Friday, March 15, 2013

"Wo'gas"

It was a month ago when I first saw these two photos by Alyssa Alexandria, accompanied by this text: 
"I hope these two photos stay together. One is blurry bc of the extensive zoom but the other shows true location. This is in the wall network of Shastina and I guess I'll be hiking up tomorrow to check it out:) When I hike I take long shots of the high places to see if anything interesting shows up when I get home and enlarge them."

Rains kept my long distance friend from hiking up to this spot - and when she says 'up,' she means it. These "high places" are steep hills out near Mount Shasta in Northern California, where Native People went to "cry" for so long that the origins of these stones go back to the Wo'gas, an even more ancient people, Spirit People, who lived here before the Indians.

"Hehl-keek kee-tee nee nue he-gok'' 
I'm going to the high country.— Reference: YLCB108 | Yurok audio:GT3-28-04.mp3

So this morning, I found that she had hiked up to this spot finally and that blurry prominant stack above turns out to definately not look like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street fame.
Here's a view from over a Stone Row (that has a familiar look to it: didn't someone at Rock Piles post a photo of an almost identical stone row in New England somewhere?) :

"It would be virtually impossible to list every feature of the natural environment which was regarded as a spiritual entity according to aboriginal belief. All of nature was thought to have been shaped through incidents that occurred in the period before humans existed, and in their modern form not only the plants and animals but even the trails were believed to have "feelings" and power to influence human life...all over the region, walking trails were regarded as conscious beings, and in traveling the Indian had to observe certain rules in order to avoid insulting them. It was considered wrong, for example, to step out of a trail and in again without making some gesture of respect, and indeed the traveler had to observe many such customs. There were certain places where it was expected that a person would stop and rest while using a trail, whether he was tired or not, and there the Indian was often supposed to speak a prayer..."
Keeling, Richard. Cry for Luck: Sacred Song and Speech Among the Yurok, Hupa, and Karok Indians of Northwestern California. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.
Closer still:
(Note how difficult it is to separate the natural formations from the stones that have been "placed.")

I think when my friend entitled the photo series "Wo'gas," she might be talking about something you might see as carvings or dismiss as simulacrum ("likeness, similarity," "shapes in cloud formations," images of religious icons or beings on toast or stains on walls" etc.) in this detail from the photo above.
"To the American Indian: reminiscences of a Yurok woman"  By Lucy Thompson
 Chapter IV (Page 81): Traditions of the Ancient White People (the Wa-gas or Wo-ge)
The Yurok, coming into the Klamath River region for the first time, found the area inhabited by “a white race of people known among us as the We-gas.” For a time the We-gas and Yurok lived together, but one day the We-gas “abandoned their ancient homes.”  Lucy Thompson writes:
“…in their farewell journey across this land they left landmarks of stone monuments on the tops of high mountains and places commanding a view of the surrounding country. These landmarks we have kept in repair down through the ages in loving remembrance. I have seen many of these landmarks myself and often repaired them…Oh how little we know of the depths of the ages gone; how wide, how profound and deep is the knowledge we seek. A monument of stone, a stone bowl, a broken symbol, a hallowed spot, a lodge of ruins: all this makes a golden page glittering with diamonds that trills the emotions with mysterious longings for truth and light in the depths of the unknown.”

 These Wo'gas sometimes spoke to people, according to tradition:
"If a person wants to tell me something, let him come up into the hills in the evening and stay all night. Let him take tobacco with him, and angelica root, only those two. And he must be careful of himself before he does that: he must get sweathouse wood, and drink no water, and go with no women. Then, I shall answer him if he calls my name..."

        Instructions from a Wo'gey on how to pray in the high country ~ ( Kroeber 1976:291)

These details need no words; they speak for themselves, perhaps in Yurok, that endangered Algic language or the language that you dream in...





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