Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Similar Serpenty Stones at the Steps

I have to admit that I didn't notice these similarities until the day before yesterday.
Then again, I've been walking up and down these stone steps for close to forty years without any thought that they may have been anything more than just some stone steps.
You've seen the one on the right before, - photos taken in different light conditions, different seasons, over the last year or so that I first began to speculate that the stone may have been purposely humanly enhanced to resemble a snake or perhaps even a legendary Indigenous Serpent. 
Imagine my surprise when I realized that a stone on the opposite side of that first snake or Serpent, in the course of stone beneath the cap stone, is very similar in shape albeit larger, roughly twice the height of the other - and I just went out to measure, so I can tell you that the one on the left is about 10 inches shorter in length. Both stones are the same width, both have that same curve "dressed" into them, as the stone mason's say, and they both appear to take a "strong look" (as the "Strong Looker" or Uktena does in order to know your intentions) at the person about to put his or her foot on that first step. Note those blobs of mortar on the stone to the left - do you suppose the mortar fills too similar markings, one sort of eye-like and the other that might possibly be the "pit" that identifies poisonous snakes (pit vipers)????
These are taken at different times of day, so that the sun and shadow reveal what must surely be the purposeful shaping of the stones (as well as placement) rather than a random coincidence:

Speculating on Peter's Post

    Peter's post prompts me to overlay his photo above with some circles and arrows and a paragraph or two (on the front rather than on the back, deviating from the Alice's Restaurant style of crime scene photography) of speculation, with a little bit of deduction about weathering and lichen growth:

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


June 3-5, 2016

Town of Dover, NY
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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...

Friday, March 25, 2016


    Kaistowanea (Haudenausonee); Ka-is-to-wan-ea, the small two headed brightly colored serpent, “whose skin had beautiful colors with gold and silver stripes down its back.” The Serpent “when caressed…would wave its beautiful heads to express its gratitude.” Ka-is-to-wan-ea grew rapidly, became so large that “it rested on the beam of the lodge.” The Ka-is-to-wan-ea, so beautiful and graceful in its youth, soon grew to be a ravenous monster, and having grown so large that the lodge could contain it no longer, wandered to a cave (or stone sweat lodge?) under the mountain.
(later edit:)
(How do I know it isn't Two Heads of the Same Snake: I don't know.)

     Becoming even larger “the monster had circled the hill and lay with its double jaws extended before the gate. Some attempted to pass out, but were driven back…
and one line “gold and silver” from: Two-Headed Serpent Prophecy of the Haudenausonee “Kwe Kwe” As Told by Stuart Myiow of the Mohawk Traditional Council of Kahnewake

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Front Steps at 29

Serpent Looking Sideways - and a Turtle beside it doing the same.

     There is some Native American “expedient imagery” (Jack Steinbring’s term for some stones that may have been at least minimally enhanced to more resemble an animal or human) in these stones – and what you see all depends on light conditions, along with some open mindedness. I have walked up these steps many times over the last 35 years but I am only just beginning to see what is there in those stones, most likely shaped and modified before finally being placed just as they are. And I’m glad it has taken so long for me to get to these steps in the restoration process, glad I didn’t give a go ahead to a stone mason or two (or three) who wanted to take it all apart and rebuild it all. That’s the “business” of stone wall construction and not the conservation of a unique stone structure that is about 300 years old.
    I also had to walk thousands of miles of stone walls, unlearning everything I’d learned about stone walls in the first half of my life and begin to make my own sort of field guide to Indigenous Stone Walls, unlearn as well the Pristine Wilderness Myth the Puritans created and actually learn to see the Indigenous Cultural Landscape that underlies the modern landscape.
    And start to realize that this is a pattern of Indigenous Stonework, a sideways looking Great Serpent – an Uktena or “Strong Looker” who knows the thoughts of the person just by looking at them: 
   And actually it is two Serpents at this gate – on the property of the first Puritan minister in a nearby town, more likely an Indigenous construction than not, two Great Serpents guarding an enclosed section of an indigenous domesticated landscape (not a stone fence but a Qusukqaniyutôk: ‘stone row, enclosure’ ‘fence that crosses back’ and variations such as Qussukquanentunk - (PEA)(singular)(recovered): a stone wall - a Quisenkquannútonk: (collquial) (archaic) (unattested)(singular): a stone wall), than a colonial construction that resembles a symbol of a famous fallen angel who encouraged Eve to take a bite of that apple from that Tree of Wisdom. 
    Build a snake for the Puritan Preacher’s farm and you’ll probably find out more about a witch trial than you really care to. These Serpent "Stone Walls," these "Snake Rows of Stones," this Serpent Gateway, was probably already existing in 1740 when the Preacher showed up in the former "Wilderness," possibly wooden rails added to it maybe to make it a four and a half foot tall legal fence according to early CT Property Laws. Before that, maybe there were some other enhancements to the Stone Snake Head features at this gate, perhaps antlers since various forms of representations of this the spirit being are portrayed as having horns (with other variations as well):

