Aclla ( Quechua: aklla) in the religion of the Inca Empire were virgins chosen to keep the sacred fires of Inti burning. They were also occasionally sacrificed as well. Their other duties included brewing the beer of the Incas and on occasion serving as companions to the Inca emperor.
Aclla served other purposes in Inca society as well. Known as “wives of the Sun”, or “wives of the Inca”, aclla were chosen from newly conquered and existing Inca ayllus for ritual service to Cuzco and the Inca Empire. Often children and female, the acllas were chosen for their beauty or perfection. Recently discovered archaeological evidence contained the remains of a male aclla.
Those selected to be acllas held a number of different fates. Some were placed in arranged marriages to Inca men, others became servants of the principal deities of the Inca Empire and others became human sacrifices to the Inca gods; they became capacocha. The male child previously mentioned was ritually sacrificed in this way.
The use of acllas was tied to kinship and the maintenance of hegemony within the empire. The family of a chosen aclla would be raised in social status. The acllas themselves would honour the main Inca gods and be honoured in return. Those who were not sacrificed at Cuzco would return to their own communities and be sacrificed there. This would create a ritual bond between Cuzco and the local region; Cuzco had taken a member of the local community and made them a representative of the central state. The aclla had been blessed by the Emperor and became the guardian of the local huacas. This signalled the entrance of the empire into local tradition and religion. This tying of the centre to the periphery was one of the most important aspects of the sacrifice of acllas. The story of Tanta Carhua is one such account of the process of binding the centre and the periphery together.
Colonial documents contain record of Tanta Carhua, who was sacrificed as a capacocha in her home ayllu of Urcon. After visiting Cuzco and being honoured by the emperor, Tanta Carhua was credited with saying “You can finish with me now because I could not be more honoured than by the feasts which they celebrated for me in Cuzco." Upon her return home, Tanta’s father became the curaca of his ayllu. Tanta was deified and her “sacrifice... ritually asserted her father’s, and father’s descendants’, new role as a nexus between Urcon and Cuzco while dramatizing the community’s subordination to Cuzco.”
Irene Silverblatt covers the story and significance of Tanta Carhua and the capacocha in greater detail in her book Moon, Sun, and Witches.