Category Archives: Ancient Civilizations

BEHIND THE FAIRY MOUNDS ~ g kinyon

Padrig inquired when yet a young man
Of the slabs standing tall looking out o’er the land
He asked after mounds placed where mounds shouldna be
After carvings in stones of spirals of three
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He questioned just what it was to be proved
By moving tall boulders too large to be moved
Padrig wouldst marvel in places far flung
At the impossible accomplished without written tongue
To the Gael ‘twas manly to capture a Roman
And brand him a slave and strut like a showman
But the Gael was aware in a style more subdued
That without his own text he was thought of as crude
“To we who speak Gaelic, you are but a slave
But a Briton, a Roman, with knowledge engraved
Deep in your consciousness, then transferred to wax
Each thought inscribed like a hare leaving tracks.
A sign for each sound of the throat you’ve devised
And taught to your children who with ease memorized
Implanted, ensconced in the vault of the mind
Promising progress of an unforeseen kind.
And the Fair Folk, also, have wrought deep inscription
From the stones that they set, but employed encryption
Did they wish us to know, did they want us to guess?
Our ignorance reigned and we’ve failed the test.
The unknown is the aspect the human grows fearing
He quails in the presence of divine engineering
His worth as a man is then rent wide asunder
His value, his usefulness dissolves in the plunder. ”
“Should all slaves”, said Padrig, “be called from their houses
They couldn’t move one stone, let alone thousands
And who fed the quarrymen, the haulers, the builders?
From whence then the architects? This sorcery bewilders.”

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The next answer given this lost, stolen child
Came from the Gael who pondered and smiled
“Whenever a myst’ry befalls human eye
We compete with our tales, mind you, diff’rent from lies
The best at this art, he be much like your friar
A place guaranteed every night at the fire
A master of the craft of the tale sets us free
We toil through the day with a reason to be
It is crucial our thoughts be carried away
For us it is much like when you, Padrig, pray
That our ancestors came and conquered and died
Somehow fills us as a people with pride
The children of Danu the Goddess were here
And threatened our fathers as their ships would draw near
Though the sons of the goddess owned unearthly powers
The island fell hard to the Gaels, became ours
The terms of surrender left the Fair Folk their hills
’tis fear now the cry of the banshee instills
An old hag at times rides a mare in the night
And straddles a human who wakes to the sight
Unable to move, to cry out or breathe
But must lie submissive until she takes leave
Many such stories you’ll hear as you grow
They please us by answering what we canst know
You my young friend are destined to be
A seer, a fili, a grand seanachie.”
Padrig knew not of the sharing of tales
Just the visions before him and how the mind fails
To account for the wonders that can’t possibly be
How could these ancients have mastered the sea?
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What mind designs mountains, what hands make it so
What backs move the boulders, what line stops the toe
“Round every bend of this island you’ll see
What the Gael does attribute to the Folk, the Aos si
For what other magic, what human power
Moves a stone of such mass, makes it stand like a tower
Or molds them like clay, and like puzzles fit each
In a fashion the strongest of storms cannot breach”
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The aging bronze Gael then bent at the knees
Plucked a shamrock and expounded on the concept of threes
“Therein lies the formula that fuels the fire
Of the teller, the fili, to what you’ll aspire
A prominent belt of three stars in the sky
The dominant druid will have a third eye
And under the sky and the belt of three stars
In Egypt they say three pyramids are
We mark the sun, the extremes of its rise
Just three points are needed to govern our lives
The sun marks those points, the north, south, and center
The north begins summer, the south starts the winter
From center it rises with scarce a distortion
Day and night then are of equal proportion
The dolmen that stand so high from the moss
Two slabs hold upright, a third lies across
We can know nothing of how they were made
How such stones were moved, how the top ones were laid
How they could happen, these magical tasks
Are questions the teller grows too wise to ask
When questioned, hesitation may subtly expose
This may be the island of Who-The-Hell-Knows
The greatest of mounds on this island be
Alongside the river in a fine group of three
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But ne’er should a storyman deign to disclose
That this be the island of Who-The-Hell-Knows
For each of the myst’ries, whether grand, whether petty
Be certain an answer stands quick at the ready
The mounds, we will claim, are simply the covers
For doors leading into the world of the Others

