The Smiling God of Chavín de Huantar

Before going for the next mountain trip I decided to take some rest and see a famous archeologic site next to Huaraz – Chavín the Huantar. The Chavín Cult is probably the oldest civilization in Perú and parts of it are still a mystery. The most characteristic of the Chavín culture are monoliths and stone curvings, showing a whole range of forest animals – birds of prey, lizards, snakes, and mythical creatures, half human half animal. A remarkable amount of the animals are the ones of the jungle, meaning that the people of the selva, sierra and costa regions of Perú were in contact already over 2000 years ago! It is almost sure that the Chavín religion involved human transformations, induced by halucinogenic drugs (like a San Pedro cacti – a traditional shamanic plant in Perú). On many carvings one can actually see the motive of the human transforming into a jaguar, emphesizing the complex relationship between a shaman and jaguar, so typical for many American cultures.

Chavín the Huantar itself, dating almost 2500 years back, is one of the oldest sites in the Americas and used to be a central pilgrimage place and a great oracle. The buldings inside are a labirinth of passages, corridors and small rooms. In the center of the Old Temple awaits the Smiling God of Chavín, the Lanzón. It’s a humanoid figure, with its eyes gazing upwards and a smiling feline mouth. What did it really represents? That is still unknown and probably will remain a mystery forever…

Walking around the temple, I kept thinking how extraordinary and fascinating place must have been. What did those people really cherish? Who did they give their praises to? Why was it so appealing to the population to spread thousands of kilometers around without wars, guns or violence? The art, the carvings are still strange, exotic, dramatic.. The Lanzón with its secret smile is curiously absorbing, awaking some unknown feelings. The power and inspiration, surely so much stronger 2000 years ago, are still present.

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