Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Now, for your benefit and blessing: some of the best viewing opportunities for beautiful and mythologically-significant stars and constellations Scorpio, Sagittarius, Ophiucus, Hercules, and the Milky Way!

Right now is a fantastic time of year to see some of the most breathtaking sections of the starry heavens -- which also happen to be some of the most "mythologically important" parts of the night sky, containing constellations who play major roles in the Star Myths of the world.

The moon is now in a period of waning, rising later and later each night (or, later and later in the early morning hours, on its way to being "overtaken" by the sun, which takes place each month and produces a New Moon when the sun catches up to the moon).

The next New Moon will take place on August 2nd, which means that until then the moon will be growing thinner and thinner in its waning crescent, and rising later and later, providing us with dark night-time star-gazing opportunities between now and then. Even after the point of New Moon, star-gazing is still quite good for a few days, even as the brand-new crescent moon is hanging low in the sky in the west just after sunset (although each day the crescent will trail the sun more and more, positioned higher and higher above the western horizon after sunset as the sun keeps getting "further ahead" of the moon, and the crescent will grow thicker and thicker until eventually the moon's brightness will interfere with star-watching opportunities in the hours after sunset).

In the meantime, if you have clear views of the night sky in your neighborhood, you may wish to avail yourself -- if at all possible -- of the chance to view the dazzling constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius (both of which are very easy to see in all their glory right now), as well as Ophiucus and Hercules, neither of which are as familiar as Scorpio and Sagittarius -- but if you're not familiar with them and want some pointers to help you identify them in the sky, read on below.

The night-time lineup in the hours after sunset and leading up to midnight (and afterwards, if you are a night-owl) is so magnificent at this time of year (and so mythologically significant) that, if you live in a location with too much light pollution or without good views of the sky (especially when looking towards southern horizon, for viewers in the northern hemisphere), you may want to plan a little star-gazing journey to a location that can give you some better views, if at all possible.

The enormous figure of Scorpio dominates the "center-stage" position of the zodiac band in the hours after midnight right now. It is not always possible for viewers in the more northern latitudes to see the entire graceful sweep of the long and sinuous form of Scorpio, but the best opportunity to do so is when Scorpio is at its highest point in its arcing path across the sky (which will be towards the south, for viewers in the northern hemisphere north of the tropics). Scorpio's brightest star, Antares, currently reaches its culmination or transit point at a few minutes after nine in the evening, which is not long after the sky begins to grow dark enough to see the stars. 

It is a glorious sight.

As earth continues in its track around the sun, Scorpio will be farther and farther along each night at the same hour, which means that it will be creeping further towards the west and towards its point of disappearance beneath the western horizon (although the progress will take weeks). Thus, this is probably the very best time of year to see the Scorpion, unless your star-gazing hours are in the wee hours of the morning (before sunrise instead of after sunset). Be sure to look for the brilliant stars of the "Cat's Eyes," which are very distinctive and easy to spot in the tail of the Scorpion, near the very end (just before the "stinger" in the tail).

The constellation Scorpio is marked with the number "8" in the star-chart diagram above. It looks smaller in the chart relative to other constellations than it will look in the night sky, because the chart distorts the sky to try to give the impression of three dimensions (thus, constellations on either edge are larger, and those in the center of the page are smaller, to simulate the apparent "dome" of the heavens, or the curved walls of a planetarium, in order to help visualize the fact that the left and right sides of the image would curve around the viewer and those constellations would be rising on the left and setting on the right of the viewer, rather than "straight ahead" as you look due south).

Just behind the Scorpion on the same arcing path (low towards the southern horizon for viewers in the northern hemisphere above the tropics) is the constellation Sagittarius, following not far behind Scorpio and marked by several very bright stars. Sagittarius is marked with the number "9" in the star-chart diagram above. 

The stars are connected in the diagram with lines using the system suggested by H. A. Rey. However, although H. A. Rey's outline is indeed the suggested way which I would advise viewers to envision Sagittarius (both for star-gazing and for analyzing the ancient myths of humanity), the constellation is not going to "jump out" at the viewer in the outline he suggests, in this particular case. This is because a few of the very brightest stars in Sagittarius form the distinctive outline commonly envisioned as (and commonly known as) "the teapot." 

You can see the stars of the teapot diagrammed for you in this previous post and this previous post, both of which are (I maintain) worthy of reading again, even if you're already familiar with the teapot outline, because they may enhance your enjoyment when finding Sagittarius. You may also enjoy this previous post discussing my assertion that the stars of the "teapot" outline are almost certainly the "locusts" which the scriptures of the New Testament gospels tell us were a main part of the diet of John the Baptist.

Once you have located the stars of "the teapot" in Sagittarius, however, I would suggest that you may wish to try to see the rest of the constellation's outline. To do this, you can start with the oblong rectangle of the "chest" of the figure as envisioned in the H. A. Rey system, which actually uses the same stars as the "handle" of the teapot outline (on the left of the constellation as you face south in the northern hemisphere). From there, it should not be difficult to make out the narrow, triangular head, and even the long "plume" or feather which rises up above the triangular head and which is a distinctive part of the constellation. If you see it for the first time, you may feel a small sense of personal triumph! From there, you can go on to trace out the remainder of the Sagittarius. 

The constellation Sagittarius is not yet at its zenith at nine in the evening when Scorpio is culminating -- so if you are having trouble seeing the full constellation Sagittarius, you may need to wait an hour or two.

The next constellations, however, are above the traditional zodiac band, and thus should be high enough in the sky for you to see immediately -- and they are truly breathtaking in their own right, even though they are composed of much fainter stars, for the most part, than are Scorpio and Sagittarius. These are the mighty figures of Ophiucus and Hercules -- both constellations who play absolutely central roles in numerous Star Myths of the world (including many of the myths analyzed in Star Myths Volume Two -- Greek mythology). 

To locate Ophiucus, it is helpful to remember the fact that this constellation seems to be standing on the end of Scorpio usually envisioned as that constellation's "scorpion claws," or as the multiple heads of a great many-headed serpent. Ophiucus is marked by the number "8c" in the star-chart diagram above. The constellation (who plays both male and female deities and characters in different Star Myths) is known as "the Serpent-bearer" (which is what the name basically means in a literal translation).

When you look above the "heads" of Scorpio, you may first be able to locate the three fairly bright stars that mark the lower fringe of the constellation Ophiucus's widely-flaring cloak or tunic (forming the line at the top of the "legs" of the constellation as drawn -- the legs of the constellation are very faint and should not be the first part of Ophiucus that you try to identify). From there, look upwards still further -- remembering that Ophiucus is a tall and fairly rectangular figure in the sky -- and try to identify the constellation's very recognizable triangular "head" or "helmet."

A helpful hint is to notice that one foot of the constellation Hercules (the green constellation marked "8a" immediately above the green-lined outline of Ophiucus in the above chart) appears to almost step on the head of Ophiucus. The end of this foot of Hercules, in fact, can trick you -- because it makes a kind of "false triangle" with the two stars that make up the "right side" of the actual triangle of the head of Ophiucus:

In the above close-up diagram, Ophiucus is outlined in red, and Hercules above is outlined in green. The large triangle that makes up the head of the constellation Ophiucus is clearly visible -- but when you look for it in the night sky, until you become familiar with locating Ophiucus, you may accidentally "see" a triangle made up of the two "right-side" stars in the actual head of Ophiucus, along with the "foot" of Hercules which is marked in the diagram above with a yellow arrow. Can you see how this star that is marked with a yellow arrow can be seen as forming "another triangle" (a smaller triangle) next to the "actual" head of Ophiucus?

Armed with this information, you should now be able to identify the "actual" triangular head of massive Ophiucus, and also the "foot" of the forward leg of the constellation Hercules (that is, the foot that is marked by the yellow arrow above). This will enable you to continue upwards (almost straight up over your head, for northern hemisphere viewers) to the rest of Hercules. 