        I said two Serpents, but I don’t know how many Serpents connect to the rest of this one in the form of stone walls since some stone wall segments will resemble many smaller “snake courses” of stones in places. I don’t really know but it may also at the same time be the same Serpent. Recently I came across the Seneca story of a small two-headed serpent called Kaistowanea, who grows starts out as a charming brightly colored pet, with “swaying heads and bright eyes” but grows “so large it rested on the beam of the lodge,” continuing to grow larger (and meaner) still until eventually “the monster had circled the hill and lay with its double jaws extended before the gate.” Kaistowanea finally comes to a bad end and turns into stones that tumble down the hill into a lake when he dies. A gentler story may be told of the one above, perhaps a person entering this space would offer tobacco, similar to some stories of other Great Serpents.
      So, here at home, walking up our front steps one day, the light hit this capstone just right and I saw that perhaps this stone had been modified and was placed as it was in order to resemble a snake or perhaps Great Serpent:

Note the possible turtle-like arraignment or placement of stones (and ignore that capstone I moved and placed on the adjacent one, above) , two forelegs extended on both sides of head pointed in the same direction, with a similar enhanced eye, the same curve to the upper lid. Above these “turtle parts” is a marble-like flat carapace and smaller capstone:

     Another possible enhancement of the matching capstone on the other side may create a sort of Serpent Gateway to our front door steps, two serpent heads near each other, but also looking at the person entering the space:
      Changes in light bring out multiple images on many of the stones in the walls around the steps and house, as do these two capstones that also seem to look at a person leaving the house:

(And there's a possible human-like face profile, nose at about 1:00.)
Sunrise, Vernal Equinox 2016, as seen from front doorway:

Flickr album:

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Drip Stone Turtles

 Could it really be “Turtles All the Way Down?”
        Our next target of restoration at home is the front door and all that surrounds it. I was removing the cement/cinder block/cobblestone front steps of 1969, exposing the damaged sill, hidden by the cement for all that time, and what appear to be what are sometimes called “colonial drip stones” incorporated into the field stone foundation, protruding outward from the foundation. It looked like this back in ‎November ‎2015:
    There is a cloudy early history of our house and I don’t know the year of construction. A possibility exists that the house was built for the Pomperauge Plantation cooperatively with the Nonnewaug band of the Pootatuck supplying labor, sharing the use of the land described in the 1700 Nonnewaug Treaty:
I had already been noticing some of the things I call diagnostic of Indigenous stonework in the retaining walls around the house and now some of those same features seem to be showing up in the foundation:

Possible Effigies and Rhomboidal Stone:
Moving south along the front of the house, more of the same “turtle components” – shapes that suggest forelegs and shells as well as a few that seem to be possible head stones, of a size and shape unusual in a typical colonial foundation, usually composed of flat slabs or quarried stone.
    But above that quartz headstone and the triangular stone with what I term “the beak,” is a rather snake-like course of stone slabs placed thickest to thinnest, behind a possibly modified stone of the same kind.
    The retaining wall, like many stone walls in other places, appears to be in places courses of stones placed to resemble heads and bodies of snakes. The head stone bears much resemblance to one in the retaining wall a short distance away:

Stones on the retaining wall - could they be moved drip stones?
A testudinate possibility:

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Outcrop and Row of Stones Madison CT

     The stones caught my eye as I turned onto the road with the familiar name, on my way to my Dad's Birthday Celebration that just happens to be my parents' wedding anniversary, bundled up with St. Patrick's Day since my green eyed dad was born on March 17th.
It was that rhomboidal stone in a certain segment that sort of stood out, got my attention:  

I often mention the placement of stones so that an eye or eyes suggests the head of an animal or human-like being is a likely indicator of Indigenous Stonework. Perhaps these two stones to the right of the rhomboidal are a representation of an animal of some sort:

Another segment, another rhomboidal:
Another "head stone," perhaps Testudinate or turtle-like below it:
I passed by this small Manitou-like stone and paused:

The row of stones leads to...  
...a flat topped outcrop:

Another small Manitou-like stone placement on the top of the stack:

(Updating in 2/2018, this row of stones - as a Great Serpent:)

Perhaps this possible turtle (and all the others) deserves its own post:

Whole set of photos here: