Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Just downhill from the end of Fieldstone Ln - Stow MA: The meaning of split wedged rocks

You could see a split-wedged rock from the road and there was a conservation land parking where I hid my car so I could sneak back across to the other side of the road, so I could go down into the wet "break out" and check it out. First I saw a rock pile:
Then got a look at the split-wedged rock I had seen from the road:[It is worth clicking on the picture.] I think this helps settle a question about the meaning of split-wedged rocks. This is not an offering or a donation because it is so obvious that the wedges are shims that hold the upper rock in a specific position. Perhaps the main rock was deliberately split? It implies a meaning to these things that is different from the idea of propitiating a spirit that lives in the rock. A split wedged rock like this is something else.

Right nearby, another split-wedged rock:Again the rock seems deliberately split but this time with a suggestive quartz vein.

I notice that the first split wedged rock above also has a thin quartz vein parallel to the split. So maybe this all is more like: unleashing the power of the quartz?


Geophile said...

But wouldn't they have thought of it as a spirit or spirits? I'm not saying it was an offering, but even if someone in this tradition broke the rock, it would still be understood in terms of releasing the rock's spirit or something like that.

Aren't we looking at a shamanic-ish or animist tradition in which the rocks and water had or maybe it's better to say were spirits, much in the way we have or are spirits?

pwax said...

I am mostly concerned with distinguishing this from "donations". That explanation of split-wedged rocks has been argued for some time and this example, seems to nail the coffin on it. Not to say that donations do not exist also, but rather that: this is something else.

As to what "else", I guess you are right. I always imagine a spirit in the rock but who know what "spirit" means? I see the quartz vein right there in both examples and see the deliberate shimming. Any theory about it needs to look at those particular facts.

Geophile said...

I am strongly of the opinion that "spirit" does not mean what non-Indians tend to think it means, but something a little more tied to experience. The quartz goes right with that, as it has, as we've discussed here, real properties that could make it seem closer to alive in a different understanding of alive.

My understanding had been that in some cases the wedges were there to mark that the split had been "worked" and the spirit used (or taken, as by a shaman) or released. But it's all conjecture and may well have had different meanings at different times.

Good spotting on your part, noticing this particular one, and an interesting discussion.