Hercules in the 21st Century ~ Virgo
Hernando C. Kulez and the Earth Mamos
"Thank you so very much," Hernando Carlos Kulez said into the microphone as quickly as he could, while the banquet room of the London Hilton filled with applause. Kulez was on stage to pick up the 1992 international Pulitzer for a series of compelling photographs of civilian casualties in the Gulf War.
Throughout his career, the middle-aged Chilean had worked hard to become one of the preeminent photojournalists covering frontline world situations, and had followed the crisis in the Gulf, once the war itself had ended, to nearby Serbia.
Over and over that evening, Kulez kept asking himself, "what am I doing here?" His firsthand experience observing the cruelties of war was nothing he was proud of. For while having covered stories of devastation in his native South America, hed seen the deaths of thousands in the huge natural and man-made disasters he had photographed. But it didnt prepare him for the sheer inhumanity hed witnessed recently covering the volatile situation in Bosnia-Herzegovena.
Returning to his seat, Hernando was pulled into a flashback memory that recurred for him day in and day out, since four months ago when he taken photographs of terrorist Croatian firing squads killing innocent people. This evening, almost every time there was a round of applause, he heard gunfire and saw the senseless killing once again. To his damaged emotional body, shell-shocked from recent events, it was as if he were right there again, watching.
Kulez recalled seeing this BBC documentary on the Kogi tribe a few months before; it had revealed to the world the story of their ancient civilization. Something about their story had stirred Hernandos interest.
Elder Brothers, the "Mamos" or shaman of the Kogi, believe their civilization to be the guardians of life on Earth, and the Earth is Aluna, mother of all life.
As spiritual leaders for their tribe, the Mamos have maintained their ancient ceremonies over centuries in order to balance the spiritual and material forces of nature, and in so doing, the actions of all humanity.
If everything ~ every tree, every stone ~ has a spirit, as the Kogi believed, then what kind of spirit could possibly explain the brutality of the wars hed chronicled, Kulez wondered as he thought more over the next few days. Now that his traumatized condition had brought his assignment in Eastern Europe to an early end, and drawn him more and more to finding a way to heal his nervous condition, he decided to fly home to Chile and meet with his editors.
Until the BBCs documentary, the Kogi had remained hidden to the rest of the world, where they continue to live under the strict regime of their traditions. Following the Spanish conquest and with the growth of the modern world, their ancient prophecies hold that the Earths technological developments will bring catastrophe. For centuries they have also believed that they are roped to the rest of civilization, and all the world will sooner or later be yanked to destruction.
Indeed, what came through was surprising to them: instruction to bring their visitor to meet Elder Sister, the high priestess of the tribe, whose very presence is one of the guarded secrets of their religion. This would require journeying high into the Sierra, to an elevation over 7,000 feet, where she lived and maintained the tribes high temple. There, her foremost duty was to raise and teach the chosen child who would replace her. This took 11 years, and during these years the child was not permitted to leave the temple in a cave. From birth, she would be the only contact, the only human allowed to touch the child.
The next day Mamo Jefe told Hernando that he would be escorting him to the mountain temple, to meet Elder Sister. They arrived two days later, and from the grueling climb, Hernando had become weak, with a high fever. Mamo Jefe wrapped him for the night, and while asleep, Hernando had a most vivid dream.
Ever the frontline journalist, Hernando went to do what was instinctual from his many years covering the war: "get the photograph." And before the high priestess even began to comprehend any of what was happening, he reached into his pocket for his camera.
Suddenly aware of all the horror Hernando brought with him, she was frozen in fear. Having never seen a camera before, the woman watched Kulez raise the black metallic rectangular box to his head. Instantly concerned for the sacred crystal, which she knew to be unstable, she held up her hand to Hernando, beginning to wave it as a warning of the crystals power. But he snapped the photograph, and in a brief moment, the reflection of the flash ricocheted from the crystal into the open palm of her hand. The jarring impact was so incredibly intense, she fell instantaneously to the ground.
The two men tried to revive her, and Mamo Jefe worked together with Kulez by his side ~ both were fully mobilized to action. All in the same passage awed by the tragedy he had unwittingly caused, Hernandos focus went to the task of trying to undo his impetuous action.
