Case Studies in Robert Segal's Myth

Robert Segal's Myth 

In Fall 2014, I attended ANTH 372: Interpretation of Myth and Narrative, in the Department of Anthropology at USC, instructed by Prof. Tok Thompson. This course is an excellent starter for anyone seriously interested in anthropology. Prof. Thompson is an engaging and inspiring teacher, and a leading folklorist who brings many years of experience into the classroom.

During the course, we wrote two white papers on a culture of our choice; the first on the relations between myth and ritual and the second on the relations between myth and society. I chose to write about Peru. Peru, the result of one of two great conquests of the Americas (the other being Mexico), has a fascinating history and cosmology, imbibed in the multitude of myths that form the essence of the peoples’ worldview.

We were also assigned reading from Robert Segal's Myth: A Very Short Introduction, a book that summarizes various theories on the relationship between myth and science, philosophy, religion, ritual, literature, psychology, structure and society, organized in 8 chapters (one for each topic). Segal himself uses the Myth of Adonis as a case study.

In my papers on Peru, I used several myths to analyze the above relationships. Having already examined ritual and society, in the spirit of Segal's book, I wish to extend my study to the other 6 topics as well. This page is a starting point for navigation to these articles, which may serve as alternate case studies to Robert Segal's important book.

Please see only the introduction to the papers here; you may redirect to the corresponding Wordpress page that contains the full paper.

Myth and Ritual: The Inca Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Taytacha Qoyllur Rit'i

The festival of Qoyllur Rit'i is an annual Inca pilgrimage that occurs around during the time of Corpus Christi, in late May or early June. The festival attracts several pilgrims, mostly from the peasant communities of villages surrounding Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incas [1]. The pilgrimage consists of several journeys undertaken by the population to the shrine of Lord Qoyllur Rit'i and of Virgen de Fatima, located at the mountains of Colquepunku and Sinakara in the regions close to Cusco.

The rituals involved in the festival have a distinct pagan atmosphere, and draws interest especially from academics, due to its simultaneous sponsorship by the Catholic Church [3]. Being the largest indigenous pilgrimage of the western hemisphere, understanding Qoyllur Rit'i gives several insights into Andean culture and how Catholic flavours are applied to a pre-Columbian ritual, thus creating a relevant phenomenon in the modern Americas.

This short paper briefly states the official Catholic mythology and the pre-Columbian origins of the festival. We also devote a section to understanding the ritual and the inherent dualism and structure in Andean society and culture. Some modern and alternate interpretations of the rituals are mentioned in Section 4, after which, we conclude with an examination of the future of the festival.

[Full Essay on Wordpress]

Myth and Society: Inkarri, Consciousness and Resistance in Colonial and Contemporary Peru

In an earlier paper [1], we discussed an Inca pilgrimage to the shrine of Taytacha Qoyllur Rit'i, located on the apu Colquepunku in the region of Cusco. The Inkarri was briefly alluded to as a contemporary Andean myth that is a fusion of the Inca and Viracocha, representing a result of an Andean cosmological cataclysm, known as the pachacuti, that occured with the Spanish conquest. While Qoyllur Rit'i is a ritual celebration of several Christian and Andean myths, most of its pre-Columbian origins can be traced to myths about the Inca sun God, Inti. However, there exists dances in the ritual that do not involve Inti, particularly the taqi oncoy, one in which the dancers do not reference the arrival of the Pleiades as a cause for celebration of good harvest and health, but rather a reason to deliver the world from a persistent state of chaos brought on by the indifference of the Spanish to not restore Viracocha that was intended by the pachacuti as a result of the civil war between the royal Inca brothers Huascar and Atahualpa (both of them intending to abolish Huascar's Inti lineage and cause an upheaval) [2]. The short paper [1] noted how these concepts of the pachacuti were ritualized in the pilgrimage at Colquepunku and Sinakara.

The Inkarri myth is relevant in Andean society in the present day as it may be seen as a product of the fundamental question of the indigenous Inca having to accept or reject the Spanish conquest [6]. In this paper, we examine the Inkarri myth in depth, as its syncretic yet opposing nature provides several insights into contemporary Andean consciousness. We devote a section of our analysis to the actual myth, its various versions and its ritual enactment. We then pursue the study of the relationships between the myth and contemporary Inca cosmology, a fusion of Inca and Christian ideas. We then look at resistance and rebellion in the Andes, particularly colonial and modern Peru, that are influenced by and often cite the Inkarri myth in their execution. The future of the myth of Inkarri and its implications are discussed in the conclusion.

[Full Essay on Wordpress]

Myth and Science: (Under Preparation)

(coming up!)