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Astonishing connections between Teotihuacan and Creek Religion

Astonishing connections between Teotihuacan and Creek Religion

 

 

Early in his speech to the leaders of Savannah on June 7, 1735  Paracusate Chikili, CEO of the Creek Confederacy, probably explained the reason for the sudden collapse of Teotihuacan around 600 AD. The body of his speech is now called the “Creek Migration Legend,” but really only explained the migration of the last branch of Creeks to leave Mexico, the Kaushete . . . who became the core of the Upper Creeks. The English equivalent of Kausheta is Cusseta.

Image Above: Just before I reached the crest of Cerro Gordo, a very black nimbocumulus cloud appeared over my head.  The bottom of the cloud was something like 200 to 500 feet above me.  I could see miniature lightning bolts darting between sections of the clouds.  Don’t try this experiment at home!  It will scare the living (expletive deleted) out of you.

What secrets does the top of Cerro Gordo de Teotihuacan hold?   With an unpublicized archaeological project underway, we may, someday learn at least part of the truth.  However, as that famous impromptu statement by actor, Jack Nicholson, in the movie, “A Few Good Men,” goes . . .  “Truth?  You can’t handle the truth!”  It could well be that the full story will radically change the ancient history of the Americas. Part of that story is very dark, indeed.

That being said, satellite imagery, GIS regional planning software, anthropological papers published on the internet and the writings of 16th century Franciscan friar, Bernardino de Sahagún, make it possible to interpolate a vast range of information to peal away some of those secrets.  None of these tools were available when I was a student.  I had no idea where I was going, when I climbed Cerro Gordo. I just had that Creek “Sixth Sense” that something was up there.

Hastily erected fortification, created at the crest of Cerro Gordo . . . note the massive size of the boulders!  Some boulders have petroglyphs.

Background for new readers

While an architecture student at Georgia Tech, I was awarded the first Barrett Fellowship, which enabled me to study on-site the Mesoamerican civilizations of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize . . . then called British Honduras.  While studying Teotihuacan, I impulsively decided to hike across the valley to the base Cerro Gordo Mountain, then climbed the 10,000 feet tall extinct volcano.  All the way up the slope, I encountered ancient stone retaining walls for agricultural terraces.  These rocks were about 20 to 100 pounds (9-45 kg) in size.  At the crest of the mountain, I first encountered an area where thousands of obsidian atlatl points and blades were scattered. Immediately beyond the scattered weapons was a hastily built fortification wall, composed of enormous boulders ranging from about 100 to 2000 pounds (45-1000 kg) in size. I also saw some pieces of bones, which seemed to be human.  An anthropology student on a summer job at the nearby regional aircraft control center confirmed that ancient human bones were periodically unearthed by heavy rains on the crest of Cerro Gordo.

At the top of the mountain were ancient mortar-less stone walls that once supported platform structures.  There were some earthen pyramids of varying sizes and engraved rock slabs.  At several locations stone stairs or ramps were visible . . . all appearing to be extremely old and in disrepair.  There was no mention of this town on top of the mountain in Mexican archaeological literature and my fellowship coordinator, Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, claimed to not be familiar with the ruins.   The Institutio Nacional  de Antropologia E Historia is now aware of the ruins.  The latest satellite imagery shows a large archaeological dig underway on the western end of the mountaintop. 

This is a section of Cerro Gordo that I hiked up. You can still see the trail in a recent satellite image.

Etymologies of key words

Teotihuacan is a Méxica (Aztec) word that means “Place Where One Becomes a God” . . . not, “Place of the Gods” as your high school history book taught you.   However, that was not the massive city’s original name.  Its probable name was Tula, derived from the Maya word for stacked stone construction, Taulum. It became the Totonac, Itza Maya and Itsate Creek word for “town.”  The Muskogee Creeks changed tula to talwa.  “Place where one becomes a god” is an Aztec euphemism meaning “place where specially selected people are sacrificed.”  The masses of vassal captives, killed to dedicate new temples, would not come under this category.

Etula (Etowah) means “principal town” or “capital” in Itza and Itsate Creek.  The Itsate Creek, Choctaw and Maya word for stone is tali.  A very similar word was used by the Itzas and Creeks for the verb meaning to “measure out or survey.”  It is talli.   A talliya was a Creek architect-surveyor.   Apparently, in some provinces, talli also meant “a planned town.”

Many anthropology books and online references quote each other to tell readers that Tula is derived from the Mexica word for a type of grass that grows in marshes, tule.  That’s impossible.  The Aztecs were nowhere around, when Teotihuacan was thriving. Tula is a Totonac, Itza and Creek word.

Toltec is the Anglicization of the Hispanicization of the Méxica word, tōltēcatl, which literally means Tula-people of.  However, since the word, tula, came to mean any town in Totonac, Itza and Itsate-Creek, tōltēcatl came to mean town-dweller or urbanite. The equivalent word in Creek is Tulase.  Tulsa, Oklahoma’s name is derived from Tulase.

In Aztec mythology, the Quinametzin “giants” populated the world during the previous era of the Sun of Rain (Nahui-Quiahuitl).  Quinametsin means “one of the ancient ones” in English.  These giants were said to have come down from the heavens during the Second Sun.  The giant, who built the enormous pyramids at Teotihuacan and Cholula was supposedly named Xelhua, who was surnamed, “The Architect.”  

Web-based “Nephilim” articles typically portray the Mexican giants as massive, caveman-like bruits.  However, that is NOT how the Aztecs described them.  In Aztec oral tradition, most of the giants, who ruled Mexico in the old days, died in a great flood.  Some still survived in remote locations.  They were tall and gangly, “with long, skinny arms.”  The elite of the so-called “Olmec” Civilization had dark hair.  Those at Tepotzlan, such as the original Quetzalcoatl, had red or brown hair.  Elsewhere in Central Mexico, they could be red, brown or black haired.   They looked just like those 6’-3” to 6’-10” Upper Creek men in northern Alabama today. 

Apalache is the name that many Creek Indians living in the Georgia Highlands and Piedmont called themselves, prior to being told that they were Creek Indians.  Apalachicola merely means Apalache People in the real Apalache language.   It is the European spelling of the Panoan (Peruvian) word, which means “From ocean (or Amazon Basin) – Descendants of.”   Another major division was composed of the Itsate, who were descendants of Itza Maya immigrants.

3d Terrain Model of Cerro Gordo

Relationship of Teotihuacan and Cerro Gordo

The Acropolis of Cerro Gordo

Terraces on the north slope of Cerro Gordo

Terraces on the west slope of Cerro Gordo

On top of Ole Cerro Gordo . . . all covered with ruins

Yes, indeed, many things are up there on Cerro Gordo.  Probably, much more than is visible on the surface.  Using GIS software in 2018, I quickly discovered that most of the mountain is covered with ancient terrace walls. It is probably the largest agricultural terrace complex in the Americas . . . possibly the world.  More recently, I spotted the 20,000+ ft2 (1858m2) archaeological dig on the western end of Cerro Gordo’s crest.  It is aligned perfectly with the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan.   The vector is about 15 ½ degrees east of True North.  Anthropologists have speculated that this alignment is related to the movement of the Pleiades Constellation across the sky, but this is not certain.

There is something else, though, that NONE of the archaeologists are talking about.  The Singer-Moye Site (9SW2) is one of the largest and most densely developed town sites in the Southeastern United States.  Located southeast of Columbus, GA it is known to the Creeks as their ancestral town of Potvli (English- Potaule).  Pataule was founded shortly after Teotihuacan was abandoned.  It is also aligned to an axis 15 ½ degrees east of True North.  It is also on a line of major towns and shrines that runs from the mouth of the  Apalachicola-Chattahoochee River to a large observatory on the top of Ladds Mountain in Cartersville, GA . . . near Etowah Mounds.  On that line is also Kolomoki Mounds and the large town of Chattahoochee, which is now Six Flags Over Georgia.

