Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Tag: complementarity

Right Side / Left Side

The Andean Cosmovision draws distinctions between various aspects of our Being in many overlapping, non-mutually-exclusive ways. In an earlier post we looked at the Three Centers of Being; the llankay, the munay, and the yachay. In this post I would like to examine the distinction between the quality of energy we have on the right side of our body and that on the left.

Our right side (called paña) handles our activities in the everyday, ordinary, realm of our life, in other words, that aspect of our reality which is created by our society. We tap the abilities of our right side when we work, go to the store, get to our kid’s soccer game, balance our check book, watch TV, buy airline tickets to go to Peru, and so on. Our left side (called ‘lloqe’) handles our connection to the vast, ineffable, mystery that is the Cosmos. There is no way to describe that part of the Cosmos, for it is exactly that aspect of reality which exists beyond all the words we have to describe it and beyond all the concepts we have for understanding it. The Andean meditations move us into our left side.

Whether or not we develop the skills and perceptions available on both sides, we all do have both, for they are part of our heritage as human beings. It is my experience that in my western technological culture we place a heavy emphasis on the right side, and we are hardly aware, if at all, of what is available on the left side. If we want to explore more of who we are, and who we can be, and the full potential of our relationship with Nature and the Cosmos, a rich place for us to explore is the vast territory of experience available through our lloqe, the left side of our being. If we want to have dinner, hold a job, raise children, not get run over when we cross the road, enjoy our technology, and get to Peru, then we need to honor and nourish the skills we have on the right side.

Our paña and lloqe are complementary opposite aspects of our Being. In previous posts I’ve written about the role of complementary opposites in the Andean Cosmovision (Yin/Yang of the Andes) and their role in the relationships between women and men (Warmi-Qhari), and between communities and individuals (Remember to Wave Your Warak’as). The distinction between our right and left side takes us into the complementarity of opposites within ourselves. We find that the principles which became evident in the earlier posts apply here as well.

Our right and left side are not two, independent, things but instead are mutually defining aspects of a unified whole (our self). As in the post Yin/Yang of the Andes I will use a Taoist symbol to represent this: For these two mutually defining aspects of our self to exist we need to keep a clear distinction between the two, otherwise we end up with:

The Taoist symbol for Yin/Yang usually contains small circles that convey the concept that each opposite contains a small seed of the other:

This implies that when we are operating on our right, social, side it is good to have a small connection to the great, ineffable, mystery that is the Cosmos, and when we are operating on our left, mysterious, side to have a small connection to the everyday world. I’ve never heard anyone in the Andes say this nor can I speak from my own experiences. This idea arose as I was writing this post and I offer it as something to consider.

Back to the main point. The first principle is to keep a clear distinction between our paña and our lloqe, between our ability to work in the everyday world and our ability to connect with the great ineffable mystery that is the Cosmos. The second principle is to bring these two aspects of our self into yanantin, a state of harmony with each other . When complementary opposites are brought into yanantin then something emerges that is greater than the sum of the two. This something is recognized in the Andes as a new life force, and it is meta to (above) the complementary energies from which it emerges (see the post Warmi-Qhari)

The Andean meditations move us into our left side, as we do the Andean meditations we become more familiar with that facet of our being. Interacting with our society and everyday world moves us into the right side, a facet of our being with which we are very familiar. Instead of being blown by the winds of circumstance into either our right side or our left side, we can choose from which side to operate at any moment, and the ‘you who can choose’ exists at a higher level than either. As we choose one or the other we become more aware of that higher level of our self that can make that choice. That’s really all it takes.

Meditation: After you have some experience with the Andean meditations and have noticed how they affect your experience of the world, and your energy, and how you feel, then there is a simple way you can move into the left side directly. Stand with your weight evenly balanced on both feet, then with a hand, or in your mind’s eye, draw a line down your body from your head to your feet that divides you into your right side and your left side, and while doing this use your intent (sincere pretending) to feel it divide your energy into your right side energy and left side energy. Then, just step sideways to your left and with intent step into your left-side energy and its connection to the non-ordinary, vast, mysterious, Cosmos. Being on the left side is a learned state, this ‘stepping into’ the left side can evoke an experience that is commensurate to what you have experienced in the other meditations.

