Exactly one year ago this week I packed my bags and performed my very own Brexit, moving from a house boat on the River Thames in London to a croft located in mountains an hours drive north of the Savannah of Bogota. I regularly travel to Scotland to film The People's History Show for STV but I live my days at the base of a legendary mountain - Peña de Juaica - Penis of Juaica - (pronounced: why-ka) situated between the municipalities of Tabio and Tenjo, at an altitude of 3,100 meters above sea level. Living only two kilometres from Juaica every morning I have breakfast in the shadow of this dominant phallic sentinel which once served as a lookout, guarding the rich agricultural territories of the pre-Colombian Muisca people who until the 16th century inhabited this territory.
Known locally as La Puerto de Los Dioses - the Gateway of the Gods - this story recounts my recent discovery of three giant carved heads.
The Enduring Mysteries of Juaica
The rock of Juaica has been central feature in myths and tales of otherworldly activity for many centuries. Every year, hundreds of reports describe mysterious floating lights, unidentified flying objects and blue and red balls of light seen entering and leaving the fairytale-like pointed summit. To many, the mountain is a portal to other dimensions and to others it's an alien airport. Even the most rational local sceptics struggle to explain the origins of the weird lights and flying objects. Over the last year I have conducted a research project aimed at identifying the cause and origins of the extraordinary light shows, flying-disks and whizzing balls of energy.
Talking about the rock of Juaica and the area in which I live, César Eduardo Bernal Quintero, a journalist for the National Broadcasting of Colombia, recently stated in an interview with national newspaper El Espectador:
I have always thought that those born in the municipality of Tabio experience what happens to people living near the pyramids Egypt. The wonders of the universe are majestic, and just as they are in touch with history, the tabiunos are enough to open the window of the house to contemplate a magnificent mountain. What happens is that seeing it every day becomes normal, as is seeing lights on the site.
Bernal insisted the problem of 'the lights of mount Juaica' should be approached from two rational perspectives; scientific and historical/anthropological before the paranormal. That was good, and he got my attention. He then suggested, however, that the lights may be 'reflections from the gold' that is said to have been buried in that mountain by the Muisca Indians explaining why guaquerías (grave robbers) have been so successful at this site for several centuries. That was not so good, as buried gold does ‘not’ cause flying disks and airborne light shows, so far as scientists have observed.
The most popular theories include interplanetary travellers and in this part of South America where Andean Cosmovision promotes mystical thinking, the idea of aliens flying around in spaceships is a regular part of day-to-day life. System engineer William Chaves Ariza is director of UFO Contact, a national organisation disseminating information about UFO sitings across the country. In his book Juaica, The Door of the Gods, he claimed to have observed lights forming a ‘disc or dish’ circulating in the sky above the mountain.
Local psychologist Juan Sebastián Castañeda Soto has lived in Tabio for more than 15 years and witnessed 'a blue light moving quickly and hiding in the mountain' about which he said 'it could have been the reflection of an airplane, a comet, a shooting star or a meteorite', but concluded that it was most probably a UFO. In a culture where leading members of the academic community including the local head doctor, believe in UFO's, it is of no surprise to find the village folk and farmers interpreting the light phenomena as UFO's, as their society leaders permit, and possibly program them, to do so.
Also on the fringes of science, many believe that the mountain holds some sort of ‘superior technology’ capable of warping space-time. This of course explains the countless reports of people setting off down from the summit down the east face of the mountain and arriving much later at the west side, lost, two to three hours from the main road. This has nothing whatsoever to do with fog and sub-sufficient orienteering skills. The most esoteric and mystically minded local writers account for the phenomena by referencing Spanish records at the time of colonisation in 1537 which talk of 'mass suicides' of indigenous people who jumped of the top of Juaica before being subjected to Spanish rule, suggesting these suicide events create the ‘energy load’ displayed by the rock of Juaica.
Armando Junca, local archaeologist, ecologist and musician wrote that on 'Holy Friday the mountain opens to reveal the charm of the precious metal and treasures hidden by the Chibcha'. He also said that the indigenous people who lived in Tabio 'worshiped Zie, the goddess of water' and practiced ceremonial rites on Juaica. The hill doubled as lookout since it commands a 380 kilometres sight. Those who walk the Edge of the Blade and the Alto de Canica, discover three-meter deep trenches believed once hold rows of Chibcha warriors.
Accepting that the light phenomena associated with Juaica is not caused by UFO’s, time-travelling technology or the energy of dead people, I turned to hard science for answers and met one of South America's leading geological authorities.
Investigating the Mystery of Juiaca
To get to the bottom of the enduring environmental mystery of the rock of Juiaca, on New Years eve 2016 I interviewed Professor Eufrasio Bernal - President of the Geographical Society of Colombia. Not only is Eufrasio Colombia’s most eminent rock specialist but he is also a leading authority on the Pre-Colombian (Spanish) Muisca civilisation. The professor had conducted several research projects on and around the rock of Juiaca and he informed me:
Unlike all the others in its range, Juiaca is composed of abnormally high quantities of metallic elements which interact in 'unusual and unpredictable' ways with the greater environment. All of the curious lightening phenomena, mysterious balls of light and other visual effect can be attributed to ‘geomagnetic stress’ which in this case manifests in the highly-charged skies above the pointed-summit of Juaica.
Professor Eufrasio was refreshingly honest in admitting that the South American scientific community was at 'somewhat of a loss' as to what exactly happens at the rock of Juaica, but he quickly pointed out that the high metallic load of the mountain and the endless reported visual effects can not be merely a coincidence. Scientists, ufologists and mystics all agree that the rock of Juaica has a very special ‘energy’ but this is where the mystery has been left. Until now, that is.
Treading water in an ocean of speculative chaos, where scientists battled with mystics over the source of the source of Juiaca’s light phenomena, I reasoned; if these visual effects were caused as a result of the mountain's metallic structure, as suggested by Professor Bernal, then the mystery lights must have been observed for as long as people have lived in these territories. According to the dating of local rock-art people have inhabited these territories for around 16’000 years.
I had finally returned to my safe-zone - history - and having lived in the shadow of this magical mountain for the last year I was to discover that its greatest secret lay not in its iron content and electrostatic signature, but in its people's history - how it was perceived, symbolically, as a spiritual motif by the indigenous people of this area - the Muisca civilisation.
The Creators of the Three GODHeads
The Muisca were Chibcha-speaking people one of the four high/advanced cultures of pre-Colombian South America. The Muisca Confederation of the central Andean highlands, of the present-day Altiplano Cundiboyacense, was composed of rich landowners and successful agriculturists who produced textiles, mined salt and emeralds and forged vast tonnages of fine gold crafts. Identified by their allegiances to three great rulers: the zaque, centred in Hunza (now Tenjo) ruling a territory covering what is now southern and northeastern Boyacá and southern Santander; the zipa, centered in Bacatá (now Bogota) encompassed most of modern Cundinamarca, the western Llanos and northeastern Tolima; and the Iraca, ruler of Suamox (now Sogamoso) and modern northeastern Boyacá and southwestern Santander.
Andean Cosmovision is a term that describes how ancient Andean people viewed space and time, and how they ritualised these concepts. Albeit the Spanish violently installed Christianity in Colombia beginning in 1537, what is born in the blood cannot be driven out of the bone, and Andean cosmology is still found in the philosophies, creative works and traditions of modern Andean people in Tabio and Tenjo, where I live. Andean cosmovision is fundamentally different from the world views of western cultures, primarily because their reality models were not influenced by the Bible, and there was no influence by Greek philosophers who worshiped human intellect as the highest form of knowledge. Indigenous Andean cultures had no concept of ‘science’ or ‘religion’ and perceived everything as being alive with spirit.
