Éric Julien and the mystery of the kogi shamans | RCF

Éric Julien, geographer friend of the Kogis

The “little fold of territory” where Éric Julien lives in the Drôme looks nothing like the land of the Kogis, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in Colombia. 34 years ago, these indigenous people saved his life. Victim of pulmonary edema at an altitude of 5,000 meters during an expedition, the geographer would not have survived without them. Since then, Eric Julien has become the specialist, the ambassador, the friend of the Kogis.

It is to thank them that Éric Julien founded the association Tchendukua 25 years ago. An association that buys the land of the Kogis for them. In 70 years, this people has lost 80% of its territory, looted by paramilitaries, grave robbers, precious wood miners or drug traffickers… To date, 2386 hectares have been recovered, including 1800 in a single valley, the one where pre-Columbian peoples lived. “This is a unique case in the world where Indian heirs to a great pre-Columbian tradition return to the ruins of their ancestors. It is a whole process of awakening and care and resilience of the territories, and that is completely fascinating !”

Who are the Kogis?

The program “Rendez-vous en Terreconnue” with Thomas Pesquet in 2018, made the Kogis known in France. These men in white clothes may seem strange to us. Above all, it is a people with an extraordinary culture. The Kogis live in the north of Colombia in a mountainous territory, which is undoubtedly “the biggest biodiversity hotspot in the world”, specifies Éric Julien.

They would be 25 to 30000 Kogis in these mountains. Éric Julien calls them “root humans”: “They are still responsible for the place where they live, it is not roots that immobilize but roots that invite responsibility, which is not the same!” Persecuted for centuries, the Kogis have remained peaceful, deeply spiritual. And they have a great desire to dialogue with Westerners. “This is what is both fascinating and touching, for Eric Julien, maybe even very moving!”

Despite everything they are going through today, “They are still telling us: if you agree, maybe we could have a dialogue, because with everything you know and everything we know, if we had a real dialogue we could find answers to the great challenges of our time! For Éric Julien, the Kogis teach us not only to be connected to nature but also to live together in peace.

The mystery of the kogi shamans

For a few years it is the Kogis themselves who bring their knowledge, via the Tchendukua association. In 2018, three kogi shamans (two men and a woman) came to France to make a diagnosis of the territory of Haut-Diois, in Drôme. A meeting that Éric Julien recounts in his book “Kogis, the path of talking stones – Dialogues between shamans and scientists” (ed. Actes Sud, 2022).

Kogi shamans compared their observations with those of 25 Western scientists – anthropologist, climatologist, naturalist, biologist, astrophysicist, doctor, geographer, etc. “They taught us absolutely mind-blowing things about our territories that even scientists didn’t know!” It didn’t take long for the shamans, who had never been to France, to see or feel that the black pines planted there in the 19th century were “selfish”. These Austrian pines, which are not endemic plants, acidify the soil and contribute to the imbalance of the region…

Even to Éric Julien who knows them well, the Kogis shamans remain mysterious. They have been known to spend 18 years in the dark as a form of training, as if to prolong the life of the fetus in the womb. “Deprived of vision, they over heighten their senses and their ability to perceive maybe a magnetic field, maybe natural radioactivity… I don’t know, it’s a mystery, they say they hear some kind of crackling .”

The Kogis conceive the world and the earth as a human body, with its energies and its fluids. “As there is acupuncture for the human body, we can have points where the earth speaks to you, informs you about its health.” The objective of this meeting between Western scientists and kogi shamans was to verify whether the expertise of the latter was valid outside their Colombian valley. The answer is yes. Their heightened senses made us see how much we, on the other hand, had lost them.

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Éric Julien and the mystery of the kogi shamans | RCF

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