4 thousand years old.

Today, the Aymara continue to keep the lunar calendar of 13 months with 28 days each month, used by the ancestors. Day 365 is considered day zero, which is May 3, the day the Southern Cross takes on the astronomical shape of a perfect cross.

But, what is the symbolism that it contains?

According to the Andean cosmovision, the chacana represents that everything is fulfilled according to a continuity, that is why it symbolizes the relationship with everything: it is a “ladder” that keeps man united with the cosmos.

The chacana also represents the four dimensions necessary for life in a community: spiritual, social, political and economic.

The central line represents Man, that is, everything masculine; it also corresponds to the “Creation”, to the “Spirit”, to the “Inheritance”, to the “Succession”. And, the horizontal line, for its part, corresponds to the “Created”, the “Matter”, the “Mama pacha”. When the two lines that mark the levels of man and woman overlap the horizontal on the vertical, the chakana is formed. And from there subdivisions are produced: sky-earth; day Night; Sun Moon; man-woman.

On the upper side, there are the sky elements. On the one hand, there is the sun, which is, for the Andeans, the king of stars, and is the object of worship and adoration as the engine of all life on earth. On the other hand, the Moon, gathers the stars, considered the main goddess, counselor and guardian of women. She was considered a healer of diseases.

Both (sun and moon) had their own calendar for planting, harvesting and irrigation.

Below the Sun is the morning star (“Chasca”, “Coyllar” or Brilliant Star), which represents the planet Venus and was considered a mediator between the Sun and the Moon because sometimes it was with it and others with it.

Below the Moon is the evening star (“Apachi Orori”) which represents Mars who was said to carry all the errands that the gods of heaven made for each other.

Then, there is a conglomerate of stars called “Huchu” or “Las Cabrillas”; among other elements such as the rainbow or lightning.

In the lower part, the “Pachamama” or the earth, the place where man lives, is represented. The land for the Andeans is a living being. The river of the serpent or “Amaru Maya” is also signified, which symbolizes the eternal journey and movement. Another river is also represented as “Willcamayu” or Sacred River, it is an underground river that the beings of the inner world or “Uju Pacha” run through. It symbolizes the spiritual journey, the inner search.

In addition, other symbolisms appear, such as the “Apus”, which are the angels of nature in the Andean worldview, responsible for protecting human beings; and its female version, the √Ďustas, female spirits that care for animals and plants.

In the same way, the eyes or “Ymaymana √Ďauraycuna” also appear, which represents the inhabitants of the Inner World, or “Uju Pacha”; just as man also appears, to whom the task of the future corresponds, in charge of finding the methods to achieve coexistence in a harmonious society among all living beings. And also, the woman. Gender inequality did not exist among the Incas.

Then other elements also appear such as the “Collca” which means granary or warehouse, according to the importance that the Andeans gave to planning and storage; the “Mallquis”, which are the ancestors, who lived in a new existence in the “Hanan Pacha” or in the “Uju Pacha”; the tree, which represents life emerging from the earth, and the link that unites the three worlds: the “Hanan Pacha”, the part that communicates with infinite beings, the “Kay Pacha”, which means man and his work, and the “Uju Pacha”, the root, which symbolizes rootedness.

There are also other symbols such as “Mama Ccocha”, elemental water, which symbolizes relativity, the eternal becoming; and the last and central symbol: the middle circle, which means the void, the non-knowledge, the sacred. The center in the chacana represents the ideal image of God, who, in Andean culture, receives many names, such as “Wiracocha Pachayachachi”, which means Maker of Water, Creator of the Earth.

Did you know this symbol, which speaks of us and the world around us?