|Opinions are divided on the location of the Mi'kmaq "Beginning Gap." There would be no Lnu without Commencement Day, when Kji Niskam, "The Great Spirit" empowered Naku'set, "The Sun," and arranged the creation of Wsitqamu'k, "The World" the portion deeded to the Mi'kmaq. Their culture hero Kluscap is sometimes credited with freeing the first spirit of humans from two species of tree, initially rooted in the ground. Kisu'lk:
Time had commenced, "You are created!" This interjection of surprise is
sometimes used as an alternate name for the timeless Creator.
|Amkwesewasakgma is regarded as the first female elder of the amkwesewa, the "elder ones," progenitors of the so-called el-people of Atlantic Canada, who occupied Nova Scotia before the Mi'kimaq. She emerged from the Ghost or Spirit World.|
There was a woman, long long ago
She came out of a hole.
In it dead people were buried.
She made her house in a tree;
She was dressed in leaves,
All long ago.
This tale was sung to Mrs. Wallace Brown and passed on to Charles Leland, who included it in The Algonquian Legends of New England (1884). Images of the old and young Clovis woman are recent physical reconstructions based on human remains found in South America and Mexico. The bones of humans have survived in those dry climates, but not in the north east where the climate has often been wet and acidic.
These Elder Folk have come to be known as the Clovis Culture.This is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian group, named for distinct stone tools found in close association with Pleistocene fauna at Blackwater near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s. The Clovis point is bifacial and typically fluted on both sides. Archaeologists do not agree on whether the widespread presence of these artifacts indicates the proliferation of a single people.
Kiskasit.The Old Ones" were doomed as that blind child may have predicted.That Micmac word indicates "gone in a flash!" That may be entirely appropriate in the case of their Nova Scotian antecedents.
This illustration undoubtedly romanticized a hard life style which ended suddenly with the "Younger Dryas Event" which was not restricted to the Americas. The Clovis people are remembered in oral history confirmed in part by modern sciences. This recent dating of the happening indicates some sort of doomsday scenario.
"Before the earth was new, the sun (personifying the Great Spirit) was all that existed in the great universe. The sun divided the earth into several parts separated by many great lakes. In each part he caused one man and one woman to be born." However, the Mi'kmaq universe held other levels of existence according to their songs and rock carvings. Some formidable organic and inorganic "Persons" inhabited their six mythic worlds, some spirit helpers, others not. There were crossroads between the worlds, which is why guardians were assigned to hold back unwanted intrusions into Earth World. Quote from The Old Man Told Us, by Ruth Holmes Whitehead
Only the Mn'tu'k possessed the "Power" to move easily through gateways such as this, and inhabit all six worlds. The related word m'ntu indicates a "devil" pointing to the fact that while they usually travelled as disembodied spirits they could take any form that pleased them. It is said that "The world shimmer with their presence."
The Mi'kmaq have said that in theory these other world were intended to house a variety of not always agreeable creatures. The giants "covered with hair" were said to crave human flesh. The heroic Kluscap supposedly chased them back into their underground reserve at Canoose in Rod's home county, but "sometimes they come back." The diminutive Mi-kmwesu'k are considered to be people who have gained magical abilities through the Power of introspection.
At his departure, after the formation of Wabenaki or Abenaki confederation, Kluscap is said to have reminded the seven chiefs of their duty to maintain peace and order in their domains. The sky people were known to assume human form, and animals are thought to have originated in a world above earth. Humanoid creatures inhabited the deep, and none of these races were seen as generally threatening. However the Horned Serpent People who swam through stone as easily as water were problematic as were nature-spirits, which at best were amoral forces for good or ill.
One account identifies him as Wokwotonook " a giant who controlled the north wind of winter. A kukwees, he was also entitled the "Lord of the Northern Mountains." It is said that when this wind spirit was at his most destructive men hid in the caves of the earth or took refuge beneath the evergreens of the inner forest. Wokwotoonok often plotted with the giants Kesik, "Winter: and Wastewt'k "Frost" hoping to eliminate Kluscap’s people, but he was thwarted by the Fire-spirit and the goddess of Summer who allied themselves with men. Leland described the Winter creature as sitting “on a great rock at the end of day. And it is because he moves his wings that the wind blows.” He was described as “the grandfather of men,” but he had little interest in them, so Glooscap “tied both his wings,” and thus diminished his potential. Giant men and birds? Mi'kmaq petroglyphs indicate that their ancestors thought they might be real.
He is suspect in bringing down the Elder race of men when they tried to escape flood waters.
