Serpent mound of New Age nonsense

What a great piece about all the New Age nonsense going on at the Serpent Mound. It’s a damn shame people can’t appreciate the site on its own merits. It’s a lovely thing. Nope, gotta go and woon it (ruin with woo).

Crazy Theories Threaten Serpent Mound, Demean Native Heritage –

Is it home to a mine for spaceship fuel? Could it be a portal to another dimension, ready to be activated? Is it a place of hidden paranormal powers? Was it a safe spot to be when the 2012 Mayan prophecy predicted the end of the world? Is it an ancient indigenous homage to the summer and winter solstice?

Officially Serpent Mound is the largest surviving prehistoric effigy mound in the world, but in this stranger-­than-fiction story, there are ardent supporters for all of the claims listed above, and many more.

In recent years, Serpent Mound has become a mecca for New Agers.

[Archaeologist Bradley] Lepper says various New Age ceremonies began in earnest at Serpent Mound around the time of the Harmonic Convergence in August 1987. Believers all over the world marked that event by gathering, chanting and meditating at various sites deemed powerful. “Thousands of people came to Serpent Mound during the convergence,” Lepper recalls.

Since then, numerous New Age ceremonies, gatherings and festivals have become popular events at Serpent Mound.

Recall we covered a story about people vandalizing the mound by burying objects there. That seems to be a common thing.

Read the whole writeup for the history of silliness that is going on there. Paranormal tourism abounds.

One commenter noted that the Natives should reclaim the site by hosting their own festival. Not a bad idea.

Serpent mound, Ohio

Serpent mound, Ohio

  15 comments for “Serpent mound of New Age nonsense

  1. Chris Howard
    June 6, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    I’ve heard it is/was common for new religions to adopt some of the icons, and practices of older religions in order to ad a sense of legitimacy to their emerging beliefs.

    If that’s true then maybe that’s what New Age NRM’s are doing when they appropriate these sites?

  2. Aaron
    June 6, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    @Chris Howard – Does the timing of Christmas ring a bell? How about the devil looking suspiciously like Pan? I know it’s not quite what you were getting after (or even going off into anther tangent). Maybe the Romans reinterpreting/stealing/defiling the beliefs of the Greeks is a better example of what you meant.

    Basically, I see your point. “New Age” tactics are nothing new at all.

  3. Nos482
    June 7, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    The timing of Christmass isn’t half as bad as the timing of Easter…which doesn’t even have a set date, but definetly marks the day Jesus rose from the dead^^

    “Was it a safe spot to be when the 2012 Mayan prophecy predicted the end of the world?”
    I’d bet it was =P

  4. spookyparadigm
    June 7, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    The better Roman analogy is this.

    which is basically an ancient version of this

    Some Romans believed the Gauls they conquered to be noble savages, superior in some ways, including being masters of oral tradition (which they saw as being more morally superior), and they’d have them teach their children due to this wisdom. Sound familiar?

  5. Aaron
    June 7, 2013 at 1:03 AM

    Thanks for the more accurate examples of my basic ideas, guys! I’m in the middle of trying to make sense of cetacean evolution right now, so I wasn’t going to look into this subject too much on my own.

    @Nos482 – The Mayan reference is funny because a bunch of people told me that the world didn’t end so I could celebrate my B-day (12/22/80)

  6. June 7, 2013 at 1:58 AM

    New-age… rhymes with sewage.

  7. Aaron
    June 7, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    @spookyparadigm – If I simplify it a bit (in order to not go into a silly rant), your first link told me that the Romans had more respect for the Greeks than I knew, and should have known. The second link involving Native Americans went a bit over my head, though. I don’t see how that involved using existing religious beliefs to shore up new ones.

  8. eddi
    June 7, 2013 at 4:37 AM

    The problem with having a Native American fest at the mound is that the current local tribes are no more related to the Mound-Builders than any of the New Agers. Something more general and secular is desperately needed to awaken people to the fact this vital and dramatic part of American history is in danger of being ignored into oblivion.

  9. June 7, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    “Was it a safe spot to be when the 2012 Mayan prophecy predicted the end of the world?”

    Seems pretty much the entire world was a safe spot to be in ,,,

  10. spookyparadigm
    June 7, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    Aaron, The Dying Gaul is a depiction of a Noble Savage (and usually preferably a disappearing one), a Celt. Maybe this might make the analogy clearer?