Getting back to Cerro Gordo . . . The large temple compound, now being excavated is rectangular like those in several parts of Polynesia and is at the end of a natural curving ramp that leads up the southwest corner of Cerro Gordo.  This is the route that I took up Cerro Gordo on the Winter Solstice following my first climb the previous summer.  Like many of the terrace complexes in northern Georgia with natural ramps, this route was lined with stone cairns, plus occasional building ruins and engraved rocks.   Back then I had no clue that the cairns were significant, but now realize that they were ceremonial piers for the sun-dried desiccation of human bodies and their later cremation.  They also marked the route for religious processions up to the top of the mountain.  Perhaps the mountaintop was sacred long before there was a temple? 

Why would the builders align a whole city to a temple?  The temple must have been there first.  Also, the structures to the east of the temple site seemed older and cruder than the public structures down below in Teotihuacan.  I noticed three distinct layers of construction at this acropolis, one veneer of field stones on top of another.

The Ancient Ones

Nowadays, university anthropology programs in the eastern 2/3 of the United States seemed to be focused on the Mayas and Central America.  To get up-to-date information about archaeological work in Central Mexico, one must rummage through reports published online by Mexican, Japanese and European archaeologists.  There is fascinating information now on the cultural history of this region, which was completely unavailable when I was a student there.

The indigenous peoples of Central Mexico believed that their ancestors lived in (on?) water.   It is not clear whether they meant that they lived on the ocean or lived on the vast lakes in the Valley of Mexico.  They then lived underground in caves.   One group after another “came out of a hole in the ground” and then lived in the sunshine that followed a long period of rains.    It is interesting that the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Kaushete origin stories also begin with their ancestors coming out of a hole in the ground.

Mexican anthropologists now believe that the two oldest deities in the Mesoamerican pantheon were gods of Fire (volcanoes) and Water (rain, thunder & fertility).   The Fire God was worshiped at the rims of active volcanoes and in temples a safe distance away.  The sacred fires in these temples were taken from the fires in volcanoes.   It is the same with the Creeks.  The sacred fires today are said to be descended from the “fire” taken from the Orizaba Volcano in western Vera Cruz. 

The archaic Water gods (male and female) were originally worshiped on the tops of extinct volcanoes, which had natural lakes in their craters.  As I learned firsthand, these locations attracted lightning bolts and thunder from storm clouds.   At a certain time of the year, the entire population of a tribe would climb the mountain to pray to these gods and offer sacrifices to persuade these deities to provide the right amount of rainfall for crops and for healthy babies to be delivered by their women.  By the time of the Spanish invasion of Mexico, several ethnic groups offered babies and children to their particular rain-fertility gods at mountaintop temples and shrines . . . especially during droughts.  It was believed that the more horrific and extended their deaths, the more likely these gods would hear their screams and answer their prayers.  

The Purepecha, Totonacs, Tlascalas, Otomi, Zapotecs, Yucatec Mayas and Mixtecs offered human sacrifices (especially in times of drought or war), but the Aztecs practiced the murder of babies and children on an industrial scale.  The annual seizure of thousands of victims each year from their vassal states was clearly a form of terrorism to break the will of their subjects.  This is the primary reason that the other ethnic groups in Mexico so eagerly assisted the Spanish in their conquest of the Aztecs.

Thus, it is obvious that the ancient ruins that I encountered on the top of Cerro Gordo were both shrines for the worship of the Rain-Fertility gods AND the acropolis of the “giants,” who became the “gods” of Teotihuacan.   These “gods” provided Teotihuacan with fresh water from the former lake in the crater, plus food from the (literally) thousands of acres of agricultural terraces. In return, they required many sacrificial victims. 

It is quite likely that most victims were eaten as this was the custom of the elite of the Totonac elite up until the Spanish conquest.   Archaeologists have also discovered that the Mesoamerican elite at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico cooked human victims in stew pots and consumed them.

