The Myth of Yacana

The constellation that we call Yacana, is the kamac (spirit creator) of the llamas, that is, its vital force, the soul that makes them live. Yacana walks by a large river (the Milky Way). On its way it gets increasingly black. He has two eyes and a very long neck. It is said that Yacana used to drink water from any spring, and if he rested on someone, he was very lucky. While this man was crushed by the enormous amount of wool from Yacana, other men pulled the fiber. All this happened always at night.

At dawn the next day you could see the wool they had torn up the night before. This was blue, white, black, brown, there were all kinds, all mixed. If the lucky man/woman had no llamas, he/she would quickly buy some and then adore the wool of the Yacana in the place where it had been torn out. He/She had to buy a female llama and another male llama, (the yanantin: sacred relationship) and only from these two could he/she have two thousand or three thousand. This was the luck that the Yacana gave to those who rested on top of them. It is said that in very old times, this happened to many people in many places. At midnight and without anyone knowing, Yacana drinks all the sea water, because otherwise the sea would flood the whole world.


Yutu (the partridge) is a small constellation that appears before the Yacana. According to the andean tradition, the Yacana has a child who wakes her up when the child sucks. There are also three stars that walk together and in a straight line. To these they have put the names of Kuntur (condor), Suyuntuy (gallinazo) and Huamán (hawk). Tradition has it that when these brighter stars appear than before, that year will be good for cultivation. If instead they appear less bright, that will be a hard year, with much suffering.

For the Incas, “Willka Mayu,” (the Milky Way) was a life-giving river in the heavens with its earthly counterpart – the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, high up in the Andes Mountains (it is now Peru). The Incas grouped constellations into two different types – luminous and dark. The first was made up of sparkling stars that depicted geometric forms in the sky. These luminous constellations were seen as inanimate. The other kind – the dark cloud constellations – were contained within the dark blotches of the Milky Way, and were considered living forms, representing animals the Incas knew. These dark patches represented the silhouettes of animals that came to drink from the waters of celestial river, obscuring the heavenly glow of Mayu.

One of the most important dark cloud constellations was Yacana –the llama, which rises above Cusco, the ancient center of the Incas, in November. It consists of two llamas – the Mother Llama, seen between the Southern Cross and Scorpio, and the Baby Llama, suckling at her mother’s breast. Although The Llama is a dark cloud constellation, the eyes of the Mother Llama are the two bright stars from the constellation Centaurus. One is Alpha Centauri, which is the third brightest star in the night sky (to the naked eye it appears as one star, but is in fact a binary star system), and the other – Beta Centauri, is a trinary star system.
The more she walked, the blacker she became. Her baby accompanied her throughout the sky. When the baby became hungry, Yacana fed him. 
When Yacana woke up, it became daytime. It is said that the man/woman who finds himself/herself in a place where Yacana has fed her baby will have good luck for the rest of his/her days.

Yacana was just and treated everyone equally. She would not make only one man or one woman happy. At night, when nobody was looking, she used to go and drink water from the oceans. She drank the water of pain, the water of sadness and the water of thirst and hunger. She drank the water of the tragedy of humankind and prevented the seas from overflowing and flooding the earth.

Geo Caldwell

Baby llama at Machu Picchu, Peru

Baby llama at Machu Picchu, Peru