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Earthworks Day experience
Focused as we are on the Octagon’s alignment to the moon, it is easy to forget that the northern maximum moonrise was also visible from other vantage points. One such vantage point was Geller Hill.
Located roughly 7,000 feet southwest of the major earthworks, people watching the sky 2,000 years ago from that location would have seen the maximum north moon rise at a point halfway between the Octagon and Great Circle – balanced in effect, between those monumental earthworks. Viewed from Geller Hill, as the moon cleared the distant horizon, it would also have been reflected in the dark waters of the lake that early maps show extending between the earthworks. At this moment, the three realms of earth, sky, and water were connected in a way that was visible to the sky watchers.
It was also at this moment that the 18.6-year lunar cycle that anchored generational time and set the reckoning of days, events, and lives, began anew. Thus in the space of an instant, and through the alignment of earth, sky, and water at the beginning of a temporal cycle, time and space were connected through human consciousness, to the mythic beginning. In this way, the world of the Hopewell was re-created, renewed, and re-vitalized for yet another 18.6 years….reason enough, I would think, for the Ancient Ones and ourselves, to mark this special day and celebrate our participation.
William F. Romain, Author of Mysteries of the Hopewell: Astronomers, Geometers, and Magicians of the Eastern Woodlands.
THE LUNAR ALIGNMENTS WITHIN THE EARTHWORKS
Native Americans and their cultures have fascinated me. Before even knowing anything about the lunar alignments that were built into the earthworks I already greatly appreciated their work. I live near the Great Circle and have visited it several times, enjoying the peacefulness and the history. Walking through the park and trying to fathom the culture and the people that existed thousands of years ago was always entertaining. Having learned about the lunar alignments, my curiosity is only deepened.
Having first heard of the lunar alignments, I had doubts that probably everyone else shared. How did we know these weren’t just coincidences? However, after having attended the lecture last Wednesday, I have to admit that I’m thoroughly convinced of the purposeful precision of the earthworks to accurately encompass the cycles of the moon. Most convincing was how only one in many thousands of random octagons could ever contain the amount of information (or, coincidences) that this structure did. Complementing this, the fact that a structure like this could only work within a 28 mile strip around the earth only strengthens their argument.
However, what fascinates me more that the earthworks is the society that built them. What was the society like? How advanced were they? What happened to them? With what I have learned so far, I know that the investigating these questions will not disappoint me. Particularly interesting was the mention of how the Hopewell Indians possessed artifacts made from material found in Northern Michigan and South Carolina. Adding this to the mystery of the mounds intrigues me even more to learn more about the Hopewell Indians and the story their remains tell us.
Christopher Guarnera (Student: Ohio State University Newark Campus)
I was very impressed by the earthworks seminar, it made me realize why it was so important to the city of Newark. Not being a resident I had no idea that this world renowned place existed so close to my home. I believe that it is a good program after seeing the seminar. I think that it will help other people see what a great place it really is. I also had no idea that primitive people, the Native Americans, were so knowledgeable of the moon and stars. It was really impressive to see that they had set up such an extravagant structure, with limited tools and resources. I believe it was also very impressive that the professors were able to figure out what exactly these structures were used for. I would have had no idea, using the rest of my life to figure it out. The amount of times everything actually happens is so limited; you either need previous knowledge or are at the right place at the right time. The amount of time and effort put into just figuring that out has to be unimaginable. So I think it is very important that everyone should be able to learn this information. It needs to be spread to everyone so people can take advantage of seeing it in person if they would like to. It also changes the way I look at Native Americans, before I was mostly taught that they were not very intelligent, savage people. More recently in college classes and also being exposed to events like this has made me view them a lot differently. They would have to understand so much about the moon and sun with such little technology. That alone I found to be very intriguing and amazing. I hope that the place stays preserved and that it eventually gets the attention it deserves. The amount of work that goes into something that size being that accurate is unimaginable. I hope that it stays there forever and stays funded because it really deserves the credit.
