Saturday, September 01, 2007

Snake Guardians

By Geophile
I've been thinking about snakes, serpentine walls, and springs. The fact that we see these walls near springs has been discussed here before. Maybe I even got this whole idea somewhere on this blog, and you've covered this already. Anyway, I googled snake and guardian, and among other things found a written piece about the Hopi Snake Dance, saying "Scholars believe that the dance was originally a water ceremony because snakes were the traditional guardians of springs."
Another site that came up said: "Rivers and lakes often had snake-gods or snake-guardians including Untekhi the fearsome water-spirit of the Missouri River." It also said: "Snakes were regularly regarded as guardians of the Underworld or messengers between the Upper and Lower worlds because they lived in cracks and holes in the ground." I remember that when, for an article, I had to ask questions of archaeologist Brad Lepper, an expert on the Ohio mound cultures, he said those people regarded water and especially springs as representing the underworld.

So these very curvy, almost zig-zag low walls, often with tipped-up triangular stones at one end, that we've seen at sites near springs or swamps (and only there--hilltop sites don't seem to have them) may well represent snake guardians of those particular springs. I can think of at least 3 sites near springs where I've seen these walls, and I know pwax and others see them, too. The pictures above, which I've posted before, are from the Hackettstown, New Jersey site. That head was on the end of that wall.

1 comment :

Tim MacSweeney said...

The gentle curves of a serpentine stone row that surrounds a burial ground near me got me started following stone rows - that turned to zigzag - sharper angled rows, often about ten foot sections with larger point stones. I've followed these to water sources, including a stream on the opposite side of the valley, where there is a very likely RockShelter sort of site where remnants of a zigzag bordered stream flows down to the main river. My idera is that the stones protected the botanicals inside the border, kept the stream cool and healthy, and prevented flooding while keeping the stream flowing.
And I find the big end stones also when the overland sort of rows end up back at water features - or so it seems...