Monday, July 14, 2008

Split Rock - Wakefield, NH

Norman Muller writes:

...While roaming the backroads near our summer home in Wakefield, NH, I spotted a split boulder in a field.A closer look revealed a cobble in the split and a pile of rocks at the base of the boulder, covered with pine needles and other organic debris.

Not more than twenty or thirty feet away was another large split boulder, and this one had a number of small stones in the split. I had been on the lookout for such features, and this was the first example I have seen in this area. Undoubtedly there is much more to be found.


JimP said...

That pile of brush in the third photo catches my eye. As I'm sure you know, brush was just as common as stone for offerings at shrines. There is a trace of information from the folklore, too, in which the tying of boughs or branches across a trail keeps malevolent spirits or witches from following - truly the only reference I have found to any concept of, "blocking," a spirit.

pwax said...

How prevalent is the concept of "witches" among the Algonquian?

JimP said...

Today, I truly don't know. In the 19th century and earlier -- VERY prevalent.

Initially, the English proclaimed Pauwaus and Pnieses witches who consorted with the devil, and viewed Indian spirituality in general as devil-worship.

Some English women were accused of being witches in Connecticut and Massachusetts for dabbling in Indian healing. Another was accused of possessing an Indian's charm -- a quartz crystal. They were hanged.

As Indians slowly began to be converted, they adopted the Christian view of witchcraft. In some places, like in Iroquois territory, the witches were rival enemy shamans -- and accounted witches because they practiced to do harm. In other places, such as Penobscot territory, the few left practicing traditional spirituality were ridiculed.

The folklore from Wampanoag, Pequot, and Mohegan sources were replete with tales of witches. What were once rituals and ceremonies likely intended to protect a clan or individual from a rival enemy Pauwau became folklore for protecting oneself from a witch.

Norman said...

The second split boulder is integrated with a stone wall that runs left to right. Also, there is a house for sale no more than 200 feet away. As I saw it, the woods had been thinned, probably in the past twenty years or so, by the owner of the house, and some of the slash was piled against the split boulder. But maybe Jim is right, too, that this boulder is still marked for worship.