The Mouse Deity with Pointed Snout in Colorado
by Gloria Farley, FMES
[Note: This article appeared in the Volume 16, 2002 issue of the Midwestern
In 1982 my exploring party was driving on the west side of a small mountain in Baca County, southeastern Colorado. This very steep mountain had cliffs near the top which come together in a sharp V at the north end, so was called "The Windsplitter."
In relating their tradition, Krwan-atan, Man Without Fire, said categorically, "The Slaves are not of our People" 1. At any time up to 1227 A.D., the native people, i.e., the old population of the Tarim and Kan-su Oases, would have said, "The Tu-ku-hun (Ha-za) are not of our People".
When we stopped near the point to gaze, I was determined to climb to the cliff on the west side, to the disapproval of the rest of my party, who refused to accompany me. They said it was too steep, especially for a 66 year old woman. But I made it by holding to trees, carrying tracing paper and a jumbo crayon in my pocket.
The reward was a small petroglyph panel incised near the bottom of the cliff. There was script, including an upside down V, a swastika-like cross, a symbol like an asterick, only with eight points instead of six. These symbols ran above a horizontal undulating line which continued beyond my reach.
Under that line and attached to it by its long tail was a small animal. It had four straight legs, a pointed nose, and wore some kind of a headdress. It looked very much like a mouse.
I traced the entire panel, but was unable to climb around the pointed
cliff to see what might be on the east side.
Knowing that an upside down V, an asterick-like and straight lines were in the ancient Iberic Alphabet, I sent a copy of the panel to Donal Buchanan, a colleague of Massachusetts. He is a linguist and an expert in Iberic, but he was unable to translate it as Iberic. So the tracing languished in my files until April 2003.
At 2:00 am on a sleepless night, I was reading the current issue of the Midwestern Epigraphic Journal, Volume 15. It contained an article by Ethel G. Stewart of Ottawa, Ontario, "Funeral Procession Around the Tents: Festival of the Vernal Equinox," which she presented in Turkey a few years before her death in 2002.
Ethel and I were acquainted from symposiums we both attended, especially ISAC in Columbus, Georgia, and I had corresponded with her. In 1991 she had published a tremendous book of 566 pages, hailed by scholars, The Dene and Na-Dene Indian Migration - 1223 A.D.: Escape From Genghis Khan to America. Her book described the escape of two tribes from the brutal Genghis Khan, A Mongol: The Dene tribe, which originated in Xi-Xia (an Uighur Turkish Kingdom) then migrated to the Tarim Basin, and the Na-Dene from Outer Mongolia. The Denes hiked along a line of fur-trading posts to the mouth of the Amur River on the coast, where the Na-Denes had earlier escaped to the same place. They traveled together in Na-Dene ships (which Ethel terms as Chinese types) along the chain of the Aleutian Islands until they became known as the Haida and Tlingit tribes. The Denes went east to the lower Mackenzie River, where they split into seventeen sub-clans, some of which eventually traveled as far south as Arizona and Mexico.
Remembering references to a Mouse Deity in her book, as well as in the program she had presented in Turkey, I arose from my bed and found my tracing and her book. The pages 56-65 were titled "The Dene Mouse God with Pointed Snout."
Ethel had found that Dene names throughout northern Canada were the same names in Central Asiatic areas, speaking NE Tibetan, Chinese, and Yuchi, etc. of the Silk Road.
The ceremonies and wording of five of the seventeen sub-clans were recorded from 1865 to 1880 by Emil Petitot, a French Oblate missionary, who was ordained if 1862 and migrated to Canada that year. His main base was Fort of Good Hope Mission on the lower Mackenzie River. The Oblates were a French congregation of the Catholic Church. Petitot spent most of his time traveling among Dene and Eskimo settlements. About thirty of his books were published in Paris, including an Eskimo dictionary and two Dene dictionaries.
I quote from his recordings published by Ethel Stewart:
From the Hares of the RIver: "Alas! O Mouse with Pointed Snout, leap twice above the earth in the form of a cross! O Wooded Mountain, come!" (Ethel explained that the Hare Clan was so named because they wore white rabbit fur clothing.)
From the Rocky Mountain Kutchin Clan: "Shrew Mouse, leap above the earth in the form of a leaper. Yet a little longer!"
