Spirits Identified at Stone Structure Sites
By Mary Gage
Spirits are invisible living beings found in rivers, water, fire, crystals, stone, under the ground, above in the sky, associated with a cardinal direction, animals and people. This list only refers to known spirits involved with stone structure sites. There are many more in the Native American’s spiritual world. Each spirit has been given a name defined by the substance, object or place it was found. The names may or may not be what the Native American called each spirit.
Stone Spirit(s) and Stones
Stone sometimes has it own spirit and other times, does not have its own spirit. Stone was used to carve other spirits into it in the form of petroglyphs thereby placing a particular spirit in the stone. In that case, the stone became the bird, river, or turtle spirit, whatever was carved on to its surface. Special “pebble” stones were personal spirit stones with their own spirit. Some stones were made into ornaments such as gorgets without images. Were these ornaments endowed with a spirit? Cairns are stone features made up of multiple stones. Some cairns are endowed with a specific spirit such as Spirit-of-the-People. Other cairns were used to contain a spirit called into the feature. Still other cairns were built to make an offering using stone. Offerings carried messages to spirits. Bedrock is a conduit to the Underworld and the Underworld Spirit. Quartz as a stone was used in the capacity of protection to block out uninvited spirits. Extra large boulders also protected by blocking out uninvited spirits but were also used to contain spirits within a structure. Stone was a building material. Chambers, enclosures, niches, spirit portals, and alignments are all made out of stone and associated with spirits. Mortars, hearths and fire pits are associated with food. The fire starter kit made up of two stones creates fire which is endowed with its own spirit. Stone bowls are known to have a spirit. This places spirits present within the realm of food. As tool making material it was invaluable. Projectile points killed animals and their inherent spirit. Each stone whether it had its own spirit, was turned into another spirit or did not have its own spirit was in some way was always associated with spirits.
Underworld Spirit is the main or dominant spirit of the Underworld. As the main spirit it regulates the Underworld and its other spirits like Spring Water Spirit, who give the people drinking water. It had another role as host spirit to Sun Spirit and Moon Spirit who entered the Underworld as guest spirits for periodic stays. Underworld Spirit was a benevolent spirit that was embraced by the Native Americans. When ceremonies with the Moon Spirit and Sun Spirit entering Underworld were introduced, the Underworld Spirit was called upon to interact with the people. This was done in preparation ceremonies. Much later the spirit was given its own main ceremony. The presence of the Underworld Spirit is denoted by split stone without stone fill in association with a cairn or other feature, split stone with fill, and recessed and dark recessed spaces inside and on exteriors of chambers which are Underworld spirit portals where the spirit had access to exit the Underworld. Pedestal and partially pedestal boulders are also Underworld spirit portals.
Sun Spirit was placed in two different types of roles. At Gungywamp Sun Spirit is the main spirit of a main ceremony. The main ceremony is an equinox sunset ceremony. At America’s Stonehenge the Sun Spirit was introduced after the two main ceremonies for the summertime event had been established. In this case, Sun Spirit is a supporting spirit. It regulates the day, summer solstice on which the main ceremonies are held. A sunrise alignment is set up to call Sun Spirit on to the site to participate in a preparation ceremony prior to the two main ceremonies. Later a winter solstice sunset ceremony is added to balance the summer solstice event. In this latter case, the Sun Spirit becomes the main focus and therefore the main spirit of the main ceremony. But the winter solstice ceremony never takes on the importance of the summer solstice ceremony. It is a ceremony to assist the spirit not to interact with either spirit who participates. Underworld Spirit also participated as host spirit. A similar scenario is evident at the spring equinox sunrise that was added circa 1900 B.P. At the spring equinox event they added preparation ceremonies in which some of the spirits interacted with the people but not Sun Spirit, as it had not yet returned from Underworld. The winter and spring ceremonies are secondary ceremonies to bring the site into balance. They are the main ceremony of each particular day but not the main ceremonies of the site which are held on the summer solstice.
