Man has always tried to explain the unexplainable throughout the ages. Whatever could not be explained was an action of a god. That is still true today. Although the place of the gods in our life becomes smaller and smaller with our “knowledge” and scientific methods.
A seemingly uninteresting granite slab
Some things, however, remain actual and can still not be explained, even by the best scientists. One of these “things” can be found in the Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba. There is a place, accessible to the public, that keeps its mystery, even after many centuries.
A small sign on road 307 in the Whiteshell Park tells us “Petroforms site”. Now I had no idea what petroforms were and was thinking of petrified wood and things of the like. Arriving at the welcome sign for the site (remember I promised to read them?) one can read that petroforms are carefully placed stones.
Well, those stones can also be found in Holland. Ehm, not exactly… Once in the woods at the end of a short trail is another sign pointing to the petroforms adorned with a piece of cloth.
Until now, I still had no idea what to expect. And when you arrive on the spot, you think: “Is this all?” or like some people say “C’è tutto?” and you see a granite slab of several thousands of square meters adorned with small boulders.
Hmmm, now what? Getting closer to these stones you find that they are arranged in forms of turtles, fish, snakes, men, circles and other forms.
The original meaning of these stones remains a mystery. Today the Anishinabe First Nations (Canadian Aboriginals or “Indians”) still use this place and its stones for ceremonies. The sign at the entrance of the site tells us that if First Nations are here and ceremonies are in progress, please do not disturb and retreat quietly. Treat the site with the same respect as your church, synagogue or mosque.
The scientists do not know exactly how old these stones are. They date at least from prehistoric times. But prehistoric in North America is a lot closer than in Europe. These stones are believed to be about 1500 years old. In normal archaeological sites, everything can possibly be dated by the surrounding ground layers and the artefacts that are found in them. Here, we have no soil in which anything can stay. Even the trees have no place for their roots, however hard they try.
Uprooted tree, but where are the roots?
These stones are simply placed in forms on the hard rock. Weather, animals and man can easily destroy the site, sometimes even without knowing it. Many of these sites have been destroyed to create farmland. Something that this site does not have to fear.
The sign at the entrance makes a small comparison between this site and a religious place. That is not completely correct. The First Nations use this place even today on special occasions for ceremonies, I already said that. But what kind of ceremonies? One could say religious, but this place is certainly not a church. It is more a place of teaching.
The snake with every stone has some teaching and meaning, some other forms will have a meaning as a whole. The Anishinabe still use the site today, but do not claim to have the complete meaning of the forms.
Petroform of a man
A complete recognisable form will often have a complete meaning with a legend or teaching to be told. The one that goes with the man above would be as follows: “One day, one of the Anishinabe asked Waynaboozhoo (who is both good and evil, both human and spirit) for everlasting existence. The person wanted immortality so Waynaboozhoo turned him into stones.” The stones are still here to show this man. In other words, be careful what you wish for, you may get it. This goes for all people, not only for the Anishinabe.
There are more teachings of life.
There is a scroll (many stones lined up) that starts with a common point and has two long paths and one short. The short one in the middle has bigger stones than the long arms. It is said that the paths are for the humans to take, one path for the Anishinabe and one for the White man. One can also choose the middle, mixed path, but this one, even if it seems richer with bigger stones ends much quicker with death for the spirit. The two long arms will eventually get together, but nothing shows the end (yet).
Snake and turtle
The petroforms in Bannock Point in Manitoba still have lots of things to tell, but only to those who know how to listen. The day we were here, it was not very hot, a mere 25C. However the site being open and on a granite slab without shadow, we were quickly overheated and sweating like fountains.
At the same time the site breathes an atmosphere that is not easy to define. I had the same feelings when I walked on the hunebedden in Drenthe, Holland. A place where you can go today and have a quiet time, but definitely a place where spirits still roam and who may be trying to tell you something.
If only I were able to listen with the right ears…