Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Deer Head Uktena

   A recent communication with Tommy Hudson finally enabled me to track down this story that refers back to this old Rock Piles post about a possible Serpent - with what may be a deer's head on a snake's body - on a stone, shown above, found in "a stone wall" in Roxbury CT:
  “At dawn, when the grandmother stared into the dark âsĭ (Women's Moon Lodge), she saw that her grandson shape-shifted into a giant horned serpent, or Uktena, curled up like a fetus within the cramped space. With human legs and deer head attached to a reptilian body, the partly transformed snake boy slithered through the settlement to a deep pool at a nearby bend in the river, where he disappeared under the water. Being a medicine person like her grandson, the grandmother eventually entered the pool too (Mooney 1900:304).” - Myths of the Cherokee. Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1897-98. Part 1, Government Printing Office: Washington D.C.
   J. Loubser includes the quote in The Socio-Economic and Ritual Contexts of Petroglyph Boulders in the Southeastern United States. His paper can be read here: 

Fig. 2: Representation of nested townhouses on the southeastern Indian landscape.
"The Cherokees believed that thunder was a horned snake within the rain which connected the sky vault, the human-built houses on earth, and the underground or underwater townhouses (Mooney 1900:481)."


pwax said...

Uktena seems to get discussed here once and a while. See:

Tim MacSweeney said...

I wonder if a stone pile or row of stones can take the place of a petroglyph in our region -especially if it happens to be sort of petroform-like.
Extra especially if that row of stones has something that recalls a serpent's head...

pwax said...

Petroglyphs are few and far between in New England. For some reason that impulse did not occur here in that form and I assume it took a different form.

Tommy Hudson said...

One thing is for certain, petroglyphs, petroforms, and pictographs are all iconic representations of an idea, or set of ideas. A great deal of thought went into incorporating these icons into their spirit filled world, or what we call today, their cosmos. Just like Jannie Loubser, I believe ethnographic accounts, such as those of Mooney, who lived with the indians in the east and the west, is where we get our best clues.
Notice too, in just that one little quote, all the times that the different levels of the Indian cosmos were mentioned; water (under world), sky dome (upper world), serpent (under world), deer horns (middle world), etc. Mooney's books are filled with those stories that he collected by the hundreds from various Indian groups. There are over 450 more examples of those stories stored away in the Smithsonian where they have not seen the light of day for over 100 years. (Now there's a project for someone.) They were dismissed as children's stories just a few years ago, and now we are finding out those stories are what the Indians believe(d) to this day. Interesting stuff.

Tim MacSweeney said...

We've got a story that was assumed to be "just a story," that turned out to have "factual basis" - about an event from the end of the last ice age, 15,000 - 12,000 years ago!
"According to Native Americans of the Quinnipiac Tribe, the giant stone spirit Hobbomock (or Hobomock), a prominent wicked figure in many stories (see Pocumtuck Ridge and Quinnipiac), became enraged about the mistreatment of his people and stamped his foot down in anger, diverting the course of the Connecticut River (where the river suddenly swings east in Middletown, Connecticut after several hundred miles of running due south). To prevent him from wreaking such havoc in the future, the good spirit Keitan cast a spell on Hobbomock to sleep forever as the prominent man-like form of the Sleeping Giant (Sleeping Giant Park Association.) http://wakinguponturtleisland.blogspot.com/2011/06/giants-on-landscape.html