Source: This differentiation between the right side (paña) and left side (lloqe), and the meditation for stepping into the left side, are from don Americo Yabar.

Share... Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Remember to Wave Your Warak’as

In this post we continue to pursue an understanding of how the complementarity of opposites informs the Andean people’s understanding of themselves, their relationships with each other, and their relationships with the Cosmos. In earlier posts we looked at the basic concepts underlying the complementarity of opposites (Yin/Yang of the Andes), how it informs the relationships between women and men (Wharmi-Qhari), and how the ritual encounter (‘tinkuy’) of differing energies can give rise to new life force (Tinkuy: Confirming the Rules of Life).

In that latter post tinkuy was introduced within the context of ritual battles that up until recent times were waged between neighboring communities in the Andes, and in the whipping dances that continue through today. In this post I would like to take a look at tinkuy in the form of competition between communities and between individuals, and then use that as a foundation to understand don Americo Yabar’s description of the three levels of relationship between people in the Andes.

The true treasure of the Andean Cosmovision is found in the ways that it differs from the view of reality offered by my modern, western, culture. This difference is deeper than simply having a different set of beliefs, or a different set of meditative practices, and this is exactly what is lost if we skim off a few beliefs and meditations from the Andean culture and toss them into our eclectic bag of ways for working with the energy of Nature. The change I believe we need as a culture if we wish to head toward a future of greater beauty and health, not only for us but for the whole planet (our future cannot be beautiful or healthy without accomplishing that for all of Nature as well) involves deep and fundamental changes in the way we experience reality, and in our relationships with each other, in our relationships with the Cosmos, and with the various aspects of our own Being.

The Festival of Qoyllu Rit’i

We have seen the role of tinkuy in the ritual battles and whipping dances of the festival of Pukllay (earlier post), now I’d like to turn to the expression of tinkuy in the dance and band competitions found in the Andean festival of Qoyllu Rit’i (held in May/June of each year). Qoyllu Rit’i is a time when communities of the region come together on the slopes of the majestic Apu Ausangate range. Communities bring their own bands and dance groups to compete during the festival. The battle of the bands is somewhat like a real battle in that the various bands don’t just take turns playing their best but at times try to drown each other out with their music. The competing dance groups have worked long and hard during the preceding year on their costumes and on their dances in the hope of outperforming both in style and energy the other groups. These band and dance competitions are tinkuy, an encounter of differences leading to a union that is greater than the sum of its parts.

“It may seem paradoxical that competition enters so strongly into an event that serves to integrate ayllus (communities defined by relationships) over a large region, and whose overall effect is to produce an overwhelming sense of ‘comunitas,’ an ecstatic submersion of individual selfhood into a larger whole. Yet it is exactly the competition–the clash of ayllu with ayllu, province with province, puna (high grasslands) people with valley people–that explodes in a huge jingle of sound and blaze of color, in an intensity of activity and noise, which vibrates for a few days in the sun and ice of the Apu’s glacial solitude.” (Allan, pg 176).

View of Asungate Range

Ausangate Range


My own experience of a regional dance competition was at a festival in the town of Paucartambo, which don Americo Yabar had taken me to see. It was a festival that is not well-known by outsiders and I was about the only non-Andean there (it was one of those ‘pinch me I must be dreaming’ moments). Some of the dance groups had walked over 15 miles through the mountains to represent their village in the competition. The photos below are of the dancers from the village of Mollamarka.

Dancers of Mollamarka

Dancers of Mollamarka

Dancers of Mollamarka

Earning Smiles and Applause

The Day of the Horse

Dance and band competitions are tinkuy between communities. Competitions in the Andes can also be between individuals. In her book Rituals of Respect the anthropologist Inge Bolin describes a horse race that plays the title role in a sacred festival held in the high Andes, a festival the locals call ‘The Day of the Horse’.

The festival is held to honor (in ayni for) ‘Illapa’, the Andean deity of thunder and lightning. As a reminder (from earlier posts), the Quechua language has no word that translates without distortion into our word ‘god’. The Andean gods are not transcendent spirits, they are, instead, the consciousness inherent in that aspect of Nature or the Cosmos.

The honoring of Illapa plays an increasingly important role in the culture as one moves higher up in the Andes. In the high villages death of both people and their animals by lightning is a recurring threat. The thundering sound of the horse’s hooves during the race and the celebrations surrounding the event honor and appease Illapa.

The race is held in a high mountain valley with the massive range of Ausangate towering over its far end. The track is about two kilometers long, at its end the riders need to negotiate a steep mountain side before returning. Women, children, and men not in the race sit on the surrounding slopes to get a vantage point from which they can cheer and applaud the riders. The race is held in heats of four which take all day to complete. By the time the last, championship, heat is held it is dusk, and the riders disappear into the gloom of night to emerge again from the darkness as they come charging back.

Inge Bolin notes that the riders, who are called the ‘Sons of the Thunder’ are enthusiastic and every contestant hopes to win. And yet, while they are racing, they often sacrifice speed to sit up and swing their warak’a (slings) above their heads and jubilantly shout out the names of important sacred sites and spirits.  ‘Every contestant hopes to win.  Yet, it is more important to participate, to celebrate this day, to remember the gods, to be together in joy and harmony.”  (Bolin, pg 173).

In the evening, when the race was over, Inge realized that she hadn’t heard who had won. She asked the people around her but they just smiled. Finally, someone pointed out the winner.  “I congratulate him for having won this thrilling race. He smiles and shyly averts his eyes. Only later do I full comprehend that winning is not the prime reason for staging the race, and I realize that it was not proper behavior to ask for the winner or to congratulate him openly. In an egalitarian society where respect for others is a primary concern, it is not considered polite to make much fuss about one person, stressing his individual achievement to the detriment of others. The race was a success…The gods were pleased…It was a great competition in which the riders competed with and not against each other. Everyone who witnessed or participated in this energetic ritual was equally important.” (Bolin, pp 173-174).

As I read the phrase ‘competed with and not against each other’ something arose in my mind, something I remember don Americo Yabar talking about years ago that had not made sense to me at the time. Now I think I have a better understanding of it.

The Three Stages of Relationship

Americo was describing three stages that can occur in a relationship. The first stage of a relationship he called ‘tinkuy’, and he uses the term a bit more narrowly than Bolin and Allen.  Tinkuy is the encounter of two different energies (e.g. two different people).  This happens when the sphere of energy around one person first comes into contact with the sphere of energy around another. At this point one can begin to sense in which ways you are similar and in which ways you differ from the other person.

The second stage in the relationship Americo calls ‘tupay’, which he described as involving a competition between the two people. At this point in the explanation, in my notes, Americo hesitates and tries to explain the nature of this competition, that it is not the western, aggressive form of competition where a victor stands in triumph over the loser. I could never quite grasp what he was getting at until I read Bolin’s account of ‘The Day of the Horse’, a jubilant race where you compete with the others rather than against them. The point of the competition in ‘tupay’ is not to triumph over your competitor, but to discover in which areas each of you excels over the other.

For the relationship to then reach its deepest level, the third and final stage is to move from ‘tupay’ into ‘taqe’. In ‘taqe’–now that you have found what each one of you is better at–you bring the other person up to your level of expertise in that area. You become equal by both of you becoming more than you were before.

These three stages are described by Joan Wilcox (from her studies with Americo and others) in the book Masters of the Living Energy: The Mystical World of the Q’ero of Peru (pp 58-62). She goes on to explain how this process informs the living tradition of the Andean Cosmovision. The people in the Andes who are the maestros of the Andean Cosmovision are called paqos (also spelled paq’o).  They differ in their ability levels, in what they can accomplish in dancing with the living energy of the Cosmos. Their abilities are not, however, measured by their adherence to a set of specific, traditional, teachings or techniques. The abilities are, instead, the product of their relationships with other paqos, who all have their own set of knowledge and skills. And through the process of tinkuy, tupay, and then taqe these skills are shared with others. As you grow in skill from these relationships you are more able to learn higher skills from others, and you will be more in a position of being able to share something they would benefit knowing how to to do as well.

I would like to expand our view a bit and look at all of the parties involved in these relationships. The abilities of the paqos concern their relationships with the vast, beautiful, sometimes frightening, mysterious, unfathomable multitude of beings (consciousnesses) of Nature and the Cosmos. The ability of interacting, for example, with an Apu (a being who is a majestic mountain peak) is not just a skill, it is a relationship between two beings, the Apu and the paqo. Learning from another paqo how to open the door to that relationship is one step, what happens after that is up to the paqo and the Apu. The skills of the paqos, thus, are not just based upon what the paqos have learned to do, they are also the result of their subsequent relationship with Nature and the Cosmos.


In looking over the past few posts this is what I see. There are at least three patterns of healthy relationships in the Andes.

1) When two differing energies/beings (complementary opposites) come together they can retain and honor their differences, yet form a union, and this is called ‘yanantin’, the harmonious bringing together of complementary opposites, which leads to a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. From this union of complementary opposites new life force emerges from the synergy of the complementary energies dancing together. A harmonious interaction of female and male energies is an example of yanantin.

2) When two similar energies/beings come together this is called ‘masintin’. I do not know if the alliance of two similar energies also produces a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts, or if it creates a whole that is equal to the sum of the parts. I suspect it is the latter but none the less beautiful for that. In our lives we have the opportunity to form many yanantin and many masintin relationships.

3) A third option is one that might be called co-evolution, where we start off by noting our differences, specifically differences in our abilities, and then we endeavor to pull each other up to our best levels. What starts off as difference ends up as equality, not by finding a mean but by mutual elevation. This, as I see it, is the path of the paqos.


Share... Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tinku–Confirming the Rules of Life

(The title of this post was taken from a section of Inge Bolin’s book Rituals of Respect: The Secret of Survival in the High Peruvian Andes).

My post Yin/Yang of the Andes laid out the basic principles of the ‘complementarity of opposites’, a concept that is fundamental to the Andean Cosmovision (as well as to Taoism). In the post Warmi-Qhari I examined how the complementarity of opposites informs the relationship between women and men in the Andes. In this post I would like to take a look at how the complementarity of opposites informs the relationships between the indigenous communities in the Andes. The information comes from the beautiful and insightful writings of the anthropologists Inge Bolin and Catherine Allen, and it also passes my personal test of generally fitting what I have witnessed (without explanation) in my own travels in Peru. At the end of this post I provide the page numbers of the relevant sections of their books so that you can peruse their original material yourself to get a richer picture.

A good place to start is with the Andean festival of Pukllay. Pukllay is held in the Andes in February over a period of eight days. After the Spanish arrived the festival was incorporated into the Catholic celebration of Carnival but it still contains strong connections to its pre-conquest roots. Pukllay is a time of singing and dancing, ‘Women dance with bundles of maize, grain, and fruit in their shawls. Young mothers bundle in their infants as well, who bounce wide-eyed above the maternal twirling and stamping. Sometimes, women and men form two choirs to sing back and forth’ (Allen, page 155). The festival is also a timWide eyed child looks from mother's shawle of ‘whipping dances’, teasing, and love making, a time when the people are released from their traditional restraints and can do and express what cannot be done or expressed at other times. Pukllay also used to be the time of ritual battles (‘Yawar Mayu’–river of blood) between neighboring communities.

The ritual battles of Pukllay were outlawed by the conquering Spanish but continued in the more remote regions of the Andes up until recent times (within the living memory of Andeans interviewed by Catherine Allen). The battles were held at the boundaries between communities. The men from the two communities would fight each other while the women would sing songs encouraging their men to be brave and to not fear the river of blood. The battle could take various forms; the two sides might throw hard, unripe, fruit at each other, or they might form opposing lines and strike each other with their warak’a (slings) or with staffs. It was important that some blood be spilled during the encounter as an offering to the Pachamama (the great Being who is the mother earth) and to the Apus (the Beings who are the majestic mountain peaks) and to the various Sacred Sites. If a man died during the fight (an uncommon event but not unheard of) his body was buried there as further offering to the sacred Beings.

