Kogi - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. The creation myth describes the process of embryogenesis in a cosmic womb, paralleled by the unfolding of individual consciousness and the first structuring of the universe. The creator-goddess is the Mother, a self-existent and initially self-fecundating Magna Mater. Next to the Mother are her sons, who are the Lords of the Universe; together with their divine sister-spouses, they are in charge of all aspects of nature and of people's behavior. The Mother also created Sun and Moon, to establish a precise cosmic clockwork order. There also exist a large number of male or female spirit beings, rain and thunder beings, animal spirits, and others. The three basic dimensions of divine creation are: a nine-layered universe, a ninetiered temple, and a nine-month-phased human womb. Religious activities refer mainly to fertility and to the need to achieve balance between the opposing forces and tendencies in nature and human minds.

Religious Practitioners. Kogi priests must undergo a long and very exacting training period, during which they must develop a strong and dominant personality of high ethical standards together with a broad understanding of political and ecological issues. Priestly activities are centered upon temples that, apart from being sun-watching stations, symbolize the womb of the Mother.

Ceremonies. The annual ritual cycle is marked by the four solstitial and equinoctial ceremonies, dates that coincide with the onset of the rainy or dry season. Masked dances or minor ceremonies are celebrated to honor a host of spirit beings throughout the year. Local priests are in charge of all rituals of the individual's life cycle. Private ritual actions are very frequent, consisting of offerings to the Mother or to the ancestors, public confessions, dietary or sexual restrictions, solitary pilgrimages to sacred sites, and the learning of dances, songs, and traditions. During some of the major ceremonies, priests wear ancient Tairona ornaments such as carved masks, ritual objects of polished and carved stone or wood, and pectorals or wristlets of gold or tumbaga (tombac).

Arts. Singing and dancing are the principal Kogi artistic expressions and are highly formalized. Rhetoric, the recital of cosmogonic myths accompanied by prescribed stances and gestures, is an important art form. Applied decorative arts are nonexistent except for some colored stripes on clothes or carrying bags, the function of which is lineage identification.

Medicine. Minor Kogi priests, who have a lower, shamanic status as healers, have a good knowledge of herbal medicine. Many diseases, however, are attributed to malevolent spirit beings, vindictive ancestors, or social dysfunctions; in these cases the priests, elders, or family members prescribe adequate offerings or confession.

Death and Afterlife. At death the soul-stuff returns to the Mother's womb because life is but a brief period between two intrauterine states. Earthly annihilation is followed by the soul's wandering to the Land of Death, where it is accused, judged, and punished. The soul then proceeds, over one of the many trails assigned to it, to its final destiny.


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