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Department of Chemistry
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Kekip Sacred Rock in Alberta: Moon, Morningstar and blood sacrifice
Gordon R. Freeman
Chemistry Dept., University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2G2
An Amerindian name for the Earth is Turtle Island. One of many versions of the creation
story is that Sky Woman fell from her home way up in the sky, into a greatOcean.Birds and
animalsthat lived on and in the Oceandecidedto help her by making a place for her to live. A
Muskrat dived to the bottom of the Ocean and brought up mud. He askedthe other animals
where to put the mud, and a Turtle said "Put it on rqy back." The Muskrat dived many times to
bring up mud to make the land on the Turtle's back very large. That is how the Earth was
formed. Sky Woman gave birth to humans.After some time she returned to the Sky to become
GrandmotherMoon, who watches over her children. Grandfather Sun is her husband.
Morningstar is their son.
From archaeologicaldating of cultural artifacts it is known that during at least the last
5000 yearshumans on the North American Plains have arrangedrocks into many patterns on the
ground, and carved symbols into a few rocks. During the last 100 years Europeanimmigrants
moved most of the rocks from patterns into piles and plowed the land, but some rock patterns
remain on unplowed land. We struggle to preservethem.
Glyphed quartziteboulders have been found on eight hilltops in southeasternAlberta.
The stylesof the glyphs indicateagesfrom about 5000 to 2000 years,with cup-and-groovethe
oldest.Six of the hilltops held a single quartzitewith glyphs, and two hilltops eachheld a pair.
The bouldersweigh from about 60 to 400 kg. Each pair consistedof a large and a small quartzite.
All of the carvedquartzitesexceptone pair have beenremoved from their original places,
someto museums.Indians still leaveofferings at the sole remainingpair (Figure 1). The main
offeringsI have seenduring the last three decadeshave been incenses:tobacco,sweetgrass
(Hierochloeodorata) and longleaf sage(Artemisia longifulia).lncense is somethingthat is
burnedto producea purifying, fragrantwhite smoke,and has beenusedin religiouspurification
ceremoniesaround the world for many thousandsof years. Other offerings I have seenat the
glyphed quartzitepair are food (berries,candy, fish), money, cloth (substitutefor skin, Figure 2),
crow and raptor feathers,and rarely an old stonetool such as a hide scraperor knife, or a rifle
bullet (a modern arrow). These and the other glyphed quartzites are SacredRocks, either Altars
or Effigies. Whitemen tend to refer to other people's religions as "magic," or "superstition,"and
that is how the intrusive Whiteman Government'ssign refersto this sacredplace.
In Fds,Morocco, one time while I was eatingin a tiny restaurant,the cooking area'and
the cornersof the room were purified by the smoke from incenseburnedin a censorswinging on
a rope, of the type usedin Catholic Churches.This purification practiceis evidently usedalso
At the SacredRock pair shown in Figure 1, three yearsago someonere-orientedthe long
axis of the smaller quartzite from its ancient southeast-northwestto east-west.This might have
beendone in a rededicationceremony,becauseWhite peoplehad protectedthe smallerglyphed
quartzftefrom theft by anchoring its base in concrete.But the Whiteman's concretewas a
desecration.Indian traditions are now slowly re-forming after a century of severesuppression.I
think that Cree Eldersheld a ceremonyat the SacredRocks,removedthe concretebaseto replace the Rock on Mother Earth, and reoriented it to east-west.Perhapsthe religious syrnbolism
has been Christianized, and east-westis now more significant than the ancient southeastnorthwest (Winter Solstice Sun rise and Summer Solstice Sun set). The larger glyphed quartzite
remains oriented north-south, and the SacredRocks are on the north edge of the hill summit.
North is the direction of The Star That Doesn't Move Much, the North Star.North had a
The quartzitepair mentionedaboveis glyphed over most of its exposedsurface.The
other quartztte parc,now in a museum in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, is glyphed over its entire surface,
including the bottoms.
