Friday, July 30, 2010

Stone Effigy of Na'pi Discovered in Alberta

Excerpted from Heritage Key
Ancient Stone Monument to Napi Discovered on Canadian Prairies
Submitted by owenjarus on Wed, 07/28/2010 - 22:41

A stone effigy monument, in the shape of a Blackfoot creator god named Napi, has been discovered in southern Alberta – south of the Red Deer River near the hamlet of Finnegan.

One day Old Man determined that he would make a woman and a child; so he formed them both – the woman and the child, her son – of clay. After he had moulded the clay in human shape, he said to the clay, "You must be people” ...

They walked down to the river with their Maker, and then he told them that his name was Na'pi, - Old Man.

-From Blackfoot Lodge Tales, George Grinnell, 1892

Blackfoot stories mention effigies like this. In 1892 anthropologist George Grinnell published a story about Napi, that he - Made the Milk River (the Teton) and crossed it, and, being tired, went up on a little hill and lay down to rest. As he lay on his back, stretched out on the ground, with arms extended, he marked himself out with stones,--the shape of his body, head, legs, arms, and everything. There you can see those rocks today.
Some great diagrams and photos of several Na'pi stone effigies from Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada, in a book by Liz Bryan, Stone by Stone: Exploring Ancient Sites on the Canadian Plains.  I understand there is a way to copy the images if I download certain software, but I haven't gotten around to doing that so if you would like to see some very interesting images, please click on the link. 

I'm not sure I "see" the figure of a man in the diagram provided in the Heritage Key article - can't find the head, for instance, but after comparing this figure to those provided in the Google excerpt from Liz Bryan's book, I can "see" the legs and the very large phallis between then, which has to be supposed is only fitting for a creator/father god.
What struck a chord with me was the name "Old Man."  I wonder if this is perhaps a similar figure to the "Kamak" (or Grandfather) in the following story -- you will see why I'm wondering when you read the story!

18. The Kamak and his Wife. 1
Some people lived in a certain place. One day a kamak and his wife looked down (through the entrance-hole). They said, "Halloo! have you not some blubber?"--"There is some in the cache." They entered the cache, and began to eat blubber. Then they sang, "It tastes well. We are eating blubber." 2 The next morning it was the same. "Halloo! have you not some blubber?"--"There is some in the porch."--"It tastes well. We are eating blubber; but when you have no more blubber, [to-morrow] we shall eat you."

They fled upwards in the night-time. They threw an arrow (upwards), and it became a road. They fled along this road.

Those came again. "Halloo! have you not some blubber?" But there was no answer. "Let us jump in! They are hidden somewhere." They entered, and searched in all the corners. There was nothing.

They said, "Let us try the divining-stone!" 3 (The kamak-woman) made (her husband) stand with his legs apart. She used his penis as a divining-stone. "If they have fled to the morning dawn, we shall follow them. If they have fled to the sunset, we shall follow them. To the seaside also we shall follow them. If they have fled upwards, what then? God would not treat us very pleasantly. How can we follow them?"

He began to sway his penis. "Shall we go out through the same opening without any fear. 4 Let us go out through the vent-hole in the roof of the porch!" The kamak-woman said, "Take me on your shoulders!" He took her on his back. "Oh, you are strangling me!" (His head) thrust itself into her anus. "Oh, you are playing mischief!"

Finally they both died, and lay there. His head slipped into her anus [again?]  After a while (the fugitives) said, "Let us visit the house!" They visited it, and dragged out his head with an iron hook, and his head had become (quite) hairless.

"Oh, oh?" They threw them into the direction of the sunset. Then they lived and were happy. They were not (molested) by spirits. That is all.


1. Compare Jochelson, The Koryak, l. c., No. 105, p. 293.

2. Compare p. 68, footnote 3.

3. Literally "let us act with the grandmother". The word "grandmother" is used also for "divining-stone" (Cf. W. Jochelson, The Koryak, l. c., p. 44). p. 81 The reason is probably that divination with stones is chiefly practised by women, and that the divining-stone, though usually a round pebble or a piece of bone ornamented with beads and tassels, represents a female guardian of the family.

4. Literally, "without shame". "Shame" for "fear" is used also in the Chukchee (Publications of the Jesup North Pacific Expedition, vol. viii, No. 10, p. 61 footnote 1.

[From KORYAK TEXTS, by Waldemar Bogoras, Publications of the American Ethnological Society, Volume V, edited by Frank Boaz, E. J. Brill, Limited, Publishers and Printers, Leyden, G. E. Stechert & Co., New York, Agents, 1917.]
 The reason I remember the story is because of the use of the "feathered stone" for divination.  In the story, the Kamak's penis substituted for the stone hung from a string.  That the word "grandmother" was also synonymous with "divining-stone" may perhaps hark back to the days before peoples of northwest Russia crossed over to the New World, when females were often shamans. 

Is Na'pi the same god as the trickster/spirit Kamak in the Koryak tale, or are they perhaps related?  Na'pi is "Old Man;" Kamak is "Grandfather" - and "Grandfather" can be another term for "Old Man." 

The use of objects suspended from a string to "divine" something is still used today, right here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!  You can file this away under what are popularly called "Old Wive's Tales" - hmmm....

It is not at all unusual at a baby shower to suspend a short pencil hung from a string above the expectant mother's baby bump and watch it swing to and fro, back and forth, and sometimes round and round.  The person who holds the string must make sure she is perfectly still, and some people watch her intently to make sure she is not somehow manipulating the motion of the pencil on the string.  If the string moves in a certain way, the prediction is that the child will be a boy; if the string moves in a different way, the prediction is that the child will be a girl.  In our family, my immediate female relatives have about a 90% accuracy rate!  I'm often the one holding the pencil on the string.  But I can never remember if back and forth means boy and circular means girl - or if it is the opposite!  Shaman I am - NOT. 

We have another baby shower coming up - I'm going to be a great-aunty again - I've lost count, egoddess! So I may be called upon once again to try my hand (ahem) at divining the sex of my next great-niece or great-nephew. 

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