Stepping-Stone Islands to the New World
One stepping-stone on this monumental journey may have been the remote South Pacific islands of Fiji. About 475 miles northwest of Tongatapu, Fiji is the location where a highly secretive youth-initiation and fertility ritual called Baki was once held.1 Because the Hopi language does not recognize the sound of the letter ‘b’, the word paki serves as a near homonym. Coincidentally, this Hopi word means “entered,” “started being initiated,” or to ”enter a kiva to be initiated or to participate in an esoteric ceremony.” In addition, Yabaki in the language of Fiji means “year,” while the Hopi word with the same meaning is yahsangw, sharing the identical prefix.2
One of a number of walled sites where Fijian boys would enter manhood was called a “naga” or “nanaga.” In this regard, David H. Childress states that “...one of the ancient races of Southeast Asia is the Nagas, a seafaring race of people who traded in their ‘Serpent Boats’ similar to the Dragon ships of the Vikings.”3 Here we can see a resemblance to the Aztecan “Quetzals,” i.e., Quetzalcóatls, and the Hopian Tsu’ngyam, or Snake Clan. The Nagas originated in India and established religious centers and even cities throughout the country, including the Kingdom of Kashi on the Ganges, Kashmir to the north, and Nagpur in central India. In addition, the Nagas inhabited the great metropolitan centers of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa in the Indus River Valley. Author and independent researcher Mark Amaru Pinkham comments: “In the nearby city-state of Lothal the Nagas founded a port city on the Arabian Sea which carried on frequent trade with Dragon Empires around the world while using a universal currency of cowries.”4 As masters of arcane wisdom and sorcery, the Nagas bequeathed to Mesoamerica among other things the concept of the nagual, which is too complex to deal with here but is thoroughly delineated in the popular series of books by Carlos Castaneda that detail his tutelage with the Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan Matus.
It is possible that the Nagas were the Snake People whom Tiyo met on his epic journey from the Colorado River to somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.5 The Hopi word nga’at means “medicine root,” referring to the healing or magical properties of a plant’s water source.6 In this context it is significant to note that the vegetal root is both chthonic and morphologically snake-like. The related term nakwa refers to “...feather(s) or some other object on a string worn as a headdress or to signify the wearer has a particular role for the duration of a religious function.”7 The ritual aspect of this plumage suggests the feathered aspect of the serpent. Another related term, Na-ngasohu, is the name of the Chasing Star (or Planet) Katsina. (Nanga means “to pursue” and sohu means “star.”) This katsina (kachina) wears a Plains-style eagle feather headdress. The Hopi word “Naka” is a proper name referring to a late 19th century chief of the Katsina Clan, whose traditional duty was to direct the Bean Dance at the February Powamu, or purification ceremony.8 His name is related to naqvu’at, which means “ear.” Finally, the Hopi noun nàaqa refers to “ear pendant, earring” frequently made of abalone.9
It is plausible that this type of jewelry was originally worn for the purpose of respectful mimicry rather than mere adornment. In this regard Childress describes the so-called Long Ears: “As tall, bearded navigators of the world, they were probably a combination of Egyptian, Libyan, Phoenician, Ethiopian, Greek and Celtic sailors in combination with Indo-Europeans from the Indian subcontinent. According to Polynesian legend, these sailors also have the famous ‘long ears’ that are well known on both Rapa Nui and Rarotonga.”10
The renowned mariner, archaeologist, and scholar Thor Heyerdahl states that the ruling families of the Incas in Peru artificially lengthened their earlobes in order to distinguish themselves vis-à-vis their subjects.11 (An earmark indeed! Perhaps the frequent depiction in drawings and sculptures of Buddha having very long earlobes is also no coincidence.) The late South African author James Bailey, who believed this ruling class was comprised of Aryan and Semitic peoples originating from the Indus River Valley, comments upon Heyerdahl’s extensive work on Easter Island: “He showed that there lived on Easter Island the survivors of two distinct populations; the long-ears, a fair or red-headed European people who used to stretch their ear-lobes with wooden plugs so that they reached down to their shoulders and a Polynesian group of conventional Polynesian type, with natural ears. The first people had been known on the island as ‘long ears’, the second people as ‘short-ears.’”12
The Long Ears supposedly attained an average height of six-and-a-half feet, and had white skin and red hair. This resonates with the curious Hopi claim that its Patki Clan (Water or Houseboat Clan) was originally Caucasian. It is also curious that the war-like Fire Clan, who lived with the Snake Clan at Betatakin, an ancestral Hopi ruin in northern Arizona, were known by the sobriquet “redheads.” The tall, long-eared statues of Easter Island called the Moai, some with red topknots, were carved apparently to represent these characteristics.
Due to the Long Ears’ imperious control of the Short Ears, however, the latter finally revolted and exterminated all but one of their oppressors. This single survivor was allowed to marry a Short Ear, and as a result the couple’s descendants inhabit the island even today.13 Noting the ear-plugs worn by certain tribes of Tanzania, Bailey comments on the ubiquity of this Long Ear artifact: “The ear-plug is itself symptomatic of contact with sea-people and I believe has a common origin all over the world, wherever it is found.”14 Although rare in the American Southwest, at least one example of a ring-type earplug carved from schist has been found in some Hohokam ruins near the present-day Phoenix metropolis.15
Childress briefly summarizes Heyerdahl’s overall theory of a global maritime culture: “Heyerdahl believes that a race of seafarers that used reed boats and worshipped the sun once ranged the entire world. He cites such reed boat centers as Tiahuanaco and Chan Chan in South America, Easter Island, Lothal and the coastal cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Morocco as centers for this world-wide trading culture.”16
Not only do we find artifacts common to both desert and maritime people, but we also can identify related themes in myths from disparate cultures. For instance, the distinguished scholar Cyrus H. Gordon relates the incredible narrative (written in the first part of the second millennium BC) of an Egyptian sailor ship-wrecked upon the “island of Ka.” Some scholars believe it was once somewhere in the Red Sea or Indian Ocean in the region of Punt (Somaliland?), although it may have been located in Sundaland between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Abounding in beautiful birds as well as delicious fruits, vegetables, and fish, this paradise was ruled by a giant serpent 45 feet (“thirty cubits”) long with gold plated skin, lapis lazuli eyebrows, and a beard extending three feet (“two cubits”) in length. The word Ka, incidentally, refers to the Egyptian concept of the etheric double, or doppelganger. Food offerings were made to a statuette of one’s Ka, which is something like our notion of a guardian angel or alter ego.
After this Serpent King had threatened to incinerate the sailor if he remained silent, the latter told how a fierce storm had driven him and his crew to that distant island. In turn, subsequent to describing his brethren and children, which numbered a total of seventy-three including himself, the sovereign serpent stated: “Then a star fell and these (serpents) went forth in the flame it produced. It chanced I was not with them when they were burned. I was not among them (but) I just about died for them, when I found them as one corpse.” Before he allowed the sailor to depart in his boat loaded with myrrh and other fine spices, giraffe tails, elephant tusks, and monkeys, the Serpent King made the following curious remark: “It will happen that when you depart from this place, this island will never be seen again, for it will become water.”17
Whether or not this serpent had long ears, the tale does not say, but we are perhaps witnessing another instance of the legendary Nagas. Added to the serpentine motif, one theme particularly redolent of Atlantis or Mu is contained in this fabulous story: an Edenic island suddenly disappears beneath the waves due to some celestial cataclysm that destroys many lives. Do the Hopi myth of Tiyo’s journey to the Island of Snakes and the Egyptian myth of the anonymous sailor’s journey to the Island of Ka have a common source? We probably will never know for certain.
Likewise, we can only speculate on the significance of the 73 serpents described in the latter myth. Encoded therein might be what is called a precessional number, about which astronomically astute navigators were probably aware. Because of the phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, the stars of the zodiac rising on the eastern horizon on the first days of spring and fall shift backwards (from Pisces to Aquarius, for instance) one degree every 72 years due to the precession, or wobble, of the Earth’s axis. In the Egyptian tale the Serpent King’s relatives—72 of them—were destroyed by some sort of falling asterism. Hence, the “skyscape,” or sidereal configuration, that the people had known for roughly a lifetime or more was destroyed as well, only to be replaced by a slightly altered one.
To believe that so-called “primitives” would not have had the sophisticated knowledge or observational skills to recognize the one-degree difference is in effect to take the mainstream isolationist’s stance that early civilizations were technologically incapable of navigating across great stretches of ocean. All of the myths of those civilizations, however, clearly point to the opposite, i.e., to the diffusionist’s stance.
Put simply, cultural diffusionism proposes that ancient people got around on foot or by boat a lot more than commonly assumed—around the world, in fact. This theory posits that a free flow of trade goods and cultural motifs globally existed in the early Neolithic period or perhaps even beforehand. During the 20th century anthropologists and archaeologists, many of them tenured or supported by universities, had suggested that the diffusionist theory, which prevailed in the last part of the previous century, is inherently racist. The theory, they said, implies that Caucasians had bestowed the benefits of civilization on the “darker” races in order to bring them toward the light. Proposing an alternative isolationist theory, this Columbus-was-first crowd described a scenario of scattered, provincial tribes of Native Americans going it alone the best way they could on a sparsely populated continent.
I am not by any means suggesting that an elite corps of Old World Whites came to “save” the scattered bands of “savage” Native Americans, thereby allowing the latter to flourish (before, paradoxically, accomplishing almost total cultural genocide in the 16th through the 19th centuries). This scenario denigrates both cultures, assigning spurious attributes to each: an inherently monolithic imperialism to the former and an evolutionary inferiority to the latter. In short, this is racism at its worst.
What I am saying is that the collective ingenuity of the peoples of North and South America together with those of Oceania allowed them to sail to distant lands in very early times, while the peoples of Europe and Asia used the same sort of collective ingenuity in order to make landfall on equally distant lands. The astronomical and navigational skills possessed by serpent seafarers from all parts of the globe must have been the common currency of the day.
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