Archaeotrek—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, February 2016
Marietta, Ohio’s Ancient Earthworks: Star Alignments as a Portal to the Path of Souls
by: Dr. Greg Little
The Path of Souls—The Death Journey
As detailed in The Path of Souls (2014), archaeological research in the mid-2000’s led to a near complete understanding of the meaning of curious symbols found on artifacts that had been recovered at many American mound and earthwork sites. In brief, America’s ancient Mound Builders—the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian cultures—believed in a journey of departed souls to the stars and beyond. The journey of the dead goes by the term “Path of Souls.” The soul’s journey had to take place in the Winter when the constellation of Scorpius was below the horizon and not visible. This was because Scorpius was the ruler of the underworld and would snatch the soul if the constellation was visible when the soul started the journey. A video depicts all of the elements of this belief system.
The soul of the deceased, the part of the soul that retained the essence of the individual, was called the “free soul.” A few days after death, the free soul made a journey to the west to a body of water. There, at night and before dawn, the free soul took a leap into the sky aiming at Orion’s Nebula, just before it set into the western horizon. Orion’s Nebula was viewed as a portal to the sky world and then to the true path. From this portal the soul passed safely through the underworld and transitioned to the Milky Way where it continued the journey. The Milky Way was seen as a river of other souls making the same journey and was the pathway all souls took. On the path there were various tasks, but the soul eventually made it to a fork in the path. The fork was the Dark Rift of the Milky Way, where it splits into two sides. At this split, the soul encountered a judge of sorts represented by a large raptor bird. The Constellation of Cygnus was the bird. If the soul passed the tests, the soul was allowed to make a final journey out of the sky dome through a portal believed to be the star Deneb, the brightest star of Cygnus.
Many ancient mound and earthwork sites are known to have been used for complex rituals involving ceremonies designed to assist souls to make the journey. Exquisite artifacts bearing intriguing symbols were used during the ceremonies, which were conducted in sacred spaces formed by mound and geometric earthwork complexes. The sacred spaces were created by mounds and earthworks fashioned into shapes designed to funnel the movement of those participating from one key area to another. As such, the ancients saw the sacred sites as magic machines of earth. While Portsmouth, Ohio’s earthworks are exceedingly complex and show all of the necessary elements in the journey of the soul, it should be expected that there are many other American mound sites with the same basic stellar alignments encoded into their structure.
Marietta, Ohio Earthworks
The earthworks at Marietta, Ohio are found at the confluence of the Muskingum River with the Ohio River. The Hopewell Culture site at Marietta was first constructed and utilized around 100 B.C.E. but may have earlier components dated to the earlier Adena people. Two large earthen squares (formed by linear embankments of earth) dominated the site with the squares aligned to the semicardinal directions. (See the attached survey from Squier & Davis.) The largest square enclosed 50 acres and had four large truncated mounds on its interior along with other features. On the southwest side of the square, toward the Muskingum River, an opening was made. From the opening a 150-foot wide, graded, ceremonial walkway led down to the river. The walkway extended nearly 700 feet and had outer walls of earth enclosing it on each side that were an astounding 10-20 feet high. On a high bluff on the other side of the Muskingum River were several small stone mounds. The walkway is known as the “Sacra Via” (sacred way).
The second square was on the southeast side of the larger square and enclosed 27 acres. A large, 30-foot high conical burial mound, enclosed by a wide and deep moat, was constructed on the outside of this square further to the southeast and had several long linear embankments arranged with it. One major embankment led from this “Conus” mound into the square.
Research by archaeologist William Romain (“Archaeology of the Sacred,” 2015) has shown that the Winter Solstice sunset was seen to occur on the high horizon on the other side of the Muskingum River from the largest square directly through pathway of the Sacra Via. The Winter Solstice sunrise was seen from the Quadranaou Mound in the large square directly across the large Conus mound. Thus, just as Portsmouth showed alignments to the Winter Solstice, Marietta also does.
Stellar Alignments at Marietta
Using the computer program Starry Night Pro, several stellar alignments at Marietta were calculated for the Winter Solstice in 100 B.C.E. Note that the horizons are formed by high cliffs in several areas. The azimuths and horizon elevations used were earlier calculated by Romain (2015).
First, it was shown that Scorpius was below the horizon at night and was not visible. In addition, the Constellation of Cygnus was visible at nightfall and was seen to set at 8:30 on the northwest horizon in a direct line from the large Conus mound, through the adjacent square.
At the same time, Orion was seen to rise from the southeast at nightfall directly above the Capitolium mound from the Quadranaou mound in the large square. Finally, Orion was seen to set into the horizon before dawn on the horizon across the Muskingum River. At 2:20 AM Orion was just above the spot where the solstice sunset occurred directly down the path formed by the Sacra Via and within 10 minutes it is below the horizon. This would be the path taken by the departing soul when the leap to Orion’s Nebula was made.
In sum, all of the necessary elements of the Path of Souls journey were present at ancient Marietta. One of the key elements of the path of souls journey present at both Portsmouth and Marietta involves the location of the rivers and the western alignment to Orion. In both cases, a body of water (the rivers) was on the southwest pathways aimed at the setting of Orion’s Nebula. It was important in the death journey that the leap to Orion’s Nebula occurred across water.
Note: British author Andrew Collins first proposed the significance of Cygnus in the death journey of the soul some years ago and has shown that ancient beliefs involving Orion and Cygnus appear to have been developed as long ago as 18,000 years, when Deneb served as the North Star.