I often hear alpaca being referred to as the ‘Fibre of the Gods’ and I can certainly understand why. The animals themselves are closely tied to cultural practices for Andeans people and prior to colonisation, the image of the alpaca, in the form of canopas (small figures carved from stone and used in traditional rituals), were used in rituals and in religious practices. Since the people in the region depended heavily on these animals for their sustenance, the alpaca was seen as a gift from Pachamama, a goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. There is evidence that royal cloth was woven from alpaca.
It is said that alpacas came to be in the world after a goddess fell in love with a man, bringing a herd of alpacas with her, and when he failed to care for a young alpaca, she fled home, through the swamp lands, taking most of her the alpacas with her. The man prevented some of the alpacas from leaving the world and it has been said that the alpacas who didn’t make it back can be seen in today’s alpacas in the swampy lands in the Andes waiting so they can return to their goddess. Alpaca brings with it a very ancient and fascinating history, steeped in mythology, and stories told through history. Alpacas also bring textile tradition that has survived through the ages in woven and hand dyed clothing.