By Echo Forest
How one work exchanger, Echo Forest, discovered the ancient stories of the indigenous BriBri Tribe while helping to build a ceremonial structure for Resonance, an Usure, known as a Cosmic House.
Echo tells us her story:
“In one day, I made the trek from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast via bus, an 11+ hour ordeal. It was exhausting to say the least but well worth the efforts.
My friend’s partner is a man of BriBri ethnicity, an indigenous culture in Costa Rica. I was told we were coming out for a ceremony but what I got was the most enriching and expansive experience of my entire 4 months spent in Costa Rica.
There were four BriBri men here building an Usure in the jungle for the Resonance community to use for ceremonies. When they picked us up at the bus stop, we were told that they would actually be teaching us and letting us help to build the Usure if we were interested.
It has been a major intention of my travels to connect with and learn from indigenous cultures and experience a different way of life, so I was quite excited by this invitation. I was told that only the BriBri are allowed to build them and provide maintenance work, so it was very special to have the opportunity to help construct this indigenous cosmic house.
I spent two weeks living with and learning from these men of Bribri culture. Immersed in their way of life, I learned about their culture and customs, listened to countless stories and was engulfed in their traditional music.
There were four BriBri guys here, ranging in age from 23 to 34 years old, who had been building the Usure for one week. Living with them for this time completely shifted any preconceived notions I may have held of indigenous people.
I enjoyed the simplicity in their way of life and how generous, down to earth and lively they were. I could listen to their stories for hours and I don’t think I could ever tire of their music.
What really struck me was the energy embedded in their storytelling and their music, as it is woven deeply within their cultural roots and carries much more significance than the type of music I was used to.
The first time I saw the Usure, it was about halfway completed, and I was completely in awe. I stood there, feeling the energy of this indigenous structure, gazing at the massive Guanacaste tree behind it, lining up perfectly so that it appeared to be growing out of the top of the Usure.
It was such a beautiful sight to behold, I became engulfed in the energy. It is centered in a clearing just off the hiking trail in a beautiful, lush jungle filled with vibrant colors and a richness that can only be felt by being there. It is the perfect location for this special, indigenous ceremonial structure.
I was told many stories about the history and creation of the Usure and all of the spiritual symbolism behind it. As I continued working with the BriBri, submersed in their way of life, I learned more and more each day.
The Usure is also called Casa Cosmica, which translates to Cosmic House in English. The entire Usure represents the BriBri spiritual beliefs of how the Universe is structured. The tip of the Cosmic House connects up to the Cosmos, and below the surface it imaginarily reaches down to the underworld, essentially forming a double cone shape.
There are four layers above ground which represent different layers of the Universe and four layers below the ground which represent different worlds, inhabited by other beings.
The part above ground also represents the Divine Masculine energy, inhabited by Sibu, their God, and below ground represents the Divine feminine energy and is inhabited by Sura, the Goddess.
The first level of the Usure represents the Earthly plane that we live in. On the second level live the spirits of animals and plants and keepers of the river. The third level is inhabited by spirits who cause suffering and disease. And the final level is where Sibu, Creator of the Universe, lives with his helper, the King Vulture.
As the story is told, the very first Usure was built by 8 different animals, who were showing the BriBri God, Sibu, how to construct the Usure. There are 8 pillars around the outside edge which support the entire structure; they represent the 8 animals that helped to build it.
It was the King Vulture who dug the holes for these posts with help from the armadillo. The King Vulture then sat at the very top of the structure and held onto the main post in the center, which is a main support during the building process. The jaguar served as the anchor which held down this post on the ground level. The ants carried the leaves to the structure which would later become the roof. The spiders were the ones to weave the web of feathers (leaves) around vines, which would become the roof of the Usure. The snakes (vines) are the animals who hold all the pieces of the web together, wrapping their bodies tightly at certain points to anchor down the web of leaves to the four layers of the conical roof. Once the Cosmic House was constructed, the armadillos and wild pigs came and stomped down the soil and mud, which make up the floor of the structure. The monkey is the animal who constructs the roof of the Usure, piecing the whole thing together with the help of the other animals.
The energy of these animals is embodied by the people building the Cosmic House, and thus, these energies are being infused into the structure. This was something I was able to observe in the BriBri during the building process.
The two men putting the roof together, Walter and Rasta, would visibly and energetically embody the monkey, and the spider as they moved around the top, weaving and anchoring the webs of feathers onto the structure. I could see the difference in their body language and the way they moved as they embodied the energy of the different animals.
One man, Comacho, very clearly embodied the jaguar, as he sat at the base of the center pillar, anchoring it down with sturdy energy. He was also the one who cut down the center post at the end, as this post only serves as support during the building process.
This post at the center represents the Divine Feminine energy, and below it, in the ground, is said to be a source of water. When this post was cut down, the stump was in the shape of a heart, which is fitting because it is considered the heart of the Usure.
During the ceremony celebrating the completion of the Cosmic House, the stump is dug out of the ground and everyone pours their blessings inside, then the hole is filled with earth and the fire is placed there. This process thus connects fire and water, earth and air, and Divine feminine and masculine energy.
Usually there are mostly men building the Usure, so they expressed a lot of gratitude to have us three women helping and intentionally embedding our energy into the creation.
The entire structure is built using natural materials which all come from BriBri territory. Only specific people, from specific Clans, who have been trained for many years are able to lead the building of the Usure. Every single detail is taken into account and every action has a specific and spiritual significance.
When the top of the cone is constructed, the four sections are specifically made in circles rather than a spiral, to represent the four layers of the Universe. This serves another purpose as well, which is the symbolism of a complete circle.
Having a clear beginning and ending, the completion of a cycle, they are working on one layer at a time before moving up to the next layer. It is a reminder to be humble, as once they finish one layer, they start over from the beginning again. A spiral continuously ascends upwards and would elate the ego, thus the circle is a reminder that no one man is better than another, we are all equals.
The language used during the building process is very important, the leaves are not leaves, they are feathers, or Plumas, in Spanish. The twine and vines used to tie the layers of Plumas to the roof represent the snake and should thus be referred to as snakes. I was told that it was important to be mindful of the words I spoke, while I was helping to build the Usure.
The first part I helped with was weaving the leaves onto vines that would become the roof of the Usure. During this process, I was embodying the energy of the spider by visualizing weaving a web just as a spider does and actively channeling my energy into my creation. I was instructed that my body was to face North. I was to use specific hands for different parts of the weaving, the thread was to go beneath my right leg, and the vine or wood I was weaving the leaves onto was to be resting on my left leg. This process was quite enjoyable to me, as I have always had a propensity towards crafting. It dawned on me how a childhood of making friendship bracelets had given me tools that were now proving to be useful for something sacred with deep meaning and purpose.
The work was beautiful, yet difficult. I had blisters forming on my hands within a couple hours of the weaving process. Interestingly, from the first day of embodying the spider, I began noticing spiders appearing around me frequently. Multiple times a day I would notice a spider crawling on me or jumping across me, in the case of the jumping spiders, and I would sit back and watch with amusement.
For a long time, I have been fond of all living beings, including insects, but previously this would have pushed my comfort zone a bit too far. I now felt a deeper connection with spiders and allowed them to crawl on me, embracing their energy and sending them love. There were times, while working on the Usure, when I noticed a particular spider hanging out on me for over an hour at a time; I accepted and embraced their presence. I no longer harbor any fear of these 8-legged creatures, rather I feel quite intrigued by and deeply appreciative of them.
Watching the way the BriBri worked to build the Cosmic House was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. They take such pride in their work as it is deeply embedded in their culture and beliefs. For them, this was not a job, this was not something they do to earn a paycheck.
Rather, this is a way of life for them; I could see it and feel it in their energy. They genuinely enjoy and respect the work and tell stories, sing songs, and laugh with each other during the process. This energy shines through their work quite clearly.
There are specific songs in the BriBri culture that tell the story of the Usure and accompany different parts of the building process. Despite the significance being so sacred, they are relaxed and bring a playful, joyful energy to their work, not taking life so seriously. This was a major contrast to the culture I came from in the United States, where people mostly work purely for a paycheck and don’t enjoy the work they do. To watch construction workers building a house in the States would be a completely different experience.
This experience was completely transformational for me and to have the opportunity to assist in the building process was such an honor.
Since the first time someone mentioned the BriBri indigenous people to me, I have felt called to meet them and learn from them. A huge motivation for my travels is to experience a different way of life and to submerse myself in other cultures and learn about and experience their ways of being.
Increasingly, more and more people started mentioning the BriBris to me and suddenly I found myself living in one of their Usures on the Caribbean coast. Less than one week later, I was on the Pacific coast learning about and living with BriBri Indians and actually helping to build an Usure.
All of these opportunities fell into my lap without my even trying. It is a huge testament to the power of energy, intention and gratitude. When we flow with life, trusting in the Divine process, and embody the energy of love and gratitude, we can manifest anything we desire.
This is certainly an experience I will never forget and will be forever grateful for.”
Disclaimer: This information mostly comes from stories I was told many times while navigating through a bit of a language barrier. Where in-depth facts may be lacking, they are made up for in honoring the heritage of passing on stories orally from person to person, generation to generation, and the information is as accurate as the fallacy of memory and language barrier will allow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Echo Forest is a free-spirited traveler, light-worker and nature enthusiast living nomadically in Costa Rica. She lives a plant-based, heart-centered life and is devoted to spiritual study, self-development and the path of ascension. She offers Holographic Sound Healing, energy work & spiritual guidance sessions remotely, via Zoom. You can find out more and contact her on Facebook and Instagram.