Sacred Space, Supernatural Stories, and Giants at Old Stone Fort in Tennessee

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Entrance mounds at Old Stone Fort.

Just an hour outside Nashville is a hidden gem rich in spiritual mystique. Old Stone Fort is a living relic of Native American history, and a place of great importance to native during the Middle Woodland Period. The state park is situated on a plateau where the Little Duck and Big Duck rivers converge, and has trails that give easy access to the walls and cascading waterfalls throughout the area.

Old Stone Fort was named by 18th century settlers who mistakenly thought the area was a defensive structure. Construction on the site began around 80 BCE and was built around the same time as Fort Ancient in Ohio and the Pinson Mounds in west Tennessee. Four to six foot walls outline the plateau with two parallel “entrance mounds” which align with the Summer Solstice. It is believed the site had astronomical and ceremonial significance. One of the most well known artifacts found at the site was an eagle effigy pipe.

Prior to archeological digs in the 1960s, many curious tales circulated about happenings in Old Stone Fort. There were rumors that iron slag, Roman coins, and even rune stones were discovered there, though physical evidence never surfaced. The site has even been linked to Prince Maddoc and Fort Mountain in Georgia, with theories that suggested that the Welsh prince made it to North America, building settlements along their adventures. Author Zella Armstrong of the book Who Discovered America? speculates that Old Stone Fort’s structures resemble Welsh ones, though there is no definitive proof of this being the case. There have even been paranormal stories woven into the tales of Old Stone Fort. One from the 1870s tells of a group of hunters who were spooked by terrible appearance and sounds of ghosts taking the shape of women and lions. It however seems that the ghosts were actually a prank pulled off by locals who were unhappy about having outsiders hunt on their land. 

Old Stone Fort Roaming Mystic 2During the industrialization of Appalachia in the 19th century many newspapers reported the discovery giant skeletons. Some of the articles include photographs of the large skeletons, although none of the skeletons are available to us now, and surely every skeptic has debunked these articles as sensationalist and hoaxed. Regardless of the authenticity of the giant skeletons, Old Stone Fort was purportedly one location for one of these so called skeletons. The story goes that there was a group of people using a boat on the rivers that surround Old Stone Fort, and while on the river discovered a cave and decided to explore it. It was in this cave that they found the remains of a giant skeleton, with an arm bone twenty inches in length.

The only issue is this: I cannot get my hands on the original newspaper article that cites Old Stone Fort as the location. All I can find are second hand sources that include fascinating blog entries and an episode of a short-lived television (and widely disliked and criticized) show called Search For The Lost Giants. I revisited the Old Stone Fort visitor center to go through the books on their shelves in hopes of finding information. When I came short I asked the lady at the desk and was disappointed with her response. I asked “Have you got any information on the legends of giants in the region?” She did not speak, only shaking her head. “Do you have any recommendations on where I could possibly find clippings of newspaper articles?” Again, just a shake of the head. Obviously, I was a nuisance so I left and took to the trails.

Old Stone Fort Roaming Mystic 3The stories are just a minor part of the pleasure in visiting Old Stone Fort. According to Frank Joseph in his book Sacred Sites, Old Stone Fort has powerful energy, with the two entrance mounds acting like a psychic battery of positive and negative terminals. He believes that “the visitor with a pure heart and free mind should listen for the energy-echoes of the Ancient Ones, where the naturally magic ground has been additionally charged by four centuries of ritual activity.”

Although my exploration for giants at Old Stone Fort fell short these last couple of trips, I was still grateful to visit and admire a sacred site so closely. Go for the trails, waterfalls, and the archeology. Pay reverence to the Native Americans who worshipped at the site thousands of years ago and meditate in the ceremonial space. Visit Old Stone Fort knowing that you roam trails and mounds that contain ancient and sacred energy that inspired many captivating stories.

Full Bibliography can be found at: http://www.theroamingmystic.com/works-cited
Thank you William Seay. You’re journalist eyes helped with well needed editions.
© The Roaming Mystic and Kiki Dombrowski 2016
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Six Sacred Sites that Observe the Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere marks a point of balance as well as a point of transition: the length of the day and night are equal and as we move towards the summer solstice the sun will remain in the sky longer each day. Ancient cultures observed the path of the sun throughout the year, marking specific points of interest in their agricultural and cultural calendars. The Spring Equinox could have possibly been a significant point of interest, indicating the beginning of spring, the return of life, and the rebirth of nature. Here are six places around the world that marked the Spring Equinox at their sacred sites.

Chichen Itza: In the Yucatan region of Mexico lies the remains of one of the most important Mayan centers: Chichen Itza. Inhabited between 750 CE and 1250CE, Chichen Itza was a powerful urban center for the Mayan Empire. In particular, the Temple of Kukulkan (or El Castillo), named after the mysterious feathered serpent god, was a religious and sacred place. From this temple priests held ceremonies and sacrifices, and the building itself marked the equinoxes with a spectacular site. On the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, the shadow of the sun would fall over the staircases in such a way to create the image of a serpent’s body, which would connect to the stone serpent heads at the base of the pyramid. Apparently, the acoustics of Chichen Itza are as hypnotizing as the image of the shadowy serpent. If you clap at the temple, a chirping sound echoes back to you, a sound associated with the Quetzal bird and the deity Kukulkan.

Majorville Medicine Wheel: Majorville Medicine Wheel is the oldest medicine wheel in Canada. Archaeologists have dated it to being between 4,500 and 5,000 years old, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. Located in the prairies by Bow River in southern Alberta, this stone circle structure and cairn may have been an open-air sun temple as well as a place that marked solar and astronomical events. The wheel itself has 28 “spokes.” The equinoxes are marked by the alignment of the sun, a “spoke” in the wheel, and a small cairn that is about 3,600 feet away.

Easter Island: Everyone is familiar with the Moai, the mysterious stone sculptures built between 700CE and 1100CE that dot Easter Island. While most of the Moai look inwards towards the island, there is an unique grouping of seven Moai inland at the site Ahu Akivi that is considered to be particularly sacred. These seven Moai face the sunset on the Spring Equinox, being the only grouping of Moai that face the ocean.

Angkor Wat: Angkor Wat is an incredible complex in Cambodia built around 1100 CE and the largest religious monument in the world. Originally constructed as a Hindu temple, it transitioned into a Buddhist temple around the 14th century. The central tower is said to represent the peak of the sacred and mythological Mount Meru, home to the Hindu gods. On the Spring Equinox, the sun rises over the point of this tower and crowns the pinnacle. On his website “Sacred Sites,” author Martin Gray also points out that “Using computer simulations, it has been shown that the ground plan of the Angkor Complex – the terrestrial placement of its principal temples – mirrors the stars in the constellation of Draco at the time of the Spring Equinox in 10,500 BCE.”

Loughcrew: The Neolithic site of Cairn T is located near the town Oldcastle in County Meath, Ireland. Also known as Sliabh na Callighe, meaning “Hill of the Hag,” this sacred site is a burial and religious complex was built around 4000 BCE and may have actually been built on top of an even older site. The rising sun on the Spring Equinox enters the mound and illuminates a stone on the back wall with symbols that look circular and solar. Today you can actually take part in festivals arranged at the site to celebrate the equinoxes.

Chaco Canyon: Chaco Canyon in New Mexico was a center for Pueblo Native Americans from 850 CE until about 1150 CE when it was mysteriously and abruptly abandoned. The area has many sacred monuments and buildings, some built four or five stories high with revealing astronomical observations. One of these astronomical observations was actually located at nearby Fajada Butte and is known as the Sundagger. At this site there were three large vertical stone slabs with two spiral petroglphys on the cliff behind it. The slabs cast shadows and light onto the spirals to indicated the equinoxes and solstices, creating an illuminated marking in the shape of a dagger. On the equinoxes the smaller of the two spirals was bisected. The Sundagger has since been tragically lost due to erosion of clay and gravel.

 

Full Bibliography can be found at: http://www.theroamingmystic.com/works-cited
© The Roaming Mystic and Kiki Dombrowski 2016
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Mysterious Meshomasic: Strange Trails and Tales in Connecticut’s Oldest State Forest

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The “Stairs to Nowhere” are part of the remnants of a Nike Missile Site in Meshomasic State Forest in Connecticut.

