Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jipijka’maq– Great Horned Serpent

Multiple Layers of Meaning in the Mi'kmaw Serpent Dance – Trudy Sable
“How far back this dance goes among the Mi'kmaq is difficult to say. Possibly it originated from the Ohio Valley where the serpent mounds of the Adena tradition are found: interchange between the Ohio Valley and the Maritimes 3,000 years ago is documented (Ruth Whitehead, personal communication, 1996).”
“First, as seen in the language, the world is experienced and expressed as fluid, in a constant flux, or as a process, not static and objectified. For instance, there are a number of words for Creator, e.g. kisu Ikw, ankwey-ulkwjikeyulkw, tekweyulk, most of which are transitive verbs describing different processes of creation that do not begin or end, but are ongoing. The word adapted by the missionaries to communicate the abstract concept of 'God' is Niskamij, which is both a kin term and an honorific term meaning 'grandfather', 'step-father', and 'father-in-law' (Francis, personal communications, 1995-96).
Second, because of the fluid nature of reality, everything in the culture seems to accommodate and adjust to a world of shifting realities. Many of the legends are filled with shape-shifting and unpredictable beings with whom one had to interact appropriately to survive. The nature of the language, stories, songs and dances, all seem to be a way to re-create and re-evaluate reality again and again, and to re-establish one's relationship within it continuously. Third, everything expresses a world of relationships, or things in association or in relation with other things, not existing as separate entities. This can be seen in the language in the extension of kinship terms to things, animals and other-than-human-beings, as well as in the social organization. Similarly, the terms for colours illustrate this relational quality. Except for the four colours red, black, white and yellow (also the colours used for the four directions), all colours are associative — or "analogized", as Francis (personal communications, 1995-96) terms it. Even these four, however, are thought to have derived from Proto-Algonquian words that associate them with blood (red), light/sunlight/dawn (yellow and white), and ash (black) (Whitehead 1982:71). Other colour terms mean Tike the sky' (blue), 'like the fir trees' (forest green), etc. Thus there is no way to describe the colour of blue and green rocks, or even a dream of blue and green rocks, without ascribing to them a connection, or relation, to the sky and fir trees. Furthermore, all colours — including black, red, yellow and white — are intransitive verbs that can be conjugated. The translation of maqtewe 'k (black) is 'in the process of being black', inferring that there is no fixed state of blackness, but rather a stage in a process that could change (Francis, personal communication, 1996). Fourth, many levels of meaning can be compressed into one word, one utterance, one step — a whole image that might take many sentences in English to write out can be expressed in one word or one movement, similar to mnemonic marks made to convey information, or wampum belts with each bead associated with some message. As well, there may be implicit meanings that are not conveyed in the literal translation of a word but simply come from being part of the culture...
...The word jujijuajik, according to Margaret Johnson, means 'acting like a snake'. She explained that the word jujij refers to things that crawl on the ground, e.g. snakes, lizards and spiders. This is in keeping with Hagar who quotes Silas T. Rand, the 19th-century Baptist minister to the Mi'kmaq, as defining jujij as a general term for 'reptile'. Hagar also mentions that, despite this definition, several Mi'kmaq assured him it designated the rattlesnake (Hagar 1895:37). John Hewson defined jujij as 'serpent' and jujijuajik as 'they do the serpent', but Francis was uncertain that this was an accurate definition. Nicholas Smith cites Jack Solaman, a Maliseet from Tobique Point, as using the word al-la-de-gee-eh in a singing of the "Snake Song" in 1915. This word was translated by Peter Paul as 'moves like a snake', though it does not actually contain the word 'snake' in it; rather, it literally means "it has the motion of a snake" (Smith n.d.). In the Mi'kmaw language, this would be alatejiey, which is translated as 'crawling around, or the movement that the snake makes' (Francis, personal communication, 1996). This translation seems similar to Margaret Johnson's definition of jujijuajik. The actual word for 'snake' in Mi'kmaq is mteskm (Hewson, personal communication, 1996)...
...The jipijka 'm is a powerful symbol in Mi'kmaw legends. It lives and travels beneath the earth or water, and its horns, one red and one yellow, were used for personal power particularly by puoinaq, or what are referred to as shamans today. It can also take on human form and live as a human in the underwater world. The red and yellow horns of the jipijka 'm are power objects, and stories about the use of jipijka 'm horns are known all the way across northern North America and across the centuries, back to northern Asia (Whitehead, personal communication, 1996)...
   Hagar describes it as "a horned dragon, sometimes no larger than a worm, sometimes larger than the largest serpent... He inhabits lakes, and is still sometimes seen" (Hagar 1896:170)...
In summary, the Serpent Dance involves many layers of meaning and embodies a richness of information and profundity. First, this one dance brings together a web or system of relationships that occur simultaneously — the changing of seasons, most probably linked to the appearance or position of a constellation in the sky, connected in turn to the time of the moulting of snakes, which were indicators for the ripening and picking of medicine. On another level, the jipijka 'm was the essence or protector of medicine, which was the spirit ally of the puoin, who was the most powerful shaman. Ultimately, the dance protected the well-being of the people themselves. Second, the mirroring of one thing in another is evident — the micro-cosm reflecting the macrocosm. The dance itself mirrored the sound of the plant, the coiling and uncoiling of both the literal snake awakening from hibernation and shedding its skin, and the essence of the medicine in the form of the jipijka'm, and possibly the constellation in the sky and the changing or "turning over" of seasons. The plant, meteteskewey, may have mirrored the jipijka 'm in its appearance and sound, if the identification of the plant is correct. 
Possibly, as well, the constellation in the sky mirrored the cycle of the snake on earth, like the constellation Ursa Major mirroring the hibernation, birth, and hunt of the bear as it moves through the sky in the winter and spring (see Hoffman 1954:253). Furthermore the male and female dancers were possibly a reflection of male and fevna\e jipijka 'maq, as well as the male and female plants. Finally, the dance illustrates the Mi'kmaw relationship to the world as being part of universal processes and cycles, of "tuning in" to the funda-mental energy and rhythms and reflecting and expressing those processes and rhythms in the dance. The dance was a means to help effect the changing or turning over of seasons, and channel the energy appropriately so that the medicine would be powerful and effective, just as other aspects of nature — temperature, soil composition, weather patterns, etc. -contribute to the process. Dance was a way to reflect and come to know the world, embody and communicate its rhythms and its stories, and re-establish one's relationship to and within a shifting reality again and again.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Striking Serpents (Woodbury CT)

