Rituals and Legends
The vicuña has always been surrounded by an aura of mystery and magic: the Incas deeply respected the animals, believing they possessed supernatural powers.
In the days of the Incas the fibre was only gathered once every four years, following a precise ritual which was held at the end of the summer: the Chakku. Entire communities would gather, and huge throngs of 20 or 30 thousand men would encircle the chosen area, gradually corralling the animals into large shearing enclosures. After being sheared the animals would immediately be freed once more, under the watchful gaze of the Inca emperor, who personally attended the ceremony.
In Peru the fleeces are still harvested according to the ancient traditions of the Chakku. Hundreds of men and women gather on the mountain plateaus to celebrate this special day with traditional dances and songs. Holding a rope that is more than 2,000 metres long, decorated with colourful pennants and streamers, they surround the vicuñas and herd them into the shearing pens. Here the campesinos carefully select the animals, immediately freeing the younger ones and those not ready for shearing. Those deemed suitable are gently made to lie on a mat and sheared as quickly as possible so that they can be freed immediately.
Before the Chakku, the local people celebrate the pagapu, an ancient ceremony honouring Pachamama, Mother Earth, and the Andean divinities that protect their animals. The village chiefs start the celebration by giving thanks to the Gods, drinking ceremonial wine and singing prayers, keeping the ancient Inca traditions alive.
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