Monday, March 28, 2016

Kaistowanea (Two Headed Serpent) - or Not

    I'm trying to remember how to correctly spell the name of the Haudenausonee Serpent Kaistowanea  (Ka-is-to-wan-ea) since I'm "borrowing a serpent story from the neighbors of the Pootatuck," trying to make sense of an interesting course of stonework I am trying to maintain. I am guessing when I say that sometime between the 1960's and 1980, someone applied mortar in-between the stones of a dry stone retaining wall in front of our house. This held water back rather than allowing it to drain, causing the stones to shift and move as the saturated soil froze and thawed, unlike an adjacent segment of stones that was never mortared. 
     I'm just trying to keep this wall by the house from falling down - and it isn't easy in some spots.
      And it looks almost impossible in others.
        Such as here in this corner, on 3/10/16:
        There has been considerable movement here, hidden in the summer by a climbing rose for as long as I've lived here. I began tapping stones back into place, using wooden blocks and some stone mason hammers that have been in the family going back to my great grandfather's generation.
             The first stone to catch my eye in this section did so because of a possible resemblance to some sort of head of an animal perhaps. It seemed to have a zoomorphic quality to it, placed as it was in a dry stone retaining wall that could have been constructed as early as 1672, but more likely around the year 1700. I'm thinking that perhaps as a friendly gesture the Indigenous People, who were at the time of a Treaty concerning the lands around what was (and is) known as Nonnewaug, built these stone walls for the Pomperauge Plantation. I can't imagine that a European stone mason would do such a thing, incorporate a symbol of the "bright red devil," as they say, working for a group of Puritans but I suppose it is possible. I'll have to read up and see if there were any witch trials of stone masons of European descent on record from back around then...

And I do have to stop and tell you that I'd been suspecting snake-like imagery in those larger stones:
I took many photos on 3/11/16, but hadn't really noticed the other head-like stone in this course of stones beneath the large cap stone"
My noon photos show that I finally end up paying a little closer attention (as I trimmed away rose branches that seemed to be reaching out for my attention) to the head-like stone at the other end, but I knew the sun and shadows would distract from the feature:

A few hours later was the conditions were better to capture and image of this "other end:"
And, you know, that may not be an "other end." That first stone might be part of another serpent "more on the level" below this one that either by coincidence or purpose seems to have a very human-like quality to it (and a mortar covered stone beside it that hints of being rhomboidal in shape): 
May be it is not a double headed serpent after all - unlike the capstones above it in this section of retaining wall (and the next section in front of the house, presently obscured by lilacs):
Is it an illustration of a snake-like being in an Indigenous story - a sort of three dimensional petroglyh, a little petroform within a larger petroform?
 Could somebody's grandfather tell one story or two here, a shape-shifting to human to snake (or snake to human) story and another two headed serpent story as well?
Depends on the grandpa, as I've said before...

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