Centuries before Europeans arrived, large parts of North America had cities of thousands of people living in finely built houses, palaces, temples and wide public plazas. There were road systems connecting cities across hundreds of miles. There were kings and councils, architects and astronomers and great artists.
About 1200 years ago, the Mississippian society began and took root with a shared religion which focused on 3 tiers of life. Above, on earth and below.
Mounds were built for religious, ceremonial, burial, and elite residential purposes. These mound builders were organized; hundreds or even thousands of workers had to dig up tons of earth with the hand tools available, the soil had to be moved long distances, and finally, workers had to create the shape the builder had planned.
Often religious and art objects were buried with the dead:
Recently, while reading on the subject, I discovered that there is such a mound in Scarborough not far from where I grew up. I had to explore it.
Here are views of the mound and from the mound framed by an Iroquois prayer which is on a stone tablet erected in 1961 at the top of the hill.
Oh Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me.
I am a man before You, one of Your many children.
I am small and weak, I need Your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty and let my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunsets.
Make my hands respects the things You have made, my ears sharp to hear Your voice.
Make me wise so that I may know the things You have taught my people, the lessons You have hidden in every leaf and rock.
I seek strength, O Creator, not to be superior to my brothers, but be able to fight my greatest enemy, myself.
Make me ever ready to come to You with clean hands and straight eye, so that when life fades as the setting sunset, my spirit may come to You without shame.
I thank you Miles for your daily posts over the summer but especially for this one which stirs my soul and creates an even stronger connection to this place. I can think of no better lead in to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, next week and Yom Kippur the week after, an opportunity for self inspection, evaluation, repentance and atonement. Thank you for setting the tone for this annual process.
What beautiful, moving and insightful words.
Would that we all could live by them.
What an inspiring prayer! Thank you, Miles
Thank you Miles. This mound is very close to my childhood home and although, I knew it was a burial mound, I hadn’t ever visited. Reading the beautiful prayer now makes me wish I had taken the time. I’ll keep it close.
Thank you Miles for posting this on your site. Very stirring words. To see that something from so very long ago is still evident, and was dedicated as a historic site by The Township of Scarborough in 1961 shows great respect. I have been to a great many Mayan sites, but I had no idea about the ancient cities so close to home. For myself, this deserves further study.
Wow, this was really fascinating. And the prayer was so beautiful and moving. Thank you so much for this, Miles!
Wow! Thank you, Miles. I didn’t know about this and will go there! I grew up in southeastern Kansas very close to so-called “Indian Territory” (as you probably know, the state of Oklahoma was “given” to the native people where they were forced to live for many years; little did the powers of the time know about all that oil to be discovered there soon after, making the people who survived the trip to get there among the richest people in the world for a period). If you’re ever in southern Ohio, the Adena serpent mound of an earlier period is interesting, as are the Cahokia mounds near St. Louis, Missouri. Current native people must be so proud of this heritage.
I have to learn more about this Mississippian Society and the connected cities.
Beautiful and very inspiring prayer. I’m going to share it with my family and grandchildren.
Thank you so much for sharing this.