Western cosmology is self-centric and one perceives the universe as consisting of isolated objects and our consciousness is centred upon, and limited to, our own being. Cosmovision is mystical, therefore, words, beliefs and even thoughts are considered as being connected directly with the most sacred and essential levels of creation and reality. Mountains, lakes, lagoons, thermals and waterfalls were all associated with characters and events in creation myths and the highest snow capped mountains, the Nevadas, which gushed fertile white rivers were perceived as emanating powerful male fertility energy and regarded as the homes of the gods. Gently rounded hills and streams, lakes, lagoons and waterfalls were considered generators of female energy and the dwelling places of goddesses.
Juaica is special in that it is a phallic shaped mountain, but it was associated with a goddess, therefore, it is a union of male and female principals of creation.
This union of male and female creation dynamics enhances Juiaca’s perceived centrality to the magical process of fertalisation, within it’s agricultural environment. Muisca people considered gold as being imbued with creation energy and attempted to balance and control natural telluric flows in their sacred agricultural territories, where controlling natural environmental phenomena truly was a matter of life and death. Therefore, vast quantities of gold were deposited into sacred mountain-tops, waterfalls, lakes, lagoons and temples - at important dates in agricultural, civic and ritual calendars. Testimony to the centrality of gold in Muisca religious rites El Museo del Oro (The Museum of Gold) in Bogota, has a collection of 55,000 ornate golden masks, jewellery and ritual artefacts, with over 6000 pieces on display to the public.
The indigenous Muisca people of Tabio centred almost all of their worship on the Temple of the Moon at Chia and atop the rock of Juiaca. These two important sacred sites were the main religious centres of the Zipa's of the southern confederacy and were the reserves of high-priests and priestesses who controlled all ceremonial and ritual offerings of gold, libations and sacrifices.
After I interviewed Professor Eufrasio Bernal, he contacted his colleague professor Mauricio Botero and I interviewed him at his home in Tabio in August. He introduced me to the records of Spanish chroniclers Juan de Castellanos, Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita and Pedro Simóna, in Elegías de varones ilustres de Indias. In their 16th century text they recorded the activities of a 'Muisca cult' who worshiped at the rock of Juiaca by making vast offerings of gold to the rebelling goddess Xubchasgagua (Huitaca) - now Juaica.
The native Muisca baptized the Valley of Juaica as The Gate of the Gods and referred to the mysterious lights as lit ranchitos or 'dancing horses', because they believed that the gods came and went in arcs of light. Huitaca was the goddess of; witchcraft, sexual liberation, drunkenness, pleasure, arts, dance, music and granted good luck and bountiful crops, rain for the land and fertility for their women. She was worshiped as one aspect of the triple Goddess of the Moon - Chia, the other two being the creator goddess Bachué and Chia herself - representing the three phases of the moon: waxing, full and waning (young, pregnant and old). Huitaca's mythological archetype is reflected in Arianrhod (silver moon wheel) the Celtic Moon-Mother Goddess who was also part of a lunar trinity of female deities and was associated with an owl.
Delightfully feminine, legends tell that Huitaca loved to 'indulge herself with drinking, dancing and merriment' and when she rolled into town it was always party time, leaving little to wonder as to why she was such a popular goddess. The Earth goddess Bachué, the creator of mankind, was horrified at Huitaca’s drunken antics and accused her of 'wanton behaviour unbecoming of a goddess' and as punishment Bachué turned Huitaca into an owl.
After discussing the types of ceremonies held on the rock of Juiaca, professor Bernal then set my imagination on fire when he informed that his great-grand uncle, a former Arch Bishop pf Colombia, told him that Juiaca was 'so important' to the Muisca people that they 'decorated it with three massive carved indigenous heads or faces'.
When a 70 year old professor of history tells you that there exists ‘three massive carved heads on a remote sacred mountain’ that are to be found nowhere on the internet or in books - you get to work right away. We spent the following two hours in a field adjacent to his house using his old binoculars in an attempt to locate the three faces. His binoculars failed to focus at the required distance and the mountain was dark, but we ascertained an approximate search zone.
