The Intiwatana at Machu Picchu, known as the "hitching
post of the sun" is a carved rock pillar whose four corners are
oriented toward the four cardinal points. The Inca were
accomplished astronomers, and used the angles of the pillar to predict the solstices.
The sun exerted a crucial influence on the agriculture, and therefore
the well-being of the whole society. It was considered the supreme
natural god (a ceramic corn god gives evidence to the spiritual devotion
of the natural world that was common to all pre-Inca cultures). At
the winter solstice on June 21, the high priest would rope a golden
disc to the Intiwatana, to symbolically catch the sun and bring it
back toward earth for another year's cycle of seasons.
The Intiwatana is the only one of its kind not lopped off by the
Spanish conquerors, who made a point of destroying all implements
of Inca religion. Many people today feel that Machu Picchu is one
of the Earth's magnetic focal points, and carries an inherent spiritual
or metaphysical power. Indeed, it is difficult to sit at the edge
of the Sacred Plaza overlooking
the Urubamba River below, the stone temples and plazas to the front,
and the mountain peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu to the left
and right, and not feel the magic.