(split boulder on bedrock  outcrop and two stone rows)
Two Striking Serpents with snake-like bodies and stones stacked to suggest markings, including a seventh scale "healing diamond." 

Striking Serpent with snake-like body and stones stacked to resemble markings, including a seventh scale "healing diamond." 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Driving By Yet Another Dam (Stone Construction)

     I’m not sure if this dam (stone construction) was actually originally a dam. I’ve driven by it more times than I can remember but I recently stopped on my way from somewhere to somewhere else, apparently to take a series of mostly unfocused photos. I know it reminds me of other local stonework that is definitely not composed of obviously quarried blocks of stone.
    And I’m not sure if it’s a sort of causeway as well since at least this segment seems sort of wide, sort of earth filled sort of:
     If there was a sort of culvert-like outlet here where it’s breached, I’ll never probably know unless an older image of it exists somewhere, perhaps at the Watertown Historical Society or something:

I don’t know what to think about this stone: 

(Above) Part of a larger Effigy contained in the stacking?? (Below) A suggestion of an eye perhaps, an oval larger crystal of quartz in a band of quartz, perhaps a suggestion of an effigy:
Another couple that seem to have the suggestion of eyes:
Like I said: "out of focus:"

...but sort of interesting.
Reminds me of this place, a culvert-like opening more or less intact, maybe ten miles away to the north and west, connected by the same blue-blazed trail:
That same mix of assorted sizes of stones, the same wavy courses of stones...
Apparently another place where big birches tend to be out of focus, clinging to these stone structures:
Causeway Collection:
Another Possible Indigenous Causeway:
Blog Search of Causeway for the Curious, with more (sometimes) out of focus photos:

And I'll add this:
Our oldest wagon roads frequently lay atop Native American trails.
    "Just a week or so ago (in Dec. 2015) a friend of the Trading Path Association called to say he thought he'd seen some old, old bridge abutments near his home.  We went for a walk in the woods and, sure enough, he'd found a bridge abutment and it was very old.  [A bit more on dating hypotheses below]  Then we followed the old road course over a little hogback, and down at the bottom of the hogback, on another little creek was another very old bridge.

Near by the old roadbed we spotted what appeared to be a "trail tree", a tree intentionally distorted by being tied down while young.  They frequently have a limb growing out of their upper curve which, so it is said, point the direction of a turn in the trail.  When I became agitated about the tree my host said, "Oh, hey, I have two more of them on my land."


Tuesday, June 05, 2018


"Williams wrote in the Narraganset dialect:
                 Qussuck, stone; Qussuckanash, stones...”
Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Volume 6
By New York State Historical Association

Quassakonkanuck - “Stone fence boundary mark; place at the stone wall”

American Indian Place Names in Rhode Island by Frank Waabu O'Brien

 “There are other Rhode Island names which take their origin from having been descriptive boundaries in early conveyances...A pond in South Kingston, at the head of narrow river, was called Quassakonkanuck, which may connote "where the bound turns" (Quashau), or "the turning bound." Other boundary designations are derived from natural objects, such as trees, brooks, rocks, etc. These elements are frequently incorporated as components of such place-names. Quonocontaug pond, in Charlestown, as well as the village bearing same name, has been correctly translated by Dr. Trumbull as the "tall tree" (qunnuqui-tugk), which served as a landmark. Cocumscusset brook, or Cawcawmsqussick, as it was written by Roger Williams, is mentioned as a boundary in Coginaquand's deed to John Winthrop, Humphrey Atherton and others in 1659 (Fones Rec., vol. 1, p. 3, et seq.). This locality in the Narragansett country is historically famous. The name probably signifies "at or near the mark rock" (Kukuh-ompskqus-ei), denoting not the rock itself, but the land in its neighborhood. Wannuscheomscut, in which we find the elements Wannasque-ompskq-ut, is seemingly the actual name for the rock itself, meaning "at the ending rock," as it is noted in the same deed as an alternative with Cocumscusset. Another boundary in this deed is called Petaquamscott, "at the roundrock" (Petukqui-ompsq-ui), which remains to this day a well-known landmark, near a river bearing same name in South Kingstown...”
Abstract Of A Paper Read Before The Society, March 25, 1897, By William Wallace Tooker, Esq.
Rhode Island Historical Society (Page 212 1897)

|Qussuk|, { A Rock}. |pl. Qussukquanash|.  
             |Hussun|, { A Stone}. |pl. Hussunash|.