I believe that the reason it was used was (at least on one level) was to point to the Invisible Realm or the Infinite Realm -- that the ancients who devised this system or received this system or gave this system to humanity used a realm which itself is in fact infinite (the starry heavens and the depths of space) to impart profound knowledge about the spirit world or the realm of the gods, which is also infinite but which cannot be seen with our ordinary vision.
There are distinctive aspects of constellations (such as the outstretched arm of Virgo or the beautiful arching-shapes of the constellations we call the Northern Crown and Southern Crown) which show up in myths on different continents or islands, separated by vast distances and even by long millennia of time, which indicate that these celestial metaphors did not just spring up independently all over our planet, but share some sort of connection (possibly pointing to a common, extremely ancient source).
While I am most familiar with the ways of seeing this system operating in the myths (and while my own academic background is primarily in literature), it is clear to me that it also operates in the ancient pictographs found around our planet (others have noticed constellational and celestial aspects of pictographs before, of course). Many pictographs, I believe, can be shown to reference some of the same distinctive features which show up in the myths.
I am very excited to see that Graham has found celestial aspects of the amazing relief carvings present at the Gobekli Tepe site and that he includes his own analysis of some of those carvings and artwork in his most recent book, Magicians of the Gods. I will likely be participating in a conference later this year in which Dr. Robert Schoch will be present to discuss Gobekli Tepe discoveries and am looking forward to learning more about this subject from those who have been there to study this fairly recently-discovered ancient treasure of the very distant past.
This past August (2015) I had the opportunity to visit an important site in California containing ancient pictographs, and the celestial features of some of them "jumped out" at me as I looked at them. This site, which is sacred to the Native American people of North America and has ongoing use in ceremonial traditions tied to different parts of the year, has sadly and outrageously been damaged quite extensively, as I will describe below (taking some of the discussion from an account I published in August after I visited there). I did some further research after my visit to find photographs and drawings that had been made during the twentieth century and late nineteenth century before some of this criminal destruction of the pictographs had taken place, and believe that the drawings contain clear references to specific and spiritually significant portions of the heavens (some of my analysis is also included below).
If you wish to visit this site, you can schedule a guided tour or a self-guided tour through the parks system in California. It is now monitored and access is much more controlled and restricted than in previous decades, but of course the damage has already been done (some of the worst of it apparently happened during the 1930s). If you do visit, of course, please be respectful of the sacred nature of this incredible place on our planet, and its ongoing spiritual significance to all people but especially to those Indigenous cultures of this land whose culture and beliefs have been so deliberately attacked and desecrated for so long and often with extreme violence.
In North America in a high grassland plain -- in fact, a salt-lake basin with no real outlet, containing a large dry gypsum flat known as "Soda Lake" -- about forty-five or fifty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in modern-day California, lies the arid valley known today as the Carrizo Plain, a name thought to have been derived from the Spanish word carrizo, defined in the Follett Velasquez dictionary as a "common reed-grass, Arundo phragmites," although in previous generations the area was called the "Carrisa Plain," possibly an attempt to pronounce the Spanish word.
Rising out of this salt basin is an awe-inspiring natural rock temple which silently proclaims the ancient vision of profound connectedness to nature and to the invisible realm, but also contains the scars of deliberate damage inflicted by those who were either displaying either a conscious hatred for that first vision, or a wanton disregard for it, and arising from a culture that has been cut off from the ancient understanding of connectedness to the cosmos and to the spirit world.
It contains unique pictographs of great antiquity and importance, now however badly damaged.
This massive rock, only a small dot in the vast salt-plain, no doubt has many sacred names in the original languages of those for whom it continues to have deep spiritual significance. However, it is usually referred to simply as "Painted Rock."
This extensive description of the importance of Painted Rock (and the extensive ancient archaeological region of which Painted Rock is part), prepared and filed in 2011 in conjunction with a request to have the area declared a National Historic Landmark, points to newly-discovered evidence of human habitation stretching back 10,000 years before the present, describing (in addition to the well-known Painted Rock site) "recently discovered pictograph sites along with a remarkable concentration of villages, camps and other sites dating from about 10,000 to 200 BP (8050 BCE - 1750 CE)" (see top of page 4).