I was packed and ready to venture to Juiaca the very next morning but it was treacherously rainy and the mountain-top was covered in low lying cloud, so I committed the day to researching similar rock faces carved on mountains in Peru by the Inca culture, who were contemporary with the Muisca people. The following two examples show a 'bearded man' (left) a 'traveler from Bolivia' who brought grain and technology to the people of Ollantaytambo, thus, he is depicted carrying a grain storehouse on his back. The right-hand photograph features Pachamama the Earth Mother Goddess, who overlooks fields and a complex of Sun Temples.
Before sunrise the next morning I was standing in the sacred valley at the base of Juiaca and at first light I set off into the wilderness determined to find the three lost Muisca heads. It took me two hours to navigate the foothills and I eventually arrived at the north east-facing cliff face around high-noon. I was conscious that the rocks upon which I was walking once caught the falling bodies of hundreds of suicidal Muisca people choosing death over Spanish rule in the mid-16th century. Not knowing the size of the carved heads I had to get up-close to the mountain to begin with, but having spent several hours inspecting the rocks I accepted that I must have been too close to mountain to get the required perspective. Relocating two kilometres east of the mountain I used a long-lens to close in on the details of rock face.
And before I start, I am sure many readers wills see their 'own faces'. And I look forward to seeing them. However, as see it, the first most obvious head faces south and is 150 meters high, just shy of the height of the Washington Monument. The back of its skull is rounded, and the linear strata has quite obviously enhanced. The location of the ear is perfectly in proportion with the forehead, chin and neck, and it appears as if an entire upper-torso has been formed in the mountain displaying a perfectly arranged shoulder, chest and back. But this undertaking would have required either 500 meter long ropes or a 500 meter high scaffolding which is beyond the accepted technologies of the Music people.
The second head I see is opposite the first, a bearded character facing north. This one has a much more distinctive indigenous stylisation in that it appears to have been adorned with traditional Muisca head-wear, evident in the following comparison.
All across South America Shamanic classes were defined with similar headgear. The following image compares the headgear of Sea: People, Amazonian Indians, a Tulu Shaman from Mexico and an example from Tiwanaku in modern Bolivia on the shores of Lake Titikaka.
The third carved head is situated above the second and the mouth of the later becomes the eye of the former. The left eye is difficult to discern in the following image, however, it takes distinct formation as one circles the mountain towards the north.
With clues from professor Mauricio Botero, given to him by the ex-Arch Bishop of Colombia, I have rediscovered what appear to be the three giant carved heads, each measuring over 150 meters in height and most probably carved between the 9th and 16th centuries.
So far as the mysterious lights are concerned, what I think happens at the rock of Juiaca is that for many centuries people have witnessed lights caused by the mountains heavy metallic load and resulting geomagnetic stress. To try and attribute reason, people have overlaid their pop-cultural archetypes. In the 60’s people reported seeing flying-discs with metal ladders on the side - just like the flying saucers in Lost in Space and aliens were reported carrying laser guns soon after Buck Rodgers fired one for the first time. Those brought up with Star Wars and Star Trek, with underlying notions of Hyperspace, might see Juiaca as an alien landing bay while movies like the Matrix and Inception has apparently lead the next generation to speculate on inter-dimensional travellers.
It is a beautiful, majestic and otherworldly mountain, set in one of the most scenic parts of the Colombia and if you ever want somewhere to really get off-line, you need to visit to Tabio in the shadow of Juaica. There is nowhere in the world quite like it.
Groot, Ana María. 2014 (2008). Sal y poder en el altiplano de Bogotá, 1537-1640, 1-174. Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
Carbonell, Nora. 1993. La mujer en la mitología indígena colombiana - The woman in the Colombian indigenous mythology. Revista Chichamaya 10. 24-28.
Casilimas Rojas, Clara Inés, and María Imelda López Ávila. 1987. El templo muisca - The Muisca temple. Maguaré 5. 127-150.
Daza, Blanca Ysabel. 2013. History of the integration process of foods between Colombia and Spain (PhD), 1-494. Universitat de Barcelona.
2012 - Huitaca, la diosa muisca en el Palacio Liévano El Tiempo.