If I told you I have seen this wall hundreds of times, I wouldn’t be exaggerating. It’s not far from my house and it’s alongside one of those dirt road short-cuts I take now and then. It is also the edge of a local land trust where I can walk along numerous rows of stones, many of which have appeared on this blog. A previous post included this aerial image from 1934, showing "the car was parked at the Black Square, the modified stone row end below at the Yellow Square." I believe I said "modified" because my impression was that stones had been added - or stones that had fallen in the past 300 years or so hadn't been replaced in their original positions. On the edge of a field, there are many places where it seems pretty evident that stones were tossed and dumped rather than stacked:If I told you that I’ve stopped and taken the trail beside this little segment of stones a couple dozen times, I still wouldn’t be “pulling your leg.”
I can’t tell you why I took this photo, but I know I looked back through the folder it was in for rhomboidal shapes in stone walls a year and a half ago, I was surprised. I hadn’t noticed it until I looked for it.
Yesterday morning, looking for an image of something else of course, I looked at and suddenly realized that this may be a stone representation of a snake, most probably an ophiomorphic petroform that is the Great Serpent of Indigenous Legend.
(It’s a widespread legend: http://www.native-languages.org/legends-snake.htm
But more locally in the Eastern U.S.A.: http://www.native-languages.org/horned-serpent.htm)
Just recently I had been making a little sketch of some often repeated patterns that may be diagnostic of Indigenous Stonework. I was fooling around and comparing it to a drawing I find many people on the World Wide Internet steal to illustrate how to tell a good wall from a poorly stacked wall.
Not using a particular photo as a model, I went sort of stylistic with the drawing, trying to include a few of those repeated patterns of artistically stacking stones as if to purposely resemble a snake:
Allow me to flip that drawing of mine around:
Now allow me to overlay onto the photo a thing or two that I did not see – I mean ‘observe’ – until this morning (the head-like triangular boulder, smaller stones as scales, particularly two small cobbles behind the head, as well as the rhomboidal stone as a "diamond shaped marking" found on timber rattlesnakes):
I don’t know if the original construction had all those stones piled on the Great Serpent’s head – they could be later additions, perhaps to prop up the rails of some type of wooden fence. I blacked out all but one below, pondering if it might have been a stone representing a single horn, or even the “bright blazing crest like a diamond on its forehead” that Anthropologist James Mooney, describes, recalling a description from a Cherokee Legend:
“Those who know say the Uktena is a great snake, as large around as a tree trunk, with horns on its head, and a bright blazing crest like a diamond on its forehead, and scales glowing like sparks of fire. It has rings or spots of color along its whole length, and can not be wounded except by shooting in the seventh spot from the head, because under this spot are its heart and its life. The blazing diamond is called Ulun'suti—"Transparent"—and he who can win it may become the greatest wonder worker of the tribe. But it is worth a man's life to attempt it, for whoever is seen by the Uktena is so dazed by the bright light that he runs toward the snake instead of trying to escape. As if this were not enough, the breath of the Uktena is so pestilential, that no living creature can survive should they inhale the tiniest bit of the foul air expelled by the Uktena. Even to see the Uktena asleep is death, not to the hunter himself, but to his family.”
As I recall (helped along by a video taken 6 years ago), this segment contains many strikingly colorful stones in it, perhaps recalling, as Mooney writes, describing Uktena, "It has rings or spots of color along its whole length."
(I can't find where where I thought I lifted the original image. I unsuccessfully tried to find it and instead found this, where oddly enough the "jaws" and possible "egg" are positioned similar to that upper most stone here in this photo: