Legends of Mount Shasta: “The Abode of the Devil” Part 3 – Prehistoric Traditions of Giants and Mysterious Beings, Part One
There are countless Native American legends describing prehistoric giants, flood myths, lost civilizations, cataclysms, the star people, and other mysterious beings who belonged to some remote and forgotten era in California’s past, suggesting a radically different chronology and ancient history than what is generally known today.
Lucy Thompson wrote about prehistoric giants and other mysterious beings who inhabited the Pacific coast in ancient times—among them the Wa-Gas (designated as Woge, Woga, or even “Little People” or the “Star People” in other variations of the legend).
Thomas Buckely, a recognized expert on Yurok spirituality ( Standing Ground: Yurok Indian Spirituality, 1850-1990 ), states that Lucy—fearful of being misunderstood by a powerful and still-dangerous white audience—filtered ancient Yurok traditions through a lens of Biblical and Masonic imagery with the help of her husband, which appears to have been both a precaution to avoid persecution, and also a strategy to make the book more sympathetic and comprehensible to a largely white audience.
Much of the prehistoric lore Lucy Thompson talks about in To The American Indian can also be found, under various guises, in the traditions of other northwestern tribes.
The Ancient Woga
There are many northwestern traditions which talk about a race of giants dwelling in the remote mountains of northern California, and also a mysterious spirit-people, the “Woga,” who inhabited these lands in ancient times and then mysteriously vanished.
In some traditions, the Woga were said to have left for the heavens from the sacred high country (presumably mountaintops) but a number of them chose to remain behind here on Earth and serve as stewards of the land and conduits to the spirit world. The Wogas resided in sacred natural dwellings which were viewed as portals to another realm through which they could pass back and forth.
“In prehistoric lore natural features of the landcape were sometimes described as places where the Woge dwelled. This basaltic facade gives the impression of a 'false doorway' entering a massive rock edifice. Sometimes these kinds of unusual geological structures are associated with portals that lead into other realms.” Photograph © Dustin Naef 2016
There are few subjects which are attacked with more fanaticism than Native American legends, or more generally non-Western accounts of pre-history.
Native-authored books such as Vine Deloria Jr’s Red Earth, White Lies (1997) and Ardy Sixkiller Clarke’s Encounters With Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians (2012), unquestionably make plain that prehistoric giants, lost civilizations, cataclysms, and the Star People encompass a far-reaching cosmology that embodies the traditions and pre-history of North America in very ancient times.
- Legends of Mount Shasta: “The Abode of the Devil” Part I – The Legend of J.C. Brown
- Legends of Mount Shasta: The Abode of the Devil Part 2 – Castle Crags: Fortress of Giants
- Breaking Sacred Ground: The Confluence, and Disruption of the Balance of Origin Sites
Unsurprisingly, many scholars reject these traditions outright, dismissing them as evidence of cultural contamination and Native American appropriation of modern science-fiction motifs and Biblical stories, as a consequence of centuries of contact with Europeans—rather than acknowledging them as independent eyewitness observations of a forgotten history which was globally-situated in scale.
“In 'Red Earth, White Lies' Vine Deloria Jr. writes about Chief Joseph, a Nez Perce leader, who in 1877 was found to be in possession of Middle Eastern artifacts and symbols he claimed to have inherited from his ancestors, artifacts whose provenance cannot be explained.” Image Credit: Assyriatimes.com
“The artifacts and symbolism found on Chief Joseph suggests there may have some kind of Mesopotamian connction between the Pacific Northwest and the Middle East, which is not fully understood today.” Image Credit: Assyriatimes.com
Vine Deloria Jr, writing in Red Earth, White Lies , described by the Skeptical Inquirer as a “dishonest mutilation of science” and a “wretched piece of Native American creationism claptrap,”admits that only about ten percent of knowledge Native American elders possess about North America’s pre-history is known today outside of tribal circles because of this bias.
Deloria notes that scholars have devised a specialized language for dealing with traditions of the past and non-Western peoples, and this language is designed to cleverly divert non-scientific information into harmless categories of “myths”, where they cannot disrupt orthodox doctrines.
- Mount Shasta: Inner Earth Realms and History of the Lava Beds
- The Exceptional Underwater City of Cuba: A New Theory on its Origins – Part I
- The Exceptional Cuban Underwater City: Prehistoric Ramifications of its Origins – Part II
Myth is a loaded word overwhelmingly applied to the traditions of non-Western people, and Deloria states that this basically means a fiction created and sustained by undeveloped intellects which an educated and rational person would never in a million years believe; and which is devised primarily to entertain, to illustrate human nature, or to explain geological landmarks, waterfalls, the heavens, or birds and butterflies in creationist and supernatural terms.
Countless books have been written over the past century by scholars, which purport to re-educate Native Americans (and the general public) on how to correctly interpret the meanings of their ancestors’ oral traditions. But it is rare to find any kind of agreement or support of these books among Native Americans themselves.
The anthropologist Alfred L. Krober’s transcriptions of oral narratives, for example, have been criticized to be so heavily edited that it is impossible to discern a unique Native voice in them.
American Indian historian Jack Norton writes:
“It should be stated here that the Kroeber Handbook [of the American Indians of California] should most emphatically be re-worked, and a complete history of the tribes of the region be produced. Those now reading this work are shocked and dismayed by the evidence of ethnocentrism and prejudice shown by Kroeber, the distinguished scholar. These need to be pointed out at some time soon, for they have been picked up and made a part of the educational process, and contribute greatly to the misconceptions about native peoples of California.”
The role of oral traditions as legends in a historical story-telling context and preservation effort is rarely, if ever, acknowledged.
I’m personally not persuaded by the arguments that North American legends referring to a Great Flood, prehistoric giants, and other mysterious beings were appropriated by Native Americans from European and Biblical sources and glossed over with their own cultural nuances.
If there are common similarities in these traditions to the legends of other cultures, it’s my assumption that it’s because these legends are based on historical events that occurred in the remote past, which were witnessed, recorded, and remembered by ancient people all over the world.
(Read Part II )
Top Image: Mount Shasta, Photograph © Dustin Naef 2016
By Dustin Naef
Dustin Naef (2016). Mount Shasta's Forgotten History & Legends.
Lucy Thompson (1916). To the American Indian: Reminisces of a Yurok Woman.
Thomas Buckley (2002). Standing Ground: Yurok Indian Spirituality.
Vine Deloria, Jr. (1997). Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact.
Ardy Sixkiller Clarke (2012). Encounters With Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians.
Jack Norton (2006). New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations.