Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Adding the Single or “One Horned” Horned Stone Serpent

   Here’s another photo by Larry Harrop, another Serpent in Stone but with a feature that initially surprised me, a relatively tall pointed stone, similar to some pillar like stones often referred to as “standing stones,” that just might represent a single horn on top of a triangular boulder that has been humanly enhanced to resemble the head of a snake, a long row of stones, undulating in height, trailing behind it and dipping its tail into a stream, suggesting, to all but the most unimaginative among us, a Great Serpent of Indigenous legends:

    Again, I find it very interesting that the Serpent’s tail starts out in a brook, as you can see here:

     Larry chose to use the name “Uktena” (ook-tay-nah) for this carefully constructed and still relatively intact stone concentration, from Cherokee (Aniyunwiya) legends about horned serpents. If you start looking around, you may find a whole bunch of names to choose from for Great Serpents in the North East and find that “Horned serpents are a type of mythological freshwater serpent common to many tribes of the eastern United States and Canada. Horned serpent legends vary somewhat from tribe to tribe, but they are usually described as huge, scaly, dragon-like serpents with horns and long teeth. Sometimes they move about on the land, but are more often found in lakes and rivers. The ubiquity of horned serpent stories in this region has led some people to speculate that they are based on a real animal (such as some sort of now-extinct giant crocodile.) However, in Native American myths and legends, horned serpents are usually very supernatural in character-- possessing magical abilities such as shape-shifting, invisibility, or hypnotic powers; bestowing powerful medicine upon humans who defeat them or help them; controlling storms and weather, and so on-- and were venerated as gods or spirit beings in some tribes. And unlike other animals such as crocodiles and snakes, horned serpents are not included in common Woodland Indian folktales about the animal kingdom. So it is likely that horned serpents have always been viewed as mythological spirits, not as animals, and that belief in them was simply very widespread in the eastern part of the country. Indeed, horned serpent mythology may trace back to ancestors of Eastern Native American tribes such as the Hopewell, Mississippian, and other mound-builder civilizations, as stylized serpent motifs have been found in their earthworks and artifacts which bear some resemblance to the horned serpents of historical Native American tribes (”
    And it took me a little while, but then I remembered seeing a photo or two of another Serpent-like construction in Rhode Island with a differently shaped stone that suggested to me a single forward pointing horn: 

And here’s an overlay, the “single horn” outlined in yellow, almost like this might be a “plumed/feathered” serpent, something you might not expect in the North East: 
     “Horns” can mean antlers, or sometimes bison like horns, and those all show up in rock art and all sorts of other art work depicting Great Serpents, but that single horn got me wondering if somewhere in the North East there might be some Single Horned Serpent depictions, especially one with that “plumed” look to it, after stumbling across this: “…feather-crested serpents are portrayed with a forward-curling horn atop their heads (Taube 2010b: 217, fig. 30),” here:

I eventually found this:

     “Then there is the Great Horned Serpent, who is believed to inhabit the lakes here in Keji. Legends tell how the Horned Serpent would take young Mi’kmaq men, marry them, and take them back to their underwater world. In the same way, every year as the water levels rise towards the winter, the petroglyph of the Serpent returns to her home beneath the waves.”
    “This text is taken from the script for an interpretive program that Muin’iskw used to give at Kejimkujik National Park (Nova Scotia) around 2005.”
   So this little memory bell rang when I read “Feathered-crested Serpent.” I remembered seeing this local newspaper article about ten years ago and my friend’s remark about them:

   “The stone intrigued Lucianne Lavin, director of research and collections at the institute. But because it was found in a stone wall, it contained no charcoal from an ancient fire pit or other organic remnants to establish its age through carbon dating.
     "If it were real, it would be really interesting," Lavin said, explaining that the harder rocks of the region don't lend themselves to easy carving. "It would show the southern New England Indian also had that feathered serpent mythology."

