How Kogi Mamas Are Trained, Sacred Sites and Kogi Leadership
ABOUT THE NUHUE: In every village there is a larger hut known as the ‘nuhue’. Its architecture is different from the other huts being larger and having two entrances, each opposite to the other. Only men can enter the nuhue - it is here that the business of the village is discussed and confession takes place. The architecture of the nuhue is highly symbolic and represents in fact the nine worlds which make up the cosmos.
ON THE MAKING OF A MAMA: ‘To make a really good Mama you have to take the child right at the moment it is born and then you keep it shut way…. in a small ceremonial house. The mother lives nearby and takes care of it only bringing it out in the middle of the night. The mother must not eat any food that has blood in it…..When the baby is 4 years old it is taken off its mother’s milk….and she gives it over to the Cabos completely (Assistants to the Mamas) They take him out at night to teach him so that he can do offerings and he talks in Aluna to the fathers and the masters of the world. Sometimes his mother still comes to the door of the house and then the child dances…and the mother sings to him and then he is shut away again. So a Moro doesn’t know about anything. He’s never seen a chicken and he’s never seen a pig. He’s never seen trees or birds, he doesn't know anything about the world outside the house. The Mamas bless him, and they give him food in Aluna. To make him grow strong they rub him, they massage him with a sort of cloth which is made from Watta. He’s also given a type of potato to eat and he can eat white corn. They are cooked together and ….on top of the pot they put a white grub…and then give it to him. He only drinks purified water from the stone mortars in the house, water that has been blessed.
Then the child looks in the water and notices bubble and likes them… he learns from listening, listening spiritually, knowledge comes to him in Aluna.
When you want to be a Mama you have to concentrate and really listen to what the Mamas say to you. You can’t do just whatever you want, everything is controlled. When the Mamas take you out to make an offering you have to fast, you go without eating and when you come back you can’t have anything to eat…. It’s really hard being a Mama but in the end, you get used to it. You get used to being hungry, eating in the middle of the night. When you’re older you get used to it.
So, when you’re grown up, when you are a man, they give you a poporo and they give you the beads and they give you a bowl for divining…Then you are able to work alone, divining and helping people. You can do all this.'
ABOUT SACRED SITES: The mamas work is performed at what they call sacred sites. These are the places where they have direct contact with the ‘spiritual parents’ who they describe as the Mothers and Fathers of all living things. These are aspects and personifications of Aluna. Many of these sites are being destroyed.
The most vital of these places are the Ezuamas, ‘hot spots’ high in the Sierra which, they believe, most immediately connect with specific parts of the life-energy underlying nature. They engage with precisely placed stones and make tiny offerings of small beads. The bubbles in the water are then interpreted by them.
‘Here we are on Planet Earth. I want to tell you that we all live on the same planet and so we must all listen to the commands of the Mothers and Parents who grant us the Earth….. Seishua (an ezuama) was also created by the Mother and knows the whole of the Law. It must warn those who are thinking of doing harm so that they understand that they cannot destroy the seas and everything that exists. They are not the owners of the world. There is a high environmental authority which takes the form of a high mountain which keeps watch against the intrusion of disruption and corruption. Now we find ourselves in contact with the enemy of the mountains…..
Now we are destroying every type of vegetation and the Mother feels this like an amputation or tearing out her heart. …Our ancestors taught to us that the forests cannot be felled. There are trees that cannot be cut…. The ezuamas must not be touched. …. We must also tell you that the tuma (ancestral divination stones) must not be taken out of the ground. We behave respectfully but the Younger brothers do not. As soon as they see something in the earth they grab it. They are taking advantage of the frailty of nature. The birds have gone from us ….
All the rivers flow to the beaches from the ezuamas. They must not be damaged or they cannot carry anything down to feed the sea. The clouds are raised down there to complete the water cycle to the peaks. The lagoons are the Mothers of the sea and they supply its needs. We thought the Younger Brothers were going to take care of the seas, but they constructed Corelca (an electricity generating plant) with great damage to the sacred sites. ….we cannot enter to gather our shells. It is not possible to repair the damage that the Younger Brothers have done to the sacred sites. The Mother cannot survive this. So now we see the rivers drying out, avalanches, landslips, drought, unfamiliar weather and this is being brought about by the younger brothers.
Our life depends on the constant cycle of water moving between the sea and freshwater lakes and rivers. When we behave properly this is the centre of the world and the good rain falls on everything that grows. If the sacred sites are overthrown, we would have nowhere to live.'
Mama Pedro Juan speaking at Seishua in April 2009
ON GOVERNMENT: ‘We communicate with the Younger brother through the Organisatión Gonawindua Tairona. That is why we created it and the whole mountain can be encountered through it. In the beginning the Elder Brothers remained here while the younger Brothers were sent to the other end of the sea with everyone instructed to protect the Mother. But nowadays we see that the laws that protect ethnic groups are not respected. The State (in Colombia) says that it has the right to the resources under the earth, but these are our resources. This creates distrust between us and the Younger Brothers and between the Younger Brothers themselves….The Ministry of the Environment say that they are the owners of the environment but they do not fulfil their duties towards it and we know that we must make our offerings.'
Mama Pedro Juan speaking at Seishua in April 2009