Three of the single quartzites are glyphed over their entire surfaces.One of them was on
the north edgeof the summit of Kekip Hlll. Kekip is Old Blackfoot for 'Flint Knife.' The hill is
in territory that was occupiedby Blackfoot until 1877.During 1871to 1877the Canadian
Governmentforced suppressiveTreatieson Indian Tribes, confining them to "Reserves"of less
productive land. Indians in the United Statessuffered the samegenocidal fate during the
By 1880the invading British in Canada,and Americansto the south,had destroyedthe
millions of bison that had beenthe sustenance
of Prairie Indians.Indian cultureswere largely
destroyedwith them. After a few decadesthe sizesof the Indian populationsand of the Reserves
had been further greatly reduced.
Kekip Sacred Rock
The glyphed quartzitewas stolen off Kekip Hill in 1882 by the Government Interpreter,
JeanL'Heureux the fake Priest,to presentto the Govemor Generalof Canada,the Marquis of
Lorne, during his tour of "The Northwest Territories."In 1905that southernpart of the
Territoriesbecamethe Prairie Provincesof Saskatchewan
The SacredRock from Kekip Hill is now in the CanadianMuseum of Civilization,3600
km eastof its Sacredsite. Civilized theft by the conquerors!Ironic wordmongering.There are
two gllphed quartzitesin the CanadianMuseum of Civthzation, the secondone stolen from a
SacredHill near Sunnl,nook,Alberta rn 1912.Elders of both Cree and Blackfoot Tribes have in
recentyearsheld Sweetgrass(Incensing)Purification Ceremoniesat both of the SacredRocks in
the Museum.Blackfoot and Creecontinueto try to recoverthe SacredAltars, but the White
bureaucratsbelieve that Indianswouldn't take care of them! The factsthat the original sitesare
now farmlandowned by Whites, and most Indianshave been Christianized,complicatethe
Kekip SacredRock is sandy colored quartzite,roughly hemisphericalin shape,43 cm
averagediameter,29 cm high, about 80 kg. It is completelycoveredwith cups and grooves
(Figures 3 to 5). The cups and most of the grooveswere incisedby pecking.The bottomsof the
groovesand parts of their sideswere smoothedby abrasion.Someof the smallergrooveswere
formedby abrasiononly or peckedonly.
The velvety smoothnessof the bottomsof someof the groovesmight have resultedfrom
millennia of rubbing with fingers.
The most prominent featureof the engravingis an 18 cm diameter,2 cm deepcrescent
with a 7 cm diameter,2.5cm deepcup nestedin it (Figure 3). The cup has sevenshort grooves
radiatingfrom it. JeanL'Heureux lived with the Blackfoot many yearsbefore 1882,and recorded
much of their languageand someof their ceremonies.He interpretedthe crescentand radiating
cup as the Moon and the shining Morningstar (Episors is old Blackfoot for Morningstar).
A real star can neverbe seennestedin the crescentMoon, becausethe sphericalMoon
blocks light from any starbehind the full circle of its crosssection.However, a starnestedin a
crescentMoon is an ancientsyrnbolthat is still usedin flags of severalMuslim nationssuchas
Tunisia, Pakistanand Malaysia. The flag of Turkey shows the Morningstar in conjunction with
the roughly realistic,waxing 3-day-oldMoon.
There is another 7 cm diameter, 3 cm deep cup symmetrically acrossthe top of the Rock
from the Star (Figure 6). From a certainanglethe pair of cups seemlike "eyes looking up." The
pair is almostidenticalto theooeyes
looking north" in one end of anothercompletely-glyphed
quartzftethat was on the summit of a SacredHill 80 km to the northeast.It is now the
Sunnlmook SacredRock in the CanadianMuseum of Civilization.
On the bottom of Kekip Rock are about25 cupulesand one groove (Figure 5). The
groove has the shapeof an open mouth or vulva. It is directly beneaththe lower portion of the
Moon glyph, which seemsto favor the vulva interpretation. A vulva is the entrancefor seedand
the exit for new life. (Wat makin' herfat din't go infroo her mouf.)
There are many other grooves on the Rock that L'Heureux thought were a form of
writing (Figure 7). The symbolsseemto be in a counterclockwiseoutward spiral from the top of
the Rock. Outward spiralsof symbols,someclockwise and otherscounterclockwise,were
common formats in ancient writing systems.An attempt to separatethe syrnbols is shown below
L'Heureux's sketch.My sketchtransferringthe symbolsfrom the hemisphericalRock to flat
paperis much cruderthan L'Heureux's, but the relative sizesare more in proportion (Figure 8).
I think L'Heureux's sketchwas influencedby knowledgeof ancientwriting systems,a popular
subject during the nineteenth century. L'Heureux was an amateur anthropologist, interestedin
symbolism and the roots of language.
If anyonewishesto pursuethe suggestionof writing, fruitful directionsmight be ancient
North Africa, and Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, USA. Controversial material and a lot of
inspirationmay be found in severalbooks by Barry Fell, particularly SagaAmerica (1980).Fell
was a widely experiencedgeniuswith a photographicmemory suitedto patternrecognition,
beforepatternrecognitionwas widely acknowledgedas a powerful tool in the approachto
understandingcomplex systems.Sometimeshis mind was too quick to wait for confirmation of
someof the presumedfacts.His books are a rich ore for smelting.
Petroglyphsof cup and groove style dateback at least5000 years,but the complex
symbolson Kekip SacredRock might be more recent.The surfaceof the Rock is completelyand
deeply glyphed,so the glyphs might have beenmade over a long period. The Rock evidentlywas
used as an Altar up to about 200 years ago.Kekip Hill summit is almost due north (26 km, 8
degrees)of a Temple to the Sun, Moon and Morningstar,a vast lacework of stonepatternsthat
beganto be constructedmore than 5000 yearsago. The Temple containsaccuratecalendrical
lines to Solstitial Sun risesand setsthat dateto 5000 yearsago, and the lines might have taken
severalcenturiesto lay down and adjust to their amazingaccuracy of less than one-tenthof a
degree.North is a ceremonial direction, so I think that something ceremonial was on Kekip Hill
5000 yearsago. Possiblythis quartzite.
Although quartziteis metamorphosedsandstone,the quartzite boulders I have seenin
Templesin Alberta, Tunisia (Al Qayrawan,in desert)and India, have beenroundedby eonsof
being rolled by moving water. The quartzitebouldersare sometimesmentally associatedwith
water, and are considered"clean and cleansing." Where there is no water, rubbing a quartzite
rock before prayers is considereda form of ablution. Perhapsthe clean aspect,and the hardness
for durability, were reasonsthat quartzite was chosento engravefor Altars on hilltops. Hilltops
were anciently equivalent to the soaring cathedralsof the last millennium.
L'Heureux describedan exampleof the useof Kekip SacredRock in a Blackfoot blood
sacrificeto the Mominestar.
But first, a caution. Symbols can remain the samewhile their interpretationschange
through millennia. For example, Roman Catholic and ProtestantChristians use the Latin cross as
a symbol for the crucified Jesus.The Latin crossis a modification of the equal-armedcross that
is usedby Middle EasternChristiansto symbolizeJesus,and the equal-armedcrossis an ancient
symbol for the Morningstar. Severalof the ancient SacredRocks of Alberta contain equal-armed
crossgllphs. In many ChristianChurches,displaysof the ancientHoly Trinity of Sun,Moon and
Morningstar are used as mnemonics for a more recent Holy Trinity of God The Father, the
Virgin Mary, and Jesus.The continuanceof symbolsthrough conversionin religion servesas a
So the Blackfoot blood sacrificedescribedbelow might not representa use of Kekip Rock
4000 yearsago.However, the channelsfor liquid-flow on the Rock are a clue, so ancientuses
might havebeen somethingsimilar.
In a time of great crisis, a waruior hero went in the evening to the hilltop Altar. After an
all-night vigil, at the rise of the Morningstar in tlte east, he laid a finger of his left hand on top of
the Rock Altar, and with a Kekip (Flint K"rf") in his right hand he cut off thefinger, leaving
blood to flow down into the Star basin. After a prayer to the Morningstar, lte put tlte severed
finger into the basin and descendedthe hill easterly to the water's edge,to dress the wound.
This type of self-mutilation in an attempt to help the community survive a crisis was even
more honorablethan receiving a wound in war.
Subtle channelsin the surfaceof the Rock guided blood from the top through particular
glyphs,and to a particularplace on the bottom. I experimentedwith water. The castis of
Fibreglass,a polar polymer; it wets in a mannersimilar to rock, so water flow in a grooveor
down a side of the castwould be similar to that on the quartziterock.