I’ll aid your escape then you seek out your truth
And return here someday to lift the uncouth
Bring us new tales, fresh wisdom, good news
Tell us that we’re a lost tribe of the Jews
If you have a story then you’ll have a meal
The best explanations will have the best feel
New stories are welcome but suffice it to say
That after all else the old lore must stay
Emotions serve man and each is producible
The heart be a caldron, the mind then a crucible
Never forget to incorporate three
How the stones came to stand, how the mounds came to be
The creators of these, the magical hills
Refer to as Fair Folk, and wish them no ill
We need our fairies, our changelings, our wraiths
Our charms and our devils, our tales and our faiths

Pay heed now, young Padrig, for all of our sakes
It be how we want it, so bring us no snakes
In a teller’s own blood a deep knowledge flows
That Eire is the land of Who-The-Hell-Knows

TUNNEL

100_0299There I stood on a precipice. It was no metaphor. I gazed at the canyon floor some thousand feet below, my internal monologue of the moment transforming into internal dialogue, a debate with the self. I wondered what it would be like, those terrifying seconds of falling. Would that split second of pain, of bones breaking and organs rupturing, linger beyond the moment of death, or would it all quickly vanish into nothingness? You often hear that suicide is the easy way out. I wasn’t so sure. Nevertheless, I was on a mission of sorts, and after I cleared my head of morbid thoughts I decided I was going to the bottom of that canyon rather than not.

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I’d spent the previous winter dragging through chemo and radiation, and the spring trying to recover from it. Here in late June was the first time since then that I’d challenged myself physically in any meaningful way. This particular trek into Canyon De Chelly follows a steep switchback down a sheer cliff. The hard part would be the return trip. The sun would be higher in the sky by then and more potent than it already was. But I had to prove to my weakened self I could do it.

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Not far from the top, only a few yards into the descent, the trail led into a tunnel through the rock. It was heaven in there, to be honest. Freakin’ paradise on such a day in the Arizona desert. A natural breeze swept through continuously, making it feel for all the world like air conditioning. I rested there for a minute or so, and then begrudgingly left those comforts behind in the darkness. Somewhere in that canyon was a millennium-old Anasazi cliff dwelling and I wanted to see it. That was my reason for the trip if anyone asked.

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The one-way distance from the trail head to the cliff dwelling was a mile and a half—most of it vertical. I made it down the wall and across the canyon okay. I didn’t figure that would be much of a problem and it wasn’t. But after I got my fill of the ruins and the accompanying hieroglyphs, with my head tilted back I contemplated the bluff that stood between me and a real success. The sun was now straight overhead in a cloudless sky, the temperature in the middle nineties. As it turned out, I could only take the ascent in segments, three-minute cycles of walking and resting. Then two-minutes walking, four resting. I wasn’t yet ready for something like this. Most of the walking was done with my hands on my knees and my tongue visible. The water from my bottle did its best to put out the fire in my throat, but after several agonizing stretches of climbing ever higher, it was no match for nature. I’d been thinking I’d made a mistake for some time now. I creased my eyes in the harshness of the unfiltered light. Everywhere tiny rocks sparkled and reflected the pelting rays of the noonday sun. The RV-size boulders that squeezed me into various sideways aspects from time to time exhaled heat. Every step was more grueling than its predecessor. I had moments of doubt—many of them, in fact. I kept pushing, though. I kept pushing up that interminable bluff and through those torturous sunbeams because I was propelled by a certain bit of knowledge: I never forgot that there’d be a tunnel at the end of the light.

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IN THE REALM OF THE ARCHITECTS

Anasazi canyon community in Utah

I wanted to stand where humans had stood a thousand years ago, but in a place that had not changed since then. I wanted to see what those people had seen, to hear what they had heard. I wanted to know what it felt like to traverse their territory by their same means of travel. There are locations in the lower forty-eight that meet those qualifications, where a person can experience the shade of a bluff when that shade becomes invaluable rather than being just a novelty, and the sound of a silence that provokes thought, if not profound introspection. There are places where you will hear neither planes overhead nor vehicles down below, where the hum of transmission lines is non-existent. But you have to earn your presence there. The mode of transport can only be your feet. And it must be far enough away from cars, trucks, and buses that none could be heard moving. And you must necessarily be alone, that is if you want the full effect.