Before you do so, however, you may wish to try to identify the two "halves" of the mighty serpent which Ophiucus is often envisioned to be holding (these two halves of the serpent are envisioned as many other objects and implements in other Star Myths of the world, including as spears, vines, lassoes, tree trunks, and even a cornucopia in more than one instance).

Then, you can proceed to outline the constellation of the great Hercules, another one of the most important constellations in the sky, when it comes to the sacred stories of the human race.

The easiest part of Hercules to find is the constellation's distinctive, square-shaped head. However, if you start from the forward leg at the star marked by the yellow arrow in the diagram above, you will actually come to the distinctive narrow waist of the constellation first. Although faint, you should be able to make out the three stars in the waist of Hercules (almost like the three belt-stars of Orion, except that these three are not in a straight line, and are very faint; they are also not evenly-spaced the way the stars of Orion's belt are nearly evenly-spaced):

From there, you should be able to easily find the square-shaped head, and then the downward-reaching arm of Hercules, followed by the distinctive extended "rear foot" of the constellation.

Finding the outline of the massive sword or club which Hercules is brandishing overhead is more challenging: these stars are very faint. It is also easy to get distracted by Vega (in the constellation Lyra the Lyre) not far away (you can see it in the diagram above, shining brightly to the left of the elbow of the upraised sword-arm of the constellation). However, the diamond-shape of the sword or club, as shown in the H. A. Rey-inspired outline above, is in fact very visible in the sky, if you look above the constellation (use the square head as a general guide, and try to trace the upper arm from the point that it originates at one corner of that square).

If you can see it, that too should be a very satisfying moment (especially if you see it for the first time).

The myths involving these constellations are very abundant and familiar. Some posts in the past which have dealt with some of the manifestations of one or both constellation include those discussing:
Note that both Ophiucus and Hercules can and do appear as goddesses and female characters in Star Myths, and not exclusively as male characters. For instance, I believe that the famous "Snake Goddess" sculptures discovered in the region of Knossos or Cnossos on the island of Crete (and believe to be extremely ancient) can almost certainly be identified as having Ophiucus correspondences (including the fact that they typically wear a conical hat, and of course the fact that they carry two serpents).

Finally, I would be remiss not to point out that the widest and brightest and most glorious section of the entire glorious Milky Way band passes directly between Scorpio and Sagittarius, and proceeds upwards alongside Ophiucus and on past Hercules -- and this section of the Milky Way also figures prominently in many famous Star Myths of the world. If you are able to locate the constellations described above, you should be able to make out the shining band of the Milky Way, which is just now rotating into view in the hours after sunset, beginning in a "lying down" alignment along the eastern horizon as it rises, and then "standing up" to a nearly-vertical orientation as it crosses the sky along with Sagittarius.

While you are locating Sagittarius and Hercules, take some time to locate as well the two dazzling arcs known as the Northern Crown (close to Hercules and his lower arm) and the Southern Crown (close to Sagittarius, at the feet of the constellation, between Scorpio and Sagittarius).

I hope you will be able to take some time out over the next several nights to enjoy the rich treasures of the starry sky which are presently spread out for our blessing and benefit. And, if you have never been able to positively identify some of the constellations described above, it is my hope that the explanations and illustrations provided here can help you see them, perhaps for the very first time!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Welcome to new visitors from "Where Did the Road Go?" (and to returning friends)

video: Interview recorded on July 16, 2016 (link).

Big thank you to Seriah Azkath and the listeners of "Where Did the Road Go?" for having me over to the backroads of Ithaca and Ovid in upstate New York's finger lakes and forests region for a most enjoyable conversation.

Ithaca, of course, shares a name with the island home of Odysseus in the Odyssey, to which the long-suffering wanderer is constantly trying to return.

Ovid, on the other hand, obviously takes its name from the incredibly important ancient poet and philosopher, whose recommendations on the abstention of the eating of flesh are discussed in this previous post, and whose extremely influential Metamorphoses is filled with important Star Myths containing esoteric content (see for example this discussion of the myth of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus as retold for us by Ovid).

During the course of the hour, we touched on a variety of subjects, including some nuances that I don't believe have been discussed in any interviews previously. It's always interesting to me to see what "shape" emerges from different conversations, because everyone brings different interests, backgrounds, and areas on which they are currently focusing -- and the shapes that emerge will thus be different even when the same people talk together on different days, let alone people who have never spoken before.

You can listen to the discussion online at the main "Where Did the Road Go?" website, and you can also access this and other "Where Did the Road Go?" interviews in the iTunes and Google Play podcast sites, as well as on Facebook -- and probably by one of several other options that you can find by visiting "Where Did the Road Go?" using your mobile device.

You can also subscribe to Seriah's "Where Did the Road Go?" YouTube channel.

Please go give it a listen, and help support inquiry into matters of importance to human consciousness and our experience in this simultaneously spiritual and material cosmos. I also hope you will take the time to check out some of the excellent content in the archives there, and give it some positive feedback to say "Thank you" for the hard work that goes into creating a show like this.

Below is a list of some of the main topics the conversation visited during its wandering journey through the forest of related subject matter, along with links to related material for those who are interested in pursuing any of those further:
  • The evidence of catastrophe in the shaping of the earth, from the Grand Canyon (here and here), to the undersea canyons (here and here), to the evidence that earth may have undergone a "Big Roll" (here, here, and here). Seriah also included several links related to these topics on the page for the interview here.
  • The evidence that the myths of the world -- including virtually all of the stories found in the Bible -- are based upon a common system of celestial metaphor: see sample discussions here, as well as others linked in the list here.
  • A post detailing more of the evidence that argues that the Samson story is based upon celestial metaphor, and a video I made to illustrate some of that evidence more visually.
  • Discussion of the reasons why I believe the scriptures describing the visit of the Magi show us that the passages are describing celestial events and not terrestrial events.
  • How this worldwide system of celestial myth appears to provide evidence of an extremely ancient lost civilization -- or lost knowledge -- and how what we can see today is in many ways like a vast ruin whose original purpose and complete outline is now covered in mist, sand, snow, and jungle vines.
  • The importance of the concept of "predictive power" in a theory or hypothesis.
  • A video I made back in 2012 to help illustrate the concept of precession, using the "analogy of the dining-room table" (see also the discussion here, among many others you can find simply by searching for the word "precession" on the blog, which is fully searchable).
  • Arguments that the scriptures in the Bible, as with virtually all the world's myths and sacred stories, convey a worldview or understanding of the nature of the cosmos and of human existence which can be described as essentially shamanic
  • Some discussion that shows that the loss of the ancient wisdom (or ignoring it) causes us to lose our way and follow the wrong road.
  • The "wax on, wax off" analogy for understanding the concept of the esoteric (see also discussions here and here).
I very much hope you will enjoy the interview and that my conversation with Seriah will provide you with some subject matter that will be a blessing to you in some way, and I hope to return for another discussion some time in the future, the next time I am following a pathway through the forests and begin to wonder, "Where Did the Road Go?"

Monday, July 18, 2016

The predictive power of the Star Myth system

image: Hydria (water-jar) with image of Heracles wrestling Triton, c. 520 BC, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts; photograph by the author.

One of the strongest tests for a hypothesis or theory is whether or not it has predictive power. 

If a theory or hypothesis is trying to explain how a system works, and if that theory or hypothesis is correctly describing the underlying "rules" (or principles) of the system, then it should be able to make predictions based upon the understanding of the way that system operates (based upon the "rules" that have been discovered and categorized), and those predictions should be able to be borne out with new discoveries which confirm that the system being explained is in fact operating according to those principles.

