Something to Think About

Here’s a basic general juxtaposition, upon which I will expand at some further point. It concerns intentionally-built earth structures: what is their original purpose/premise and how are they understood (or, more typically, not) by those who come after?

silbury hill neolithic mound wiltshire

First, a well-known example at Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, England near “the stone circles of Avebury and a few miles from Stonehenge.” You can read a basic overview here, from which I extract the following (evolving) observations:

“Dr Jim Leary, English Heritage archaeologist, said the creators were building the mound as part of a ‘continuous story telling ritual’ – and that the final shape of the mound may have been unimportant… the final form of the Hill did not matter – it was the construction process that was important. …It was a place that was heavily inscribed with folk memories that recalled ancestors and their origins.

‘What is emerging is a picture of Neolithic people having the same need to anchor and share ideas and stories as we do now, and that built structures like Silbury Hill may not be conceived as grand monuments of worship but intimate gestures of communication.’ “

*****

And, continuing in a comparable morphology and much closer to home in Sokoki country, a somewhat similar circumstance and response, is this item from Brattleboro’s Vermont Phoenix newspaper of August 6, 1897:

“The Guilford mound, which has long been supposed to contain Indian relics and which was to have been opened by some Brattleboro men, was opened by some Guilford men last Saturday. The mound was about 50 feet square and 15 feet high and was covered with a thick growth of trees, some of which were four inches through, with roots large enough to impede somewhat the progress of the shovels, nevertheless the men were undaunted and set to work energetically, determined that if within the sides of the mound there were any articles which would interest the world in general they would have the credit of discovering them. They began at the side of the mound, digging a hole large enough for them to stand up in, and penetrated the mound ten feet. No relics were unearthed and six more feet of excavation were made, but still no relics. Then the men began digging on top of the mound and descended 10 feet. At this point the sides of the last excavation caved in and the relic hunters shouldered their shovels and concluded that the secret of that pile of dirt would forever remain unknown so long as they were depended upon to reveal it.”

Not too surprising… you find what you’re looking for – or you miss it completely.

The Story of Father Rasle at Kennebec Historical Society

Death_of_Father_Sebastian_Rale_of_the_Society_of_Jesus

“Go and set the world on fire,” was St. Ignatius of Loyola’s famous call to the Jesuits to preach the gospel to the far corners of the world. Fr. Sebastian Rasle followed the call of his order’s founder and left France in 1689 to give his life to caring for the souls of native Americans. This he did for 30 years in a small mission village amidst the Abenaki people far up the Kennebec River. The village was called Narantsouack (i.e. Norridgewock.)

But this peaceful mission was not to last. In those few decades, Fr. Rasle’s little village got caught in a blaze of controversy that ended in the mission being burned by a Massachusetts militia and its pastor being shot. Joseph Moreshead, a seminarian for the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, will discuss the origins of this conflict between Fr. Rasle, the New England colonists, and the Abenaki people and how competing interests among the three parties led to such a tragic end.

Joseph Moreshead is a native of South Portland, and a current student at the Catholic University of America, studying to be a Catholic priest in Maine. A graduate of Cheverus High School and Fordham University, Moreshead was educated for eight years by Jesuits like Fr. Rasle. After extensive research on the Jesuit Relations, he led a pilgrimage to Fr. Rasle’s grave last August. He holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy and classical language.But this peaceful mission was not to last. In those few decades, Fr. Rasle’s little village got caught in a blaze of controversy that ended in the mission being burned by a Massachusetts militia and its pastor being shot. Joseph Moreshead, a seminarian for the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, will discuss the origins of this conflict between Fr. Rasle, the New England colonists, and the Abenaki people and how competing interests among the three parties led to such a tragic end.

The Kennebec Historical Society’s May Presentation is free to the public (donations gladly accepted) and will take place on Wednesday, May 16, at 6:30 p.m., at St. Mary’s Church located at 41 Western Avenue in Augusta.

Link to original article in The Town Line.