I grew up in Glastonbury, Connecticut, and my whole life have heard strange stories about the state forest in the southeast corner of town. I always had a pull to the forest, and it was probably because it was a mysterious corner of town that everyone had a weird story about. A friend of mine’s father was a cop who said they were always called up there to break up strange rituals. I even had a friend who reputedly drove a car into the pond there, the same body of water where my brother held a viking funeral for his pet hermit crab. A family friend swears that if you wander a little too far off the trails FBI agents or “Men In Black” will appear out of thin air to escort you away from “no trespassing” zones. Perhaps these so-called-government agent sightings are somehow linked to the Nike Missile Site, whose ruins are the most well known feature of this forest. But beyond the veil of supernatural stories and strange happenings in Meshomasic, there are trails and tales of a beautiful forest that exhibits incredible trees and holds onto stories dating back to colonists.

Meshomasic became the first state forest in Connecticut and the second in the United States in 1903. Today it covers a range of 9,000 acres through Glastonbury, Portland, East Hampton, and Marlborough. In the 1700s this area deep in the woods was used by early colonists, who sent victims of Smallpox to small houses there. Wild apple trees, stone walls, and stone foundations are the only remaining evidence that early settlers were in the area. There is an also another historic area in Meshomasic known as “Big Pine Plantation,” where a special population of white pines and Norway spruces were planted shortly after the park was acquired. They are still happily preserved and growing to this day. Meshomasic is also home to the most robust population of Timber Rattlesnakes in Connecticut, a species that is now endangered. Another rarity discovered in the park was gold. In the 1980s University of Connecticut geologists discovered gold at an abandoned cobalt mine within the forest.

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The most notorious site within the forest are the abandoned ruins of HA-36, a Cold War era Nike Missile site that has since been left to decay. The most accessible of the site remnants are just off of North Mulford Road beyond a rusting yellow gate. Nothing extraordinary remains, though there are some crumbling cement walls, chipped tile floors, and manholes which have since been filled in. The intriguing aspect of the ruins are hidden below the forest floor: bunkers and tunnels once part of a fully functioning base are now filled and inaccessible. Although not verifiable, there are also stories of seeing UFOs hover in the sky above Mesohmasic. Modern day paranormal investigators have also trekked out into the forest after following leads of hearing moans in the forest at night, but have found insubstantial evidence of a supernatural presence. 

Meshomasic Glastonbury 3Whether lurking MIB, UFOs hovering above the spruces,  or strange rituals within the crumbling tunnels can be verified or not, Meshomasic is an intriguing nature visit in Connecticut that has often been overlooked. The combination of beautiful woods and mysterious legends make the forest feel like a strange mash-up between X-Files and Lord of the Rings. The marshes that fill with lilies in the summer and tree foliage that turns different colors in the fall spark a fantastical imagination. But even amongst the magic of the natural setting the ghost of a Cold-War era government presence makes for conspiracy-inducing creepiness.

If you have high endurance hiking energy, plan a hike  on the blue-blazed Shenipsit trail which winds for 44 miles through some of eastern Connecticut’s woods and forests. If 44 miles of hiking sounds a little overwhelming, consider starting at the Gay City State Park, which is reported to be haunted, and make way over towards Meshomasic. Or, if you prefer a more leisurely adventure, a drive down the dirt roads through Meshomasic will take you to photo-friendly areas. This park is patrolled, and it is advised to behave like an adult within the woods. There are visible signs that the park is misused by some, as evidenced by graffiti and broken alcohol bottles littering the trails. Please follow the rules of the forest. It is a sacred space that holds historical stories that curious explorers would like to enjoy for generations to come.  

 

*Please be sure to visit Meshomasic Hiking Club for sponsored hikes in Connecticut with friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced hikers.
**An extra “Thank You” to Peter Marteka, whose insight and articles at the Hartford Courant were incredibly useful in the completion of this article.
Full Bibliography can be found at: http://www.theroamingmystic.com/works-cited
© 2016 The Roaming Mysic and Kiki Dombrowski
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Moon-Eyed People and the Ancient Mystery at Fort Moutain

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The ancient wall at Fort Mountain in Georgia has a mysterious origin story tied to an untraceable tribe of people said to predate Cherokee settlers.