For example, if you develop a better and better model for understanding the system which produces (or produced) the oil or the gold or the coal or the diamonds which are found within our earth's crust, then eventually you should be able to look at a map of an entirely new part of the globe which you have never examined before, and (based on the principles of your hypothesis) accurately predict the locations that are most likely to contain the oil or the gold or whatever it is whose underground system of creation and distribution you have been modeling. To date, the systems which produce or produced oil and gold and the others are not completely understood (they are very complex systems), but it is probably safe to say that they are understood more accurately than they were even fifty years ago.

Recently, a young teenager in Canada caused quite a stir by predicting -- based on his hypothesis that ancient Maya cities seem to reflect constellations in the heavens above -- where a previously-unknown or forgotten ancient city might be lying underneath the jungle growth of the Yucatan Peninsula. He based his prediction based on alignments he surmised between known Maya cities and actual stars, and then suggested looking at a site that would appear to line up with a star in the same constellation where no city or development had yet been reported. When satellite imagery was consulted, sure enough formations were detected which suggested significant development might be lying in wait of rediscovery right where predicted -- leading to a flurry of excited news stories.

Since then, a number of naysayers have come out to cast doubt on the hypothesis and to say that the possible discovery -- even if borne out with further exploration and excavation -- might not confirm the theory or its alleged "predictive power." This article in National Geographic, for example, calls the  prediction itself and the early excitement it generated a "very Western mistake" and features confident proclamations by an academic who has declared that "the idea of a map as we know it, as a scaled representation of geographic reality, is a modern Western concept." He does concede that the ancients could follow general patterns but not to the degree of precision assumed in the fifteen-year-old's model.

Another person cited, who has received grants from the National Geographic Society, states that undiscovered Maya sites "are all over the place" and that anyone can basically put their finger on a map and find one (this is almost a direct quotation). The first expert goes on to say that looking at star charts and seeing patterns is "an interesting Western fantasy" and that "we tend to look at these modern star maps and see things the way we might see patterns in clouds."

That's a lot of scorn to aim at this young man's theory (of course, both are quick to praise the lad for his "independent" thinking, even while they imply that it is totally mistaken). He might point out as a partial rebuttal that the creators of the mysterious "portolan" maps described by Charles Hapgood and other researchers (see blog post here from about five years ago), whose origins appear to be quite ancient, might disagree with the experts who call "scaled representation of geographic reality" a uniquely "modern Western concept." 

He might also point to evidence found literally around the globe which suggests that numerous cultures patterned their sacred landscape after the heavens (previous posts discussing this evidence -- which conventional scholars apparently still dispute to some degree -- can be found here, here, here, here, here and here, for instance). There is also the extensive work Graham Hancock has done (sometimes with fellow researchers or co-authors such as Robert Bauval) documenting extensive construction along just such celestial nodes in places such as Angkor and Giza. 

Note also that Angkor and Giza are situated at a very significant number of degrees of longitudinal separation, indicating plenty of precision that belies the dismissive proclamation that the ancients could only follow rough patterns but that the idea that those patterns could line up with anything precisely is a modern "fantasy." One of the links above in the preceding paragraph also leads to the research of Jim Alison, who has found evidence that ancient sites worldwide appear to be located on "great circles" on our earth's surface: a great circle is a circle on the surface of a sphere the center of which is also co-located with the center of the sphere, which means it will be as large of a circle as can be drawn on the globe's exterior (i.e., the equator is a "great circle" but the Arctic circle is not). Such placement, if true (and numerous maps are provided on Mr. Alison's site to back up his arguments), would be evidence of an extremely high degree of precision, as well as (almost certainly) an ability to produce pretty good maps (or "scaled representations of geographic reality").

The critics of this young man's model also throw in the old "see patterns in clouds" criticism, which is a way of saying "seeing things with your imagination that aren't really there." There is an impressive-sounding word for this concept (which, admittedly, is an important concept), which is pareidolia, which Carl Sagan made a central pillar of his criticism of what he saw as unscientific thinking, in an essay entitled "The Demon-haunted World" which grew into a book.

The importance of prediction is illustrated well by the "seeing patterns in the clouds" metaphor. The young man from Canada who predicted the location of the Maya ruins might ask his critics to clarify whether he is "seeing patterns in clouds" or whether his analysis might not be better described as predicting what the next cloud's shape would look like! If someone works out a theory that enables them to tell you what shape the next cloud to appear will take on, and then the next cloud after that one, and the next one after that, then they might have a hypothesis that accurately describes the complex system at work.

Of course, doing it just once could be ascribed to coincidence (as the other person quoted in National Geographic was quick to point out, saying uncharitably that anyone who jabs their finger at a map in that region could be expected to stumble on a significant Maya ruin -- which is equivalent to the old saying, "even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while" -- but Maya ruins are not acorns, and if this young man's constellation theory can be used by himself or by other Maya scholars to find some other ruins, then that should quiet down those people who say finding previously-unknown Maya ruins is so easy that it's almost impossible not to do it a couple times before breakfast).

Personally, I don't know if the constellation theory for Maya settlements is accurate or not -- although (as shown above) I believe there is plenty of other evidence around the world which would argue that it could be correct, and I also believe that the criticisms offered in that National Geographic article are fairly spurious, based on the evidence that the ancients could make very precise maps and scaled representations of both the earth and the heavens, and what is more that cultures all around the world can be shown to have been positively in the business of creating representations of the heavens here on the earth's surface. 

However, I am not at all an expert in pre-columbian Maya structures or ruins in the Yucatan, and so this debate over the above theory is mainly offered as an example of the importance of predictive ability in a hypothesis. In fact, well before I ever heard of the prediction of this young man, I was using the metaphor of "predicting where an ancient door might be in the jungle" as a way of explaining what I was experiencing as the outlines of the system of celestial metaphor (reported by many previous "explorers in the jungle" of the connections between stars and myths) began to take shape to a greater and greater degree. And so the above discussion is really a preface or a parallel to what can actually be shown to be taking place in the myths of the world, which really do reflect the patterns of the stars to an astonishing degree -- and which can be shown to do so in so many hundreds of examples that it can hardly be dismissed as either pareidolia or coincidence. 

In fact, the hypothesis that the myths of the world are built upon a common system of celestial metaphor can be shown to have predictive power -- and I have personally experienced that predictive power for myself many times at this point in my research of the connections between the myths and the stars.

For example, when I set out to research and write Star Myths of the World and how to interpret them, Volume Two (examining almost exclusively the myths of ancient Greece), I already suspected that the Greek god of Death and the Underworld might be associated with the constellation Ophiucus, based on the analysis I had already done which told me that Yama, the god of Death and the Underworld in the Vedas and Sanskrit epics of ancient India, almost certainly corresponds to Ophiucus (most notably because he carries a dreaded noose with which he pulls souls down to the Underworld -- see for example discussion and diagrams in previous posts here and here).

My examination of various myths involving the god Hades or Plouton convinced me that in fact, this third brother of the trio of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades does indeed correspond to Ophiucus, which is one level of confirmation of a prediction. The interested reader can see some of that discussion and analysis for yourself in Volume Two.

More significantly, however, during the same period of research for Volume Two, I found extensive evidence that the various wounds delivered to fighters on the battlefield of the Trojan War and described in the Iliad actually vary based upon which constellation that battlefield warrior represents -- and that the system holds true whether the wounds are received by a human warrior or by a god or goddess (gods and goddesses occasionally venture out upon the battlefield in the Iliad, and sometimes they are wounded and have to retreat from the fray in order to heal). 

Based on the system that I had discovered, I predicted that if the dread god of the Underworld ever actually appeared on the battlefield in the Iliad and received a wound, it would be consistent with the location of wounds typically received by Ophiucus-figures on the battlefield (whether human or deity, since Ophiucus and the other constellations can and do play the role of both at different times). Sure enough, the Iliad does contain a passage which recounts a wound delivered to the god of Death himself. 

Hades does not actually receive the wound in the action of the Iliad -- we find out about it when Aphrodite is wounded by one of the Achaean heroes while she is fighting on behalf of the Trojans, and when she retreats in pain from the battlefield, Aphrodite's goddess mother comforts Aphrodite by recounting other times that mortals have wounded the gods, including the time when the hero Heracles shot an arrow and hit Plouton in the shoulder (exactly where the system would predict, for a figure associated with Ophiucus -- see pages 384 - 388).

This kind of predictive power indicates that the connection between the stars and the myths is not a case of "seeing faces or shapes in the clouds" -- and in fact, there are dozens and dozens of examples in the Star Myths books which show that ancient artists would very frequently depict gods and goddesses and heroes in postures or activities which clearly correspond to the very same constellations predicted by the system of Star Myth analysis!

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which is an absolutely amazing museum and one I will try to write about more in future posts. Although I was seeking out some specific pieces which I knew were on display there (one of them in particular which is featured in Star Myths Volume Two and which was really the main purpose for my visit to the MFA that day), I also encountered some ancient pieces which I had never seen before, neither in pictures nor in person.

Not surprisingly, these pieces would frequently depict well-known figures -- and they would do so in postures which demonstrate unmistakeable correspondence to the constellation that they "should" look like, according to the principles of the system of celestial metaphor which has been taking shape over the years as I study the myths of various cultures around the world (including the myths of ancient Greece).

One beautiful and notable example is the water-jar or hydria pictured above, showing the mighty hero Heracles wrestling with the sea-deity Triton. 

I personally had never considered this particular wrestling match as depicted in ancient art or seen a depiction of it in person, but the above hydria is a particularly fine piece of ancient art (it is specifically a piece of art which uses the "black-figure" glaze technique, which is typically a little older than the "red-figure" technique, and which can be more difficult for the artist to achieve fine detailing lines than is possible in the red-figure method, because the black-figure method requires the artist to "scrape off" material to make lines in the black figure, while the red-figure method allows the artist to "paint on" material to make the lines, allowing for more variation and finer curves etc). The vase is thought to date to about 520 BC and is attributed to an artist who is known to modern scholars as "the Chiusi Painter."

What is most striking to me is the way that the ancient artist has included very specific details to make the Heracles in the wrestling scene correspond to the constellation Hercules as we see it in the night sky.

Below is the same hydria by the Chiusi Painter from 520 BC, with a star-chart below it showing the outline of the constellation Hercules, using the outline method proposed by H. A. Rey (which happens to perfectly correspond to the ancient myths and artwork of the Star Myths of the World, however he managed to achieve that with his system of envisioning the constellations). If you look closely at the ancient artwork, and trace out the figure of Heracles (not easy to do, because he is entwined with the massive form of Triton), you will see that it clearly corresponds to the outline of the constellation -- exactly as we would predict, if the ancients were using the system of celestial metaphor which I (and other researchers down through the centuries) describe:

Note well the extended "rear leg" of the constellation and of the figure of Heracles on the ancient hydria: this is one of the most distinctive features of the Hercules constellation, and it will almost always be present in artwork depicting a "Hercules figure" (whether that figure is Hercules himself, or another hero or heroine or god or goddess who corresponds to Hercules -- because female characters do indeed correspond to the Hercules constellation too, in some cases).

Another very distinctive feature of the constellation Hercules, of course, is the hero's mighty club, which can be seen raised menacingly over his head in the outline as envisioned in the night sky (bottom image). However, in the wrestling match depicted on the ancient water-jar by the Chiusi Painter, Hercules is not using his club (that wouldn't really be fair). Nevertheless, the artist has included a feature in the composition of the artwork to correspond to the shape that the part of the constellation we usually envision as the upraised club. Can you see it in the image on the hydria?

That's right -- it's the massive arm of the sea-deity (the arm that would be Triton's right arm, which is on the left as we face the picture above). Part of the arm goes behind Triton's crowned head. 

What is perhaps most interesting in this ancient artwork, in addition to the very clear correspondence to the outline of the constellation Hercules (which is exactly what we would predict in a depiction of the hero Heracles, who usually -- but not always -- does correspond to the constellation that bears his name in the night sky), is the long sinuous form of Triton, with upraised tail and fin (or flukes).

Note that in the star-chart shown below the hydria (in the picture above), the shining column of the Milky Way can be seen to rise up directly adjacent to the athletic form of the constellation Hercules. This relative positioning never changes: the actual constellation Hercules is always located at the "top" of one of the brightest portions of the shining column of the Milky Way (at the top of the part that rises up between Scorpio and Sagittarius, in fact -- which is now coming into clear view during some of the best hours for stargazing, after sunset and prior to midnight, for those who don't want to stay up until the wee hours of the morning).

Can you see how the shining column of the Milky Way, to the "left" of Hercules in the night sky (actually, to the east of him, which is left if we are looking generally towards the southern horizon, which is where Scorpio and Sagittarius will be seen for viewers in the northern hemisphere) exactly parallels the location of the long scaly body of Triton in the hydria, which stretches out in its folds to the left of the hero in the artist's conception as well?

In fact, the upraised tail with its two large tail fins or flukes happens to correspond quite well to another bright constellation in the general region of the sky where the artist has placed the tail in this ancient artwork. Can you guess which constellation it is? A hint is that it is not usually envisioned as a "fishy tail" -- but it is in fact positioned at about the same level or elevation as Hercules is, near the top of this bright part of the Milky Way band.

If you guessed either of the two magnificent "birds" of the Milky Way, Aquila the Eagle or Cygnus the Swan, I would agree with you! In fact, I would favor Cygnus the Swan, based on the shape and position of Cygnus, although Aquila would make a pretty good tail that would correspond fairly well to the art as composed by the Chiusi Painter as well. Cygnus is higher in the Milky Way and just above Hercules -- and the tail of Triton in the artwork is about that high also:

I believe it is also likely that most of the rest of Triton in the artwork shown corresponds to the outline of Ophiucus, especially to the two "serpent halves" carried by Ophiucus (the "Serpent-bearer"). Note how the body of Triton actually "humps up" in the middle, which may correspond to the right half (his head), the center (the humped-up second coil of his serpent body), and left half (the tail portion on the left side of Ophiucus, and then continuing upwards following the line of the Milky Way to Cygnus) of Ophiucus.

The center coil of Triton, in other words, follows along the "top" outline of the tent-like central portion of Ophiucus (in green), while Triton's head corresponds to the serpent-half on the right of Ophiucus, and his tail corresponds to the serpent's tail on the left, continuing into the Milky Way and up to either Cygnus or Aquila.

Note also that Triton is wearing a crown in the artwork, and that the Northern Crown (Corona Borealis) is in fact located just above the "serpent head" on the right side of Ophiucus. This is not a definitive connection, but it is certainly possible and I think perhaps likely.

The real point is that, if you were to have told me that there was an ancient depiction of Heracles wrestling with Triton, and then if you had asked me prior to my ever seeing this particular hydria if I could describe what body posture Heracles would probably take in the artwork, I would have described something like the constellation Hercules, with the extended and flexed "rear leg" and the forward-bent front leg, just as we actually see on the ancient pottery -- because the Star Myth system shows us in many places that the hero Heracles almost always corresponds to that particular constellation (which, in his case, also happens to bear his name, although this is only the case for Hercules, Perseus, and a few others).

These are just a few examples of the "predictive power" of the Star Myth system -- but there are many others.

Who knows -- maybe the fact that the ancients can be positively shown to have fashioned their artwork (as well as their myths) to conform rather precisely to the "maps" or "scaled representations" of the constellations in the night sky will help the young fifteen-year-old who proposed the same thing for ancient cities and citadels in the Yucatan to defend his thesis against those who say that the ancients couldn't really conceive of maps, and that he is indulging in a typical "modern Western fantasy" and seeing the equivalent of "patterns in the clouds."

In the meantime, he can take inspiration from Heracles and Triton and realize that, when it comes to offering new approaches to the investigation of a mystery, it turns out that "it's a pretty fierce wrestling-match out there!"

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bring your positive energy and questions to this year's Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge in California

This year's Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge is shaping up to be a terrific event, with some new speakers continuing to be added to the lineup.

I'm personally very excited to see that John Anthony West is now scheduled to attend, whose work I have mentioned in many previous blog posts going back to 2011 (the year I started this blog). Some of those previous posts include:

(among others).

Other people scheduled to attend and give presentations (as well as being available for just general conversation, I believe) include Walter Cruttenden, Robert Schoch, Carmen Boulter, Christopher Dunn, and many others.

My friend Scott Onstott will be there, and I'm looking forward to seeing him again and hearing what he has to tell us about his recent work, which continues to uncover absolutely amazing information and knowledge about our world and our universe. If you're interested in seeing just a few of the areas his work has explored, you can check out these previous posts which have mentioned some of Scott's work, such as:
I'm very much looking forward to this year's conference and hope that interested readers will also make plans to attend, if at all possible, in order to participate in a positive way in what I hope will be a very positive weekend. 

The schedule of events as it stands right now is available here.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Join me on "Where Did the Road Go?" tonight

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Please join me tonight (July 16, 2016) as I visit with Seriah Azkath on his live radio show, "Where Did the Road Go?" to discuss Star Myths, lost history, and other important subjects. 

The show will air at 11pm eastern time in North America (8pm Pacific), and can be heard over the radio waves at WVBR (Ithaca, NY) at 93.5 FM on your dial, or through their "live-stream" link here

If you are not able to listen live, the podcast of the show will be available afterwards for free replay at various places on the web. 

However, if you are able to listen live, you can submit suggested questions or comments to Seriah during the show, using the "Chat Room" feature on his website, or by sending him an email using the instructions found here.

Hope you can join us and looking forward to an intriguing conversation with Seriah and the "Where Did the Road Go?" audience!

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sacred stone sites and points of connection with the Infinite Realm

Sunset at the Holliston Balancing Rock: July 05, 2016. Photograph by David Mathisen.

Just returned from a trip to Massachusetts and Connecticut, where I had the opportunity to visit some amazing historical treasures that should not be missed by those who are interested in ancient matters or spiritual matters, and who have the ability to travel to that part of our living planet.

One source of inspiration for sacred sites in what the colonialist powers centuries ago named "New England" is the outstanding 1989 text Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England's Native Civilization, by James W. Mavor, Jr. and Byron E. Dix.

I was actually informed of this important book by a man I met the first time I visited the Upton Chamber, back in September of 2011. I wrote two posts about the Upton Chamber in 2012, the first one based on my initial visit and the second discussing some of the additional information I learned about the Upton Chamber after purchasing a copy of Manitou by Mavor and Dix:

At the time of my first visit to the Upton Chamber, I had published only my first book, The Mathisen Corollary, and the man I met at the chamber, who was involved in its preservation, was dismayed to learn that I believed that the chamber's construction of corbelled architecture (very reminiscent of the corbelled chambers found in Ireland and other parts of Europe) might be evidence of pre-columbian trans-Atlantic contact. Being of Native American heritage himself, he recommended Manitou as a book written from a viewpoint which generally argues that the numerous ancient stone sites in the Northeastern parts of our continent, and indeed throughout the Americas, need not be automatically assumed to be evidence of trans-oceanic influence, but rather that it is more likely that they are sacred Native American sites situated to connect with the Infinite Realm, positioned to align with the infinite heavens and also to tap into natural earth energy points, based on very sophisticated understanding of the flow of the earth's invisible currents and forces.

The authors of Manitou write: "We have often wondered why New England history and folklore repeatedly attribute stonework to European colonists when its origins are either unknown or probably Indian" (304). Earlier on the same page they write: 
However, their native origin is indicated by traditional features such as astronomical orientation, embrasures, gaps between boulders, and inclusion of manitou stones. And Indian stone rows are frequently of sizes and shapes that fit the landscape as ritual architecture but serve no European practical purpose.
However, while arguing that the astronomically-aligned stones and chambers of New England almost certainly predate Columbus and should be assumed unless proven otherwise to be of Native American design and construction, Mavor and Dix do entertain the possibility of pre-columbian European contact, particularly in the form of "seagoing monks from Ireland with both a tradition of shamanistic astronomy and seafaring" (238 - 239). They note in particular the extremely high number of architectural parallels between the construction of the Upton Chamber and the great passage mounds of Ireland such as those at Knowth and Newgrange, and speculate that such contact may have occurred prior to AD 710 (based on their analysis of the timeline of Irish history and the conflicts and struggles which eventually led to the displacement of the more traditional spiritual leaders in Ireland by the Christian monks, as well as their analysis of the solar and astronomical alignments of the Upton Chamber -- see pages 234 and following).

Of the Upton Chamber, Mavor and Dix write:
It has a long entrance passage roofed with slabs and a circular corbelled domed roof. As the passage approaches the chamber, each roof slab successively overlaps the previous one until a sufficient height is achieved for the passage roof slabs to fit smoothly into the roof corralling of the chamber proper. Also, the passage widens out gradually as it approaches the chamber, a technique that not only provides visual continuity but also avoids the necessity of a huge lintel stone at the transition between passage and chamber in order to transfer the chamber roof load to the passage. Except for a few stone chambers in southern New England, this technique is known only in the great chamber tombs of Newgrange and Knowth in the Boyne valley of Ireland, and possibly in some ruined examples in Portugal. 237.
The authors describe the alignments of the Upton Chamber in a table found on page 51, in an extended discussion of the Upton site that takes up an entire chapter and includes alignments to the summer solstice sunset and the stars Denebola, Alpheratz (alpha Andromedae, the head of Andromeda and one of the four corners of the Great Square), El Nath (beta Tauri, one of the "horns of the Bull"), Arcturus, Al Geiba (gamma Leonis, at the base of the Lion's mane or curving neck), Murphrid (eta Bootis, at the "knee" of the Herdsman), Scheat (beta Pegasi, one of the other corners of the Great Square), Alcyone (the brightest of the Pleiades), and the Pleiades in general. 

Thus, the authors can truly declare that at the Upton Chamber, "an elaborate array of events is recorded by markers on the horizon" and that both Newgrange and Upton "have sophistication of different kinds" (239).

Below are a few photographs from my most-recent visit to the Upton Chamber, on July 03 of this year (about a week ago):

Above: the entrance to the passage. The chamber itself is underground and is approached from the left side of the entrance as one faces the opening. Compare to the images of the chamber from five years ago, in the first blog post linked above. 

Above: looking directly into the entrance to the Upton Chamber's passage.

Above: looking out from the point of transition between the passage and the corbelled chamber (which is behind the viewer). Note the size of the horizontal "roof slabs," all of which are "underground." When the visitor approaches the chamber for the first time, the approaching trail leads them to a point at which they are standing on the earth that is above this underground passage and the domed chamber behind.

Above: your humble author at the entrance to the passage and the Upton Chamber, for purpose of scale. This photograph was taken on July 03, 2016. Again, the interested reader may wish to compare to images showing the opening from about five years earlier, in September of 2011, which can be seen in the first of the blog posts linked above. 

At this time, I am quite happy to remain open to the possibility that the incredible sacred landscapes found in the Americas may have been built entirely by Native American cultures, that some of them might have been influenced or in some cases built by visitors from across the oceans long before the era of Columbus and the subsequent European invasion, or that the sacred traditions that influenced the creation of the sacred landscapes of the Americas and the creation of sacred structures in other parts of the world might all be descended from some common ancient source that is now forgotten (or some combination of all three of these possible explanations).

Now that I have spent some years investigating the very clear evidence showing that a common system of celestial metaphor appears to be operating in the myths, scriptures, and sacred stories of cultures literally around the globe, from the Vedas and Sanskrit epics of ancient India to the sacred traditions of the Aborigine cultures of Australia to the recorded traditions of the peoples and nations of the Pacific Islands and of North America, Central America and South America, as well as the sacred myths of ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, pre-Christian Europe, and the Old and New Testaments of what we call the Bible, I believe that the possibility that all these seemingly different cultures are somehow descended from an extremely ancient and now-forgotten common ancestor civilization or culture becomes a much more likely possible hypothesis that could explain some of the similarities we find in sacred archaeology around the globe as well. 

Whatever the explanation, I think it is very clear that the sacred, astronomically-aligned stone landscapes and structures from other parts of the world and those in the Americas appear to point towards spiritual understandings and practices that are more similar to one another than they are to the literalist Christian understanding which replaced the traditional ways, first in Europe and then in the Americas.

The very title of the book by Mavor and Dix, Manitou, suggests that these sites were designed to  function as points of contact between the ordinary, visible, material realm and the infinite, invisible, spirit realm. As the authors explain, the word manitou is a word from the Algonquin language family which describes "inhabiting spirits" which are found to "inhabit every space and every object in nature" (329 - 330). The authors also explain that this concept can perhaps be understood in relationship to the principles of Chinese geomancy or feng shui, saying:
Manitou appears to be inseparable from geomancy, the concept of the world as a place where all activities and objects, both in the natural and supernatural domains, are connected in some subtle manner. Geomancers believe that the natural order can be sensed and tuned into by traditional practices, much as shamans do. While usually confined to eastern Asia and intimately involved with traditional Chinese Taoist philosophy, feng-shui, literally wind-water but, more generally, living with the rhythms of the land and seasons, would be expected to have or have had counterparts in other parts of the world, including America.
The elaborate practices of feng-shui used in selecting propitious natural sites for towns, homes and tombs and in modifying the landscape to improve them are based largely on common sense and knowledge of natural science. To this art are owed the disciplines involving the systematic use of magnetism, navigation and geography. The crux of feng-shui is the life force of the earth, ch'i, which flows through the earth like an underground stream in veins called dragon lines. The most favorable places are those with the greatest amount of ch'i flowing. This in turn, is related to its rate of accumulation and dispersal. The practitioner learns to recognize natural and man-made influences which are favorable or detrimental to the flow of ch'i. He does this through observations of landforms, water flows, horizon profiles, directions, the locations of constellations, and through intuition. 330.
Clearly, what is being discussed above is one aspect of visualizing and enhancing connections between the visible and invisible realms. Elsewhere in the book, Mavor and Dix make the important observation that the incorporation of astronomical alignments in these sites explicitly connects the seemingly ordinary realm of our daily experience with the Infinite and Invisible World, saying:
Astronomy takes the structure of familiar things and opens them to the infinite scale of the universe.
When the land and sky are considered together, our experience of the world is changed and perhaps given profound new meaning. Horizon phenomena such as the rising and setting of the sun and moon and the resulting patterns of light and shadow on the land become humbling and awesome manifestations of our connection with the cosmos. 121. 
In the same paragraph, the authors note that "The invasion of America which started during the sixteenth century and continues to the present day is one of the most overwhelming cultural discontinuities on record" and that much of the traditional practice and wisdom of the cultures who occupied the New England region and who were violently supplanted after this invasion have been lost -- but that "much possible evidence of native culture prior to this great discontinuity still lies abundantly  about us unrecognized today" (121).

One very important surviving example of this "unrecognized evidence" discussed in Manitou are the numerous perched, balanced, stacked, and pedestal boulders -- many of tremendous size -- which still dot the landscape of the northeastern woods of New England. Many of these are also "rocking stones," which could at one time be easily rocked with one hand, even with the pressure of one finger, or the pressure of a slight breeze, even if the balanced rock itself weighs several tons. Mavor and Dix note that:
Rocking stones have a well-documented history world-wide, from as early as the days of Pliny the Elder, AD 23 - 79, who wrote about them in his Natural History. In Great Britain, there is a wealth of antiquarian literature about rocking or balanced stones. Many have rock basins carved into their surfaces or have rock chairs associated with them. The European settlers of America were familiar with balanced rocks, having seen them in their native countries. Many of the perched and rocking boulders sites of New England were given names that usually incorporated Satan or the devil, a holdover from English ecclesiastical authority which labeled these monuments as diabolic devices and the idols of blasphemers. There was much speculation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries about the origins and use of these stones by Druids and others for religious ritual. With the rise of Cromwell and the Puritans, many rocking stones in Europe were toppled because of the belief that they were pagan idols. In New England, many have survived destruction by nature and man. 109.
The ancient description of a rocking stone by Pliny the Elder which Mavor and Dix are probably referencing in the above passage is almost certainly that found in Natural History, Book Two and Chapter 98: "Wonders of Various Countries Collected Together," where Pliny describes a "terrific rock" in the region of ancient Harpasa, which was located in the Roman province of Caria in Anatolia (modern Turkey), and which "could be moved by the force of a single finger."

One of the balancing-stone sites mentioned in Manitou which I visited on this trip is the Balancing Rock of Holliston, Massachusetts. The balancing rock is shown in the image at the top of this post at sunset on July 05, 2016 (about two weeks after summer solstice). As can be seen in that image, the stacked stone itself is surrounded by other rocks buried in the earth, one of which appears to align with a prominent crack on the back of the base-rock in the stacked pair to point towards the sinking sun:

Above: The stone in the ground has a distinctive depression in the top as well as a smaller round hole similar to a flagpole-hole (such holes are seen in images of many other stones in photographs found in the Manitou book, sometimes accompanied by grooves pointing to sunrise or sunset points on important days of the year -- see for instance the images on page 229).

The "outer stone" shown at the beginning of the arrow in the above image is shown here in close-up top-view (the water is either from sprinkler irrigation or a rainstorm that came through on July 04):

The large crack on the back of the base-stone is seen in the image below from a slightly closer view:

The crack in question is very pronounced when seeing the rock in person. It is seen in the above image directly below the setting sun, and has green grass growing in it. I don't know if this prominent crack is part of an alignment with the setting sun around the time of summer solstice, but it does appear to align rather directly with the setting sun when seen from the "outer ring" alignment stone that contains the depression and the circular hole. The same crack is shown in the image below, marked by a yellow line:

The upper stone in this Balancing Rock actually rests on the base stone in such a way that it only appears to touch on two points, with plenty of "daylight" showing between the upper and lower stones:

As you can perhaps ascertain by the shadows in the above image, this photo is taken from the other side of the Balancing Rock, with the setting sun to the back of the camera, and the shadow of the tall conifer tree seen in the image at the very top of this post going right up the middle of the upper rock in the stack.

There is actually another much smaller "window of daylight" visible from the other side of the stack, looking back through the portion of the upper rock seen on the right "contacting surface" in the above image. This small window is shown in the image below, which is taken from a vantage point looking back towards the setting sun and towards the tree-trunk that is casting the shadow in the above image. Here is that small window:

This small "window" in between the two stacked stones may point to another alignment on the western horizon, perhaps the setting-point of an important star or other celestial body. There is, in fact, another "outer alignment" stone located in the ground not far from this small window -- which may indicate the position an observer should be located in order to look through the small window and see the celestial body's setting place:

The present landscaping completely obscures the view to the horizon through the window, as does further forest growth and new housing developments. However, interested researchers could probably spend some time and discover possible candidates for western-horizon alignments through the small window, if present. Judging by the number and sophistication of the alignments present in the Upton site, the likelihood that there are multiple alignments incorporated into the Balancing Rock at Holliston should be seriously investigated.