Kyle Bemiller (Student: Ohio State University Newark Campus)
A Voice of the Mounds
A Shawnee woman has agreed to give we Mounds a voice. The Great Circle Mound is speaking first. I greet you in a good way. My grounds are special, sacred to the Indian people. They come here to pray, a great deal like their ancestors did. The Natives of old, gathered here, speaking to their Creator, in the spring, asking for good crops. The women were honored then, because they are the life givers and responsible for gathering foods, to feed their families. After their prayers, there were games while the food that was gathered was being prepared and all ate well. Later, in the summer, the people, gathered again, thanking their Creator for their crops. In the fall, the people, came once more, for their spiritual gathering, honoring their men folk. They provided the food for their people, during the winter. My grounds were used for other rites, as well, such as when the people went to the spirit world. It is now my wish, to give my time over to the Octagon Mound, who wishes to speak. So much disrespect is shown to my friend. I leave you in peace.
The Great Circle Mound pays me honor, in a good way. We stay connected by, what the people call a road. There were eight doorways, from which the people once entered my grounds. Trade and games and councils were held. Within my walls, I’ve watched much joy and sorrow. Behind my walls, lay the secrets of a world, I cannot share with you. For they belong to the Natives ancestors. The Native people hold our grounds, with honor and great respect. Still feeling the presence of their ancestors, when they come to pray. Other nations come to visit, as well but cannot understand, why the ghost faced figures with iron sticks, insist on holding them back. Well, one day, they too, will be gone like dust in the wind. A smaller mound, wishes to speak. I leave you in peace.
I am honored, my brother, for being able to speak. Being a smaller mound, I am known as a burial mound. Within my grounds, lay the remains of the Old Ones known as the Mound Builders. They are the people who gave us life and honor. So many of us have been destroyed and pillaged. So much of the precious remains and their belongings have been taken. All in the name of research and progress but to the Natives, it is just plain greed. Why? Why, is there no respect? Why is it that the ghost faces do not give honor, due to the First People of these Americas? There’s a cold Wind Spirit, beginning to blow across my face, so with that, I the Burial Mound, will leave you in peace.
Being the Shawnee woman who has written the words of the mounds, I feel spiritually connected, to these sacred beings, as I walk and leave my moccasin prints, hopefully in a good way, with my ancestors. I too, leave you in peace.
- Helen Griffin (Shawnee)
As an archaeologist and historian I view the Newark Earthworks in a context of place; their physical place on the natural landscape and the many changes to them since they were constructed by Native Americans nearly 2,000 years ago, and their symbolic place in the cultural landscape of the very different societies that built them and other similar places, and that now care for them 2,000 years later. I am awed by their large scale and apparent simplicity of design, but realize that 2,000 years ago their construction and use was a complex process requiring a convergence of things natural and cultural, and I am inspired to know more about how and why. I have many more questions than answers, and know that others do too.
Because I and other people want to know more, I am concerned about the preservation of this and other places that can yield information important in understanding human history; history we can learn about and from. I want to see these places preserved so that scientists have the opportunity, the privilege, to study them and tell others about what they have found and know about these enigmatic places, and so that others can visit them and make their own connections with them, appreciating and respecting the special places that they are.
The moonrise phenomenon events at the Octagon Earthworks provides an opportunity to be both awed and inspired about this and other human achievements. Thank you to everyone, past and present, for making it possible.
Newark Earthworks Comments
I'm an archaeologist – currently a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley and of Ojibwe heritage. I visited the Newark Earthworks in late Feb. of this year as part of a job interview at OSU. I was profoundly moved while visiting the Earthworks. I was with about half a dozen scholars, who were part of the team interviewing me and as I walked across the landscape my eyes were filled with tears. Not sadness, not happiness exactly - just a very deep feeling of calm. I could feel the most powerful connection with that place. It was uncomfortable to be having such a powerful spiritual moment during this formal, professional event (a job interview when everyone is carefully watching you!) – but I was still profoundly affected by that interaction with the earthworks.