This anciently-inhabited region, that same paragraph notes, contains abundant pictographs of a very distinctive nature: for the most part, they are painted with bright colors, instead of carved or indented as is common in other pictographic sites in North America. These, the report notes, "are the impressive hallmark of this district." Some scholars have dated the creation of these particular painted pictographs to a period of about 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.
These painted markings and significant and impressive in their own right, for their historical and cultural significance, for whatever concepts the ancient artists intended with their work (almost certainly related to the sacred and to the invisible world), and for the unworldly impression conveyed by their subject matter, their often intricate and artistically-beautiful design, and their use of bold colors (particularly red, black and white, often used together, with light blue, ochre yellow, and other colors added at times as well).
In the massif known as the Painted Rock, shown in the aerial image above, the ancient artists who created these paintings selected one of the most impressive natural spaces possible, one possessed of tremendous inherent spiritual symbolism and power.
The annual report of the State Mineralogist to the California State Mining Bureau for the year 1890 described the actual rock formation, and the pictographs, in these words:
In the southwestern part of the plain stands THE PAINTED ROCK, an isolated butte covering an area of about five acres and rising to a height of one hundred and forty feet -- a conical formation, and hollow like the crater of a volcano, but having a narrow opening towards the east on a level with the surrounding plain [the opening is actually more north than east]. This opening is twenty-four feet in width and leads to a vast oval cavity two hundred and twenty-five feet in its greatest, and one hundred and twenty feet in its least diameter, the walls rising to a height of one hundred and thirty-two feet in the highest point. The rock is coarse sandstone, the walls irregular, and overhanging in places, making the inner space like a cave. In these recesses, covering a space of twelve feet in height, and sixty feet in length, are a great number of paintings, representing strange figures in rude forms of men, suns, birds, and others indescribable -- probably hieroglyphics or writings of meaning to the prehistoric people who made them. When and by whom these were made is unknown, as the oldest inhabitant says that when discovered by the pioneer Spanish missionaries, they found them as they are at the present time; the aborigines knowing nothing of their origin, but regarding them with mysterious awe. The paintings are in three lines of red, white, and black, the colors still bright and distinct. This grand temple of the ancient pagan is now utilized as a corral. Upon many rocks bordering the great plain are similar paintings of the same unknown origin. "Painted rocks" are also found in Santa Barbara and Kern Counties, with figures of the same character as those of the San Luis Obispo rocks, and would be a proper subject of study for the ethnologist. 569.
This account, dated from the end of 1890 and thus written by one who visited the area that year or slightly earlier, provides some valuable historical information, particularly regarding the condition of the rock paintings, as well as the fact that their original artists were shrouded in the mists of the ancient past, at least according to whatever sources the surveyors contacted and whatever answers they saw fit to give to him.
Based on current historical paradigms and analysis of the art itself, most modern scholars ascribe the rock art to the Chumash and Yokuts peoples, each of which has their own distinctive artistic and thematic characteristics but which apparently also have many characteristics and themes in common as well. According to sources cited in page 18 of the National Register of Historic Places form linked previously, many scholars generally believe that the majority of the art comes from the "Middle Period" stretching from 4,000 years to 800 years before the present day, or from about 2050 BC - AD 1150 (and at one point, based on arguments from lake levels of the Soda Lake basin, the report narrows that down to a range of about 2050 BC to 50 BC).
What is fairly certain is that the stunning art of the awe-inspiring Painted Rock sacred site, and that found along certain outcroppings and formations dotting the hills and the edges of the plain in the surrounding region, survived intact and in a remarkable state of preservation for the better part of 4,000 years.
Some early black-and-white photographs taken of the pictographic murals within Painted Rock itself are claimed in books published not long afterwards to have been taken as early as 1876, which may mean that they are the very first pictographs to have been photographed anywhere in the world. Photographs of the Painted Rock pictographs from the early 1890s were published in a 1910 article in West Coast magazine and in a subsequent 1910 book written by regional historian Myron Angel (you can read the text of that book online here, and order a copy of the original through various bookstores and online used-book channels).
