KOGI (Colombia)


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In some Sierra Nevada tribes, both girls and boys were initiated to sexual intercourse by an older adult (Park, p883)[1]. Reichel-Dolmatoff (1951)[2] provides a reasonably elaborate account of the sexual climate of the Kogi child.


First two years:


“From the first days of their lives, the sexual organs of the babies are covered carefully, and every day the mother repeats this act very demonstratively, drawing the cloths of the clothing between the child’s legs. Constant threats accompany the children in this regard during the first two years: “Hide your penis because an animal will eat it up!” is said to male children, and “Cover yourself, because a snake will get into you!” is said to the girls. It is daily repeated to boys that it is the toad that will eat or bite this organ, and little girls are told that the aggressive animal is the snake or the “worm”. When one mentions the word “toad” or “snake” in front of children about two years old, they always react with a rapid movement of the hands toward the genital region” [see also p283-4].


Two to six (p219-20):


“[T]he mother, in addition to masturbating her son, shows a lively interest in the erotic pleasures which her daughter derives from her body and takes a certain pride in the fact that this instinct is developing in her children. Both parents nevertheless try to avoid having the children observe the sexual activities of the adults, and since these are carried out almost solely at night and outside the house, the children evidently do not have any occasion to learn about them. […] [C]hildren five or six years old are frequently subjected to sexual aggression by adults; and homosexual relations between children and adolescents of both sexes occur, although they are strictly prohibited and severely punished in case they are discovered. Upon finding themselves with persons who are not known, children about two years old already cover or touch their sexual organs, which the Kogi interpret as a means of defense. In reality it is more probably a means of self-assurance in new situations, and the same phenomenon is later observed among the adults, although at times they substitute for the sexual organ some object which they manipulate with the fingers”.


From six to twelve:


“Infantile sexuality is watched more and more by the adults during these years, and the increase of the instinct sometimes causes serious difficulties between father and son. Nonetheless, the boys still do not know anything concrete about the sexual life of the adults. At times they may have heard an obscene word or seen a suggestive gesture, but their imagination in this regard is based principally on the fragments of songs and myths which they have heard in the ceremonial house. The symbolism of these, in which sexuality, aggressiveness, and concern about food are constantly intermixed, seems to cause serious worries in this stage of childhood”.


Parental attitudes to masturbation are contradicting (p284-5):


“Masturbatory manipulations by male children are regarded as a serious danger to the sexuality of the father and, it is said, lead to the End of the World. The same is said with reference to girls, but in this case it does not affect the parents magically, but rather the health of the girl herself. Masturbation is thus regarded as “very bad” and is severely sanctioned with physical punishment. It might be that the father himself beats the child on his buttocks with a stick, or it might also be that he would take him before the Máma, who punishes him by “kneeling” him. It is above all the fathers who are concerned about the masturbation of their children; the mothers do not take it so seriously, and at times they do not tell their husbands anything when they discover a child in this act. Even at 3-4 years old, the mothers frequently masturbate their children in order to calm them and make them sleep. This occurs without the knowledge of the father, who, should he find out about it, would not hesitate to denounce his wife and child before the Máma. In the following years masturbation increases, especially among the males; its strict prohibition and the fear of castration and of severe punishments cause a marked anxiety among the young men. During adolescence and maturity, masturbatory practices continue, even though the individual is married”.


At puberty (ages 11-12), the boy is given a gourd in a ceremony that includes a symbolic defloration.

The Máma talks to him “about the future sexual relations between man and woman”, and has a ceremonial coitus with an old woman. “The rite represents essentially the introduction of the individual to sexual life. It is natural that the symbolism of the ceremony, the beginning of the slow intoxication of cocaine and, above all, the tremendous experience of the first coitus cause a profound impression at this age”.


After menache,


“It is the duty of the mothers to teach their daughters what behavior is to be observed when the first menstruation appears, and they are responsible if this behavior is not observed. […] Then the Máma divines who should deflower the girl. Generally this is an “Elder”, a man who is not related to her, but many times the Máma himself performs this act. The man, or the Máma, then builds a small house (nyuíji hubé -- the house of the bat), where the first coitus is to take place. On the previous day the Máma gives the girl a spindle wheel and a needle of deer bone (sometimes made out of its antlers) and explains to the girl that these two implements represent male and female sexual organs. Both objects are placed in the little house, and after the coitus the girl gathers them up and keeps them carefully since they are the sewá which now allow her to marry. Coitus must be repeated for four days, and it is said that the hymen should be broken gradually and not in the first act, since otherwise the girl would be sterile in her marriage. Upon leaving the little house, the man touches the girl’s navel with the point of the little lime stick, an act with which the initiation is considered ended. The man who performed the defloration, and who is regarded as “hired” by the girl’s family, now receives from her parents some gifts of food, such as yuca, platanos, or potatoes. The Máma fumigates the woman’s house for several days, burning frailejon leaves” (p39-40).


Reichel-Dolmatoff (1987:p106-7)[3]:


“In Kogi myth the Great Mother sexually initiates her son; in real life, a Kogi youth is initiated by an old woman (no kin) in a cave or in a specially built beehive-shaped hut, a deeply disturbing experience, from what people say. Many Kogi say that they were initiated by their own mothers but this is doubtful or may be related to the mother-wife equivalence Kogi men are likely to establish. It is significant in this context that the word for woman […], which is used in familiar conversation instead of sewá, means wife, and is the same word for daughter […]. Of course, both terms are related to munsá, meaning vagina or “dawn of creation”. Kogi girls, at reaching puberty, are sexually initiated by a priest who is a father figure”.


Reichel-Dolmatoff (1976)[4]:


“Ideally, a Kogi priest should divest himself of all sensuality and should practice sexual abstinence [ [5]], but this prohibition is contradicted in part by the rule that all nubile girls must be deflowered by the máma who, alone, has the power to neutralize the grave perils of pollution that according to the Kogi are inherent inthis act. Similar considerations demand that, at puberty, a boy should be sexually initiated by the máma’s wife or, in some cases, by an old woman specially designated by the máma. During the puberty ritual of a novice, the master’s wife thus initiates the youth, an experience frought with great anxiety and which is often referred to in later years as a highly traumatic event” (p280).


The same is said by Pruess (1926)[6] for the Cagaba:


“For the boy, as soon as the time for sexual intercourse has arrived [puberty?], packets of the stones […] and […] are readied, and a widow is chosen by the priest to teach him the method of co-habitation. She is called […] (teaching old woman), […] thus again a magical act, as is also expressed in the teaching of the temple novices. For each individual case a little hut, which is the same as the christening and wedding huts, is built for this purpose. But it is only called hutsukua (little hut). The same was formerly done by an “old one” ([…], the teaching old man) with a girl after the first menstruation”.


The trial is reported to be terrifying to the boy and it is often several days before he succeeds, only after which he is allowed to leave the hut (cf., Whiting et al. [1958:p367])[7].

So also by Park (d1965:p883)[8]:


“Formerly, at the end of seclusion [after the onset of puberty], Cágaba and Ica girls were initiated into the sexual act by older experienced men. It is said that this practice is no longer followed. […] Boys are given a lime container (pororo) at puberty and initiated into the sexual act by older women, usually widows. No other observation of boys’ passage into manhood has been reported”.







Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Park, W. Z., Tribes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, Bull Bureau Am Ethnol 143[I]. Stewart, J. H. (Ed.) Handbook of South American Indians. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. Vol. 2, p865-86

[2] Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. (1951) The Kogi: A Tribe of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. Vol. 2. Bogota: Editorial Iqueima

[3] Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. (1987) The Great Mother and the Kogi universe: a concise overview, J Latin Am Lore 13,1:73-113

[4] Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. (1976) Training for the priesthood among the Kogi of Colombia, in Wilbert

J. (Ed.) Enculturation in Latin America: An Anthology. Los Angeles: UCLALatinAmericanCenter Publications, University of California, p265-88

[5] A boy who is to become a priest is selected or escluded, at least partially, on this basis, following from a passage that could also be read in an opposite way.

[6] Preuss, K. Th. (1926) Journey of Exploration to the Cagaba. St. Gabriel-Mödling bei Wien: Administration des “Anthropos”

[7] Whiting, J. W. M., Kluckhohn, R. & Anthony, A. (1958) The function of male initiation ceremonies at puberty, in Maccoby, E. E., Newcomb, T. M. & Hartley, E. L. (Eds.) Readings in Social Psychology. Rev. ed. New York:  H. Holt, p359-70

[8] Park, W. Z., Tribes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, Bull Bureau Am Ethnol 143[I]. Stewart, J. H. (Ed.) Handbook of South American Indians. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. Vol. 2, p865-86