What is amazing to me about these fights is the way they embodied an appreciation of the complementarity of opposites. The men engaged in these ceremonial conflicts bravely, facing the possibility of injury or even death, while being cheered on by the women, yet the fights were held for the betterment of the larger Andean community that encompassed both sides of the fight. The blood that was spilled as an offering to the Pachamama was for the fertility of the fields in both communities, it was in this way a communal effort, a conflict to benefit both sides, which from a Western perspective is a rather mind-boggling concept. “Blood had to flow” an Andean man told Bolin as he was recounting his participation is such battles, “Pachamama needs a few drops of blood and we all come together to provide this offering. So we meet as opponents and end in solidarity” (Bolin, pg 95).

The fighting, while fierce and occasionally deadly, was not fueled by hostility. At the end of the battle the men from opposing sides might give each other exaggerated hugs, then sacrifice a sheep together, and settle down to a communal feast to celebrate their unity. If the point of this was to create a sense of larger community, then why fight each other? The reason was to reinforce the distinct identity of the two cultures, and to confirm their boundaries. “We must respect the borderlines”, the same man told Bolin, “only then can we live together in harmony” (Bolin, pg 95).  Two musical notes must be different if they are to harmonize.

On the flip side, if it is important that they fight each other in order to reinforce that they are separate entities, why then come together afterward to celebrate their union as one people? The answer is that this was the whole point of the ritual conflict. To embody the complementarity of opposites the distinction between the two communities must be made clear while at the same time they are brought together to form a single entity from which something greater than the two will emerge.

In the Andes, an encounter of differing energies, such as that of Yawar Mayu, is known as tinku or tinkuy. Tinku, as near as I can tell, is a noun (an encounter of differing energies) and tinkuy the corresponding verb. Not all encounters are tinkuy, Allen draws a distinction between a ritual encounter (tinku) and a brawl that she saw erupt between a group of men. The end result of tinkuy is a sense of unity among the participants. The brawl, on the other hand, was divisive and damaged the social fabric of the community.

Although tinku and tinkuy usually refer to ritual encounters they also have wider applications. The bringing together of different ingredients in cooking or in medicine is tinkuy. When two sets of in-laws build a house for a newly wed couple that is tinkuy. When two streams converge in a mass of swirling eddies they tinkuy, and such a place is full of uncontrolled spiritual forces that are liberated by (emerge from) the union of the two  streams. When a sprouting plant emerges from the earth into the sky, uniting those two different worlds, that is tinkuy as well. The encounter of different energies brings something new into existence, and this something is endowed with a vitalizing life force.

While the tinkuy of ritual combat in the Andes has been suppressed a form of it still lives on in the Andean whipping dances. In these dances people pair up and whip each other’s calves with their warak’a (slings). As with the ritual combat any blood shed is a sacrifice for the Pachamama, who will reciprocate in ayni by providing fertile fields for everyone. When male and female dancers pair up the whipping becomes more ferocious, and something else may enter the picture…(from a traditional Andean song sung by men and women during a whipping dance), “Shall we wander off, little brother? Shall we wander off, little sister? Let’s go pick our wakankilla flowers.” (Allen, pg 156) The couple may slowly disappear into the night, still dancing together.

“The festival of Pukllay is a celebration of life, love, fertility, procreation, and enqa, the very life force itself.” (Bolin, pg 110).  In the dancing and singing…and other activities…that occur during the festival the Andean people can step outside their normal social constraints, and yet at the same time these behaviors are channeled in a way that nourishes their culture and their relationship with Nature and the Cosmos. Blood shed is an offering to Pachamama and the Apus, given in ayni for the life they give to the animals and for the fertility they give to the fields. Tinkuy between communities reinforces their separate identities while at the same time uniting them into a stronger union. Young couples who ‘wander off’ during the dance go on to join in Andean marriage. From tinkuy new life force is released, and all actions are bound by respect for this newly animated life force.

My goal in writing this post is to plant the seed of tinkuy in my culture to see what blossoms.  Its essence, in a nutshell, is the importance of honoring and maintaining differences while at the same time bringing these differences together to form a union.  The result of this union of differences is the emergence of new life energy, to be honored and respected as if it were a new Being.  ‘As if it were’, it occurs to me, is the realm of intent.