The flat bottom of Kekip Rock castwas placedon a horizontalbench,which represented
the Earth. I let a tiny streamof water from a 5-millilitre pipette flow into the largestgroove on
top of the cast(Figure 9). The groove filled to a depth of 3 mm, then water draineddown into
the Starcup, which collecteda pool to a depthof 3 mm then drainedthrough a grooveto the
bottom of the crescentMoon, then down acrossa concavedportion of the side of the Rock to one
end of the vulva groove on the bottom of the Rock (Figure 10), then dripped onto the bench
Four areasof the Rock bottom touch the benchtop, but the areaof the vulva is 11. mm
abovethe bench and slightly slopedin sucha way that the fluid from the Moon bottom reaches
the nearestend of the vulva and drips off. An arnazingsculpture.
Was this a ritual bloodletting and menstruationto fertilize the Earth? Blood from the
Warrior offered to the God Morningstar, passingthrough the GoddessMoon and dropping as
menstrualblood onto Mother Earth?Menstruationis a synnbolof regeneration.Blood fertilizes
the earth.The symbolism seemsto have severallayers.
Was red ochreput into burials as symbolic menstrualblood for regenerationin a new
Thereis powerful syrnbolismin self-sacrifice.And powerful symbolismin the retum of
humanblood to the earth.Could that be one of the subconsciousdriving forcesof war? And of
seeminglybloodthirstyreligions?War and "Drink this my blood in remembranceof me" seemso
stupid,but are so widespreadin human societies.
1968TheAtphabet,volume2, 3'd edition,New York. (Funk & Wagnells).
2000,SacredRoclcsof Alberta: Descriptionof elevenglphed boulders,a meteorite,and their
sifes,Universityof AlbertaArchives,Edmonton,AccessionNo. 2000-44.126pagesof
text, 531 annotatedphotographs,
3 sketches,14 sitemaps.
1878,Englishand BlackfootDictionary, GlenbowMuseumArchives,Calgary.Documentno.
pagesplustitle page,Tableof Matter,and 13pagesof
D970.3 T586;61 numbered
notesat the end.
or AncientSacrificialStone,of theNorth-WestTribesof Canada,
Joumalof the AnthropologicalInstituteof GreatBritain andIreland,pp. 160-165and
Figure 1. Glyphed quartzites,a SacredRock pair nearViking, Alberta. Looking northwest.
Offerings of tobacco (cigarettes)are on the ground, and two 30-05 rifle shell casings
are in the north cupule of the larger Rock. Beneaththe west end of the smaller Rock
are two crow feathers,and there are two 22-caliber bullets in the large cupule in its
west upper end. 5 November 2005.Until2004 the orientationof the smallerglyphed
Rock was northeast-southwest,but it was changedto east-westthree years ago,
possiblyby a Council of Cree Eldersin Ceremony.
Figure 2. Cloth offerings on aspentreesthat surroundan oval-shapeddepressionin the hilltop,
30 m southwestof the SacredRock pair. The depressionin the SacredHilltop is
probably a vulva entrance/exitto the subterraneanSpirit World. Looking north,29
Figure 3. SacredRock taken from the north edgeof the summit of Kekip Hill in 1882.Crescent
Moon nesting a Star, with cups and groovesin the entire surface.Photo from National
Figure 4. Kekip SacredRock rotatedabout 150 degreesfrom Figure 3. National Museums
Figure 5. Kekip SacredRock bottom. Fibreglasscastmade for me by National MuseumsCanada
Figure 6. Kekip SacredRock top cups.Fibreglasscast.
Figure 7. Sketchby JeanL'Heureux of perceivedsymbolspeckedinto Kekip SacredRock, from
reference2. I separatedsymbolsin an assumedcounterclockwiseoutward spiral,by
cut-and-paste,to put them on two straight lines for attemptsat interpretation.
Figure 8. My illiterate attempt to sketch the symbols on the hemisphericalRock. The relative
sizesof the glyphs are more in proportion than thosein L'Heureux's sketch,but my
sketch is much cruder.
Figure 9. Path of a tiny streamof water, simulatingblood, introducedinto the large grooveon
top of Kekip Rock cast.
Figure 10. The water streamof Figure 9 reachedone end of the vulva groove on the bottom of
Kekip Rock cast,then dripped onto the bench (from the GoddessMoon onto Mother
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Startat top of Rock
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