The Holliston Balancing Rock is quite massive -- and the upper stone projects over the lower stone not only towards the south (over the "back" of the lower or base stone) but also towards the northeast to an impressive distance, not clearly visible from the above photos. Below is an image taken from the north showing the degree to which the upper boulder protrudes eastwards:

In order to convey a sense of the size of this stacked boulder, a photo is included below which shows your friendly author seated next to the boulder. In order to remove some of the other signs of modern buildup from the background (such as about eleven different sets of telephone and power lines), I have cropped-out the blue sky and replaced it with a starry background featuring the Lagoon Nebula (in the constellation Sagittarius, which is now prominent in the sky at this time of year):

image: Holliston Balancing Rock, with background of stars from the Lagoon Nebula (background image: Wikimedia commons, link).

The fact that there are other massive balanced rocks in many other locations adjacent to the Holliston Balancing Rock argues that these stones are not accidental depositions of unguided glaciers but rather that they were deliberately designed and constructed in order to create a sacred landscape. This hypothesis is strengthened tremendously if astronomical alignments are also shown to be present in some of these stacked boulders, revealing a deliberate linking of the visible terrestrial landscape and the infinite heavens.

Further, these massive balanced stones are very frequently located in places which Mavor and Dix describe as having "particularly rugged beauty and probably great manitou" (115). The locations very often fit the descriptions of "dragon's lair" locations in feng shui, thought to possess features that indicate particularly abundant earth energy or natural ch'i, discussed in Manitou page 331.  In more than one occasion, these significant sites are situated near a swampy pond or a slowly meandering stream, according to the authors -- and this is certainly true of the Upton Chamber site described above (see the first-linked blog post) as well as of the Holliston Balanced Rock. The tranquil pond near the Balanced Rock in Holliston is shown below (camera is looking across the pond in the general direction of the rock stack):

The site of the Gungywamp stone complex in Connecticut, which I visited in 2011 but not on this recent trip, is also located near a large swamp; you can read more about Gungywamp and see some photographs I took when I visited there in this previous post.

Finally, the fact that many of these massive balanced stones once had a "rocking" feature as part of their construction appears to be yet another argument against their being simple "accidents of nature" created without human agency. 

The possibility that glacial activity would accidentally deposit one massive boulder balanced delicately above another seems to be rather remote. However, the possibility that glaciers would "choose" to do so with great frequency in one particular part of North America, and that they would "select" sites with characteristics prized as being "abundant in earth energy" (or ch'i or manitou or mana) would seem to be even more remote. If we allow those possibilities, then we must ask ourselves, "How many of these 'accidental' balanced rocks would we expect to be so finely balanced that they can be set a-rocking, without tumbling over?" The answer would probably be, "Maybe one in a million? Maybe less than that?" The fact that a great many of those described by Mavor and Dix in their book (and the many others which are no longer in existence, having been destroyed by real estate developers or religious zealots over the centuries) feature a finely-tuned rocking mechanism appears to argue strongly for their human origin, rather than their accidental creation by glaciers.

Below is an image of another balanced boulder, less than an hour's drive away from the Holliston Balanced Rock, located in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts (you can find it on the map at the intersection of Eastern Ave and County Street in Fall River, and can in fact see it using Google's "Street View" by dragging the little "person icon" to that intersection). Known as "The Rolling Rock," Mavor and Dix describe it at length in Manitou, and note that there are almost identical specimens in two other nearby towns (an extremely strong argument against accidental glacial origin for these marvels). Here is what they say about the Rolling Rock of Fall River:
A particularly impressive example is Rolling Rock in Fall River, Massachusetts, preserved by the city as an historic and scientific curiosity; there are nearly identical rocks in Taunton and Swansea. Rolling Rock was called the Goose Nesting Rock in old boundary descriptions and is a 140-ton, egg-shaped, conglomerate boulder, containing many smoothly fractured quartzite pebbles. It is supported by two small bearing surfaces on a natural granite outcrop. Now nearly surrounded by houses in a dense residential area of the city, it was shown in its present location on an 1812 map of Fall River, just nine years after the town was formed, and was still described as free to rock in 1841. Until about 1900, it could be moved easily with one hand and could be made to oscillate two or three inches at the top. It is strategically located for visibility on the horizon from some distance to the east and west because it crowns the brow of the southerly spur of the highest hill in Fall River, overlooking North Watuppa Pond. It is also on the old Indian trail from the falls of the Fall or Quechechan River to the narrows between North and South Watuppa Ponds. In the nineteenth century, the stone could have been seen from the falls, an important Indian fishing spot. The site of the North Watuppa praying village described in Chapter 3 lies just across the pond to the east.
Most large rocking boulders have been stabilized by either natural weathering or human activity depositing sediment and small stones under them to prevent the rocking motion. The Fall River stone, stabilized in the 1930s, has only a few small pebbles under it, but they have put a stop to its rocking ability. We imagine that the boulder could have been used as a signaling device as rocking it in sunlight about its axis, which is oriented ten degrees true, would cause changes in reflective patterns when seen from the east and west.
[. . .]
Rocking stones range in weight from tens of pounds to hundreds of tons and are found in a variety of forms from egg shapes to long planks, as shown in Figure 4 - 18 [which has photographs of six rocking stones, not counting Fall River's Rolling Rock which is pictured in 4 - 17 on the preceding page]. Some, when rocked, strike their platforms creating deep booming sounds that can be heard or felt in the earth some distance away. 105 - 107.
Below is an image of Fall River's Rolling Rock, photographed on July 06, 2016:

This is the south side of the boulder, with the photographer looking almost due north; the plaque describing the Rolling Rock is located on the right side of the base stone platform in this image (east side -- towards the right in this image which looks north).

Below is the plaque affixed to the base rock of the stack:

The plaque reads:
Deposited on this spot during
the glacial period ages ago.
Unique in its tilting feature.
It is recognized as of great
historic and scientific interest.
Preserved by the public in the year 1930.
Needless to say, I disagree with the plaque's confident pronouncement that this massive balanced stone was "deposited on this spot during the glacial period ages ago." As Mavor and Dix point out, the  supposed glacier seems to have selected a particularly prominent spot at which to "deposit" the Rolling Rock.  

Even more importantly, note the reference to the "praying village" in the extended quotation from Manitou regarding this Rolling Rock cited above. Mavor and Dix spend a great deal of time discussing praying villages in their book -- beginning on page 41 where they discuss the fact that the Upton Chamber was also located near an important "praying village." Although the term "praying village" may have come from two young Puritans in the 1630s, John Eliot and Daniel Gookin, who set out to convert the local Native Americans to their literalist Puritan interpretation of Christianity, Mavor and Dix note that the praying villages these two established were actually selected because they were already revered by the native nations and used for spiritual purposes and shamanic activity:
Eliot's praying villages are important to our story because, as Gookin reported, they were located not by Eliot and Gookin, but by the Indian powwows or shamans, at or near their sacred places of ritual. These sites became magnets for our research because there stone structures still exist in a ritualized landscape that is intact enough to be studied and interpreted. We also began to suspect that the religion of the Indians and their interaction with colonial missionaries could provide clues to the origins and functions of the landscape architecture. 41.
Not only was the Upton Chamber located near a praying village, but Holliston (the site of the Balancing Rock described extensively above) also appears to have been an early praying village for the Nipmuc people, organized into a praying village site by Eliot and Gookin. And, as just noted in the above quotation from Manitou, we now see that the Rolling Rock of Fall River was also near a praying village, the North Watuppa praying village, located across the pond to the north of the Rolling Rock. That would be the third site in a row with an adjacent pond, and the third in a row situated at a praying village, which Gookin himself appears to have admitted were situated at sites already central to the traditional shamanic spiritual gatherings of the indigenous tribes.