At Gungywamp in southeastern Connecticut Moon Spirit and Sun Spirit participate in ceremonies that assist each spirit in moving from one world to another world. These are the main ceremonies on which the site was established. America’s Stonehenge was established with a Rain Water Spirit & Crystal Spirit Ceremony and a Spring Water Spirit Ceremony during the summertime before the summer solstice was introduced. This set a very different tone for the southeastern New Hampshire site. When the Sun Spirit ceremonies where the spirit is assisted in moving from one world to another world are introduced they are added to the main ceremonies. This placed the sun ceremonies in a secondary position. The secondary position became the preparation position in the summer solstice event. In the preparation position the Sun Spirit was invited in to interact with the people to give it equal status with the other spirits. Equality was of utmost importance to the people as it was likewise down in Connecticut. The Sun Spirit interacts in the New Hampshire site only because of the role it was placed in on the summer solstice, otherwise its role is the same as in Connecticut, a spirit who is assisted.
In three cases at America’s Stonehenge Sun Spirit was brought inside a chamber. This was done so that Sun Spirit could interact with a shaman. At the Pottie Chamber in Newton, NH approximately fifteen miles from America’s Stonehenge Sun Spirit was brought into the chamber at sunrise on the winter solstice. The chamber is C14 dated to 1100 A.D. The Pottie Chamber was in use while America’s Stonehenge was still being used and holding a mid-day sun alignment on the summer solstice inside the East-West Chamber. At that time America’s Stonehenge site was only holding a summer solstice event. The Pottie Chamber is not associated with a cairn site however there are several cairn sites within one to two miles of the chamber. What is not known is if there is any connection between the cairn sites and the chamber. The Pottie Chamber indicates another version of a sun ceremony was established as the Sun Spirit was invited inside to interact with a shaman on the winter solstice. This is a change from the previous sunset ceremony held at America’s Stonehenge where Sun Spirit left Upperworld and entered Underworld. There is no Underworld spirit portal in this chamber. It appears to function as an Outer Underworld chamber where the spirit is temporarily invited into the Underworld to participate with a shaman but not allowed to enter the Inner Underworld. This holds with the thought process seen at America’s Stonehenge post 800 A.D. At the same time it adds a new dimension to the local area’s ceremonies. The winter solstice is reintroduced but altered from its original form. It does not conflict with America’s Stonehenge as no winter ceremony was being held there at that time.
Of note at Gungywamp Sun Spirit is brought inside the Outer Underworld chamber to enter the Inner Underworld through a spirit portal where it stays for part of the year. At America’s Stonehenge no spirit ever entered the Inner Underworld within a chamber. The Outer Underworld chamber was only used to call spirits into it to interact with spirits. This is a major cultural difference between southeastern New Hampshire and Connecticut. Circa 500 A.D. to 800 A.D. a chamber was built in Burlington, Massachusetts. The builders of this chamber merged ideas from southeastern New Hampshire and Connecticut. In it Sun Spirit uses a shaft-like spirit portal to enter the Outer Underworld chamber and a v-shaped spirit portal in the interior of chamber to enter the Inner Underworld.
Sun Spirit is identified by solar alignments. Solar alignments were used as spirit portals for the spirit to enter or exit and come in many forms. Entrance and exit spirit portals are associated with ceremonial sites, and traveling between Upperworld and Underworld. The solar alignment was a transition point when the spirit was in transition and could be called forth to a ceremony and/or sent to the opposite world. Solar events occur on solstices and equinoxes. Three points in the day have been found to be used in solar alignments: sunrise, mid-day (noon), and sunset. Standing stones with specific shapes, and non-descript boulders are two types of alignment features. They were used with and without back-sighting features. Natural horizontal features were also used. Chamber alignments show up as sun beams and as small dots of light directed inside the chamber either through the main entrance, a shaft or slit in the wall. In one case, a crude stone sundial was used.
Moon Spirit has been acknowledged in pre-historic through historic periods in petroglyphs on small stones and as a “D” shape on top of a staff. At the prehistoric Gungywamp site the Moon Spirit was the main spirit of the main ceremony. It appears to be the first main ceremony to be established on the site. In the Moon Ceremony the Moon Spirit is assisted by the people in leaving Underworld where it had temporarily stayed and returned to Upperworld to the moon’s sphere where it resided. The moon’s crescent shape is depicted in each of the two rows of standing stones. (See Gungywamp Article) The location of the moon rise suggests a mid-winter (December) event. That makes the ceremony a yearly event held each mid-winter. The moon’s cycles nearly the same as our month creating a thirteen part year. In addition, the moon’s shape is constantly changing with the month long cycle on a regular basis. By comparison, the sun remains a constant sphere alternating between long and short hours of sunlight over the course of the year with one long day and one short repeated each year. In the middle are two days with equal night & day. They are two different calendar systems for the year.
North Spirit so far has only been found at America’s Stonehenge. It is represented by an open-L spirit portal on top corner of a standing stone. The fact the standing stone is lined up on true north is the evidence of the existence of this spirit. North Spirit is the main/dominant spirit of Upperworld. Its role at the site was as host spirit. At the Winter Water Ceremony the spirit was invited to the ceremony as host of Upperworld to Spring Water Spirit. Inside the Oracle Chamber North Spirit interacted with a shaman in a preparation ceremony on the spring equinox in preparation of Sun Spirit’s return to Upperworld.
Fire Spirit is evidenced by hearths or fire pits in direct relationship to ceremonial structures or features. This spirit has shown up at Gungywamp circa 1350 A.D. at enclosure in North Complex with Moon Ceremony and America’s Stonehenge circa 100 A.D. at lodge with Spring Equinox Sunrise Ceremony. At Gungywamp Fire Spirit assisted in the opening up of the new complex and revised Moon Ceremony. It possibly sent a message to Upperworld. On a yearly basis Fire Spirit assisted the Moon Spirit during the main ceremony at the lodge. At America’s Stonehenge Spring Equinox Sunrise Ceremony the Fire Spirit assisted Sun Spirit to return to the sun’s sphere while it was low in the sky prior to formally returning to Upperworld also at a lodge. Later circa 1250 B.P. (700 A.D.) Fire Spirit was asked to carry a message to Upperworld by being placed in front of the North Stone spirit portal during the drought. Fire Spirit was from and in Middleworld who has the ability to rise upward into Upperworld.
In each case, Fire Spirit assists. It assisted the people by carrying messages to Upperworld and it assisted Moon Spirit and Sun Spirit by guiding each spirit to its respective sphere in the Upperworld. The Connecticut site and the New Hampshire site although hundreds of miles apart parallel each other in their use of this spirit.
Bird Spirit is recognized by pictographs and petroglyphs. They are rare. Only one has been found at a stone structure site. It is at Gungywamp. Bird Spirit was called upon to assist Moon Spirit when it returned to the moon’s sphere. Bird Spirit is an Upperworld spirit, who is active at the junction of Middleworld and Upperworld. This trait allows the spirit to assist another spirit (Moon Spirit) in transitioning from Middleworld to Upperworld.
Bird Spirit is not to be confused with the Thunderbird symbol. Bird Spirit appears as an image of an ordinary bird.
People like everything in the world have a spirit. People’s spirit can be individual or a collective group. Spirit-of-the-People (collective group) is the main/dominant spirit of Middleworld. This was identified at America’s Stonehenge (America’s Stonehenge Deciphered). At the America’s Stonehenge site a natural event took place during the springtime when rain water with Rain Water Spirit overflowed the wetlands pool and sent the rain water down to the wetlands area where the water and spirit seeped into the ground. The act of seeping into the ground was looked upon as Rain Water Spirit entering the Underworld where it transitions into Spring Water Spirit and spring water. At this site a spirit traveling from one world to another always was accompanied by a host spirit. Rain Water Spirit in the wetlands pool was in Middleworld. So it was appropriate for Spirit-of-the-People of Middleworld to be the host spirit. A dilemma arouse because the people could not know the exact day the event would occur. To make sure Spirit-of-the-People was present at the event without people actually being there a stone feature was created to represent the collective people’s spirit. The feature was a stone cairn with stones placed on a base stone. The base stone acted like an enclosure to contain the people’s collective spirit contained in the individual stones placed in the cairn. The Spirit-of-the-People cairn was a permanent feature with a permanent spirit. Spirit-of-the-People therefore were always there day or night to as host spirit to assist Rain Water Spirit when it chose to enter Underworld. At a later version of the springtime event individual stone cairns placed on the ground were used as temporary structures to hold spirits from each group of people. The spirit(s) traveled from the cairn on a base stone over to the ground cairns and back afterwards. At a still later version some of the cairns in the cairn field in the northwest section appear to be Spirit-of-the-People cairns possibly used as permanent containment of individual groups of people spirits.
Spirit-of-the-People was also represented by either individual people or individual groups in a petroglyph on a tablet found inside a chamber. The tablet has odd marks that appear to represent individuals or individual groups. The cupule stone was another means of representation and used to call forth individual groups of Spirit-of-the-People. One other representation was used. To make a link with the North Spirit the Spirit-of-the-People was represented by a raised mark on the North Stone. North Spirit and Spirit-of-the-People participated together in a preparation ceremony which was the reason for the link. The mark was a wedge shape repeated six times on the wall of the Oracle Chamber.
Spirit-of-the-People of Middleworld is a spirit who assists. It assists spirits who are in Middleworld to transition to either Upperworld or Underworld. Spirit-of-the-People is a spirit with diverse and unusual representation. For a complete write up on the various representations see America’s Stonehenge Deciphered.
Crystals have been found in burials and in archaeological context at Native American sites. They are considered to have ceremonial connotations. At America’s Stonehenge Crystal Spirit was one of the main spirits upon which the site was established. At this site Crystal Spirit worked in unison with Rain Water Spirit. The two spirits co-mingled to become one spirit. Crystal Spirit and crystals were so sacred they never left the site, when the site closed the crystals were reburied in the crystal well above the geode from whence they were mined for ceremonies. Crystal Spirit was able to participate in a preparation ceremony prior to the main ceremony because it was present at the ceremonial complex. In the preparation ceremony the Crystal Spirit interacted with the shaman(s) who lead the main ceremony. In the main ceremony Crystal Spirit combined with Rain Water Spirit interact with both shamans and ordinary people who were present at the ceremony. Crystal Spirit is a main spirit who worked directly with the people. The spirit is represented by actual crystals, basins, well and a recreation of a well at America’s Stonehenge.
Spring Water Spirit
Spring Water Spirit is evident at sites across New England. It is recognized by the presence of natural springs where water seeps out of the ground. Water at springs is ice cold and can readily be distinguished from small wetland pools filled with rain water which is tepid or cool to warm. Some springs have a pool with bubbles. Some springs are a cold stream of water without a pool. Some areas have underground rivers whence springs come from, with gurgling sounds that can be heard above ground. Man-made features at America’s Stonehenge that represent Spring Water Spirit are ditch drains and covered drains (shared with rain water).
Spring Water Spirit is an Underworld spirit. At America’s Stonehenge a main ceremony was created solely for Spring Water Spirit. The spirit participated in a preparation and main ceremony on the summer solstice. It also participated in a main ceremony on the winter solstice where the Spring Water Spirit was assisted in leaving Underworld and entering Upperworld for the winter months. Other stone structure sites have evidence of Spring Water Spirit. The extent of the Spring Water Spirit and how it fit into these other sites is under study at some of them.
Spring Water Spirit is an Underworld spirit who emerges out of the Underworld into Middleworld. At America’s Stonehenge Spring Water Spirit became the main spirit of the ordinary people although the shamans fully participated in the ordinary people’s main Spring Water Ceremony. In it’s stay in Upperworld Spring Water Spirit transitions into Rain Water Spirit and returns to Middleworld in the springtime.
Rain Water Spirit
Rain Water Spirit at America’s Stonehenge is represented by two types of water bodies, a wetlands pool and surface water in the form of streams, brooks, creeks, and rivers. Man-made features at America’s Stonehenge are grooved drains, waterfall drains, sump pits and petroglyph images. Covered drains were also utilized in rain water ceremonies but do not solely represent it.
Rain Water Spirit started out at America’s Stonehenge as being part of the Rain Water & Crystal Ceremony in which the two spirits co-mingled and become one spirit. Later, Rain Water Spirit is seen as a single main spirit in the springtime ceremony where it enters the Underworld to transition into Spring Water Spirit. Rain Water Spirit also participated in preparation ceremonies. Rain Water Spirit is associated with shamans and is part of the shaman’s main ceremony on the summer solstice and spring equinox. The summer solstice ceremony is shared with ordinary people but not the spring equinox ceremony which was shaman, only.
The spirits at America’s Stonehenge and other northeast stone structure sites can be recognized by natural and man-made features. Presently intensive studies at America’s Stonehenge and Gungywamp form the basic background of data and knowledge. Other sites under study are showing preliminary evidence that the basic features and concepts are fairly widespread in the northeast. However, each regional area had its own traits which separated it from other areas.
All the spirits represented at stone structure sites were benevolent. These invited spirits were there to participate in preparation and main ceremonies. Some were main spirits who had ceremonies created specifically for them. Others were host spirits. Still others were spirits who assisted spirits. The role of some spirits was determined by the geographical region and time period. Everything was subject to change. One common factor is ordinary people joined shamans most of the time in the ceremonies where spirits were openly present and had free-movement. Another factor is several of the same spirits continue to show up at these stone structure sites. They are Sun Spirit, Spring Water Spirit, Underworld Spirit and Fire Spirit. Moon Spirit has been found at two sites. Bird Spirit was found at only one stone structure site but has found at other types of Native American sites. Crystals are somewhat common in Connecticut where they have been found at camp and village sites. In Massachusetts crystals have been found in individual burials, at a Praying Village site and at America’s Stonehenge site, the only stone structure site. Evidence of Rain Water Spirit so far is restricted to America’s Stonehenge but river petroglyphs have been found in Tynsborough, MA on a large boulder and at Franklin Falls, NH on small pendants as well as at America’s Stonehenge. The Tynsborough petroglyph shows the whole length of the Merrimack River. The Franklin Falls and America’s Stonehenge petroglyph each show short segments of the Merrimack River specifically associated with each site.
The spirits found at these sites were invited into yearly ceremonies. In Connecticut the ceremonies were created to assist Moon Spirit and Sun Spirit transition between worlds. In New Hampshire, Sun Spirit regulated the day of the ceremony so it could be called forth to join the people during its transition from world to world on the summer solstice and join in the ceremonies. On the winter solstice Sun Spirit was assisted in its transition between worlds. Solstices and equinoxes were special days when Sun Spirit transitioned from one world to another world and could be called into a ceremony with the people.
People assisted the spirits and spirits assisted the people as in the two main ceremonies at America’s Stonehenge with Rain Water Spirit & Crystal Spirit and Spring Water Spirit.
The Native American’s had a complex but common understanding of working with the spirits. Each geographical area had their own distinctive interactions with the spirits while maintaining basic concepts.
Of the spirits common throughout the northeast region at the stone structure sites, Underworld Spirit has the strongest presence. It is the only common spirit who routinely appears to have interacted with people. In most areas, it was only a shaman that interacted with Underworld Spirit. In the southeastern New Hampshire both the ordinary people and shamans interacted with Underworld Spirit. The Underworld appears to have had a much stronger presence than Upperworld. Underworld Spirit is present at ceremonies where a spirit leaves the Underworld and enters the Underworld. At America’s Stonehenge North Spirit, the main spirit of Upperworld is NOT present when Sun Spirit returns to Upperworld from 3000 B.P. up to 1500 B.P. Only when there is a need to add a second spirit to the preparation ceremony on the spring equinox when Sun Spirit returned to Upperworld circa 500 A.D. does the North Spirit get added. If it had not been for the need of a second spirit in the preparation ceremony a host spirit of Upperworld would not have been involved. Underworld Spirit was included as a host spirit, a representative of Underworld, and a main spirit throughout its long tenure at stone structure sites. It was a benevolent spirit whose image we do not have but who presence was of utmost importance to our ancient and more resent ancestors as late as the early 1900’s in southeastern New Hampshire.