Recommended Reading: The information for this post was pulled from:

  1. Allen, C. J. (2002). The hold life has: Coca and cultural identity in an Andean community (2nd ed.). Washington: Smithsonian Books. pp 154-156, 174-178.
  2. Bolin, Inge. (1998). Rituals of Respect: The Secret of Survival in the High Peruvian Andes. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp 81, 94-100.
Share... Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Warmi-Qhari (Woman-Man)

The Andean Cosmovision embodies the complementarity of opposites in a way that informs the Andean people’s relationship with Nature and the Cosmos, with each other, and with the various facets of their own being. In this post I would like to explore how the Cosmovision presents the complementary aspects of male and female energy. In the post Yin/Yang of the Andes I gave an overview of the concept of the complementarity of opposites, including how opposites can only exist in relationship to each other, the importance of drawing and maintaining a clear distinction between the two, and how from their dance a whole emerges that is greater than the sum of the parts. If you haven’t read that post yet, or if you haven’t read it for a while, I recommend that you read it first.

In this post I would like to take a look at the role of the complementary opposites of female and male in the traditional Andean culture. The clear distinctions between the two and the bringing together of their disparate energy into a unified whole is fundamental to the Andean Cosmovision. While I find the relationship between males and females in the Andes to be fascinating on its own, I am offering it to you not as a blueprint for how we might want to handle the relationship between sexes in our culture, but as a window to view how the complementarity of opposites can be embodied. We can then speculate on how this can inform our relationships with the various aspects of ourselves, with each other, and with the Cosmos. The following information was culled from the writings of the anthropologists Inge Bolin and Catherine Allen, but it is also generally consistent with my own experiences in Peru.

In the traditional, indigenous, Andean culture the differentiation of males and females is obvious. At community meetings the males gather with the males and the females gather with the females. When visiting friends males visit their male friends and females visit their female friends. The differentiation of female and male is in many ways mapped onto another important pair of complementary opposites in the the Andean Cosmovision, that of the horizontal and vertical dimensions (the metaphysical implications of the horizontal and vertical dimensions will be discussed in a future post). At the community meetings the females array themselves in the horizontal dimension, sitting on the ground. This also puts them in intimate physical contact with the Pachamama, the great mother who is the planet Earth. The men array themselves in a vertical orientation, sitting in chairs or standing, perhaps leaning against a wall. Stripes in the women’s clothing are usually horizontal, while those of the men’s are usually vertical. And, while both sexes weave, women traditionally work the horizontal loom while men work the vertical loom. The horizontal/vertical orientation also appears in their relationships with others of their sex. Relationships among the women are more egalitarian (horizontal) while those among the men are more likely to incorporate the hierarchical (vertical) nature of their political roles within the community.

There are many other differentiations between the sexes as well. When planting it is the male’s task to break open the ground with a foot plow and the woman’s to plant the seed (if a woman does not plant the seed then it will not grow). While men have the title of ‘head of the household’, women have authority over most aspects of actually running the household (which is their domain). The men’s domain is that of the relationship between the household and the outside world. It is, for example, the male’s task to transport the crops from field to market and to travel to other villages when necessary. The men speak for the family at community meetings, but they express views that have been agreed to by both the husband and the wife.

In the Inca empire the emperor and the empress were of equal power, each being the leader of distinct, complementary, aspects of their culture. In the Inca capital city of Cusco the upper city was the domain of the emperor and the lower city was the domain of the empress. In addition to serving as respective leaders of complementary aspects of the culture they also served complementary roles in the culture’s relationship with the Cosmos, the emperor was the head of a male lineage that had the sun at its apex while the empress was the head of a female lineage that had the moon at its apex. In the Andes today men and women often play equal but parallel roles in sacred ceremonies, working side by side but in different domains.

