[Folklorists are accustomed to the idea that supernatural legend – and even contemporary paranormal experience –surrounds the ancient monuments of Europe. Stonehenge. Silbury Hill. Carnac. The Rollrights. So common is it that one may presume every little stone-circle or barrow (burial mound) comes with some local legend.
It’s an unfortunate surprise to too many Americans to hear that there were and still are similar earth-and-stone monuments in North America, created by the ancient Native Americans, and that supernatural folklore and perceived psychic experience gathers to them to this day. This I believe is one of the most neglected aspects of the study of the paranormal, whether or not the paranormal community knows it. These ancient ritual spaces are such legend-sites that the presence of localized supernatural folklore can even be a clue to the location of a lost American monument. I’ve found it to be so many a time in my study of Western New York. This article about a mysterious ancient site, an apparent henge (earth-ring), finishes a chapter in Iroquois Supernatural (2011), published by Bear & Co./Inner Traditions International.]
Sketchy legends of monsters, witch lights, and supernatural battles help us recognize New York’s mysterious ancient power places; they don’t touch the richness of the traditions the old societies maintained about them. Now and then we get a hint.
Sig Lonegren is a Vermont native who lives today in Glastonbury, England. Our paths crossed a lot in the 1980s when I taught English at The Gow School in South Wales, New York, and Sig was one of its most distinguished graduates and board members. A big, lighthearted, graying-blond man, even in a suit Sig would have the look of someone who was once a hippie. Sig is also an authority on diverse topics and has written world-renowned books on dowsing, labyrinths, and ancient mysteries.
Sig is a pretty good man to ask for insights about any paranormal subject, and, as a longtime student and friend of late Seneca wolf-mother Twylah Hurd Nitsch, he knows plenty about Iroquois country. In November 2009, I asked him what he knew about ancient monuments in New York. “I was taken to one on the Cattaraugus Reservation,” he said. “I don’t think the archaeologists know this one.”
“What’s it like?”
“Very impressive. A big earth circle, maybe on the oval side. It had a couple of openings in it that could have been entrances.”
“Where is it?” I asked in the tone of asking the time. We made eye contact, and I forget who smiled first. He knew I had to ask; I didn’t think he would answer. Then he went serious.
“If I remembered how to find it, I couldn’t tell you,” he said. “But that was a long time ago. I honestly don’t remember. I do remember what I was told about it, though. The Seneca I was with said, ‘This is where we honored our handicapped.’ They honored people of different abilities because they presumed that they had extra gifts.”
I know he looked at me again, but I was gazing off into space. Ceremonies and monuments to the disabled! There are people in my society who resent them getting a few parking spaces.
“The Creator never takes something from any of us,” says Algonquin elder Michael Bastine, “without giving something back. The Native peoples of the world have always believed that. We don’t look down on our handicapped. To us they are powerful, but in ways that aren’t easy to see. They were put here not only to enjoy their own lives, but as spiritual teachers to the rest of us. If we can only learn how to listen to them.”