The “White House,” Canyon De Chelly, Arizona

The place I found that best met my stipulations was Chaco Canyon in the northwest of New Mexico. Here was a quietude that cannot be found, I’m sure, in the East of the country. To hike through these sands with the mid-summer sun straight overhead, to position yourself miles away from help, is to gain a sense of another existence. The ancient Puebloans of Chaco Canyon hauled the building materials for their copious metroplexes across this desert, as well as their trade goods–and not only across the canyon floor, but up and down sheer cliffs hundreds of feet in height. They carved out foot and hand holds in these walls, as well as thirty-foot-wide staircases in the bluff-tops. These were part of their highway system that stretched for dozens of miles in several directions.

Chaco astronomers camped out atop this monster to figure out the heavens

The Chaco seem to be the first of the Puebloans (Anasazi) to have learned the art of stone architecture, but those techniques and others were disseminated during the 12th century, when a veritable building boom hit the Southwest of the present day U.S. Houses and communities began to be constructed in and around canyons, and even in alcoves of sheer cliffs hundreds of feet above the ground. At that same time, a building boom was happening in Western Europe. The first wave of Crusaders, particularly the Knights Templar, had returned from the Holy Land with an unprecedented knowledge in the area of architecture. They began building cathedrals–magnificent houses of worship  that even to this day stump the experts. No one knows where that ability came from, or how construction was accomplished other than the rudimentary aspects of it. Somehow, incredible methods of architecture were burgeoning simultaneously on two continents at the same time, where they had not existed only a short time before. These are the kinds of things a person thinks about while grinding through a desert.

Pictographs–my reward for six miles of humping it. Supposedly, the image at bottom left is a super nova.

Mesa Verde in Colorado

One of many Puebloan villages scattered throughout Chaco Canyon

Anasazi community with multiple kivas

In Ireland, there are three mind-boggling structures that were built by transporting hundreds of gigantic boulders for several miles, and some million quartz rocks for ninety miles. They sit near each other in the same valley, and each contains passageways that receive the sunlight for a few minutes on certain predictable days. Newgrange, the most astounding of the three, lights up internally at sunrise on the winter solstice. The sunbeams creep along a sixty-foot passage, ultimately illuminating a thirty-foot-high chamber in the structure’s center. The light soon slides back down the passage and leaves the interior in blackness for another year. On Ireland’s west coast, there sits a complex of stacked-stone buildings known as bee hive huts or ring forts. That they have existed in place for so long gives testimony to their remarkable design. They overlook the Atlantic Ocean from a sheer cliff, giving the appearance of a set of defensive works. Some archaeologists believe these buildings to be 4,000 years old. Expert speculation abounds as to the purpose of the Chaco complexes and their carefully-designed and laboriously-manufactured roads and stairways. Likewise the mound-structures and beehive huts in Ireland. It is all just a guess. We know that the Templar Knights built cathedrals for worship, but there seems to be other, more cryptic incentives underlying those massive endeavors. Nor do we know the provenance of any of the aforementioned architectural mastery. One attribute that the medieval cathedrals, Newgrange, and the buildings of Chaco Canyon have in common is that they are all in alignment with one astronomical event or another–either with the course of the sun or the cycles of the moon. If we are allowed to ask questions in the afterlife, those that my brain posed as I rested under a bluff in the New Mexican desert, or as I stood in the chamber at Newgrange, would be at the top of my list—higher even than questions about the pyramids. In one way or the other, they all pertain to the Architects.

13th century cathedral ruins in Ireland–an example of the Templar architecture

Beehive structure on West Ireland coast dated to 2000 B.C.

My daughter Randi and me in front of Newgrange, the oldest man-made structure on Earth

Irish petroglyphs, 4,000 years before the Chaco carved theirs

Newgrange was built in 3200 B.C. Nobody knows why.

Ancient Chaco petroglyphs--of what?

Chaco Petroglyph–of what? An architect, maybe?

Trail Through Chaco Canyon

No wind, no sound, no shade, no water