While the traditional Andean culture draws a very clear boundary between what are female activities, and what are male activities this surprisingly does not lead to a corresponding rigidity in what people can do. Men are allowed to do female activities and women are allowed to do male activities. Working the horizontal loom, for example, is clearly defined as a woman’s activity but men can work the horizontal loom if they choose. The same holds for the vertical loom, it is a clearly a man’s device but women may use it as well. During the Inca empire when the emperor left the city to go to war the empress would step in to fulfill his duties (and the Inca army contained some women warriors). A woman may take on a male’s role, and if she does she does it in a feminine sort of way. A man may take on a woman’s role, and if he does he does it in a masculine sort of way. There is room for a germ of male in the female and for a germ of female in the male.

The two complementary opposites of female and male are clearly defined in the Andes. As the masculine and feminine dance together through time something emerges that is greater than the sum of the two parts. A marriage in the Andes is known as a warmi-qhari which is literally translated as woman-man. It is a fusion of two complementary ways of being that creates a higher order of being. This does not mean that the complementary nature of the two disappears. In the traditional Andean culture when a wife and husband are feeling particularly affectionate towards each other they may trade little insults or toss small stones or sticks at each other. It is as if the Andean couple are reinforcing that they are a conjunction of complementary opposites, and celebrating what comes from their union.

“These sets of complementary contrasts—flexible and context-dependent run through every aspect of life in the Andean community; they provide the framework within which the Runakuna (the Andean people) think and act. It is difficult to translate them into English terminology without giving the impression of a set of absolute, static oppositions. The relativity characteristic of Andean thinking involves the continual enfolding of male and female principles that both contain and exclude each other. Each individual can provide the male or female element of another pairing to form another individual, a microcosm of a higher order. Thus, while each man or woman is a complete individual with both male and female qualities, the two unite to form another individual of a higher order: a warmi-qhari.” (my edited version of Allen, pg. 64)

The fusion or harmony of complementary opposites is known in the Andes as yanantin. As we will see in future posts it applies to more than just the union of female and male energy. The bringing together of similar energies, on the other hand, is known as masitin. Two males might be in a masitin relationship, or two females. Father sun (Inti) and mother earth (Pachamama) are in a yanantin relationship, while the moon and the ocean (Mamma Killa and Mamma Qocha) are in a masitin relationship (see Wilcox, pg 60). Ayni, the Andean principle of reciprocity, seems more aligned with a masitin relationship, establishing an equilibrium between two equal parties where they continually swap the roles of being the giver and the receiver. Loving relationships in my western culture seem to have a much stronger masitin flavor than those of the Andes for we continually exchange statements and actions of endearment and affection, both parties giving and receiving them, establishing as it were a sense of sameness in our identities as loving beings (or maybe that is just me). I wonder how that affects the synergy, the emergent properties, of our relationships compared to those that are more yanantin?

Where to go with this I don’t know. It seems important to me, something to be explored, a concept with potential. Rather than not writing about it until I work it out, I would rather share it now and see what we might make of it. Please feel free to comment on this post.

In the next, or at least in a future, post I plan on describing the complementarity of opposites in the Andes that arise in their ceremonial conflicts and competitions, which will shed light on relationships beyond those of woman-man. And finally, I hope to get to the original goal I had when I set out to write about the complementarity of opposites in the Andes, which is how yanantin can inform the relationship of complementary energies within ourselves.

Share... Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Yin/Yang of the Andes

The dynamic concept of the complementarity of opposites (described below) plays a fundamental role in the Andean culture, informing not only their relationship with Nature and the Cosmos, but also their relationships with each other, and the relationship of energies within themselves. The complementarity of opposites has a role equal to that of ‘ayni’ (see the posts Ayni, Ayni Revisited) in the Andean Cosmovision, in fact, as we will see (in a future post), it must.

When I decided to write about the complementarity of opposites I meant to offer it as a way to better understand and tap the potential of some of the Andean meditations. I began by dusting off my understanding of the complementarity of opposites from my study of Taoism (many years ago). I then returned to those writings about the Andean Cosmovision where the concept of the complementarity of opposites was emphasized (Allen, Bolin, Sharon, and my notes of don Americo Yabar). Finally, I set forth to use the former to inform my writing about the latter.

