The Muisca were Chibcha-speaking people of pre-Colombian South America who inhabited the central Andean highlands of the present-day Altiplano Cundiboyacense. Composed of rich landowners and successful agriculturists who produced textiles, mined salt and emeralds, as one of the four High cultures of South America the Muisca forged vast amounts of fine gold and silver crafts, that was a major part of their culture.advanced and thriving as the more famous Inca, Aztec, and Mayan tribes, with a hierarchy in leadership, developed religious beliefs, and advanced farming, craft and trade practices. The Muisca spoke a variation of the Chibcha language, which historians believe originated in Central America, and so the Muisca are sometimes also known as the Chibcha people.
The Muisca people viewed space and time, and with no formal concepts of science or religion they perceived everything found in nature as interconnected with both a physical and non-material spiritual form.
Their civilization flourished in ancient Colombia between 600 and 1600 CE (some evidence suggests their history goes back hundreds of years prior). Their territory encompassed what is now Bogotá and they have gained lasting fame as the origin of the El Dorado legend. The Muisca have also left a significant artistic legacy in their intricate metallurgy, much of it unrivalled by any other Americas culture.
However, in today’s post we will be focusing on the deities present in Muisca culture.
Statue of Bachue in Medellin
Bachué (in Chibcha language: "the one with the naked breast"), is a mother goddess that according to the Muisca religion is the mother of humanity. She emerged from the waters in the Iguaque Lake with a baby in her arms, who grew to become her husband and populated the Earth. She received veneration in a temple, in the area now within the municipality of Chíquiza, formerly called "San Pedro de Iguaque".
The legend tells that after she accomplished the goal of giving birth to humanity, Bachué and the parrot god, her husband, became snakes and returned to the sacred lagoon. The history of Bachué was mentioned by the Spanish chronicler, Pedro Simón in his book Noticias Historiales where he wrote that the indigenous people also called her “Furachogua” (Chibcha for: "the good woman"), and worshipped her as one of their main deities. Simón also mentions that the Muisca believed that Bachué sometimes came back from the underworld to guide her people.
Chia, this statue celebrates the triple moon goddess Chia who holds the new zipa in her arms atop a triangle mounted on three circular steps with three paths leading to the statue.
The lunar deity Chia was the patron deity of the zipa and aspects of this deity were recorded by chroniclers Juan de Castellanos who described her as: Chie, Huitaca, Guitaca, Huythaca, Xubchasgagua, Jubchrasguaya, Yubecayguaya
Described as the “three times wise, great and powerful” Chia was a deity of ”extreme beauty,” the queen of “witchcraft and sexual liberation” who encouraged “joy, games, pleasure and drunkenness” and governed the “fluid” aspects of reality including: water, tides, femininity, fertility, arts, dance and music.
Chia is worshiped in accordance with the three monthly phases of the moon: as the waxing moon she was the young rebelling deity Huitaca while on the full moon she was worshipped as the fertility goddess Chia, and on waning moons was the wise old mother goddess, Yubecayguaya (Bachue).
Chiminigagua was the supreme being, omnipotent god and creator of the world in the religion of the Muisca. Chiminigagua was a universally good god and represented the only light that existed when it was night time. When the world was created there was only darkness and the only light was given by Chiminigagua. When Chiminigagua decided to shine light across the Universe, he first opened his gigantic belly from where light was shining.
He then created two large black birds and launched them into space. The birds spread light from their beaks which produced light in the cosmos. Thus he created light and everything in the world.
The solar cult and belief in the supreme being is comparable to other indigenous peoples of the Americas and elsewhere in the world. Tezcatlipoca was a similar deity for the Aztec.
Muisca’s Sun Temple Reconstruction at the Archaeological Museum of Sogamoso, Colombia
“Grandes culturas indígenas de América - Great indigenous cultures of the Americas” by Javier Ocampo López
“El proceso de Ubaque de 1563: la última ceremonia religiosa pública de los muiscas - The trial of Ubaque of 1563: the last public religious ceremony of the Muisca. Boletín Museo del Oro” by Eduardo Londoño Laverde
Rediscovering Colombia’s Moon Goddess of El Dorado by Ashley Cowie