Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Stone Mounds for Vision Quest

By Geophile

Most people have experienced moments when a certain point on the landscape seems to activate something within us. Places of spirit appeal even to modern Western people because of the feelings of awe and wonder they evoke. Jane Goodall speaks memorably of a waterfall within the territory of the chimpanzees she studied and how they would go there and gaze in wonder, showing signs of having a religious or at least spiritual experience. The strong sense of the spiritual in certain places on the landscape was especially significant in societies where all or most needs are provided by the surrounding portion of the earth. These special places provided opportunities for communion with the landscape and with the living things that are a part of it.

Building rock piles is one activity sometimes performed by people doing vision quest and trying to connect with a spirit or spirits said to dwell at these special places. Last evening while doing a search, I ran across information about rock mounds near a waterfall in Oregon, Susan Creek Falls. The sign there spells out the connection between rock pile making and the seeking of a spirit helper. In a paragraph on these falls, one outdoor website says "Another quarter mile up the trail are the Indian Mounds. One of the rites of manhood for Umpqua boys was to fast and pile up stones in hopes of being granted a vision or spiritual powers. Also called the Vision Quest Site, the site still holds stacks of moss-covered stones in an area protected by a fence."

For pictures of a couple of the stone mounds, see here and here. It would be interesting to learn where the idea that these particular piles were built as part of vision quests came from.

1 comment :

JimP said...

There is a great deal of ethnographical information connecting rock piles and vision quests on the west coast.