Elsewhere in North America figures like this are identified as symbolizing Flight and Death. Facial features are never portrayed in such engravings, which can be a metaphor for the two aspects of the shaman, the left figure perhaps indicating his ability to fly and the right his death-like trance. More simply, these figures could represent ghosts of the dead, were-beings or other inhabitants of that lifeless place beneath the world of men. Inverted forms like these empty triangles indicate catastrophe, sickness, bleeding or death. The empty triangles in the chest areas signify the heartless or bloodless condition. Kluscap was decidedly a shaman and a giant!
At Kedjimkujik the hand of a visiting shaman engraved in slate. An earlier inverted drawing (right) shows an eight-pointed star in the palm and a right-handed spiral on the thumb.The traced hand-print was child-sized and healer was described as "a little man."
Petroglyphs are are rock pictures of people, animals, hunting and fishing parties and abstract symbols which may have had instructive or practical magic applications.
Many rock carvings can be found along the rocky shores of the lakes and rivers of Kejimkujik National Park (left) along the Medway River and McGowan Lake (right), in southwest Nova Scotia.
At McGowan Lake near Keji, the petroglyphs have been underwater since the construction of hydroelectric dam in the 1940's, and have been protected from vandalism and weather by the water covering them and have been preserved much better than the ones at Kejimkujik. Note many co-joined scrolls on this hard-rock.
These slate images are not resistant to erosion and weathering and most are considered to have been created in the post-European contact period (1607 in Nova Scotia). Is it a star?
Henri Membertou was the sakmow (Grand Chief) of the Mi'kmaq First Nations tribe situated near Port Royal, site of the first French settlement in Acadia,(see above map). Originally sakmow of the Kespukwitk district, he was appointed as Grand Chief by the sakmowk of the other six districts. His exact date of birth is not known. However, Membertou claimed to be a grown man when he first met Jacques Cartier, which would mean that he was probably born in the early years of the sixteenth century. He died in 1611 possibly at the age of 104. Not also the spirals decorating that canoe as well as the decorative medallion as imagined in this illustration for a Canadian postage stamp.
This Kedji petrograph is accepted as a sun symbol and has generated a proposed national flag for the Mikimaq. They say those seven peripheral bumps represent the original seven Sakamowit (Districts) of Míkmákik . The crosses, which predate Christianity, are the original seven Sakamow (District Leaders). They note that central figures combine the Nakúset (the Sun) withTepkunaset (Moon). Together, they Represent Kisúlkw (The Creator). Traditional belief holds that the People were born of Mother Earth, however in the eighteenth century prayers were directed to the Sun and the Moon, acknowledging a sexual partnership in the creation of the cosmos.
Ruth Holmes Whitehead was told that is was a starfish and there is a local species with eight arms. However, as she notes " "Sun and Earth and Moon are ancestors of the People." Symbols may have several meanings. " Oh how great O moon is thy goodness... supplying the place of the father of the day. Next to him thou has concurred to make us spring out of the earth we inhabited from the first ages, We are thy children, beautiful spouse of the sun."
"The father of day cannot fail us. We are thy children. We know no origin except your rays given us when you impregnated the earth. You caused us to grow out of it like herbs and trees and are equally our common father." Star or sun symbol? Probably both! And the source image?
Google Street Maps can help you find Barrens Street, Bedford, in Halifax County. There are a lot of hard rock petroglyphs there believed carved with pre-contact tools. Among them this one. The enclosing circle represents the notions of totality, wholeness, original perfection, the Self, the infinite, eternity, timelessness, and all cyclic movement. Internally it is even more interesting. Note that there is a spiral at re centre of this design.
Doubled spirals are not seen in the petroglyph.
Mike Mcdonald believes that the petroglyph may recapitulate a traditional native tale.
This particular image is incised in in quartzite. As freelance journalist Jon Tattrie has said, "The meaning of the art is up for interpretation – it might have been a guide post, or a representation of the sky at a certain time of the year, or something not yet realized." This wilderness area within a subdivision has been declared a National Historic Site. In 1997, a Tripartite Forum began to address preservation of these faint images. The forum consists of 13 Mi’kmaq chiefs in Nova Scotia,as well as representatives of the provincial and federal governments.
Currently this and other petroglphs are poorly protected from the weather and defacement. The above video still shows an interpretative sign from a trail system established there. Tim Bernard, co-chair of the Tripartite Culture and Heritage Committee has noted that the footpath currently diverts walkers away from many of the petroglyphs. This is to prevent casual hikers from walking on the carvings while conservation measures are explored.