I had every intention of visiting Chattahoochee National Park in Georgia. My GPS had other plans and set me on a different course towards Fort Mountain. When I realized I was lost, I stopped at a bank to ask for directions. The gentleman working there gave me directions to Chattahoochee, but then added, “Fort Mountain is another park just up the road. You should visit there while you’re in the area.” It turned out to be confirmation that word of mouth is always the best way to find the best locations.

Fort Mountain State Park is in Chatsworth, Georgia, which is about two hours from Atlanta or three hours from Nashville. It is a lush forest area that used to be part of the Cherokee Nation. But according to Cherokee Native Americans, there were settlers who lived in the forest long before they arrived.

According to Cherokee legend an unusual tribe lived in the Fort Mountain area. They referred to members of this tribe as the Moon-Eyed People, attributed to the fact that they only came out during the evening and had averse reactions to the sun. Some say they worshiped the moon. They were said to be tall, fair-skinned, bearded and have large light eyes. Many have speculated that the Moon-Eyed people could be traced back to Welsh sailors. There are tales of a Welsh prince who sailed to Mobile Bay around 1170 and navigated to the Fort Mountain region through waterways. There are even some who go as far to connect the Moon-Eyed people to cryptids, fairies, or aliens. Wherever you stand on the debate about the Moon-Eyed people’s heritage, there has been no way to (yet) verify their origins or even their existence.

All that remains of the Moon-Eyed People are walls that trace the woods at Fort Mountain State Park. The Cherokee said that the Moon-Eyed People built the walls well before they arrived, and the truth is, no one really has a better explanation about who built the wall. What is known is that the wall may have been built around 400 A.D., refuting the tie to Welsh sailors in the 12th century. The wall is made of smaller stones and is very low in spots, which to some is an indication that the wall couldn’t have been a very useful defensive fortification. So what was the wall used for? The Georgia State Park website calls wall mysterious, even suggesting that it could have had ceremonial purposes. Was this site a place of reverence or worship? In 1987 astronomer John Burgess claimed that “the north end of the Fort Mountain Stone Wall points towards the position on the horizon where the sun rises on the summer solstice.” This could suggest that the wall mapped astronomical movements. Perhaps the Moon-Eyed People used the wall as a way to worship the moon and track the movement of celestial bodies.

Where did the Moon-Eyed People go? Cherokee legend says that a great battle ensued between natives and the Moon-Eyed People, forcing the latter to leave the region, and according to legend, retreat deep into the mountains where they live underground. Perhaps this legend strikes a chord with Celtic Mythologists, who recognize that Tuatha de Danaan suffered the same fate. The Tuatha de Danaan were a  divine race who arrived in a mist to the shores of Ireland, where they were revered as great magicians and prophets. They were then defeated in battle by the Milesians and driven to live in “the mounds and earthworks underground.” Perhaps we need to reconsider the connection to the Welsh after all.

Visiting Fort Mountain in Georgia is a fun and short day adventure with many nature trails that are marked with posts about local plant life and history.  The trails are well kept and the hike around the mountain leads to an overview where there is a marked presence of the Great Spirit. Perhaps even deeper in the mountains below the Moon-Eyed People wait until the darkness of night to visit and reclaim the power of their mysterious site.

*Quote taken from: Haney, Marie. Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends. Faber and Faber: Boston, 1994.
Full Bibliography can be found at: http://www.theroamingmystic.com/works-cited
©The Roaming Mystic and Kiki Dombrowski, 2016.
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Explore This.

You’ve come across a blog project I have wanted to initiate for a very long time. This blog will combine my love for travel with my curiosity for the supernatural, unusual, sacred, and ancient. With each entry I will explore a place that has legends and magic surrounding it. Some people may call these places sacred centers, some may call them paranormal hot spots, some may call them “vibey.” Either way, this blog is about storytelling and not about debunking or confirming claims.

Following a conversation I had with my friend about hillmounds near Nashville, I am currently rummaging through Tennessee State Park maps to find a way into the areas where mounds and petroglyphs can be found. Please stay connected with The Roaming Mystic project for all of your weird travel needs.

Thank you for exploring.

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