Mama Quilla (Quechua mama killa lit. "Mother Moon",[1] hispanicized spelling Mama Quilla), in Inca mythology and religion, was the third power and goddess of the moon. She was the older sister and wife of Inti, daughter of Viracocha and mother of Manco Cápac and Mama Uqllu (Mama Ocllo), mythical founders of the Inca empire and culture. She was the goddess of marriage and the menstrual cycle, and considered a defender of women. She was also important for the Inca calendar.

Myths surrounding Mama Killa include that she cried tears of silver and that lunar eclipses were caused when she was being attacked by an animal. She was envisaged in the form of a beautiful woman and her temples were served by dedicated priestesses.

It is possible that word quilla is a borrowing from Puquina language explaining thus why genetically unrelated languages such as Quechua, Aymara and Mapuche have similar words for the Moon.[2] Similitudes are not only linguistic but also symbolically as in Mapuche and Central Andean cosmology the Moon (Quilla/Cuyen) and the Sun (Inti/Antu) are spouses.[3]


Mama Killa was known as "Mother Moon", and was goddess of the moon.[4] According to Father Bernabé Cobo, writing in the mid-sixteenth century, the Moon was worshipped because of her "admirable beauty" and the "benefits she bestows upon the world".[5] She was important for calculating the passage of time and the calendar, because many rituals were based upon the lunar calendar and adjusted to match the solar year.[4] She also oversaw marriage, women's menstrual cycles[6] and was deemed the protector of women in general.[7]

Myths surrounding Mama KillaEdit

One myth surrounding the Moon was to account for the "dark spots"; it was believed that a fox fell in love with Mama Killa because of her beauty, but when he rose into the sky, she squeezed him against her, producing the patches.[4] The Incas would fear lunar eclipses as they believed that during the eclipse, an animal (possibly a mountain lion[5] or serpent[5][7]) was attacking Mama Killa. Consequently, people would attempt to scare away the animal by throwing weapons, gesturing and making as much noise as possible. They believed that if the animal achieved its aim, then the world would be left in darkness. This tradition continued after the Incas had been converted to Catholicism by the Conquistadors, which the Spanish used to their advantage. The natives showed the Spanish great respect when they found that they were able to predict when the eclipses would occur.[5] Mama Killa was also believed to cry tears of silver.


Mama Killa was generally the third deity in the Inca pantheon, after Inti (god of the sun) and Illapu (god of thunder),[5] but was viewed as more important than Inti by some coastal communities, including by the Chimú.[4] Relatives of Mama Killa include her younger brother and husband Inti, god of the sun, and her children Manco Cápac, first ruler of the Incas, and Mama Ocllo, Manco Cápac’s older sister and wife.[7] After the Ichma, nominally of the Chimú Empire, joined the Inca empire, she also became the mother of their deity Pacha Kamaq.[8] Mama Killa's mother was said to be Viracocha.

Symbology and templesEdit

Mama Killa had her own temple in Cusco, served by priestesses dedicated to her.[4] She was imagined as a human female,[4] and images of her included a silver disc covering an entire wall.[7]

See alsoEdit


  • D'Altroy, T.N. (2002) The Incas, Blackwell Publishing: Oxford. ISBN 978-0-631-17677-0.
  • Pugh, Helen Intrepid Dudettes of the Inca Empire (2020) ISBN 9781005592318


  1. ^ Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario Bilingüe Iskay simipi yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua–Spanish dictionary)
  2. ^ Moulian, Rodrígo; Catrileo, María; Landeo, Pablo (2015). "Afines quechua en el vocabulario mapuche de Luis de Valdivia" [Akins Quechua words in the Mapuche vocabulary of Luis de Valdivia]. Revista de lingüística teórica y aplicada (in Spanish). 53 (2): 73–96. doi:10.4067/S0718-48832015000200004.
  3. ^ Moulian, Rodrigo; Catrileo, María; Hasler, Felipe (2018). "Correlatos en las constelaciones semióticas del sol y de la luna en las áreas centro y sur andinas" [Correspondence of semiotic sun and moon constellations in the central and southern andes]. Boletín del Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (in Spanish). 23 (2): 121–141. doi:10.4067/S0718-68942018000300121.
  4. ^ a b c d e f D'Altroy, p. 148.
  5. ^ a b c d e Cobo, Bernabé (1990) [1653]. Inca Religion and Customs. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. pp. 29–30.
  6. ^ "Pre-Columbian civilizations". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2008. Retrieved 23 March 2008.
  7. ^ a b c d Conway, D. J. (1995). Moon Magick: Myth & Magick, Crafts & Recipes, Rituals & Spells. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 148. ISBN 978-1-56718-167-8.
  8. ^ Lanning, Edward (1968). Peru Before the Incas. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-13-661595-8.