Ten years ago I visited Cartegena, Columbia; a beautiful city filled with reminders of its pre-Columbian inhabitants and more recent colonial history as a slave-trading capitol. While there, I walked into a shop with native artifacts and came upon an interesting gourd. It was about 12 inches long around its neck was a thick layer of limestone, and protruding from its narrow opening was a wooden stick.

I asked the proprietor about it who said it was a sacred object that came from the direct descendants of a pre-Columbian tribe living close by, and that every shaman carried one to pray for the health of the Earth. I asked him how much it cost, and he said $100, I offered him $20. That night I had an intense dream in which the gourd talked to me, so the next day I went back and bought it for $70.

I put it on my office fireplace where I keep many sacramental objects, and didn’t think more about it. A couple of weeks ago, my nephew who calls himself a “younger brother” of the Kogi tribe, showed me a video about them. They are the direct descendents of the pre-Columbian Tairona Indians, and survived Spanish colonization by moving further and further inland. They were untouched for centuries until grave robbing, treasure hunters discovered their “Lost City” in 1979.

In 1988 the Priest/Shaman of the tribe invited a BBC videographer to come in and film their story to tell the world. It’s an extraordinary film that I highly recommend.

The Shaman/Priests called Mamas, are chosen at birth through divination (like the Dalai Lama) and raised in a dark monastery where their birth mothers see and breast-feed them at night. When they are 9 years old they leave the temple of darkness and see the outside world for the first time. The Mamas are therefore exposed to the spiritual world before they see the physical world; they learn to become attuned to mystical forces, to feel the life force energy. This otherworldly consciousness allows them to communicate telepathically with each other, and all that dwells on the earth.

The Mamas use a sacred gourd as the central instrument in their divinations, it is the heart of the Earth Mother, called a Pupoya. You guessed it; it’s the gourd on my fireplace. The Mamas fill it with lime that they make by burning seashells and crushing them. They pour it into the gourd and eat it whenever they chew toasted coca leaves. They lick the stick, insert it into the gourd and eat the lime that sticks to it. The lime helps break down the alkaloids in the coca leaves to make it more easily absorbed. The stick is then repetitively twirled around the neck of the gourd until that thick crust is formed.

The UN Environment Program warned last week that the Earth is nearing its biophysical limits, and soon the changes to our planet will become irreversible. Last week, as Venus tracked across the sun (for the only time in the next century), I picked up the gourd, licked the stick and tasted the lime. In that moment I felt the Kogi heart beating in my hand, and it spoke to me again. We have all got to be telling our Elder Brothers’ story and practicing its message.