Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lost in a Labyrinth

This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper

On the same trip where I saw the Blythe Intaglios, we visited another California geoglyph. (Recall that this is a form of rock art where an image has been scrathed into the surface rock revealing lighter material beneath.) This geoglyph is the so-called Topock Maze. This is located over near Needles and is just off of the freeway. 

It is thought that the Maze was originally around 50 acres. That's 50 acres where the native Mojave Indians moved the desert pavement aside, piling up the rocks along the sides of the cleared path making curved “windrows”. The damage began back in the 1880s as a train track was laid across part of the maze. Then the various incarnations of the road that became Interstate 40 took out even more. Other things, including a gas pipeline have brought the size down.

Now after years of poor protection the site is down to maybe 18 acres. And thankfully is better protected now under the jurisdiction of the department of Fish and Game. (I know that doesn't make a lot of sense to me either, but that's who it fell to.) And the Mojave Indians have discovered the power of the media which has prevented more recent construction. (The rows can be seen in the Google Earth image above.)

According to current understanding the Topock Maze was used by the native peoples to remove unpleasant “spirits”. They person being haunted would run through the maze, which would confuse the spirit, allowing the person to get free. Since the evil spirits were confused by the maze.

The fact that the Topock Maze was used this way reminds me of pysanky. That is the beautiful art of the Ukrainian Easter eggs. These eggs have complex geometric designs, often in red and black. I was told at one time that part of the way the eggs were used was a way of trapping evil spirits. A person would have a decorated egg in a prominent location in the house, evil spirits would become entranced by the patterns and get sucked into the egg and would be trapped. The egg was then carefully taken out into the woods and buried after a year. (I think that the evil spirits made the raw egg stinky after a year. So you definitely wanted to not break the egg.)

It also appears that our custom of decorated eggs at Easter comes from this tradition. Of course the tradition of decorated eggs predates the celebration of Easter. (But then the word Easter does too.) Since it is felt that the Ukrainian tradition goes back to ancient times. Though archaeological specimens are rare due to the fragility of eggs.

So now I finally understand the opposition to the Labyrinth that was to be put in City Park. It wasn't due, as some suggested, to the close minded superstition of the opponents. It was actually a waste disposal problem. As troubled people wandered our maze, the evil spirits troubling them would get confused and become trapped in the maze. Now considering the documentary movie Ghostbusters (1984) as a source, we can see the danger of having a spirit containment system fail. Quoting the famous parapsychologist Dr. Peter Venkman, it leads to “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!” 

Though maybe Benz could have been contracted to deal with the problem.

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