The Builders of the Mounds
Background on Effigy
Effigy Mounds are those that were shaped
like animals and or spirits and although they did include human burials
in some of them. They can be found today in states such as Ohio, Iowa
and Wisconsin, with Wisconsin having the highest concentration of any
state that I know of east of the Mississippi. In fact, my travels in
Wisconsin are the basis for this area of the website for the most part.
For that reason, the Fort Ancient Culture and Ho-Chunk (Winnebago)
effigy mounds are really the effigy mound groups that I am talking about
as I discuss my knowledge of effigy mounds.
The purpose of the effigy mounds seem to have been more for ceremonial,
astrologic alignment/calendar, and even navigational purposes. But the
truth is that your guess is as good as anyone's unless you are Native
Indian and have the ability to ask the right people. Lets face it...the
white man came here and took the land, wiped out THOUSANDS of these
mounds to make farmland and to build homes etc...and they did this by
claiming that the Native Indians that lived in their midst did not have
anything to do with them. (See the
MoundBuilder Myth) Instead the settlers and so called scientists of
the day claimed some lost civilization created these great mounds
instead. No - connection - no claim....So who can blame the the Native
Indians today if they refuse to tell the white folk anything more about
them...we didn't want to listen when it mattered most. Still, there are
"white men" that satyed the course of doing what was right no matter the
score at the popularity contest.
video of a man who Wisconsin refers to simple as "Archaeologist," no
better salute needed.
So here is what I can tell you that I have researched and tried my best
to make sense of with my English and Dutch heritage, the internet, and
some air miles...
Probably the most well-known of all the effigy mounds that still exist
that I have seen is in Ohio and called the "Serpent Mound." It is one of
Three most common effigy mound shapes:
The Water Spirit
Click here to watch a video
we did of an intaglio (carved) effigy mound in Madison, Wisconsin.
Many people agree that the "Serpent" of the Serpent Mound, is a symbol
of a spirit that is also referred to a ""water spirit", or "water
panther." The water spirit symbology can be followed throughout many
ancient cultures and is one that can be seen represented in many places
in Native Indian petroglyphs as well as effigy mounds and other effigy
There are some characteristics that define a water spirit as opposed to
a regular serpent or snake, although you may find some used and some not
at any given time. Some of those characteristics include:
a tail that is endless and usually
represented as an unusually long or a
spiral shaped tail (the ancients believed that it
could wrap it's tail around a whole mountain
they had different colors and the
different colors represented different "powers" they possessed
the have an almost human-like face
it is believed they control the
"under-world" - that is not like a hell - or demon-like, but literally
they rule the physical place below where man has access.
they can travel into man's physical space
and sometimes are shown in petroglyphs coming out of cracks in the
cliffs or rocks.
they may be accompanied by others of the
underworld such as snakes
they may take on human form but carry some
indication of being water-spirits, such as having horns or having
bright blue or spiral shaped birthmarks
As stated before, the "Serpent Mound" in Ohio is really a great example
of an effigy mound that has been preserved and that you can see just how
impressive the work was that went into creating it.
|| <<click the
image to see a larger view and be able to read the sign
The effigy mound is over a quarter mile long and has been made
into a national park. There are also a handful of burial mounds around
the outskirts of this mound as well.
But there are actually "Water Panther" shaped mounds that are not as
snake-like as well :
I am sure there are those that do not agree that the man-mounds were actually water-spirits in human-like forms, but after all my research, I do. Notice how the man not only has horns, but is also "cat-like." (no hands, but "paws.") Click
here to visit one of the two man-mounds left in Wisconsin!
The Thunderbird -
Click here to watch a video
we did of a Thunderbird effigy mound at the University of Wisconsin.
Just as there are spirits in Native Indian many cultures that there are
spirits of the "underworld," so are there spirits of the "upperworld."
Again - this is not a division of good and evil, but a belief that these
spirits actually live above the world that man lives in...meaning above
where any birds can fly, etc.
The thunderbirds were believed to be huge enemies of the water spirits,
and use lightning bolts they shoot from their eyes and eggs that they
throw like bombs as their powerful arsenal as they constantly are in
search of waterspirits in their mission to destroy them.
Again - the Thunderbird is a widely used symbol throughout many cultures
and were believed in as far back as the ancient times.
must point out that it is very hard for those of us that grew up with
other belief systems to understand this "upperworld" and ""underworld"
scenario without thinking about "the heavens" or "hell"...But these were
not ideas that the Native Indians had. Instead, they felt that they (the
Indians) existed in a place that had many forces and even other
environments that they had actually nothing to do with, but needed to
understand purely to be safe if they found themselves in the midst of
them. So they believed that there were thunderbirds and waterspirits and
some may harm you if you happened to cross their paths.
When I spent time up in Wisconsin, I was able to learn a little about
the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) belief system about the battle between the two,
and actually was able to visit the place where their greatest of battles
supposedly took place, Devil's Lake. When you paddle around Devil's Lake
- one thing that strikes you is that there are "tons" of turkey vultures
that are soaring above you, and to me, it gave me a sense of
understanding of how the following legend began...There is only two
other places that I have seen such a concentration of these large,
ancient looking birds, one is the Serpent Mound in Ohio, and the other
is Spanish Hill.
(Click the image to view article)
have also heard that the constant battle between the two (thunderbirds
and waterspirits) kept a balance in man's world, which was symbolized by
the next shape of most common effigy mounds:
The bear effigy mounds then represent this world that man lives in.
Sadly the only bear mound that I found in our travels that was STILL in
tact was one at Devil's Lake next to linear mound.
Click here to watch the video.
Here is another video from the Wyalusing State
Park in Wisconsin.
More on these mounds...
If you are looking for ALOT of effigy mounds within a small region,
I have found that the state of Wisconsin and once home to the great
Ho-Chunk, ( Winnebago ) is a place you should visit. The videos that can
be found on this site concerning Effigy mounds all come from spending a
few days around Madison Wisconsin. I believe that even though thousands of
mounds are now gone, it is still a grand salute to a long lost Effigy
Mound Builders culture and Ho-Chunks ( Winnebagos ) who once lived here.
Here are maps drawn by Squier and Davis of some effigy mound groups in
Wisconsin (click for larger images):
Here is a list of all videos accessible from this section and concerning
the Effigy Mound Culture in Wisconsin.
1.) Water Panther (Spirit)
effigy Mound Madison, WI
2.) Thunderbird Effigy Mound- University of Wisconsin.
3.) Devil's Lake and the Legend
4.) Linear and Bear Effigy Mound,
5.) Man-Mound Effigy Mound in Sauk
6.) Alligator Mound, Ohio
Types of Man-Made Mounds
Man-made mounds are mounds that were made from the ground up and fall into four basic shapes or categories. Conical mounds, Effigy mounds, Temple Mounds and Geometric (usually linear) mounds.
Conical Mounds - look like pyramids except that they are rounded. They, just as the great pyramids, were built in honor of some special shaman or king, and are in fact burial sites for them as well.
Effigy Mounds - are shaped like animals and or spirits, and were believed to have ceremonial, navigational and calendar-like purposes. It is known that many of these align with the stars and could have been used to predict solstices, and even eclipses.
|Temple Mounds - were mounds that either were man-made or "truncated" natural hills. Structures (many times temples) were placed upon the flattened top and were considered to be "living spaces" for shamans or their leaders and their families.
||Geometric-Shaped Mounds - were usually circular, square, or linear in shape, and were thought to have alot of the same uses as the effigy mounds, but sometimes (like the Newark site above) were believed to be created together to build ceremonial & observatory inside large complexes.
To learn more about the people who built the mounds, use the following links: