Gods of the Andes

An Early Jesuit Account of Inca Religion and Andean Christianity

By (author) Sabine Hyland

Paperback - £19.95

Publication date:

15 September 2011

Length of book:

144 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271048802

Gods of the Andes provides the first English translation of the earliest lengthy description of Inca religion, An Account of the Ancient Customs of the Natives of Peru (1594). The Account is part of a Jesuit tradition of ecumenical works on religion that encompasses the more famous writings of Matteo Ricci in China and Roberto de Nobili in India. It includes original descriptions of many different aspects of Inca religion, including human sacrifice, the use of hallucinogens, mummification rituals, the existence of transgendered priests in the ancient Andes, divination rituals based on animal entrails, oracles, burials, and confession.

In her introductory chapters, Sabine Hyland presents the controversial life of the ascribed author, Blas Valera, a Jesuit who was ultimately imprisoned and exiled by the Jesuits for his “heretical” belief that the Incas worshipped the same creator god the Christians did; examines the Account in the light of other colonial writings about the Incas; and outlines what we know about Inca religion through other sources, comparing Valera’s version to those of other writers.

“This work is an exciting addition to the field. It presents a source hitherto unavailable in English; it illustrates aspects of Spanish views of Andean religion that are often neglected; and it considers issues of great contemporary relevance, such as the problem of translation of Christian concepts into native languages. Both the translation and the accompanying substantial commentary are highly readable, and therefore suitable for undergraduate readers and the general reader. This is a scholarly, original, and interesting work.”

—Nicholas Griffiths, University of Birmingham