A catastrophic asteroid or comet impact off the coast of Florida in 539 AD coincided with a series of major volcanic eruptions in Mexico and Central America for several years.  There were also volcanic eruptions in Iceland, Europe and Indonesia.  This resulted in a Little Ice Age, plus droughts in Mesoamerica between 539 AD and around 600 AD.   Undoubtedly, the “gods” on Cerro Gordo demanded more and more children for sacrifice.  Their cruel demands eventually resulted in a rebellion in which all the public buildings were burned in the city and the acropolis on Cerro Gordo was attacked.  The obsidian weapons and bone fragments were the residue of a last stand made by the “gods” on the top of Cerro Gordo.

The Totonacs

Mural at Teotihuacan of Tzinteotl . . . goddess of the sun, spring water, agriculture, maize and fertility

Since the Totonacs have consistent claimed to be the descendants of the elite of Teotihuacan and Cholula, we will look a closer at their religion.  This is especially relevant to the research of the People of One Fire, since many Totonac words entered the Creek, Miccosukee, Choctaw and Chickasaw languages via Itza Maya immigrants and Tamaule/Tamatli (Chontal) Maya traders.  According to 16th century Spanish friars, the Totonacs had over 400 deities in their pantheon.  However, they quickly (and superficially)  accepted submission to Roman Catholicism in order to gain the Spaniard’s assistance in ridding themselves of Aztec domination.

The Totonacs worshiped a god of Rain, Thunder and Lightning, named Aktzin and a goddess of spring water, agriculture, maize and fertility named Tzinteotl (Tonocayohua in Nahual).  Like the Scandinavian god, Thør, Aktzin carried a hammer and his “symbol” was a hammer.  Children and prisoners of war were sacrificed to Aktzin, while babies and teenage girls, who had just entered puberty, were sacrificed to Tzinteotl. 

Tzinteotl was the wife of the invisible Creator – Sun God, Chichini.   For reasons, not fully understood,  Tzinteotl became the principal deity of the Totonac pantheon.   She was worshiped on top of Cerro Gordo Mountain, or other large extinct volcanoes, while her husband,  Chichini, was worshipped in the city of Teotihuacan and later Totonac cities.

Unique among Mesoamerican cultures, the Totonacs had a core religious belief, involving public confession of sins and transgressions, which was not significantly different than Christianity. Apparently, Chichini and later, Tzinteotl, forgave them of their sins . . . along with those humans, who heard their confession.   Creek Indians were required to publicly confess their sins and forgive those, who had sinned against them, before entering either a temple or the Sacred Square.

The Totonacs had an oral tradition of vast numbers of people had been sacrificed in Teotihuacan in honor of several deities.   Recent archaeological work at the Plaza of the Colonnades in Teotihuacan confirm that tradition.

Painted Bunting

The Totonacs also held the Painted Bunting  (bird) to be the messengers of  Tzinteol, their sun goddess.  This belief DIRECTLY relates to the Creek People of the Southeastern United States.  The sacred nature of the Painted Bunting goes back to a tradition about a daughter of King Totonaca Tenitztli the Third, who because of her beautiful appearance was called Tzacopontziza, which means “Morning Star”. Unfortunately, because of her beauty, she was dedicated and sacrificed to Tzinteotl, goddess of the sun and agriculture, on the top of Cerro Gordo.  The goddess turned her body into a Painted Buntings and made them her messengers.     

The famous Totonac “Volodores” ceremony involves a flute-player on the top of the pole and four men, suspended by ropes,  twirling around a pole, until they reach the ground.  The four men symbolize Sacred Painted Buntings, descending from heaven, the bring messages from Tzinteotl.  

Spanish friars wrote down the Totonac name of the Painting Bunting as Tenitzli.   In 1653, English explorer,  Richard Briggstock, wrote down the (real) Apalache-Creek word for Painting Bunting as Tonatzuli.   They are very similar words, and given the fact that words are often slightly misspelled during translation, they may actually have been the same word.

Totonac Volodores

The connections to Apalache (Creek) religion

Traditional Creek religion reflected the attitudes of peoples, who had fled from persecution in other lands by bloodthirsty religions.  Not only was human sacrifice considered abominable, but the shedding of any blood, whether human or animal, was forbidden within about two miles (10,000 Creek feet) from a temple or shrine.  The only accepted sacrifices were gifts of brightly colored clothing from the Apalache elite to the commoners, which were lain on the stone alters within temples for distribution by the priests.   There is also no mention of slavery among the Creeks during the Colonial Period.

