You may have known that Native Americans were trading metals, tools and sharing mythologies hundreds of years ago. But did you know that this Native American spiritual network spanned the entire southeastern United States, and areas beyond?
Archeologists identify the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (S.E.C.C.) as a vast community of trade and exchange from 1200 to around 1600. Native Americans in this network exchanged tools, weapons, engravings, and spiritual practices. The region included areas known today as Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia. But the network also extended to Ohio and the Great Lakes.
Some of the artifacts uncovered throughout this area are strikingly similar. This points to a shared style and handcraft technique. There are examples of shell pendants found several states apart that are so alike that they appear to have been made by the same Native American artist.
Supernatural Beings in a Native American Spiritual Network
Supernatural beings were also similar among the people in this network. This resemblance shows that they shared similar beliefs about cosmology, ceremonies, and death. One of these super-beings was the symbol of a Birdman. For many Native American tribes this was expressed by a falcon in a variety of mythologies.
But it’s hard for experts to tell what some of these beings meant hundreds of years ago. An example is a recent discussion between an archaeologist and some Muskogee Native Americans who live near Lake Jackson, Florida – another S.E.C.C. site. Surprisingly, they told him that the Birdman is actually a moth and not a bird.
Another supernatural being that was expressed through mythology in the S.E.C.C. region was the Great Serpent. An example of the serpent’s significance is seen in the 1,348 foot long Great Serpent Mound in southern Ohio that was built around 300 BC. Researchers believe that the mound was constructed to show the way northward for spirits from nearby graves.
I’m always amazed at the amount of culture and trade that occurred in North America before it was colonized. Maybe it’s because I can’t fathom those rugged trails and long distances that many Native Americans journeyed. It must have been an interesting time to be alive. I often wonder what it was like with nights filled with stars and stories in the vast Native American spiritual network.
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