This fact suggests that perhaps these "balancing rocks," no less than the astronomically aligned chambers such as that in Upton, were seen as connecting-points to the Infinite Realm, or the Invisible Realm -- places where the visible and terrestrial world touched the unbounded and divine realm of infinite potentiality, and where that divine realm became in some way visible. It certainly seems to be within the realm of possibility that rocking or rolling stones which could produce "deep booming sounds" or vibrations capable of being heard or felt some miles away could have been used in some way to promote shamanic trance or journeying to the Spirit World. We have already seen overwhelmingly abundant evidence that sustained rhythmic drumming is one of the most widely-used techniques for inducing shamanic journeying in cultures literally around the world, and on every continent (including Europe, before literalist Christians initiated aggressive campaigns to ban shamanic drumming).

Mavor and Dix devote a number of pages throughout the book to discussions of the Native American entity known as Hobomock, with whom shamans of the northeastern indigenous tribes would often seek to gain contact in order "to heal wounds or diseases and to remove evils" (76). The authors note that Hobomock was closely associated with swamps and marshlands, as well (apparently) with areas displaying above-average seismic activity. These are found throughout the Northeast, including many swamps not located near the sites described above.

They write:
A cedar swamp in East Freetown, Massachusetts, an extension of Bolton Cedar Swamp, is named Hobomock. Salisbury, citing Edward Winslow, writes that the major spirit, Hobomock, "protected and empowered those who obtained visions of him." Several groups of stone mounds, several hundred mounds altogether, are located on the rising land just west of Hobomock Swamp, and the group extends into the swamp itself. It may be that the swamp was named by the colonists after Hobomock, whom they equated to the devil, because of extensive Indian religious activity in the area, of which the stone mounds are the relics. If the mounds were associated with seeking visions of Hobomock, this would be reflected in tradition.
[. . .]
Algonquin groups are known to have used stone mounds and rows in their vision quest ritual. Several swamps in New England retain the name Hobomock, the spirit to which most vision quests by Algonquin powwows were directed. 132.
Rocking stones in Europe were also frequently associated with the voice of spirits, the power of healing, and (in many cases) witchcraft or forbidden contact with the spirit realm. The famous Logan Rock of Treen in Cornwall is described in numerous books and websites, including this 1903 text (a third edition of an earlier publication) entitled Popular Romances of the West of England, collected and edited by Robert Hunt. 

The Logan Rock was said to have been capable of healing children, as well as giving people the power to become witches, and also to have had the ability to judge character, but it was deliberately dislodged by an officer and group of sailors from the Royal Navy in 1824, and although it was restored to its previous location again later, it was said that afterwards it never rocked as well as it had previously, and it no longer retained its mysterious otherworldly powers.

The similarity of the traditional beliefs surrounding these sites on either side of the Atlantic is noteworthy. The Logan Rock described above (the name "logan" is sometimes used in Europe to describe any rolling or rocking stone) is located next to the sea -- others in Europe are associated with sacred wells or ponds. It is associated with contact with the spirit world and with the obtaining of otherworldly powers. It is clearly part of a tradition that stands outside what is considered Christian orthodoxy. And it was deliberately destroyed or damaged, such that its rocking ability was never again the same.

The authors of Manitou note that almost all of the rolling rocks or rocking stones of the sacred landscape of the Northeast no longer rock, having been deliberately stabilized. While it is possible to explain the motive as being to prevent safety problems, Mavor and Dix mention another, more sinister possibility, when describing a massive boulder in Fitchburg, Massachusetts known as the Rollstone, which was first broken apart and moved from its original location on the summit of Rollstone Hill, and then stabilized so that it could no longer rock. They write:
We suspect that the Rollstone and many others of this type were formerly rocking stones which have been stabilized by additional supporting rocks. People could have done this for safety, to make a signaling stone inoperative or as a ritual killing of a sacred artifact. 110.
We have already cited quotations which explain that a great many of the pedestal boulders and balanced rocks of Europe were toppled or otherwise deliberately destroyed during previous centuries by literalist Christian authorities, and that the plethora of sites in New England should thus be appreciated as a priceless (although often overlooked) treasure for gaining greater insight into the spiritual wisdom imparted to people all around the world, which can be seen to have been very similar across oceans, across cultures, and even across millennia -- but which is almost always opposed by literalists, often violently. 

The possibility that some or all of the surviving sacred sites in the Americas might have been targeted for the "ritual killing" of their sacred function should be considered very carefully, because it seems to be very likely, in light of the fate of so many similar sites in Europe (including the Logan Rock, supposedly tumbled over as a sort of "bet" or on a kind of a "lark," although that could also have been a cover story), and in light of the deliberate and very aggressive attempts to eradicate the culture and spiritual traditions of the Native Americans for centuries by religious and governmental authorities of the colonizing European powers (and later, by the religious and governmental authorities of the newer nations of Canada and the United States and others further south). 

Such a possibility also echoes the well-documented and historically-undeniable campaigns -- stretching right into the twentieth century -- to outlaw the drums used by shamans in cultures in Europe and Asia that somehow managed to retain their shamanic heritage longer than regions that had been controlled by literalist Christian authorities since earlier centuries.

It is also disturbing to note that the stabilizing of the Rolling Rock appears to have taken place during the same decade -- the 1930s -- that the unique rock art at the sacred Native American site of Painted Rock in present-day California was deliberately blasted with shotguns and permanently defaced.

This subject clearly relates to the theme of "two visions" discussed by the Lakota holy man, Black Elk, who personally witnessed and later described the destruction of his people's way of life, and who described two roads that people can walk: one of them acknowledging the connectedness of all things, and the other characterized by division, hostility, and people living on "little islands" unto themselves, endlessly trying to grasp what they need before someone else gets it.

The entire concept of manitou which runs through and connects everything Mavor and Dix talk about in their book is a concept of connectedness, and the deep unity that flows through the planet and all of nature -- a vision that can also be seen operating in the worldview of ancient Greece and of many other cultures around the world, and which I believe informs the message that underlies all the Star Myths which utilize celestial metaphor in order to show us the reality of the invisible world that connects everyone and permeates every aspect of our world.

In a passage which succinctly summarizes this vision of connectedness, Mavor and Dix say:
We perceive manitou as the spiritual quality possessed by every part or aspect of nature, animate or inanimate. (343).
In other words, the sacred landscapes still very much in evidence in many parts of the Americas provide powerful testimony that humanity shares a precious inheritance which seems to retain remarkably similar fundamental features all around the globe, and even across millennia (although the outer details may vary significantly). This worldwide ancient inheritance is manifested in the myths and sacred stories found on every continent and in virtually every culture and society (myths which can all be shown to be based upon a common, worldwide system of celestial metaphor), and it is also manifested in certain received traditions regarding earth energies, sacred sites, and connections between the finite terrestrial landscape and the infinite celestial realm of the heavens (symbolizing connection between the material world and the Spirit Realm or the Divine Realm).

I would once again encourage interested readers to obtain a copy of Manitou by Mavor and Dix, as well as to consult other print and online resources which discuss the sacred landscape of the Americas, and to respectfully visit these incredible locations, if at all possible, and to marvel at their power. 

At the same time, we should all ponder the terrible crime of violently attempting to destroy the culture and sacred traditions of peoples around the world, including the native indigenous peoples of the Americas, and consider what steps towards reconciliation are appropriate, while also becoming aware of places and ways that the suppression or elimination of cultures and sacred traditions is continuing to this very day, all around the world (and close to home).

Below: another view of the Fall River Rolling Rock, with the plaque visible on the right (east-facing) edge of the base rock.

Below: one more image of the Rolling Rock, this time showing a certain visitor in order to provide a sense of scale.