Other fascinating photos from the 1890s were included in a 1981 book called Curse of the Feathered Snake by Angus MacLean, who uses a story related by Myron Angel as a basis for some of his own proclamations about the history and significance of the sites and their pictographs.
In all of those photographs from the end of the 1800s, and in the descriptions in Mr. Angel's 1910 account, the pictographs are almost completely intact, looking very much as they had looked for the previous 2,000 to 4,000 years -- twenty to forty centuries.
But some vandalism had already begun to take place during the 1800s, with visitors descended from the western European cultures carving their names or initials right through these beautiful ancient pictographs into the soft sandstone, and not long after the turn of the century the real desecration of this ancient site accelerated. It is thought that it was in the decades leading up to World War II, particularly in the 1930s, that some of the most dramatic and intricate of these ancient paintings were hideously disfigured: great sections of paint was sacrilegiously and deliberately flaked off, and apparently some of these sacred figures were even shot with firearms and irretrievably damaged.
Ancient pictographic texts which had thus survived up to four thousand years in beautiful condition, preserving their message for perhaps forty centuries could not survive through what we know as the "twentieth century."
Below are links to two sites containing excellent photographs from recent years, by visitors who have made their way to this special monument and who have been appalled by the wanton destruction of the rock art. Each provides comparisons to some of the black-and-white images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, to show their disfigured condition in the present day.
The first is a site containing the photography and writing of David Stillman, and an entry entitled "Then and Now: Painted Rock, Carrizo Plain" and dated August 13, 2014.
The second is a two-part trip report published by "Death Valley Jim" (Jim Mattern), a desert guide, wilderness scout, and advocate of low-impact and Leave No Trace outdoorsmanship -- he was so dismayed and angered by the damage done to these pictographs that he vows never to return to Painted Rock again: "Carrizo Plain National Monument and Painted Rock, part 1" and "Carrizo Plain National Monument and Painted Rock, part 2" (both from a very recent first visit, during the beginning of August 2015).
Both are of course right to be outraged and to express their outrage: the deliberate destruction of these ancient sacred sites is a criminal act, one that steals from the heritage of the entire human race and from all future generations, and one that defiles, disrespects, and denigrates sites that are still actively used and held holy by the Native American people whose people and whose ancestors have lived in this land for thousands of years.
Nor is it going too far to state that the message that this site has embodied for so many millennia -- in its own natural power and symbolism, and in the message of the pictographs (which is examined a bit further in the following paragraphs) -- exemplifies the vision of connection with the natural universe, connection with the spirit realm which infuses and indwells every single aspect of this seemingly material realm, and the elevation of that spirit in all people and in all animals and plants and rocks and trees, for the purpose of blessing and renewal.
Blasting away at that vision with a shotgun at close range, or otherwise deliberately destroying the pictographs which proclaim our connection to the invisible world (such as by flaking off parts of the stone in order to try to take the images away from the site, or just to ruin them forever) clearly exemplifies the very worst aspects of the "bad road" which Black Elk spoke of -- the very worst aspects of that "gnawing flood, dirty with lies and greed" which he described as washing over everything and everyone that once were connected but which have now become isolated and divided and debased.
And now, briefly, to the figures themselves, which some western writers including scholars have chosen to try to interpret literally at some level -- whether seeing them as depicting specific types of turtles or seeing them as trying to depict the shaman who is undergoing a vision-journey.
Writers in earlier centuries (such as the Mineralogist report linked above) often use condescending terms: "rude forms of men, suns, birds, and others indescribable."
And Erich Von Daniken (and others from the same theoretical approach, to which I do not myself subscribe) takes a different kind of literalist approach, declaring that these and other pictographs are literal depictions of spacecraft and beings in spacesuits (whether ancient human astronauts, or ancient aliens).
Von Daniken specifically points out a drawing of one of the (now largely destroyed) panels from Painted Rock in a 1972 book originally entitled Gods From Outer Space (and available in an online format under the title Return to the Stars) in the fifth chapter, where he implies that the "different globular figures" might be sphere-shaped spacecraft, and that the humanoid figures in the Painted Rock and other ancient petroglyphs may represent the attempts to render space travelers (and he uses patronizing and condescending descriptions of the level of sophistication and understanding of the artists and ancient cultures that produced this art, comparing them at one point to children given a box of crayons)(see pages 48 - 50).