    There’s a backward pointing horn or plume on this stone, much like that in figure 12.8 A in The Diurnal Path of the Sun: Ideology and Interregional Interaction in Ancient Northwest Mesoamerica and the American Southwest.
      So like I said earlier, I thought for just a little while was unique stone structure, a ‘Single Horned’ Horned Serpent Petroform. Now I’m starting to wonder about some places I’ve been where I’ve see many an upright "standing stone" which may in fact sit on a snake-head-like stone that's below the leaves and soil, more examples of other “single horn” serpents (such as here: Waking Up on Turtle Island: Another Possible "Ophiomorphic Petroform” at a Gateway (or two or three) ~ )

   Or here where there are gaps between some rows of stones and a couple boulders at their ends that can be said to resemble possible Great Serpents: 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Larry’s Stone Serpent and a Connecticut Cousin (or Two)

"Do you know why most investigators fail? They refuse to extend their basic knowledge beyond the bounds of basic investigative procedure. It is the mark of the mediocre investigator who fails to use the informed imagination part of science that has in the past led to the greatest of discoveries."
 ~ Sherlock Stones
Larry Harrop Photo, used by kind permission.

     There’s that beautiful Serpent Wall, right there on Larry Harrop’s Home Page for “Ceremonial Stone Landscapes; A sampling of Native American stone constructions found in the State of Rhode Island.” That “Strong Looker” follows you along as you view all the other photos, keeping an eye on you, knowing your thoughts and intentions as you see and hopefully observe some of the best photos I know of that document all the stacking patterns and variations that all but the most unimaginative might imagine are the results of field clearing or stone fences made to impress herds of cows or sheep, as the Euro-American Myth goes:
    This Serpent is in that collection entitled “Effigies,” under the subheading “Serpents,” and you can see three views of that “composite” head-stone and the undulating back bone of the Serpent:
Larry Harrop Photo, used by kind permission - and he was nice enough to send a copy to me
rather than use the image I lifted a screen shot from here:
   I have looked at this photo dozens of times before and should really be embarrassed to say that I should have been thinking of this one in particular just recently when walking around some very similar constructions along some old, older and oldest of trails.

     This one was disguised the first time I saw it (Nov. 2014), snow clinging to the branches of a small tree beside it, like a Santa Claus beard:
But when I walked by the same gateway in a stonewall in January 2015, something about it seemed so Serpentine and, now that I reflect on it, much like that photo of Larry's:

    There was another close by, but not in as good shape:
    It could be an unfinished structure or a result of a sort of “normalization” effort to make it more resemble a Euro-American stone wall, as level as a string stretched horizontally above it. Maybe it just fell apart or maybe the stones were easily carted off at some time to be used somewhere else, as close by as a rut in the present road just below this spot.
    Follow that stone row – or Stone Serpent (or series of Stone Serpents) – and you come to another, larger and taller and less compromised similar stone row – or Stone Serpent:

Makes me wonder about this one too:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Which came first, the boulder or the wall?

From the Case Book of Sherlock Stones

(All photo credits go to John Martin ~ - with overlays on the same by myself and my consultant Sherlock Stones)

      Consider for a moment this photo below, posted on a Social Media page that is a sort of discussion group for what is defined as Ceremonial Stone Landscapes:
      Actually, it is only one photo of two posted photos, which were accompanied by the photographer’s words, “2 different turtles in a wall? Looks like it to me.”
Here’s the second:
     Having been interested in this sort of thing – the idea that Indigenous People of Turtle Island, as they called it, created stone constructions well before 1492 – for long enough to be considered a “crack pot” by all but a tiny number of archaeologists as well as friends and family members, I offered up the opinion that perhaps this wall is a Great Serpent Petroform (or Geoglyph), offering up my own desecration of the original photos to emphasize the opinion:

(I interpret the second as “slit-eyed” and “dreaming,” an idea once suggested to me by a rock art expert.)

       Checking in with my friend Sherlock Stones, I show him the photos, let him know that various people have made some observations about this stone wall, postulated that it may be Indigenous in origin etcetera, as well as shared with him a site drawing (little knowing I was at the wrong site and off by 20 miles) made by the man who took the photographs and who offered the interpretation that some boulders incorporated into the wall may be effigies representing Turtle Heads that I contend may rather be Serpent Heads in a representation of one of many Great Serpents, since there is an absence of anything resembling a carapace - or feet.
       I expect some validation in the form of praise for my observations, but Stones merely shrugs, reaching for his pouch and pipe. A silent moment passes.
        "Stones!" I exclaim, "The boulders may indeed suggest the zoomorphic, probably reptilian I'd wage, but observe the smaller stones (he gives me a brief sharp look as I say that) - er, the shape of those cobbles I mean  - used around it, indeed much like the lozenge-shaped scales of a rattlesnake!"
       I place another photo on the low table between us:

