Supay: God Of Death And Underworld And Ruler Over Race Of Demons According To Inca Beliefs

A. Sutherland - - In the Inca and Aymara mythologies, Supay ('Andean Devil') was both the god of death and powerful ruler of the Incan underworld Ukhu Pacha (Uku Pacha), as well as a race of demons.

Supay: God Of Death And Underworld And Ruler Over Race Of Demons According To Inca Beliefs

Unlike Europeans, the indigenous people did not reject Supay. They were so afraid of him that they invoked him and begged him not to harm them. Credit: Adobe Stock - JIT

Supay was responsible for balancing good and evil.

Supay is listed as one of the most wicked gods. He was the one who protected the path of the dead. The Incas believed that death was a new beginning with the Inca gods. Despite this pessimistic view, many Inca people worshiped him because they believed in his power to grant them favors through offerings and rituals.

He was depicted as a figure resembling demons (jaguar head, longhorns, wise eyes, puma body, and sharp teeth). Supay was a shapeshifter that could surprise by taking the form of an Inca woman or a handsome Inca man; in the same way, he could transform into any animal he wanted.

The domain of Supay was located in the deep earth, and his underworld is also known as the "inner world" or "below the world." Therefore, as the god of minerals, Supay was worshipped by miners. Today, his worship is still alive among Andean miners and excavators.

According to Inca mythology, the god Supay's underground realm was Ukhu Pacha (Uku Pacha), one of three realms (or 'Pacha') that divides the cosmos.

Diablada masksLeft: 18th-century painting of the Danza de Los diablos de Túcume, region of Túcume, Peru. source Right: Different models of Diablada masks in an exhibition in the British Museum. source

Two other realms are Hanan Pacha and Kay Pacha, which along with Ukhu Pacha, resemble Catholic beliefs in the earth, heaven, and hell, a concept also known in other religions.

Chronicler and writer Garcilaso de la Vega (1539 – 1616) was a son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca noblewoman born in the early years of the conquest. He was widely recognized for his histories of Inca history, culture, and society. The chronicler Vega characterized Supay's Uku Pacha as an underworld, a place of pain and suffering.

The wicked were sent to the 'lowest earth, the so-called 'house of the devil.'

However, the Uku Pacha underworld was not considered a negative concept. Incas regarded the place's subterranean water as life-sustaining springs, which link the human realm with the inner world.

In his 'Handbook of Inca Mythology,' Paul Steele says that Uku Pacha was linked to 'the feminine earth mother and the bones of the ancestors.'

When the Spaniards colonized the Americas, Christian priests called the Christian Devil 'Supay.' Unlike Europeans, the indigenous people accepted Supay. They were so afraid of him that they invoked him and begged him not to harm them.

Today, the ancient symbolism of this terrifying mythological figure, ' diablo,' has been replaced with another practice.

This new tradition makes Supay the main character in the 'Diablada' carnival, a part of the cultural traditions in Bolivia, Chile, Peru, and other Andean countries.

The Diablada (or 'Danza de Los Diablos,' which means 'Dance of the Devils') is a popular dance characterized by the mask and devil suit worn by the performers.

The Spaniards destroyed the Incan empire and took control over the country, yet the ancient belief in Supay lives in indigenous Peruvians' daily lives. The Catholic Church became the dominant religious power in Peru, and the word 'Supay' applies to the Devil.

Written by – A. Sutherland  - Senior Staff Writer

Updated on March 8, 2023

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Expand for references


Klauser William., The Esoteric Codex: Deities of the Underworld

Steele P., Handbook of Inca Mythology