Writing about something is an excellent way for me to refine my thinking about it. I found that as I began writing about this topic it started opening up into new territory for me, and I began to get glimpses at just how profoundly the traditional Andean culture integrates this concept into their experience of reality. While Taoism had long been my favorite philosophy of the underlying dynamics of the Cosmos I could never get a good handle on how to incorporate it in a meaningful way into my everyday life, and here is a culture that exemplifies how to live it. I had seen it as a way to inform the relationship of the various facets of our own energy, but as with just about everything in the Andean Cosmovision, it applies as well to our relationships with each other and our relationship with the Cosmos. I would like to take several posts to explore this in some detail. In this first post I will cover the basics of the complementarity of opposites.

The basic idea behind the complementarity of opposites is that opposite concepts define each other, and in fact, they cannot exist without each other. ‘Dark’, for example, defines ‘light’ and ‘light’ defines ‘dark’. If only light existed then we would not understand what dark was, and without dark to contrast it with we would not understand what light was either. Consider a mountain sitting in the sunlight. If there is a ‘sunny side’ of the mountain there must also be a ‘shady side’ of the mountain. If all the mountain is in sun then there is no ‘sunny side’ and ‘shady side’, if all the mountain is in shade there is no ‘shady side’ and ‘sunny side’. The sunny side and shady side of the mountain define each other and cannot exist without the other. Along similar lines ‘up’ and ‘down’ cannot exist without each other, if everything were somehow up then there would be no down, and if there is no down there cannot be an up that is above it. ‘Good and ‘evil’ define each other and rely upon each other to exist. If only good existed we would not understand evil, and without evil to contrast it to we cannot understood good.

In Taoism the primary complementary and opposite energies of the Cosmos are ‘yin’ and ‘yang’, they define each other and can only exist together. The complementary natures of yin and yang are expressed in a variety of ways, such as female/male, dark/light, yielding/aggressive, intuitive/logical, and so on. The following, familiar, Taoist image is often used to express the relationship between yin and yang. While the symbol is Taoist rather than Andean I would like to present it here as a visual reference for some things I would like us to consider about the Andean approach.

The yin/yang circle with dark and white areas.Here is my interpretation of the yin/yang symbol, tailored to serve as the foundation for what I want to say about about Andean Cosmovision. The circle as a whole represents the Cosmos, in the figure the Cosmos is divided into the complementary energies of yin and yang, which are represented by the dark and light pollywogs of the circle. The two smaller circles (of black within the white and white within the black) show that yin and yang are not absolutes, that a situation that is very yin also contains a germ of yang and a situation that is very yang also contains a germ of yin.

It is clear in looking at the figure that the dark and light parts define each other, the boundary of one area establishes the boundary of the other. That there is a distinction (a boundary) between the two is important, for without a boundary between white and black we get the following (Figure 2) which I like to call the ‘undifferentiated grayness of the void’, where neither white nor black exist. It is also significant that the boundary between yin and yang in Figure 1 is curved. The boundary could be drawn as simply a straight line (Figure 3), but by drawing the line curved (the way it is in Figure 1) suggests movement, that the two pollywogs of yin and yang are dancing around each other, for the Cosmos is not static but always flowing and changing, and a situation that is now yin may become yang and one that is yang may become yin.

And now, consider this. When we divide the Cosmos into two dynamic opposites the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. If, for example, we divide the Cosmos into ‘male’ and ‘female’ we can then list which attributes are male and which are female, but we also have what emerges from the interaction of male and female energy (these are known as ’emergent properties’). Emergent properties cannot be found in the list of what it is to be female and what it is to be male, they arise from the dance between the two, this is also known as ‘synergy’.

Some of the complementary opposites that play an important role in the Andean Cosmovision are :

  • male / female
  • domesticated energy / undomesticated energy (‘salka’)
  • the vertical dimension / the horizontal dimension
  • the energy on the right side of a person (‘paña’) / the energy on the left side (‘lloqe’)
  • the energy of day / the energy of evening
  • heavy energy (‘hucha’) / light energy (‘sami’)
  • the traditional ways / the Christian ways
  • the visible world (‘kaylla’) / the invisible world (‘tiqsi’).

In future posts I will examine how the dance of these opposites shape the Andean Cosmovision and some of the meditations that arise from it.

Share... Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

© 2024 Salka Wind Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