In Peru, weavers made different patterns for each of their designs. There is a beautiful meaning behind each of these patterns which can be linked with the village of the weaver, her personal story or the story of her Inca ancestors.

I wanted to give you more details about this last link so you can learn about this fascinating Inca civilisation.

According to an Inca legend, two gods created their civilisation:  Manco Capac and her sister Mama Ocllo. They had the mission to guide the men. While Manco Capac taught men how to work the soil, sow, harvest or go hunting, her sister taught women how to cook, raise children and shave wool to weave it.

Well… it is quiet a sexist legend, isn’t it? But… for Inca civilisation it is how the art of weaving was born !

I will explain you 4 recurring topics of patterns you can find in a traditional cloth.

1. The city of Cusco

Cusco is often represented as it symbolizes the centre of the world, where their civilisation was born thanks to the gods Mama Occlo et Manco Capac. The Sun God send them on a mission, to find where the Inca civilisation could build a city, thanks to a golden stick..Indeed, the right place to build it would be where the golden stick would sunk more... and the winner was Cusco !

2. Relation to nature

For Inca people, men and nature has a special connection and are as ONE. This is why, women weave often patterns of animals, flowers, mountains or lagoons they can see in their villages. For example, the llama represents the God Urcuchillay, protective of the animals, who is shaped as a multicoloured llama. He was honoured by breeders to be protected from predators. We also find patterns of plants symbolizing the Inca knowledges of medicinal plants.

3. Astronomy & Cosmos

Inca people had an in-depth knowledge of astronomy. In every Inca city, we find the observatory at the peak. Besides stars patterns, we also find the 4 cardinal points as they were really important in their daily life. They help Inca people to know which month of the year it was, when to sow, etc.

4. Agriculture

Agriculture can be represented by men (working in the fields), tools or food as corn. It is indeed the staple food of Inca people, also used to prepare the typical beverage called Chicha. The legend says that when the god Pachacamac died, his teeth turned into corn. According to another legend, an Inca nobleman died falling into a well. His father, the Sun god, would have watered the soil with his tears, making it fertile and so corn could grow. Inca people says that corn is the golden tears of the Sun... I think this is really poetic !

5. What is the signification of the colours?

*Red represents blood.
*Green is for the fields and nature.
*Blue symbolises the sky and the cosmos.
*Brown is for the soil.

Would you recognize the meaning of these patterns?



6. The Inca trilogy, the 3 Consciousness

You can also find patterns representing a condor, a cougar and a snake in traditional weavings. These 3 animals symbolize gods for Inca people. 

*The upperworld” is represented by the condor, messenger of gods and spirtis, it is the connection between our world and gods. It is a mysterious, powerful and audacious animal. Its flight is the metaphor of the ascent to freedom.

*”Our world” is represented by the cougar, symbolizing wisdom, intelligence and strength. It can live during cold seasons thanks to its fur, its hearing and sight are amazing and it has a perfect balance thanks to its tail while it can move really furtively thanks to its pads. The cougar also represents the power of governing, which can explain why the construction of the city of Cusco had been organized in the shape of a cougar. We also find a carved cougar in the administrative area of the Machu Picchu.

In Inca culture, men had to transform themselves into a cougar to have enough strength, determination and agility to reach the upperworld.

*”The underworld, world of death” was personified by a snake. For Inca people, death is not the end but the beginning of a new cycle as the time was cyclic and not linear.

The snake also symbolises the infinite and the reincarnation as it can change of skin periodically. Its sloughing represents the life and death cycle, strength and energy. It becomes the wisdom, origin and creation of the connection with the supreme being.

As a snake moving in the darkest places, a man has to find his darkest side to got answers and “slough”.



To reach the condor condition, men need to make an introspection to “slough” as a snake and finally become steady as a cougar…Only at that time, men can reach freedom as the condor…

3 animals, 3 symbols, 3 worlds = ONE

Let’s play ! Would you recognize the meaning of these patterns?

Thank you so much to Fortunata who taught me the meaning of all these patterns when I spent a week with her and her family !

You can also read how weavers make natural dyes in this article:

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