All of these interpretations, however, could be classified as making the same error as that which is made when ancient sacred written scriptures or ancient myths and sacred traditions are analyzed from a literalistic perspective. I and other authors have shown extensive evidence that the ancient texts and myths are allegorical in nature, based upon celestial metaphor.
As I explore in most of my online and print writing, I believe the celestial metaphors are employed in the sacred myths and texts of the world as a sort of "physical metaphor" to illustrate invisible truths about the spiritual world (the unseen world), and about our condition as physical-spiritual beings inhabiting a physical-spiritual universe.
And that is why I very strongly suspect that the incredible Painted Rock pictographs are also a "celestial text" (or celestial texts, perhaps executed over a span of hundreds or even thousands of years).
As those who followed the links provided earlier, to the high-quality photographic blogs of David Stillman and Death Valley Jim Mattern, may have noticed, each included on their discussion a valuable artistic image of the original ancient pictographs, which was painted by the talented Campbell Grant (1909 - 1992), who was an artist who did early work for Disney studios (including work on Fantasia, Snow White, and Pinocchio, as well as the voice of Angus MacBadger in The Wind in the Willows) and who was fascinated with Chumash rock art from an early age and became a serious student of this art, and helped try to preserve it.
In the 1960s, using some of the older black-and-white photographs, as well as visits to the site, he painted this re-creation of the Painted Rock panels as they may have looked before they were destroyed in the 1930s.
I believe we can see very clear evidence that at least some portions of these pictographs are specifically celestial in nature, depicting zodiac constellations, major nearby stars, and the great band of the Milky Way galaxy.
I will focus on just three areas (those that are perhaps the "easiest" to decipher -- if indeed this analysis is correct). I believe there are abundant clues in each of these areas which help make their celestial identity pretty evident. I have my suspicion about some of the other pairings not in these three areas, but I'm less certain of those.
Below, note three areas of the pictographic re-creation by Grant, indicated by a green box, a blue box, and a purple box (which I have added in myself, in order to direct attention to those three specific parts of the ancient site):
I believe the "green box" constellations and celestial features are perhaps the most obvious -- in part because of the rising columns which could be described as resembling caterpillars or segmented centipedes, or maybe spinal columns (mythologically and spiritually connected to the Djed column of Osiris in its meaning, perhaps -- the raising of the spiritual component in ourselves and in the cosmos around us, in part through connection with the spirit world, through the calling forth of the hidden divine, the Infinite).
These segmented caterpillars or centipedes I believe are actually the rising column of the Milky Way. Below is a "screen shot" of a scene from the excellent open-source planetarium app, stellarium.org. In it, the rising column of the Milky Way is clearly visible -- and the fact that it actually rises in "two sides" or "two pillars" (especially towards the bottom of the screen) is quite apparent: this is caused by the dark or empty area in between the sides of the Milky Way at this portion, which is known as the Great Rift.
If you are very familiar with the constellations of our night sky, you may be able to spot the zodiac constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpio) in the lower part of that rising Milky Way: the stinger-tail of the Scorpion reaches right into the center of the Milky Way at its base (just above the horizon in the planetarium image above, not far from the big red letter "S" that indicates the direction South on the horizon as we look at the sky).
I believe very strongly that the long reaching black "hand-and-arm-like" feature in the Painted Rock panel, which reaches right into the space between the two rising segmented centipede-like columns (which are the sides of the Milky Way, in my analysis) is in fact the stinger-tail of the Scorpion:
Let's just illustrate that on the star-map and then on the depiction of Painted Rock, so that everyone can see that (Scorpion outlined in green, below):
And below, just in case anyone was not sure what part I believe to be indicative of the part of the constellation we think of as the Scorpion's tail, it is shown on the Painted Rock illustration (and the Milky Way column is also labeled):
There are many other figures in the above section of the Painted Rock panel, which help to confirm this interpretation.
One of the most important of these, I think, is the "Turtle" figure that is shown just above the long "arm" that I identify as the "Tail of Scorpio" in the above image.
