“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here” - Marianne Williamson.
The Moche people of Northern Peru were known both for their exquisite pottery and their elaborate ritual sacrifices of their most elite warriors.
On the north coast of Peru, close to the city of Trujillo, are the spectacular remains of one of their sacred temples, Huaca de la Luna. The finely painted murals, which survive to this day, are a fascinating insight into the Moche’s beliefs and rituals.
The God of the Moche
The Moche’s sacred god was known as Ai-Apaec and devoted subjects would go to great lengths to please their deity. Extreme weather events, of which there were many due to powerful El Ninos, were thought to be due to the wrath of Ai-Apaec which had to be appeased through any means.
The most elite warriors would engage in a ritual combat before the losers were led back to the sacred temple where their blood was sacrificed as an offering to their god.
Particularly fascinating are the many depictions of Ai-Apaec painted on the temple walls. The murals show the god’s emotions of anger, sadness and of course happiness after being appeased by the human sacrifice.
The Moche were a very sophisticated civilization, capable of building great structures and of exquisite craftsmenship. Yet generation after generation lived their entire lives in fear and reverence of an entity which ultimately, was nothing more than a creation of the mind.
The Power of the Mind
It is amazing how the mind can be so powerful in its creation of beliefs. Once the belief is in place, the mind will interpret everything else that happens as further proof that the belief is true.
For the Moche, the extreme weather of El Nino was the wrath of Ai-Apaec. In reality, Ai-Apaec was nothing more than a creation of the mind and a collection of painted murals.
Even more amazing was their conclusion that killing their best warriors would actually help matters. The Moche of course were not alone, many ancient civilizations held similar beliefs.
When we think of it, even with all our ‘modern sophistication’, sometimes we can be quite similar to the Moche, living in fear of our own Ai-Apaecs.
In the modern world, our Ai-Apaecs can be the beliefs that we carry around with us, the things we live in fear of and constantly try to appease. Sometimes we even sacrifice our best talents (like the Moche’s best warriors) because we limit ourselves by what we think is possible, by our beliefs about the world.
When we really examine them though, these beliefs and limitations that seem so solid are often nothing more than creations of the mind, nothing more than painted murals, our very own Ai-Apaec.
If the Moche had taken a step back, maybe they could have seen that the extreme weather simply happened in cycles, with or without their fear and supplication, with or without their rituals, with or without the blood of their warriors. The faces of Ai-Apaec were a figment of their imagination.
It’s not easy to take a step back, to really look at our beliefs objectively and to see how the mind creates them but it's certainly better than living a life in fear of Ai-Apaec.
Image: The faces of Ai-Aepaec at the Huaca de la Luna, Northern Peru