Variations: Cacya; Chokkechinchay, Choquechinchay
In the Peruvian Andes, certain protective spirits are known to live in the mountains. Apus are guardian deities of regions, while aukis are spirits of cultivation. Their mountain haciendas keep a number of livestock as well as other spirits that serve the apus and aukis. Condors are their chickens, and vicuñas are their llamas. The ccoa is their cat and is the most feared of those spirits. Its primary dwelling is the mountain Ausangate, near the village of Kauri in the Cuzco district. It is associated with (and perhaps identical to) Choquechinchay, the evening star and a constellation of a fierce puma with brilliant eyes.
The ccoa is a catlike creature 40 cm tall and 60 cm long, with a tail 30 cm in length and 3 cm wide. It is gray with black stripes running the length of its body. Its head is proportionally a bit larger than a cat’s, with phosphorescent eyes; often there is hail running out of its eyes and ears. Sometimes the ccoa appears as a catlike bull with eyes of blood.
During the rainy season the ccoa emerges from highland springs in the form of clouds. An active and angry spirit, it seeks to steal the crops before the harvest, destroying them with hail. Its tail sweeps the clouds, bringing storms, hail, and deadly lightning. It is unclear whether the ccoa acts on its own initiative or if it only follows the orders of its spirit masters, but either way it is treated as a malevolent threat that must be placated.
When it comes to interaction with the ccoa, there are two kinds of people: those who serve the ccoa and those who fight it. The rich serve the ccoa, as their fields are never harmed by hailstorms. The poor fight it, as their fields are destroyed by the ccoa and their families stricken with disease. The ccoa is also revered by sorcerers, as it grants them powers by striking them with lightning.
The ccoa can be placated with suitable offerings. These are usually a combination of materials including incense, wine, gold and silver tinsel, llama tallow, and cañihua and huairuro grains, collected and burned on high ground. Sorcerers in particular must be sure to make offerings to the ccoa in thanks for their gifted abilities. The ccoa is angered by unsatisfactory offerings by sorcerers, children dying before being baptized, and attempts to fight off its hail.
The souls of unbaptized children are duendes, and they are irredeemably malevolent. When children die before they are baptized, they must be taken to he hills and burned to ashes. If unbaptized children are buried, the ccoa will strike their burial place with lightning and take the duendes to Ausangate as servants.
Sometimes the ccoa is replaced entirely by Santiago, a more neutral deity who causes hail and lightning but also protects crops.
The ccoa may be a modern-day descendant of the ancient Chavín feline cult.
Bankes, G. (1977) Peru Before Pizarro. Phaidon, Oxford.
Cumes, C. and Valencia, R. (1995) Pachamama’s Children. Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul.
Harrison, R. (1989) Signs, Songs, and Memory in the Andes. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Mishkin, B. The Contemporary Quechua. In Steward, J. H. ed. (1946) Handbook of South American Indians v. 2: The Andean Civilizations. United States Government Printing Office, Washington.