Located right in the middle of the rising Milky Way, above the Scorpion's Tail, I believe this Turtle is in fact the same constellation that we usually refer to as Aquila, the Eagle. Note that the upper "head" of the Turtle can be interpreted as having three "stars" indicated (which Aquila has in its head as well), and then note the little white "tiny paddle-shaped" hands and feet of the Turtle: these are indicative of the locations of stars in the Aquila constellation as well.
Aquila also has a bit of a dangling "tail," just as this Turtle does in the ancient rock art.
Just above the Aquila, and facing it, is the other great bird of the Milky Way galaxy: Cygnus the Swan. In the rock art above, we see a kind of insect-like "stick figure" which does not really look like a Swan, but which actually has a "double-triangle" shape at the end facing the Turtle. This shape is in fact most reminiscent of Cygnus, even though Cygnus in the sky is much larger than this stick-insect (the rock art depictions are not always exactly done to what we would call "scale"):
And below is the planetarium sky-image again, this time with Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan also drawn in:
This should be plenty of evidence to at least begin to strongly suspect the possibility that the Painted Rock imagery is celestial imagery. Don't forget that in addition to the three constellations just described, the Painted Rock art also depicts the Milky Way (complete with the Great Rift). In the image of the sky just below, the Milky Way is also indicated.
And, that's not all for this particular portion of the pictograph: there is also the "humanoid" figure just above the "reaching arm" identified as the Scorpion's Tail.
This humanoid is located just above the head of the Scorpion, which means that it almost certainly represents Ophiucus, the Serpent-Handler -- an extremely important ancient constellation, and one with a very oblong body, just as the humanoid outline in the Painted Rock panel is decidedly oblong:
And then below the outline of Ophiucus in the Painted Rock panel is very much reminiscent of the actual constellation -- complete with the "upraised" portion that you can see on the right side of Ophiucus in the above illustration (the "head" of the serpent he is holding to the right of his body as we look at him):
This analysis should pretty much confirm to even the most skeptical observer that the ancient artists who created the Painted Rock pictographs may well have been depicting the awe-inspiring and spiritually-symbolic constellations of our night sky.
Note the "upraised hand" on the right side of the Ophiucus figure as we look at him (the arrow labeled "Ophiucus" is pointing to it). This corresponds to the "head of the snake" just described in the actual constellation as seen in the sky.
The other two sections of the "mural" that I've outlined with "boxes" are the "blue box" and the "purple box."
We could do another detailed analysis of each of these similar to that done in the "green box" analysis just above. However, the reader is invited to try to see the connections in these for himself or herself. I believe they add powerful additional evidence which helps confirm that we are dealing with celestial imagery in these ancient "pictographic texts" from the plains of Carrizo.
Below is a detailed close-up of the imagery found in the "blue box":
This one should be fairly obvious. I have placed the correspondences (as I see them) in a "footnote" at the end of this post. Can you guess what the little "dog-bone" shaped item is on the left of the above image, as well as the two "bulls-eye" circles below the main portion of this painting? I believe the two large "bulls-eye" circles are large stars -- which ones might they be? (My interpretations are below).
And here is the "purple box" section:
This one is a little trickier.
Look to the far lower-left portion of the selection above: you will see a figure who is kind of "tipped forward" as if running, and some "wavy lines" are kind of "spilling out" of its gut-region (this may in fact remind you of a certain New Testament incident concerning the demise of someone important). The wavy lines are emanating just behind an outstretched arm on this figure.
It is running "the opposite direction" as the direction I would have drawn it, based on the outline of the constellation in the night sky.
If you want to know my interpretation, see the second footnote at the end of this post. (Hint: It's a zodiac constellation).
Further to the right of that "pitched forward" figure whose "guts" are coming out is a large "lizard-figure" with "crossed legs" and a kind of "painted-in" area inside his crossed lower legs.
Can you think of any constellations in the zodiac which feature two things (the "feet" of this Lizard) that are kind of "tied together" in the way that the "lower legs" of this rock-art Lizard are tied together (or at least crossed)?
If so, what is in between those two items that are tied together or connected in a "v-shape" in the same way that the Lizard's legs are connected in a "V"?
Could that celestial figure between two Lizard legs be a celestial figure whose name is a geometric shape?
I believe that it could.
In fact, I believe that the figures in the two panels above can be shown to be constellations, just as the first panel we examined in detail contains constellation-art.
I would submit that the presence of a celestial "text" inside of a sacred space (associated with the divine feminine, and with contact with the Underworld realm of the spirit world) indicates that the artists who produced this incredible ancient monument were extremely sophisticated, and that they were possibly preserving and passing on important knowledge about contact with that unseen realm.
And this ancient sacred textual repository in this ancient sacred site was literally blasted by desecrators who were either so ignorant of that ancient wisdom that they disregarded it altogether and saw it as having no value at all, or so divisive in their thinking (dividing up humanity into "my group" and "everyone else") that they disrespected the culture that produced it as "primitive" or otherwise unworthy of respect, or else they were (and this is probably the worst possibility) sworn enemies of that vision and that ancient knowledge, and dedicated to suppressing it and keeping it from humanity (to whom it actually belongs as a treasured inheritance given to all people in ancient times, all around the world, in many different forms).
The fact that these descriptions took place in the 1930s is quite disturbing, given the other horrible events that were being unleashed elsewhere around the globe during those years and the following decades.
In a sense, the deliberate destruction of the ancient wisdom in the sacred site of Painted Rock is a visible echo of the deliberate obscuration of the celestial metaphors found in other ancient texts from around the world (including the texts known today as the Old and New Testaments of the Bible). All those ancient texts also employ celestial metaphors -- and I would argue that all of them also deal with the inner connection to the Infinite, and that they indeed can be viewed as "manuals" for connecting with the Invisible Realm.
The fact that Painted Rock is in the condition that it is in today, after surviving intact for perhaps as many as 4,000 years, shows just how relevant this struggle between the two competing "visions" still remains, right up to this very day.
Below is an image (which I made during my visit in August 2015 using a panoramic feature on an ordinary iPad) of the area where the panels of rock art depicted by Campbell Grant are located:
The section with the "reaching arm" (which I believe is the Tail of Scorpio) can be seen at the top left portion of the above image, just above the long horizontal crack-line. The panels to the right of that, where the "blue box" that I added to the Campbell Grant illustration is located for example, are now almost completely obliterated.
My interpretations of the images in the blue box and purple box:
1. Blue box: The main figures, with the stars above their heads, are almost certainly the Twins of Gemini. The two stars are the stars we call Castor and Pollux. The "linked arms" of the Twins in the rock art is extremely reminiscent of the constellations in the sky.
To the left of the Twins in the sky (for viewers in the northern hemisphere) is the "Little Dog" or Canis Minor, with a bright star Procyon. This may be the little "Y-shaped" dog-bone figure to the left of the image in the blue box of the rock art.
The two big circles that I believe to be two bright stars below Gemini are probably Betelgeuse (on the left in the image) and Aldebaran (darker and not as big). The other possibility is Sirius (instead of Betelgeuse) and Aldebaran.
2. The "running forward" and falling or tipping-forward figure, with wavy water-lines coming out of his gut-region, is almost certainly Aquarius. You can even see something like his "Water Jug" in the image, not far from his outstretched arm. In the night sky, he seems to be running the other direction, but the ancient artist obviously chose to have Aquarius running towards the right in this image.
The "crossed legs" at the lower part of the Lizard are probably the Fishes of Pisces (the feet themselves might be the two Fishes themselves, which in the sky are actually shaped like ovals and not really much like fish). The space between the knees of the Lizard, colored-in in white by the ancient artist (or at least by Campbell Grant in this painting, which he based upon old photographs), is almost certainly meant to indicate the Great Square of Pegasus.
These additional celestial identifications help confirm that what we are looking at in the Painted Rock is a sophisticated ancient site using celestial metaphor, probably as symbolic of the realm of spirit (as is common for celestial allegory literally around the globe, from ancient Egypt to other parts of Africa and China and Japan and Siberia and to ancient Greece and to the Norse people of Scandinavia and as far south as Australia).
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 17-Mar-16 21:50 by dwm.