Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Speck and Pleiades

Or: "Think like the Ancients"

(above and below two images from:

By chance I read an article, “Where Would I Go? - Exploring a lost civilization and the lessons it holds for our own” while at the Emissions Testing Station the other day.
And here it is online:


This is the part that was most relevant to me:

““Think like the ancients” has been our trip mantra. We tell the kids to imagine where they would put a dwelling if they had to live here, where the sun will strike in the morning but where shade will rest on summer afternoons.
We’ve gotten good at spotting sites. They tend to be located on a specific orientation, or in a particularly amenable layer of undercut strata. The kids are also remarkably good at climbing like the ancients, scrambling up to some pretty inaccessible redoubts, sometimes finding weathered, chipped-out handholds on the way…”

So I'll try to “Think like the Ancients,” with a youthful open mind while looking at those stones…

So promising to tell the story of the Pleiades from Speck, I located my copy of the Big House and found I had forgotten a bit of it – sort of – very much related to “kids.”
Specks first reference to the Pleiades talks about ancient shamans.
“The Delawares believe that some of the stars are living beings. For example the seven stars, known as asiskewtayasak, “bunched-up,” bear the identity of clean or holy men, prophets. They are known only to shamans or those who possess supernatural power. The legend says that at one time seven meteors fell from the sky partly burying themselves in the ground. Some Shamans soon discovered them and they disappeared.
The Shamans found them again in the form of seven pine trees. They used to consult with these pine trees. Finally they became transformed into the seven stars,” Frank G. Speck writes on page 48 of “The Delaware Big House Ceremony (1931)

Speck footnotes this, asking the reader to “See Appendix, Note II,” called “ The Myth of Red Cedar and the Seven Stars (Pleiades).” In this version the discovers are described as “young pure youths.”

Speck’s native informant, Witapanoxwe (Walking in Daylight) tells the story – after he relates some uses of red cedar as a medicine for swollen feet and purification of a home after a death has occurred. He then mentions that “cedar is always used for purifying the Big House.

Walking in Daylight, also called War Eagle, then tells this story, in a dialect of Delaware that had come to be spoken in the “Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), which Speck then translates to:
“A very long time ago in the life of the Delawares we have heard our deceased ancestors how they said, in ancient times when there were living men of great spiritual power; seven of them it was said, all at once were not seen anymore. They had gone, those prophets, men departed. But young pure youths blessed with a vision of something all at once while walking about along the ridge among rocky cliffs – all at once a thing upright there, seven stones almost alike. And then it was said that all at once the youth was thence spoken to by one of these stones. Then they came to be known[1]. And more and more widely persons constantly went there because those prophet men were there. All of a sudden when several had gone there to the place where they were, no person was seen there. But again after a very long time someone found them. Here were these seven beautiful appearing pine trees. And some of the individuals appeared as cedars in outward appearance. This very thing there shows evidence that they are closely related, the cedar and the pine, although in a very different way gifted with the power of spiritual force when created by the Creator. However, they were placed together as one since both are conjurors.
And there is more than one way otherwise to use the cedar, for the purpose of coloring.
Again they notice that those prophet-men had become trees. Again they went away and it was a very long time afterward before they found them again. As soon as they were known here these had formed in a group up above in the middle of the sky as seven stars[2] and they are called, when they are seen, as though they were great persons, from which reason from then until now they never stay in one place during the year. That is what was said by our ancestors from whom it was known that the cedar was of medicinal purpose.”

So I’m thinking about Speck saying “seven meteors,” which doesn’t get mentioned in W’s story.

And I’m thinking about “seven stones almost alike.”

Could they be “seven mounds of stones almost alike?”

And knowing that Indian settlements moved from place to place as resources were depleted, could some shamans be recreating the stone mounds in the places that people moved their cornfields to?

And I in my imagination I can see trees growing up in some of those mounds of stone, like the transformation above of stones to pines or cedars, “in outward appearance.”

Also: Peter commented to me about a certain stone wall above an amazing mound site being aligned with (or perhaps representing) the Milky Way. On pages 22 & 23 (and elsewhere) in Big House, Speck writes of “the most engrossing allegory of all (that) stands forth in the concept of the White Path, the symbol of the transit of life,” which might be the Milky Way, the “Ghost or Spirit Way,” or even possibly “across smoky way.” A nagging memory in the back of my mind tells me that there are some places somewhere (or a lot of places everywhere) where stones (or stone mounds?) are representations on the ground of stars in the sky.

(I read somewhere that Orion was called "The Great Turtle by the Aztecs. The "belt" was the crack in the Turtles back from which the world was recreated each spring.)

And would you have to put the transparent star map upside down on top of the mound graph to tell?

Speck's footnotes:
[1] Indicating that these prophets to escape the importunities of people seeking help from them had concealed their identity by transforming themselves into rock among the mountains.
[2] The Pleiades.

1 comment:

  1. Seven stones...seven rock piles....hmmm.