      “Why can’t they be both?” Sherlock asks, shrugging his shoulders. “Surely you know these Indigenous Native American Great Serpents are notorious shape-shifters. Do you know the Indian legend of the turtle who shape-shifts into a Great Serpent?”
      “No, I don’t,” I admit - and then ask, “How does it go?”
      “I haven’t the foggiest,” Stones replies. “I’m not an expert on Lenni Lenape legends, but that doesn’t mean such a story never existed. Perhaps it’s recorded or perhaps not. In fact, that story may be recorded in the stonework of this very stonewall! Consider it a homework assignment! Whatever the outcome, it is still a possibility!”
      As he lights his pipe, I change the subject a little, tell him that someone, a stone mason who lives down by the CT shore but originally from England coincidentally, has asked the question, “Which came first, the boulder or the stone wall?” Sherlock tells me further observations are necessary in order to answer that. “We can’t assume that the boulder rests on soil, although that is one possibility. Observe the photo that shows three large boulders of similar size about equal distance apart incorporated into that row-like concentration of stones (as he says this he circles them, unasked, in yellow on the printed out page), hardly a natural occurrence and a coincidence? I think not!!” Stones goes on to say, “A careful excavation by a qualified Archaeologist may reveal which is true of a number of possibilities: These boulders may rest on bedrock or a buried layer of wall below the surface of the soil or they may be held in position by stones propping it on either side to keep them from rolling, which by definition would be a part of the wall – neither a before or after “Chicken/Egg Situation” but more of a simultaneous occurrence.”
      Sherlock Stones puffs on his pipe, “Still it is all speculation until you do some soil testing and arrive upon an informed scientific estimate as to when the first of these stones were placed here in such a fashion.”
     “What tests would those be?” I ask.
     “I haven’t the foggiest,” he replies. “I’m not an expert in soil science.”

Monday, January 18, 2016

Trails (5)

     Where was I? I was going to go back to the car, walking along those old and older trails to the new trail, the red battery icon blinking even though I had switched to what I thought was a fully charged second battery I carry. I paused for a few details, possible (probable) smaller effigies inside the larger serpent form:
      Above: one I included before, but also a few more centered in the photos below; something with a sharp beak in the first? – Turtle? (More likely) a Bird? More around it, all placed with suggestions of eyes uppermost on the stone. The one in the following photo seems turtle-like, with an eye and again a beak, but it rests on another and I’m unsure if it’s another turtle or if the long flat stone behind it could represent the body of a snake…

(I look back into that older folder to see if any better images are in there, surprise myself that on this second visit I failed to re-locate this one below in the same segment, a pretty obvious turtle composed of a white quartz carapace with a nuchal notch, along with long slim piece of stone that is perhaps a turtle’s extended neck andhead, perhaps slightly askew of its original position:)
(Above: suspected turtle circled in red – and in yellow, the suggestion of something anthropomorphic that suddenly pops into my awareness just this morning, surprising me – a human face in profile?)

    I pass by that gate again:

 Take a look back up the hill...
...eventually turning eastward when the row ends, and then I’m back on that trail with the blocky remnants, looking down at the new gravel on the Land Trust Trail just above the stream…

   I continued walking along that upper row of stones and came to another sort of gap or gateway with a prominent bright white quartz stone – a large cobble or small boulder, I suppose, depending on that sketchy definition of the two that states a cobble is a one person stone while a boulder requires two people to lift it – but my impression is of a serpent head looking upward at that same angle as that much bigger white boulder where my circular path began that day, while just above it along another course of stones (the uppermost) a similarly shaped stone is placed to resemble the same sort of thing, tilted at about the same angle, looking in the downhill direction:
The larger white quartz boulder once again, so you don’t have to look back at the older post:
The same medium sized red dog for scale as above, there’s a second light colored stone, similarly triangular, and about the same size, looking in the opposite direction at roughly the same (opposite? complementary?) angle – and below you can see a flat dark colored stone, possibly yet another snake-like head… 
Is each course a separate snake?? 
Were they built at the same time? Were they built over a longer period of time, one at a time?
I can answer those quickly: I don't know 
An undulation in the wall farther along:

 Back to the trail and to where I’ve parked my car: