From the Oak: Let’s hear it for the God!
Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.
Cocomama and the Coca Leaf
In Peruvian folklore, Kuka Mama ("mother coca") or Cocamama (Cocomama) is a goddess of health and happiness. The tale goes that she was accused of being promiscuous by a jealous lover. She was cut in half and her body planted like a seed which grew into the first coca plant. It is said that the leaves should only be chewed by men after they have satisfied a woman’s sexual needs. Other sources describe her as benevolent and beneficial Nature divinity. I couldn't find much more than that on this deity but I did find quite a bit on coca.
The coca leaf has been part of Peruvian culture for as long as people have lived in this region of the world. It is a part of religious ceremonies, business and celebrations. Traces of coca have been found in Peruvian mummies tracing back 3,000 years, and other evidence traces the practice of chewing coca with lime to at least 5,000 years BC. The Incas knew the coca leaf as a gift from the gods to satisfy hunger, to give them energy and help them forget their miseries. It was reserved for the upper classes of Inca society.
Coca leaves are consumed in two ways. Mate de coca is an herbal tea made with coca leaves. It looks and tastes similar to green tea, slightly bitter with a hint of sweetness. The other way to consume coca leaves is by chewing. Medicinally, coca leaves are for: energy, headaches, rheumatism, fatigue, thirst, altitude sickness, asthma and as an aphrodisiac. It is common for travelers to be greeted with a hot-cup of coca tea. In addition, many women chew leaves during child birth to speed the birth process along, induce strength and reduce pain. The leaves are high in vitamins C, B1 and riboflavin. There is little evidence of its efficacy beyond the 1500+ years of Indian culture based upon it.
After the Spanish conquest, many traditional uses of the coca leaf where replaced with more practical uses, specifically the plants' seemingly ability to take away fatigue and ease hard labor. However, the spiritual significance of the coca leaf remained. Coca leaves are used to give thanks offerings to the gods. They are specifically offered to Mother Earth for safe travels and in thanks for the food she provides. Rites of passage such as births, deaths, marriages and such involve rituals which use coca leaves. The leaves were chewed in social settings much like the modern “cigarette break”.
Let me deal with the elephant in the room, yes coca leaves are used to make cocaine. In its natural form it is described at most as a natural but mild stimulant. Cocaine, however, is a highly processed drug that is a very toxic and addictive narcotic (though it has been used as an anesthetic in eye, ear and throat surgery). For a time, coca extracts were an ingredient in Coca-Cola which was marketed as stimulate and digestive aid.
May Cocomama be remembered and pleased by this article.
A few helpful resources:
Handbook of Inca Mythology by Paul Richard Steele
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