The team with me was very understanding. I wanted to leave a gift to honor the ancestors that made such an amazing place and my companions were kind enough to give me some copper (an old penny) and allowed me some time alone to pray and leave that gift. It was a fantastic experience and one I will keep with me and share with my own children in the future. It would be so wonderful if others could have the chance to experience the power of that place and if it could be used for traditional ceremonies again, for future generations.
I can only speak from my own perspective and don't presume to offer 'the' Native American perspective about the Newark earthworks. From my own perspective, for many reasons I find it deeply troubling that the earthworks continue to be used as a golf course. This is a very powerful place and it should be treated with reverence and respect. It is critical that local Native people be consulted about the use and future of the Newark Earthworks and that they have access to this place, to care for her, and to be cared for by her. The golf course keeps this important relationship from growing.
With the quick pace of development in this society we are lucky that the Newark earthworks were not destroyed. Although the golf course played an important role in preserving the site from destruction and further development in the past, I feel it's time of being a temporary steward of this place has passed. Times have changed and we are now in a position to return the care of the site to its traditional stewards - the Native people of this region.
Over time I think people are beginning to recognize the power of places such as the Newark Earthworks. Something many Native people have recognized for millennia is that the past is an ever living part of the present and the future. These sites remind all of us of that connection – that time is not linear, and the past is always with us. In caring for the past, we care for ourselves and future generations. I think these sites have a power in them - by their very nature they move us to reflect and question, to wonder and ponder. That helps make people mindful of what was important in the past and brings to mind the ways those same things are still so crucial for all of us today. Things like the well-being of family, community, and wider society – how interconnected these things all are. And how interdependent we all are to each other. These are important lessons for us all to reflect on and I think Newark Earthworks and other powerful places like it have the power to help us do that.
Q:Do you believe if it is possible for a small group of people devoted to gaining respect and recognition for the N.E. to make a difference when the owner of the land, the OHS, recently extended the lease on the land to the Country Club for another 78 years?
Is it possible - Yes! But I don't think it'll be easily accomplished. The future of the Newark Earthworks revolve around two primary things: money and power, and these things are difficult to challenge. So, if efforts are to be successful I think those working on behalf of the Newark Earthworks have to find ways to effect the money and power of those currently in control. The voice of a small group can certainly be powerful - particularly when justice is on your side. I think much of the issue here is getting the word out and providing ways for people to join forces to work towards a single cause. Once the average person learns about this site and its meaning to local Native groups and others interested in the site, they will be more likely to support positive action for change. People are usually very willing to help, but in many cases they don't know what is most beneficial, or they may not even be aware of the problem and why it matters so much. I think if these things can be addressed in collaboration with local Native people then there is a limitless power in what can be accomplished on behalf of the Newark Earthworks.
Q:In the spiritual realm, is using the Octagon Earthworks for a golf course like using Vatican City for golf? Or some other analogy that would help my readers appreciate the value of this place?
It's actually impossible in many ways to make an effective comparison about playing golf on the Earthworks and playing golf in Vatican City or inside a church. What the comparison doesn't convey well is the crucial issue of power - who has the power to control how your sacred sites and places are used? People might think about playing golf in Vatican City and get upset or feel it is wrong, but what they need to image is the entire force of colonization that created and continues to effect the situations we are in today. Consider the fear of communism during the last century or the fear of terrorism today. Try to imagine those fears becoming a reality and the feeling of seeing your local church "preserved" as a recreation area, while you aren't allowed to spend time praying in your church anymore. It wouldn't matter if the 'outsiders' who took control were communists, terrorists, or space aliens, the point is that you no longer have the same control over your way of life, your spiritual practices, and important places - someone else does. Of course the situation with Native people and the Earthworks is more complex than that, but with this example I think you can begin to have insight into the last 500 years of colonization and the importance of the current struggles and triumphs for decolonizing these sacred places.
- Sonya Atalay