Whatever the age of this cutting, the design has been popular in the production of tourist goods since the 1800s. The Mi'kmaq are convinced that the design is very antique and connected with the 13,000-year human history in the area, deliberately forgotten in favour of the more recent European invasive history. Mi’kmaq people (or their distant relatives) arrived here at a time when the original Britons migrated to Great Britain. Bernard has said, “No longer can we pretend that the petroglyphs are not there. It’s sacred and significant (ground) to the Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia.” Scientists have supported the notion that religious activities were conducted on the barrens.
A highway system links Debert and with Chibookt the name given the Beford barrens in earlier times. At that time, inland rivers including the Shubenacadie and Sackville allowed canoe passage between these districts. The southern location was even then "a stopping point" for those travelling to the Atlantic coast. It is recorded that in 1747 Amtoukati (Pleasant Park, Halifax), was the annual site of a spring festival held seven days after May’s first new moon. Note the location of Middleton, which enters this story at the time of the Great Hiatus.
There are currently 27 public museums in Nova Scotia, none devoted to representing Mi'kamq culture. Descriptive panels are a first step.Bernard's group is attempting to develop an interpretive centre in Debert and would like to see the Bedford Petroglyphs come out of the shadows. “The answer is not to dig it up and put it in a museum – that’s not why it was put there. From a Mi’kmaw perspective, we’re going to celebrate what’s there; we’re going to share what’s there. It points to inclusion – that’s all we’re asking for, just to be included in the bigger picture. We want to tell our own story.”
It takes a great deal of good luck and ingenuity to get a photographic representation of this petroglyph. In nature there are many examples of spiral design. In mathematics, a spiral is a curve which emanates from a point, moving farther away as it revolves around the point. In some cases, clockwise and counter-clockwise spirals appear co-jointly, but the Bedford spiral is singular and dexter rather than sinister. Which is to say, it expands in a sunwise or right-handed direction. Spiral shapes, including the triskele and swastika, and more complex designs have been interpreted as solar symbols.
The study of spirals in nature has had a long history. Christopher Wren observed that many shells form a logarithmic spiral. Spirals in plants and animals are frequently described as whorls. This is also the name given to spiral shaped fingerprints. The Mi'kmaq people could not have overlooked natural three-dimensional spirals.
Here is another Keji petroglyph showing a starry sky. That word identifies an individual star and the closest of these are illustrated as five-pointed objects. In the distance, a two-dimensional representation of the three-dimensional Milky Way.
Here, seen from space, is The Milky Way galaxy that contains our Solar System. The descriptive is derived from the appearance from Earth of the galaxy as represented in a suerimposed photo taken at Keji. Individual starts are so distant they cannot be individually discerned. This is an example of two right-winged spiral entities, real twisted sisters. Interestingly Kluscap is sometimes represented as having an evil twin named Malsum who he killed in battle. There is, of course, a Black Hole at the centre of our galaxy
There are varieties of spiral but the .Fibonacci sequence is the one which regularly crops up in nature and is seen at the centre of that Eight-legged Starfish in Bedford. Biologists have long suspected that the three-dimensional branching of trees and other occurrences of the Fibonacci sequence in nature is simply a reaction to minimize stress and reduce strain resulting in damage to the structure or organism. In 2007, Zexian Cao and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences used stress engineering to create different-shaped microstructures suggesting this was a correct hypothesis.
This eighteenth-century ceremonial coat shows the use of spirals as decorations carrying implicit meaning for the Mi'kmaq of this time. The Woodtock Micmacs have a presence at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton and explain these lituuus-like spirals as representing the life of an individual. This being the case, the beginning point of the two spirals mark alpha and omega. Life emerges from the womb at left takes its spirit walk on earth and becomes submergent in the counter-clockwise spiral. This simplified drawing is carried a bit further on the coat where the ups- and- downs of existence seem suggested. Some analysts see the reflected double spiral as indicating the World Below Water, others describe it as a symbol of "Power through Unity." Everyone may be right!
The Hopi Indians define a similar structure as a symbol of "Strength." American artist N.C. Wyeth who created the base illustration used the Golden Spiral as a guide to this painting. In Mi'kmaq cosmology, the right-handed spiral is associated with birth, emergence and renewal, while the left-handed one carries connotations of death, submergence and loss. Since the spiral central to the Bedford petroglyph rotates with the sun it probably connotates cosmic beginnings with the Sun being central to that tale.
Then again, perhaps the "Old Star Man" is central to their Spiral of Creation. This is the Pole Star, also known as Mouchinchick, the "Great Bear." The Little Bears are supposed to be pursing hunters, "but they have not yet bee able to overtake it. He is "the one who seldom blinks," seemingly immobile in the sky. Since all other stars wheeled about it in subservience it was sometimes seen as personifying the Creator. The above Kiji petrograph suggests that the Mi'kmaq had space visitors, star men whom carried off two young maidens but returned them when they evidenced loneliness for their own kind. As for reaching space, that was the business of Fire Birds, who Kluscap had employed to bring animals, "who had once been stars" to earth. The Milky Way was their path.
We fly over the sky.
Our light is a voice.
We make a road for spirits,
For spirits to pass over,
Among us are three hunters
Who chase a bear;
There was a time when they were not hunting.
We look down from the mountains,
This is the Song of the Stars.
We are not able to fully comprehend the idea that stars may be men, "young and handsome or old and wrinkled." They also literally comprise the spirit road. They are quantum creatures, shape- and time-changers. The tricky thing about them is that they may suddenly change their mind and they are amoral. Everything in the six worlds was mutable "in shape,in mind...the universe is unpredictable and unreliable in a European sense."
A pipe bowl showing animals of the Land Beneath Earth. A tale of the Elder Days concerns harsh weather and death. A shaman, unsuccessful in the hunt shaves off his own flesh, magically enlarges it and presents it as "game" to feed his family. His wife discovering this. leaves his wigwam for the underworld hoping to relocate, or in some matter better supply their needs.
The children follow their mother into the worm hole, and the husband also takes enters this crossroad to other worlds. In the adventures that follow, the magician is not united with his family but after killing "The Great White Bear" finds a better hunting ground.
The Gou Gou, Goo Goo, Ku Ku or Kukwees, also known as the Canoose may have been relatives of Kluscap although he claimed that he had accidentally blasted a open a gate between their world and tat of men. Linguistic scholar John Lingley says that this clan was the issue of Khulu, a companion of Glooscap who could "pass along under the surface of the ground, making things shake and tremble..." Gou gou is a word which is at once a personification of the screech of an owl, a child and moving earth.
There was an easy way of becoming a shape changing rock borer and ground rutter. One might lie in one of their tracks and become one of this kind, but the change was irreversible.
The Mi'kmaq were usually wary of this sea and rock dwellers and only their most adept magicians were able to oppose them. All of these traditional legendary and mythical beasts seemed to have aligned themselves against the Elder People centuries before the Mi'kmaq became residents of Nova Scotia.
The elder races of men at first prospered in separate enclaves divided from one another by great lakes. They lived very long lives by current standards but the sun-god took umbrage at their bad behaviour, which is never specified but apparently had to do with murder. It was said that "the Sun wept with grief..."
According to Bob Berman, NOAA scientists have now concluded that four factors determined that global temperatures are controlled by carbon dioxide levels, volcanic eruptions, Pacific El Niño pattern, and the Sun’s activity. Times of depressed solar activity seem to correspond with times of global cold. Between 1645 and 1715 during what we now call the “Maunder Minimum,” there were only about 50 sunspots (instead of the usual 40 to 50 thousand!) and harsh winters. For 70 years, temperatures were 1.8 to 2.7 degrees below normal Fahrenheit. Precipitation problems
Only the followers of Sebanees survived and not by climbing a tree, although that when animated can be another gateway to the sky, or through roots, to the under worlds.
It is claimed that the Triassic Red sands of Prince Edward Island were carried there in the frozen water of that ice-boat. Further, the el-people are said to have called that land Ookchiktoolnoo, "our great boat." Impossible?
Some very big bones date from the Clovis Period and there have been some fairly recent glacial scourings.
First the good news: About 14,680 years ago an immensely cold period ended and climate changed in a single decade. Mean and average temperatures climbed until about 11,000 years ago, when there was rapid cooling, a situation that persisted for about 1,500 years. This was a negative situation for much of the world's plant and animal life.
In the end warmth was restored and the Sun strengthened.
B.C.E., "Before the Common Era" is the socially correct substitute for B.C. "Before Christ." Today there are three, hypotheses and like Mi'kmaq mythology all these ideas may be correct in some measure.
The only certainty is that Nova Scotia (red dot) was not inhabited by any human life form during the height of the last continental glacial episode, which lasted for a very long time. A thousand metres of ice is still quite detrimental to any form of life now seen on earth. The last glacial maximum is inset. Growth of the ice sheets reached their maximum at 24,500 BP. Deglaciation commenced in the Northern Hemisphere between 18,000 and 17,000 BP, and in Antarctica at 12,500 BP, which is consistent with evidence that this event was the primary source for an abrupt rise in the sea level in about 12,500 BP. Next: A look at the nature of the local landscape, fora and fauna, and the elder people, who moved in to take advantage of its natural resources.