“Mamas” and Kogi Religious Beliefs
The Kogi Indians of Colombia represent the last remnants of a once impressive, highly skilled and adaptive, ancient Indian culture known as the Tairona, who were nearly exterminated by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries. Faced with the incessant advance of civilization, agriculture, and industry the Kogi have retreated high into the Sierra Nevada mountains, where they deny entry to all outsiders. Insulated within their remote territory, the Kogi live as they have for centuries, follow their wise “mamas’”(religious leaders) directives, and worry over the fate of the world (Ereira, 2012). The Kogi base their monotheistic (Gezon & Kottak, 2012) religious beliefs on a living, breathing Earth known to them as “Great Mother.” Additionally, “…the Kogi have a mythology full of ‘transformative words, symbols, and metaphors for female potency, cosmic power,’ and so forth” (Dodd, 1997). A universal symbol of this female-based belief system can be seen in the hands of every adult male Kogi: the poporo. The poporo is “…the gourd which contains the powdered lime used in conjunction with chewing the coca-leaf. For a boy, the giving of his first poporo by the Mamas marks his rite of passage into manhood” (Tairona Heritage Trust, 2008).
The poporo itself is shaped to represent a womb and the stick which is used to dip out the lime represents a phallus. The Tairona Heritage Trust (2008) quoted Ereira’s (2012) documentary film about the Kogi and their beliefs about the poporo:
The Kogi refer to it as ‘both a safeguard and a woman. The hole in the top is penetrated by the poporo stick. The powder of burned sea-shells inside is the essence of fertility, and for a boy to grow to manhood he must learn to feed on that. That, and the coca leaves, harvested only by women, will make him fit to father children and tend the land - to develop a relationship with a woman in the flesh, and with the Mother Earth.
According to The Taironi Heritage