    Furthermore, participation in, or even adoption of, various Native religious or other practices would be one thing. But that’s not what’s going on generally in these cases. It is instead a blend (usually with a dose of theosophy, where the New Age originates from, along with Ancient Aliens and a fair amount of UFOs in general) of new and old mostly Western ideas often including bits plucked from other parts of the world and mangled (see again theosophy), that then grabs symbols of the Noble Native that have been refigured and made potent in a colonial theme.

    There isn’t a tremendous difference in Romans with a wooly-haired torc-wearing naked Celtic warrior sculpture in their house, and white Americans (and others) wearing and displaying some of the images above, or bits and bobs of idealized “Indian” clothing (typically a blend of 19th century Plains and SW, for obvious historical reasons).

    And that gets us back to the original Christian-Roman analogy. The spread of Christianity appropriated dates, practices, and symbols of existing religions to make the religion more appealing to locals. I suspect there were also aspects like the spread of Christianity in Latin America, where syncretism happened due to loose control by those imposing Christianity, rather than as a purposeful strategy.

    That is not what is happening here. No one is putting orgone collectors in Serpent Mound to please Native Americans. They are appropriating a symbol for their own ends, with a very different meaning, because it is Exotic. And in our society, Exotic = Authentic. This is why more people were concerned with the Maya apocalypse than Harold Camping’s Rapture. It’s why Native American, or Pharonic Egyptian, or Maya, or whatever artifacts always have real magic in our fiction, whereas artifacts from our society usually don’t (there are a few exceptions. Also note that if Christian practices or artifacts have some supernatural potency, they are usually related to Catholicism. While there are several reasons for this, one is that for much of American history, Catholicism has been the non-majority or non-hegemonic form of Christianity. Hence why we routinely see movies about Catholic priests working exorcisms, but similar evangelical protestant practices like faith healing or speaking in tongues etc., are usually framed in our fiction from a “is it fraud” perspective).

  11. spookyparadigm
    June 7, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    eddi, I don’t know that I’d agree entirely with that. You hit on a very important point, alluded to in the article Sharon links to in the comments, regarding the effects colonialism has had on the indigenous people of the Americas, especially on those east of the Mississippi in North America in terms of ethnic cleansing. The radical impact of these effects, referred to by historians of the American Southeast when they discuss the idea of the Shatter Zone,674108.aspx

    really aren’t understood by most Americans I think. People moved away from danger, coalesced into new groups, went through further trials, identities were transformed to deal with new circumstances, and so on in an apocalyptic situation we usually only can imagine with Martians landing and blasting the landscape (except they don’t die of disease, they bring their own).

    But that isn’t a reason to use these colonial effects against the very victims of them. Westminster Abbey is about the same age as Serpent Mound. Does it belong to everyone more than the English? Or should I say British? Yes, this points out that there are politics of ethnicity and history involved, just as there are when it comes to Native American sites. That doesn’t mean these politics cannot be addressed, as they are both politically and legally (see NAGPRA for example, which gets very difficult when it comes to very old remains, but less so in the time period we’re talking about).

  12. eddi
    June 8, 2013 at 2:57 AM

    spookyparadigm, My comment up there was short and lacking. It’s a flaw in my style. You are right, if anyone can claim the mounds and their culture as a major element of their past it’s Native Americans. And they should throw a party to remind people there’s a real story that beats dimensional doors and harmonica concerts all to heck.

  13. Brian
    June 8, 2013 at 6:45 AM

    Why dont these ya”woo”s buy land and make their own damned sacred spot to screw up.

  14. June 12, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    @ Brian

    I think it’s along the same lines as the Buddha “lecturing” the Hindu Gods, it adds legitimacy to the new religion. In that case the NRM was Buddhism. So they (New Agers) could make their own sacred space, but they’d have to wait a really long time before it acquired a pedigree; a kind of legitimacy from antiquity argument.

    Just like this seems odd, and completely out of place to us in the here and now it may be that given enough time and obscuring of history future generations will view Native American practices, and New Age beliefs as just another religion. They will be completely unaware that at one time they were two distinct beliefs.

    This apparently happens a lot with religions.

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