This is a bit of a blast from the past that I thought I might as well repost to this blog. It was originally posted to my 'Southern Cult Iconography Decoded' eclipse lore web site. In fact this letter to the editor led to the creation of that eclipsology website that went down in late 2006 or early 2007 along with all of my other eclipse lore "web sights". It has been retrieved from The Wayback Machine of the Internet Archive so I am not sure how reliable the embedded links are. I will test them and if they are found wanting I will either remove them or replace them with alternative links -
Here is the full text of the letter to the editor that I e-mailed to the editors and publisher of Archaeology magazine, the official organ on the Archaeological Institute of America, on July 23, 2002 in response to Alex W. Barker's article:
MYTH & MONSTERS -
Decoding ritual images of a mysterious ancient American religion
I have embedded links to pertinent web sites in the text of this letter
XX Lafleur apt. XX
I realize that this letter to the editor is a bit too long to be published intact but I hope that you will see fit to publish the opening and concluding paragraphs at least and as much of the middle as possible.
Re : Myths & Monsters - Decoding ritual images of a mysterious ancient American religion
Decoding something is usually made quite simple and straightforward once one has discovered the key to the code. The key to "decoding" the "myths and monsters" of the Southern Cult, and indeed those of many other ancient cultures, is the total eclipse of the sun. The "great snakes, cats, or birds", even the "supernatural" insects, of the Southern Cult and other ancient cultures can be shown to have been inspired by total solar eclipses. Alex Barker's article failed to mention the fact that some of the Indian mounds are themselves effigies of "great snakes," gigantic birds, and other animals that are best viewed from the sky. A very significant Indian mound that was not mentioned in the article is the Great Serpent Mound of Ohio. It clearly depicts the mythical eclipse serpent swallowing the "cosmic egg" of the sun.
The totally eclipsed sun eerily resembles a gigantic "cosmic eye" staring down from the sky; even some modern eclipse observers call it the "Eye of God". Various ancient cultures created gigantic geoglyph images that are intended to be viewed by from the sky" in response to this "Eye of God". Total solar eclipses most probably inspired the Nazca Lines biomorph geoglyphs in Peru, the Uffington White Horse in England (total solar eclipses of 1168 and 1184 BCE), Ohio's Great Serpent Mound and other such gigantic ground drawings that are best viewed from the sky. There is abundant evidence in the religious iconography of the Southern Cult that its "myths and monsters", like those of many other ancient cultures, were inspired by total solar eclipses. The "sophisticated astronomical system" of the Southern Cult may provide evidence that solar eclipses were important cosmic events that the Southern Cult tried to predict.
A bird-like pattern is clearly manifested within the sun's corona during some total solar eclipses. This "sunbird" evidently inspired the Egyptian winged sun symbol, the anthropomorphic solar falcon god Horus, and the bennu bird which we know as the proverbial phoenix. The very same coronal "sunbird" almost certainly inspired the Southern Cult's own "supernatural" Bird-man (who is most probably an anthropomorphic sun god avatar) and its own "solar falcon" analogous to Horus. The large bird effigy mounds contained within circles probably depict this "supernatural" coronal "sunbird." The "weeping-eye motif" is most likely the Southern Cult's equivalent of the Egyptian "Eye of Horus" symbol which was inspired by the "Eye of God" and "sunbird" that are manifested in the heavens during totality. Some drawings of coronal patterns made by 19th century astronomers distinctly resemble the Southern Cult's "weeping-eye motif." Further south the regalia of Mayan and Aztec priests and rulers emulated this coronal "sunbird" as evidenced by the winged anthropomorphic sun god pectorals that they wore over their hearts.
Whether a butterfly or a moth the insect with the eye-spots on its wings that Jim Knight correctly interprets as a "supernatural" being is almost certainly inspired by total solar eclipses. When the equatorial "wings" of the sun's corona are less defined one can easily imagine it to be a cosmic butterfly. The Aztecs clearly did just that as evidenced by their own solar butterfly iconography. I take note of the fact that the proboscis of this "supernatural" insect morphs into a rayed circle in one of the examples, clearly suggesting that it was indeed inspired by total solar eclipses.
There is very good reason to believe that the Southern Cult's "cross in circle" motif is a sun symbol. The ubiquitous solar cross symbol, found in many ancient cultures, can be shown to be inspired by a cross-like pattern that is perceivable within the sun's corona during some total solar eclipses. The swastika formed by the woodpecker heads is clearly a variant of this solar cross symbol. The bird and the cross iconography are pretty much interchangeable since they are both inspired by the same pattern within the sun's corona. The bird in circle effigy mounds may be seen as a kind of "cross in circle" motif. The Southern Cult's "cross in circle" in the palm of the hand motif is interchangeable with its "eye in hand" motif because the cross and the eye are inspired by the same spectacular astronomical phenomenon. The supernatural spider that bears the solar cross on its back is most likely also a sun symbol inspired by total solar eclipses. The Moche of Peru who saw more than their fair share of total solar eclipses depicted their sun god as an anthropomorphized gold spider. The spider is also conceivably a symbol of the Creator itself.
The Southern Cult flourished from 1000 AD to 1500 AD. More than a dozen total solar eclipses* occurred over their territory (as mapped) during that time period. Many more annular and partial solar eclipses would have been witnessed by these "Mound Builder" Indians. Even more total solar eclipses would have been witnessed somewhat outside of this territory. Thus the Southern Cult had every opportunity to develop a religious cult that was profoundly influenced by solar eclipse phenomena. The fact of the matter is that eclipses, especially total solar eclipses, are the key to "decoding" the religious beliefs and practices of most pre-Columbian American cultures and many other ancient cultures. For detailed background information that strongly supports this "decoding" of the religious iconography of the Southern Cult please see my eclipse lore web sites linked from http://treasuresofdarkness.homestead.com I intend to create a web site detailing this "decoding" of Southern Cult iconography at http://southernculticonography.homestead.com
* Julian calendar dates - July 20 985, March 7 1076, July 1 1079, August 13 1151, September 14 1205, June 13 1257, October 17 1259, July 26 1348, December 10 1349, May 25 1351, January 21 1395, July 7 1442, June 28 1451, July 29 1478, July 20 1506
Needless to say the links were not embedded in the original letter and I have had to change some of the links that went to dead web pages. There never were links embedded in the list of solar eclipse dates at the end of the letter but since the good people at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center have kindly provided Google Maps of the tracks of individual solar eclipses going back as far as 2000 BCE in the intervening years I have linked to the Google Maps of each solar eclipse listed.