Desecration at Ocmulgee Mounds

I had been looking forward to going to Ocmulgee Mounds because three friends had recommended this site in Georgia, and it was one I was unfamiliar with.

A man standing on top of the Earth Lodge, before it was excavated. Note the vegetation that will grow upon a mound if it is not maintained (which of course would be difficult to do a thousand or more years ago.) Photo by Cynthia Greb

I arrived on a February day. It was warm and lovely. There is a large visitors center on the 5-square-mile park on which the ancient site is located. I made a quick run-through, but I was eager to get out to the mounds themselves. Curious, I began walking to the nearest mound. It was called the Earth Lodge. It is the only earth mound in the U.S. I’m aware of that one enters into. The entrance was slightly enlarged and fortified for today’s tourists. One walks into it upright, but once inside, it reminded me quite a bit of the kivas of the Pueblo and Hopi nations of the Southwest. A key difference is that a kiva is entered by descending a ladder down into the round sacred space as opposed to walking horizontally into the space. The floor at the Earth Lodge was the original 1000-year-old clay floor. The rest was reconstructed. There was a pit for a fire and there was a raised area for seating around the perimeter of the space, with a further raised seat for, one assumes, those of greater importance. Even though I’m all about sacred space or council houses, I found myself strangely unmoved by this structure. Was it because it had been recreated? Was it because the seating did not appear to be egalitarian? I spent very little time there, which is quite unlike me. I’m not completely sure why I didn’t resonate with it.

Afterwards I walked toward the largest mound, which is indeed huge. They call it the Temple Mound. Like Monks Mound at the Cahokia site in Illinois, apparently there was once a building up top that they assume was for a holy man or religious leader. I walked up the exterior stairs and spent a bit of time sitting and meditating up on top. But then I knew I needed to get to the place that haunted me. Ever since I read about it at the visitors center, my heart was being guided to the Funeral Mound.

Although European settlers/coloniszers had “discovered” these mounds back in 1500 or so, they hadn’t been fully explored or excavated until 1930. (My distaste for excavation of ancient places, especially when people are buried there, is the subject for another post.) However, in 1873, a railroad company decided to move one of its lines farther north. They encountered a mound and they cut a third of it away in order to lay the tracks. Did they know this was a manmade mound more than a thousand years old? I don’t know. But in the process of dismantling part of the mound, they found among ancient artifacts several skeletons. And they kept going! They continued building the line even though they were literally digging through the graves of human beings!

I found myself fervently wishing they’d all been haunted.

This is what the Funeral Mound at Ocmulgee looks like now. The whole left hand side had been removed to make way for a railroad line. Photo by Cynthia Greb

The arrogance, the blatant disrespect, the inhumanity of this act blows me away. I am as devastated now as I was five months ago. I cannot believe that finding actual skeletons did not deter them from their mission.

I was determined to offer prayers there. The whole area had a fence around it, and the gate was locked. I was thankful for this because the site should suffer no further disrespect or damage. However I was there for the purpose of prayer and so I decided that was worth taking a risk of disobeying the inference of the locked gate. I looked around me once, then twice. There was no one else in the parking lot. I guess all the visitors were more interested in the other glitzier mounds. So I quickly crawled under the post and rail fence and walked quickly to the side of the mound closest to the train tracks.

I stood there silently for a bit and then, out loud, I began to address the spirits of those who had been buried there and those who might still be there. I told them I was so sorry they’d been so disrespected. Eventually I started walking around the perimeter of the mound, four times, rattling my rattle, praying and singing and, over all, feeling great sorrow.

Returning to the place where I had begun I knew I had one thing left to do. I needed to help usher the spirits into the light. (It is my understanding that often when something traumatic happens, spirits can get caught in the lower, denser realms. Apparently they need assistance to rise up into the higher realms of light and healing.) In the best way I knew how, that’s what I did. I didn’t want them to be caught so close to this sorrowful earth plane any longer. Enough! They needed to ascend to the heavens, to be with their people, and to begin the process of healing.

As usually happens, at one point during my little prayer ritual, I felt lighter. That’s my cue that “something happened.” Once my own spirit feels lifted, I assume theirs had been as well.

At this point I crawled back under the fence, still no one in sight, got in my car and drove back to the visitors center. I wanted to ask one of the rangers if she knew what happened to those bodies. She did not know. I am guessing they were not handled respectfully nor reinterred.

Cover image: The very large Temple Mound at Ocmulgee in Georgia. It was so named because the remains of a building were discovered up top and it is assumed it was a kind of temple or residence of a holy man. Photo by Cynthia Greb

About the Author

Cynthia Greb

Cynthia Greb is a writer, Nature lover, Dreamer, interfaith minister, and occasional artist. She has a great love for this beautiful planet and a deep connection to the ancient people who once lived so respectfully upon this Earth.
You can find her on Facebook, on YouTube, and occasionally on Instagram.

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