Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Music From An Old Musician

You may recall we have been exploring our local petroglyphs lately -- taking along our Native American cedar flute, happily acquired from R. Carlos Nakai's flutemaker, to pipe the spirits -- and you may have read our brief sketches of the matter under the title Letters From An Old Magician, and to a somewhat different extent as In the Shadows of Sagebrush.

Shortly after these sketches were published, someone sent us the below photograph:

This is the Tenth Bhakha Tulku, incarnation of the Terton Dorje Lingpa, offering the nature of the Native American flute, at a petroglyph site -- which I believe is the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site near Tularosa, New Mexico. With apologies to Bhakha Tulku, who fortuitously lives in the Southwest, this was not sent to celebrate him, nor to celebrate the cedar flute -- that looks like an end-blown Anasaszi flute he is playing -- but for the petroglyph in the picture, which bears a certain similarity to some of the petroglyphs we have around here.

As an example, you may recall this one, from our earlier article:

Just for fun, here is an inverted version of the same photograph -- perhaps this helps capture the detail:

In an attempt to enrich appreciation ("enrich appreciation:" now there's a Californication for you) of these ancient signs, I have been consulting the works of LaVan Martineau (1932 - 2000) -- in particular his The Rocks Begin to Speak, first published in 1973 -- and the discussion of his works to be found at the Southwest Backcountry blog, or the Rock Language website operated by Martineau's daughter, Shanan.

LaVan Martineau had a truly beautiful heart, and I believe in the future, people will begin to recognize  it is only because of this heart we have been able to save -- what little we have been able to save -- the unique Native American rock language. He was orphaned at the age of ten, and adopted by the Paiute up in Utah, to be raised as a Native American child among other Native American children. Among other things, during this period he learned Native American sign language, as well as the spoken languages of several different tribes in Utah, Nevada, and Arizona.

When he became older, Martineau joined the U.S. Air Force. While serving in Korea, he developed an interest in cryptanalysis; a discipline he brought to bear on the analysis of petroglyphs in around 1956, and which he continued to explore up until the time of his death. 

Martineau's work is somewhat controversial, but this controversy exists chiefly in the minds of non-Native American anthropologists who did not enjoy his unique insights into Native American culture, nor his keen appreciation of Native American genius. Speaking personally, after reading through the open literature of petroglyphs in some considerable detail, and after visiting and examining petroglyphs in situ, I have developed the opinion that Martineau's interpretations are the only ones that make sense.

Tucked away, at the Grand Canyon

A lot of what we hear about petroglyphs, i.e. they are the art work of shamans, hopped up on datura or otherwise, seems just plain wrong. True, some visionary depictions do exist, but if we relegate the whole of rock writing to the realm of the idiosyncratic, we miss the commonplace use of rock writing as a medium of communication.

A medium of communication which, in its way, is not entirely unlike music.

Just as music takes its themes from common experience, so too, does rock writing. Just as music evokes particular, universally understood patterns, so does rock writing. It was Martineau's thesis that petroglyphs comprise a soundless music: a universal, ideographic language -- one which could be understood by members of tribes with differing spoken languages -- a language lacking phonetic equivalents, which was in fact a language of mind.

So we are talking about visible speech, or visible mind.


This is an interesting thesis -- way beyond interesting, actually -- because it begs comparison to the visible speech or visible mind inherent in the dakini language's yellow scrolls of our own terma tradition.

Thus, did the photograph of the terton, the flute, and the petroglyph in New Mexico -- thought to have been created by the Jornada Mogollon people, circa 900 to 1,400 CE -- set me to thinking about the flute, and the petroglyph out here in the Desert Floristic Province -- thought to have been created by another people, at least several centuries prior. What treasure do we have here? If this is a universal language, what is it saying?

On the face of it, encountering such highly similar petroglyphs from such widely separated places, peoples, and times, is a powerful argument in favor of Martineau's thesis.  How widely separated, you ask?

The copyrighted photograph, above, by John Vincent Bellezza, was taken in Tibet,  and the petroglyph dated to the pre-Buddhist period. While less stylized, I invite you to compare it to the two American petroglyphs we have depicted, above. Bellezza identifies this as a Bon kyung, or eagle, which he describes as, "a protective spirit, mountain and clan deity, and a tutelary figure of lamas and spirit-mediums."

Of course, in my book, khyung is the garuda, but that's for another day.....

When the original peoples of North American came straggling out of Siberia and Central Asia -- whether running from mastodons, chasing mastodons, or both, we can only surmise -- it would seem they stopped at intervals to write on the rocks. Whether they were commemorating events or leaving signposts for the edification of others who might follow seems an open question.  


Between the sky, with which we began this story, and the earth, with which we shall now close, roamed ancient man. Every single aspect of his life was different from every single aspect of ours, save one...

Don't investigate things.

Investigate mind.


Stumble Upon Toolbar

2 reader comments:

Padma Kadag said...

My question to you is this..If on one hand we applaud "Native" scholarly interpretations, ie. Martineau, as having some kind of inside track due to his parentage and we find what he is saying as not the normal western kind of interpretations, then why would we unequivocally believe in a mythology created by western anthropologists, who have a record of misinterpreting everything "Native American", regarding the origin of the North American tribes? Bering Strait on the tail of a Dinosaur.

TENPA said...

When we have studied the haplogroupings of Native Americans these can be traced to Siberia and Central Asia, so that is that.

We can also consider the incidence and distribution of the prehistoric animals, which pretty much argues in favor of the Bering scenario as well.

Really, the most convincing evidence is the DNA.