Alan's Cross Diagnosis Diary From The Kogi's Visit to France

Alan's Cross Diagnosis Diary From The Kogi's Visit to France


I joined the diagnosis after the Kogi and the Scientists had each made their separate inspections of the valley.

Thursday 6th Sept 2018

My visit began at La Comtesse, a rural site about 20 km from the small city of Die in the Drôme. The valley from Die passes along the Drôme valley between limestone mountains, eventually passing between two great rocks called Les Claps (a dialect word for a pile of rocks).

Once through the gap we entered a pine forest: it was not as regimented as the forestry commission plantations in the UK but still prompted me to ask if it was commercial. I was told that the natural beech trees had been largely removed by a growing 19th century population, and reforestation was undertaken after 1918 by Austria as war reparations. They did this using their own pine saplings. These push back further on the beech.

I was told that the Kogi, on seeing this area, said that the pines had no place here and needed to be replaced with beech, which would demand less water from this rocky soil and not threaten the remaining native species. They said that work also needed to be done to counter the negative thought of the pines. That may be represented by an acidity which pines apparently create. I was also told that beech roots create a soil sponge which protects underground water in dry years – unlike pines.

At the site were about 40 people; I knew Eric Julien (the mountaineer who had created the French NGO Tchendukua), Falk Xue Parra Witte (the German-Colombian Cambridge anthropologist who worked on Aluna and who has learned some Kaggaba, the Kogi language), Mauricio Montaña (an engineer/cartographer who used to work with OGT (Organisation Gonawindua Tairona) and now works for Tchendukua), Arregocès Coronado Zarabata (Mama Shibulata’s son-in-law (a university-educated accountant who came as a translator), Mama Shibulata, his wife Narcisa (a Saga, a female Mama) and Mama Bernardo Mamacatan of San Antonio.

Arregocès presented me with the Kogi book Shikwakala which was newly printed but not yet published. It is a fascinating encyclopaedia of Kogi culture

After dinner we had a short talk and then climbed the steep path in a heavy shower to the nuhue which had been built at about 800m, for the start of its initiation. The nuhue had been constructed over 9 years by Tchendukua volunteers.The form is typical of a Kogi nuhue, a mens’ meeting house, with 2 opposite door openings, the multi-ringed roof structure and 4 hearths circled by small rocks. However, it uses local materials, so the circular wall is plastered, and the thatch is made with shorter stalks and layered. It is also open to both sexes. There was a ceremony with men round two fires and women round the others at which each person had to hold a stone in each hand and think, crouching, about their presence.

Friday 7th Sept 2018

I met up with Beatrice and Gilbert Cochet, naturalists who have acquired 600 ha. of land for rewilding. Gilbert spoke passionately about the need to remove dams from rivers, emphasising the effect of allowing silt to flow on marine life. They want to exclude humanity from it, which appears to be the French approach to ecological restoration. They heard the Mamas explain about the pines and how they damage the soil and animal life, and were very struck by this outcome.

In the evening we went into the nuhue for its consecration. There were too many people to fit in so there was then a meeting round the fire outside. Shibulata spoke at length. He explained the concept of naming. Shibulata is not his real name. His real name comes from his lineage of Sezua which is of Seizuanka. They had consulted in Aluna and found the name of this nuhue. It is Kagshibaka nuhue which means earth of connections, to the mountain of Sierra and the Kogi. It is the name of an esuama in Rio Hancho. The mountain to the West of the nuhue site Is jugukui which means the administrator of the location, physical and traditional.

Mama Bernardo explained that he is the Mama of the esuama of San Antonio and that has been his whole life. He has never travelled at all, never left San Antonio. Now he was here creating the link. It is now the responsibility of all these people to care for the nuhue, and he will remain as a presence. He also spoke of me, this time as The BBC. He had heard of me and my work and thanked me and my film crew for what we had done. Clearly all this had flowed from that work.

Saturday 8th Sept 2018

Today we moved to the chateaux of Saint-Ferréol. It turns out to be a manor house about 10 km from Die, which is part ecology school, part meeting space, part gite, in a stunning landscape, a valley between high cliffs.

Sunday 9th Sept 2018

I went with Eric and the Kogi to visit his wife Pauline’s school in the building. There were about 30 primary school children. They were utterly delightful, enjoying cooking and helping in the garden and exploring the pond life with the Kogi. Then there was a circle meeting at which Narcisa took the lead, the first time I had heard her speak properly.

Then we were taken to the site of a farm Tchendukua want to buy, la Viere. It appears to be mostly nut trees. The ”buildings” are asbestos roofs on steel supports with no walls. It turns out that the farm is caught in a three way inheritance dispute. Philippe Cissé, a geobiologist, studied the “energy flow”, “geomagnetism” and “telleuric flow”. He determined that 2 buildings have a good deal of energy, others much less.

We returned after a picnic lunch and I interrogated Shibulata about gold. The story he told was that gold was deposited on earth in its various colours and was needed to make life possible. Gold is spoken of as the origin of life and the giver of life – Gold contains the rules – in effect the genetic code – of each species but from what he told me it is pretty clear that they have no knowledge or memory of making gold objects.

Mon 10th Sept 2018

Today we went with the Kogi to the Claps, to visit the mountain and lakes there. The Kogi looked as if they were discovering the New World.

Some of us just enjoyed time by the lake, then went for the afternoon to a cafe in Die. A hot, sticky day. Jean-Paul Mertinez had been due to arrive but was delayed.

Tuesday 11th Sept. 2018

The heavy duty analysis started with Eric creating a moment of silence.

We were invited to speak about areas of our own expertise, for the Kogi to hear and perhaps comment on later. Falk gave a clear summary of the broad outlines of Kogi culture, with its vision of multiple levels of the world. He spoke of shibulama, the totality of cosmic knowledge. I spoke of the idea of ezuamas and their use in ecological management, linking the ma in sibulama to the ma in esuama. It means heat. Falk observed that esua means 1, so esuama is “hot spot one”.

I asked if anyone could provide information on similar concepts in other mountain cultures. The anthropologist Emilie Ramilien said that she had found a parallel among the Bolivian Ayamara people.

Roche Domerego, an apiculture expert, spoke of the spiritual significance of bees among the Maya, who regarded them as divine – not as individuals but as colonies, whose hives he believes were modelled by the Maya in their “pyramids”.  

Béatrice Milbert, a homeopathist whose wide-ranging interests include the toxicity of electromagnetic fields, spoke of the ability of water to hold memory. Pierre-Yves Longaretti, a theoretical astrophysicist, spoke of the mechanistic structure of the universe. Thomas Reuter, a German-Australian anthropologist working in south-east Asia and specialising in problems of sustainable agriculture, gave the most chilling presentation in which he forecast a 69% gap between projections of global food production and food demand by 2050 (due to population growth to 10 billion and increased per capita consumption, as well as declining productivity rises). This suggests, in effect, 5 billion people could be affected by hunger. Finally, the director of the Lyon Chamber Orchestra, Philippe Fournier, gave a presentation on the centrality of music in European tradition. Jean Paul arrived after a nightmare 2 day journey.

Wednesday 12th Sept 2018

The day of the cross-diagnosis: reports on La Comtesse from scientists and then the Kogi.

The scientists’ study had lasted 3 days. The presentation was opened by Denis Chartier, an environmental geographer from the University of Paris VII Denis-Diderot. The territory was new to him. He investigated its history since the 18th century through maps and documents, assisted by Etienne Grésillon, a biogeographer. They also used the 3 days to perform a swift physical survey during which they met some inhabitants. They saw evidence of use by hunters, and some animals. They collected materials – stones, fir cones, sounds and smells (stored on card strips) to build a picture of La Comtesse and La Viere, examining plants and pasture.

Gilbert Cochet, the naturalist, showed and explained geological maps, stressing the significance of this territory as one of “between-ness” – between the mountain ranges of the Alps and the Pyrenees, so a natural travel route (until the mountain collapse).

Arregocès asked about the chronology of the geological formation, and Gilbert’s answer was not clear. He did not mention the relatively recent formation of the Alps (c. 65 million years ago) but talked in terms of the much older Pre-Cambrian era when the rocks of the Pyrenees formed, in a world which was, he suggested, flat and covered in water.

His wife Beatrice Kremer-Cochet, also a naturalist, spoke of maps of the vegetation. The land is a limestone block with outcrops of marl. Limestone is a sedimentary rock, composed mainly of skeletal fragments of marine organisms. Marlstone is a calcium carbonate or lime-rich mudstone which contains clays and silt. She traced evidence of deforestation followed by pines which create shade for other plants to develop. She found some oaks in a few areas, and a few big animals (deer, boar, goats). A lime ridge between peaks creates a corridor for animals as the Kogi say. Mountain goats once used it but were all killed. Now ibex are being re-introduced and have begun using the corridor to La Comtesse. They will show up there, and the forest will regenerate.

Clélia Bilodeau, a biogeographer at the University of Paris Diderot, showed the regeneration of La Comtesse over 30 years. Grassland has become forested as humans have withdrawn. Beech over- grow imported pines and take more territory. After the 15th C. collapse at the Claps and the closure of the road, medieval Provence became a dependant kingdom and Die became isolated.

Étienne Gresillon then spoke of subsistence agriculture in the 19th century being followed by population growth and a new agriculture of wheat, apples etc. This developed into over-population leading to emigration in the mid-19th century agricultural crisis. The subsequent depopulation lasted until 1914. Then came a big walnut plantation (rifle parts), 300,000 trees and huge chicken production.

After lunch it is the Kogis’ turn.

Shubulata says they saw alien trees which negatively affected the native trees. The animals such as the boars are still here. They identified 2 connected summits, superior and inferior. (I asked how they know. Answer: We found the same river valleys as at home.) There is a strong relation with sea animals. There is a long valley.

‘We began to hear and speak about how to improve things. The mother advised how to protect nature. We climbed to a gate that secures the valley. There we meet the question of protecting the valley. A lot of territory to cover. We are too small for this. We climbed another summit. Here are the rules of the land. This mountain has a great importance. At another hill we learned it had changed its clothes. We asked why. The mother said to know how to take care of everything you

have to follow the rules and you do not.

One of the mountains is important for its connection to water. There is one area where you must not go as it supports many kinds of animals. The area around the spring is in a bad way. Animals have problems of access there. The mother said she would speak about it. Original knowledge lost but there is still living energy in the mountain.

He speaks of an area of diseased nature. ‘The scientists are absent. If they are knowledgeable, they study to control, not to help. They should enable people to have access to water without upsetting the balance. So they need to be concerned with helping nature. The Mamas can indicate the origin of unbalance.

The Mamas were taken to a side where the damage was too great. We insisted on going to the other side where we saw the spring. It could be worked on. It is not the animals’ fault.

Back at the rockslide came a message through thunder to go to the other side of the mountain. The natural spring felt like a place counselling us. And we saw a pile of stones and wondered why. What are you doing. Go back. So go and do some work there.

All that the mother asks is that we recognise the consequence of leaving the path of nature. The rock slide is a warning. We cannot fight the sun. We need to put rocks that we have moved back where they belong.

He called modern laws the false laws of Columbus. The Kogi review the day

‘Alan gave us an explanation of esuama. The mother helps us bring knowledge together. We heard that modern agriculture is problem. The problem is not agriculture but the practice. We heard that water is life and we have to take into account the nature of water. I do not understand that if you have the knowledge you do not use it. There is knowledge that is hard for you to access but go for it. You know there have been other times, like the dinosaurs, and imbalance meant the mother destroyed that. Our age started ok but now we are going the way of the dinosaurs. We have to put our hearts into understanding the mother. Modern rules have devastated Colombia and tourism is creating damage.’

Thursday 13th Sept 2018

35 people in meeting: 4 Kogi, 2 helpers, 29 others. Bernardo speaks for 40 mins. He finds he is in a land like the Sierra but much bigger.

‘Our advice, in our culture, is not to interfere in the order of nature. That is how we counsel the preservation of nature. Very important to maintain original trees, especially kassagui (old master trees). Lakes are of great importance. Water is a physical form of the Mother. This is why the norms stored in the hills are important for the water.