But their efforts at resuscitation were futile, she was indeed dead. Hernando stumbled outside into the light, sat down and tried to get still, looking over the valley below. Now that he was no longer engaged in the task of trying to revive the woman, he was pulled back into his old familiar place of despair. Recalling the horror of the atrocities he had witnessed in Serbia, he effectively had murdered Elder Sister, whose sacred ways hed come there to study and learn.
Emerging from the cave after sunset, Mamo Jefe asked Hernando to help him bring the body outside, and the two men conducted her cremation ceremony in silence. And while the fire raged, Kulez had a vision. He saw the spirit of Elder Sister come to him, and she told him to stay with the Kogis and master their ways. Even though it seemed hopeless, for when they found out what he had done they would probably inflict due punishment, he was thusly guided to approach them when he returned to Pueblo Viejo.
Kulez knew from the BBC documentary that the Kogi trained their holy leaders in a cave from birth, and Mamo Jefe had told him of their tribes dilemma. Since the child was still nearly two years from being of age to take over for Elder Sister, they would need to consult Aluna to find out what to do in the meantime.
As they wept, Kulez felt the priests revulsion towards him and his inadvertant, callous act. He quietly and sincerely told them how sorry he was, and humbly asked for their forgiveness.
Then he told them he would like to stay there and study their religion.
At this point Hernando would have done anything they asked in order to stay and atone for his impetuous, foolish act. And so for the months ahead the tribe simply allowed him to observe. Unable to just watch, during the days he joined the other men tending the crops in the fields. And when the Mamos met each evening in the nuhue, Kulez stayed and cooked with the women and the non-religious vassals.
Soon the Kogi noticed Hernando worked harder than any of the other vassals, and the tu-tuma told the Mamos to invite Kulez to attend their holy meetings. He met with them and studied, and slowly but surely began to recognize the spirit in every object, every plant, every mineral.
Together with the rest of the Mamos, Kulez climbed the Sierra and arrived once again at the temple where Mamo Jefe had stayed on to teach the holy child. In silence, and with a shroud over the childs head, the two left ahead of the pilgrims to go to the spring at the top of the mountains. When they all had arrived, everyone grew still to see how the ceremony would be different this year, without Elder Sister to preside.
Hernando did exactly as he was asked, and she then passed her hands all around the crystal, as Elder Sister had taught her always to do when about to touch it. Now she asked him to lift the sacred object for the ritual, and motioned him to place it under the waterfall coming out of the spring. In traditional manner, the potent mineral charged and blessed the Amazon valley below.
Once the ceremony ended, and the Mamos had prayed together for the world as they did each year for the highest outcome on Earth, Mamo Jefe and the holy child turned to lead the other Mamos away. Hernando Carlos Kulez wrapped the crystal once again in its cover, and walking with the others, carried it back to the temple in the cave.Later, after the child had gone in to sleep, Hernando joined the Mamos in their evening ceremony around the campfire. As they chanted, he was in awe of the beautiful ritual and his own participation in it. Then suddenly, the ground began to shake. It was an earthquake.
Thinking only of the child in the cave, Kulez ran inside the temple and yelled to her. As the ground continued to shake, the walls of the temple began to cave in. Just in time, he saw her sleeping in a small alcove in the back. Without even looking at the glowing crystal that had been returned to its place in the center, he picked up the child and ran for the door.
Awakened by the commotion, the child screamed as they reached the entrance, and pointed at the luminescent mineral. In instant response, Hernando passed her to Mamo Jefe, and ran back into the cave for the crystal. This time he picked it up with the blanket and fled again for the entrance. In a flash he remembered the scene from his dream, at the end, when he was holding the crystal. Now that part had also come true.
When the ground stopped shaking, the temple cave had been ruined. But miraculously the child was saved, and Hernando watched as the Mamos joined hands in a circle to rejoice. He followed, and together they all prayed.
on Alice A. Baileys book, The
Labours of Hercules,
Kogi Related Video
Kogi Message to "Younger Brother" (53:26)
links about the Kogi, lost tribe of pre-Colombian America
Click here to read the classical Virgo myth and interpretation, from The Labours of Hercules.
Questions? Answers? Impressions?
title image adapted from "Kogi Mask" by Marc