Today — 20 June 2019 — is the Catholic feast day of Corpus Christi, set sixty days after Easter and celebrating the supposed continuing post-resurrection physical presence of Christ in the wafer and wine of the Mass. (Catholics believe that presence to be literal, and not merely symbolic or metaphorical even if not detectible via chemical analysis of wine and wafer). In other words, the feast is very specifically and explicitly Catholic and isn’t celebrated by Protestants (or Latter-day Saints), since they don’t believe in Christ’s “real presence” in the Eucharist. Observance of the feast of Corpus Christi dates back, so far as I’m aware, to thirteenth-century Belgium (using today’s geographical terminology).
It’s a very big deal here in Cusco.
Many of the streets in the central city (including the street on which our hotel sits) were blocked off and shut down today for a parade. People were out in their finery, with their children and grandchildren. The music of marching bands reverberated through the old colonial streets.
As a matter of religious history, Cusco’s celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi is extraordinarily interesting. At least, according to the description given by our Catholic local guide.
Tomorrow — 21 June 2019 — will be the solstice. It will be the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere while, of course, it will be the winter solstice here in the southern hemisphere. That is, here in the south, it will be the day on which the sun is furthest from the solar equator and the day on which it begins to move back toward the (here, spring or vernal) equinox, when night and day are of equal length. To put it yet another way, it will represent the beginning of the triumph of the sun and its light over the darkness of winter. For the Incas, the winter solstice was New Year’s Day.
To celebrate, they played music and had a parade. In the parade, they carried the mummified remains of the previous Inca rulers and other dignitaries around. Being dead, these rulers, who had been regarded as gods (the sons of the sun), were now mediators for the people in heaven. Traditionally, fifteen of these mummies were carried about, splendidly dressed, with gold for their eyes.
In today’s Corpus Christi parade, fifteen statues of mediating Catholic saints were carried about, accompanied by music.
Posted from Cusco, Peru