It took me a while to realise that this place is so far from home. I was very curious about this strange place. I had only seen the small communities around the Sierra. Here I have seen a city with no visible end and buildings like mountains. My curiosity was strongly aroused. Shibulata told me there are other such places, and I will pass through a mountain in a tunnel. It is hard to believe. A train tunnel was unbelievable. I have been told that you eat earth, that you extract it. This affects the mountain, which is home of all spiritual things.

In the deep past everything had its place, animals and water, hills were in place and the air that blew was clean. Growing population changed the order of things. Now people act on their own desires.

The mountains around the nuhue you have built are manipulated. But we did see many animals.

We go to many places to defend the Sierra against destruction. We know their history, but the people around there do not know. Defence needs both parties to want to defend the land. But the other side does not. Here are people who do want to defend the land. So we can come together. Perhaps we could arrive at an agreement.

The hills contain lakes, waters, animals, life. We must not damage the mountains. Otherwise there will be no water and we cannot live. I am happy that people here want to help the environment.

Tchendukua has done a lot to raise awareness.’

After translation Bernardo continues speaking of African bees.

They are a very new arrival, unknown to our grandfathers. They now attack and interfere with sugar making. They also attack children, invade houses, attack animals. There are 5 original types of Sierra bees and the type for each place should stay in its place. But the new bees are totally displacing the native bees. Native honey is medicinal, and their wax is used for musical instruments. So bees are needed to sing to the Mother. So the African bee is bad for us. We are offered it for commercial production but money is not the important feature. These need to be removed by people who know how to handle them.’

Roche Domerego, a bee expert, says the African bee was created in a lab in Brazil in 1957 to be a profit centre. He can give advice on dealing with it. Shibulata then speaks for 10 mins.

‘The building you have erected is a very good exercise because someone is now listening to our message and this enables us to work together to protect the balance of nature. Everything created by the mother has a document on how to take care, protect and control it. The only way to work is through its Mother.

Many people come to the Sierra to study us. Their study serves to destroy us. We hear they have been to the moon. We thought it was do something useful. It was the opposite. It is the same with bees. Our only request is that you remove the African bees.’

Roche explains that they do not pollinate in the same way as other bees. Saga Narcisa speaks firmly and energetically for 15 mins. Like Shibulata, she wears the jaguar stripe lineage marker on her clothes. She speaks of water.

‘We have an important story of water as the central element of life. In the Sierra we always give advice about water. We have been given ways of paying homage to water in song and ceremony. To us water is female. Mistreating a woman is mistreating water. Our village authorities watch out for women who need help. Water is the mother of all forms of life and gives life to mountains, plains, stones. It keeps the universe in balance. Without women or water there could be no reproduction. So we drink water to cool and refresh ourselves.

Stitching bags is like taking care of water and we do it daily, just as you write. We make bags for men to wear across their bodies. Drinking water allows us to do things. So at the end of the day, it is water that does these things. So we must be careful as our actions affect water. That is why our traditional authorities lead the work on water. That is why we do not pipe or canalise water. We go to water, to the river; we do not make the water flow to us. I have never travelled far but I have seen in my own region the piping, blocking and re-direction of water. This is not nature’s way and these inventions canalising water affect our bodies and our thoughts. Contaminated water changed how you think and makes us ill. Bathing in running water removes negative energy. It cleans everything and renews everything including us.

So the Mamas are very worried about dams. They destroy the balance, as do pipelines; the animals vanish. Water is a woman, a mother that gives life.’

Shibulata sums up the diagnosis.

‘It feels as though a conclusion is happening. We have had a good and true interchange. For us water is a totality. Everyone drinks water and water keeps us alive. So we must protect nature. Water is strength and knowledge and communicates culture, thought. We come from water, water creates us, a baby is born out of water. All nature comes from water, and we are fully part of nature. Water is a living being and that is why it gives us life. Water contains knowledge; its function is with earth and air to give us life. These elements have to be together. So we are given lakes, underground lakes, swamps. These have their own natural channels. Water gives us rules and guides us. Our spiritual work and our divination is performed through water. It tells us what to do as our thoughts travel through it. People here now are assembling thought which will flow. It may be a slow process but it will happen. We have to use and organise the energy here which means thinking it through.

So next time we meet we must have done something. I will take that message to each esuama. I am happy.

And so the meeting ended and the next day we went our separate ways.

Alan Ereira Friday 14th September 2018

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