From the Hares of the Woods at the time of the Moon's eclipse: "How heavy it is! O Shrew Mouse, over thy back thou has loaded me. Wooded Mountain, come!"
From the Dindjie: "Yellow Mouse, pass quickly upon earth in the form of a cross. (This was the time of the Vernal Equinox.)
The Hares of the Steppes, at the Moon's eclipse sing: "O Mouse with Pointed Snout, thou has thrown me over thy back. Wooded Mountain, come, lay hold on us and draw us far hence!"
The Denes say these ceremonies began with their ancestors who lived on the other side of the world. The mouse was reputed to be the genius od deathe, and is called "Yellow Mouse with Pointed Snout." The Dene, who were half Yuchi (Moon People) believed that after death they would return to the Moon. The shadow of the leaping mouse was supposed to cause the moon's eclipse.
I began to study [the] tracing from the Windsplitter. Yes, the animal is a mouse. Yes, it does have a pointed snout. Considered to be a demi-God, his headdress resembles a diadem in front, with one short slanting line rising behind it. The Dene were also Nestorian Christians. Checking Christian symbols, one is a crown with a cross within it. Had I missed a crossarm on the straight line because of inadequate lighting? Yes, the panel is on a wooded mountain. Yes, one of the symbols resembles a cross. I found a Chrsitian symbol which is like a swastika, with each foot curve almost to make a circle.
The symbol which resembles the asterisk with eight lines is sometimes considered by other cultures to be a directional marker: North, South, East and West are the vertical and horizontal lines or points, while the slanted lines represent Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and Northwest. This would plausibly have been used at the time of the Vernal Equinox.
The long slanting line and the short vertical line above the undulating line might point to the Moon at the time of a ceremony.
Therefore I sent my material to Dr. Cyclone Covey, Professor Emeritus of History at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, who has been my friend and advisor since 1968. His is very familiar with the writings of Ethel Stewart and Petitot. He replied in three long letters, and much of his information is incorporated in this article.
He said my discovery is momentous. He asked if the Colorado mouse had any yellow color. I had failed to notice the color of the stone.
What pleased me most in his reply was "Your idenification with the Dene Mouse Ceremony is undoubtedly correct and the great value of your essay. I found the treatise that explicitly answered your question, 'Did the Dene get to Colorado?' Patrick Hogan, "Dintah" Journal of Anthropological Research XIV/I (Spring 1989) who traces Navajos (calling themselves Dintah, variation of Dene) by pottery trail to San Juan of Colorado and the NW New Mexico c1400A.D." CONCLUSION: From the evidence presented by Ethel G. Stewart, Emil Petitot, Cyclone Covey and myself, someime after 1400 A.D. one or more Navajo Indians climbed the Windsplitter, carved a petroglyph panel which included a Mouse Deity, and performed a ceremony inherited from their North Asian ancestors, where they were known as Dene.
References for Christian Symbols:
Cross and Crown: Signposts of Devotion by Ratha Doyle McGee, The Upper Room, Nashville, Tennessee, 1956.
Flyfot Cross, derived from the panag sun-wheel, Christian Symbols, Ancient and Modern, by Heather Child and Dorothy Colles, Charles Scribner and Sons, New York, 1971.
Hare as the Earth Godby John J White III, Journal Editor
In MEJ 15 72 (2001) I wrote an EMSL [Earth Mother Sacred Language] interpretation of the "Yellow Mouse Legend of the Dene". There is a parallel to the Hare. Jobes1 says that the Spots on the Moon in China, Japan, Mexico, and Tibet are those of a Hare and that Buddhism also adopted this symbolism.
A sacred hero of the Algonquin Indians is Manabozo, a name meaning The-Father-Father in EMSL. In recent history Manabozo was considered an aspect of the Sun God (he killed the Serpent Prince), but in earlier times he was worshipped in the form of a Serpent and later as the Great Hare. The Algonquins call this Great Hare Michabo, which rather clearly means Mighty-Father.
Recall that Maya culture was dominated by verneration of the Earth God as the Rattlesnake Tsabcan, but chose to identify many of its kings by the title Rabbit, ie Hare. Thus we can appreciate the concept of the Earth God represented by numerous symbols. We can recognize that the Trickster, e.g., Brer Rabbit,and Manabozo-like heros were the literary teachers of morality and wisdon during the long era of Earth Mother Culture (Earth God was the God of Wisdom!).