However, there is much more to the story of the Painted Buntings.  Richard  Briggstock told French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort that the Apalache (Georgia Highland Creeks) maintained mountaintop and hilltop temples to an invisible sun goddess.  Apparently, her Apalache name was Amana, but this is not certain.  She was their only deity and was the equivalent of the Hebrew Creator-God, YHWH.   The sun was not considered to be the goddess, but merely a sign in the heavens of her love for mankind and the Earth. 

Apalache priests maintained large flocks of Painted Buntings in their temples.  Each fall,  all of the people would climb up roads or ramps leading to Apalache mountaintop temples to present their prayers to the Painted Buntings.  Soon thereafter,  the Painted Buntings would begin their annual migration to Mexico, where (it was believed) that the birds would present these prayers to the home of the Sun Goddess on a tall mountain in Mexico. 

A period of fasting would precede the annual Totonac ritual that honored the ripening of the Green Corn.  For a lunar month, prior to the Green Corn Festival, a particularly pretty teenage war captive was selected in each town and major village and then treated like a princess. She was told that she would be elevated to the status of a god during the coming festival.  Remember that Teotihuacan means “the place where one becomes a god.”  She also would be taught many complex dances that she would be expected to perform in the Green Corn Festival.   During this period of time, the Totonacs were forbidden from eating any corn-based foods.   The Creeks maintained the same custom not eating corn products.  However, there was one important difference . . . the Creek Dancing Girl was given her freedom.  The Totonac Dancing Girl was placed on a stone altar then her beating heart was cut out!

Beginning of the Creek Migration Legend

Chikili’s description of the origins of the Kaushete People in western Vera Cruz hark back to the same primordial beliefs, held by the indigenous peoples of Central Mexico:

Toward the west there is a massive hole in the ground, which is mouth of the earth. One day the ground opened and the Kawshete came out.  They settled near the opening.  The earth became angry and their children were killed, so they migrated westward. 

The people divide in two

Part of the Kaushete moved back to the location where the people had originally lived, leaving the majority behind, because they thought it was the best thing to do. Soon their children were being killed again, so, angry, they moved eastward.

Living beside two rivers

The Kaushete came to a thick, muddy river, where they camped, cooked and slept one night.  On the next morning, they began migrating again and in one day came to a blood-red colored river.  They lived by this river and ate fish for two year. It was a low, swampy place.  They did not like living there.

Discovery of the largest volcano

After migrating westward to the headwaters of the red-colored river, they heard a thundering sound. Curious, they moved closer to the thundering sound to determine where it was coming from.  The first saw smoke coming from the mountain and heard a sound like a drum song.  They climbed the mountains and saw a great fire erupting upward, which was making the rumbling sound.  They called this mountain the King of All Mountains. This volcano thunders to this day and is great feared.

Creation of the People of One Fire

The Kaushete met with the people of three different nations to form the People of One Fire.  They took fire from the great volcano and saved it.  While living in that place they gained the knowledge of medicinal herbs and many other things.  The sacred fire, shared at this place came from the land to the east. They did not like to use it for starting domestic fires. Another portion of the fire came from the lands to the west, whose color was black.  They did not like to use it either. Another portion of the sacred fire came from the south.  Its color was blue. Another portion of the shared sacred fire came from the north.  Its colors are red and yellow.  This fire, they mixed with the fire from the great volcano.  It is used to this day and sometimes makes a rumbling sound.

And now you know the dark secrets of Cerro Gordo.

 

 

 

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

13 Comments

  1. mablum@binghamton.edu'

    The Hopi also believe that they came here out of a hole in the ground. And of course they may be from Mexico, since their agriculture certainly is. Always fascinating, reading your blog.

    Reply
    • It is fascinating, when you compare all these migration legends. In contrast, the various tribes that would later be associated and called Mayas by the Spanish had a tradition that they had come from a place where the ground was covered in ice.

      Reply
  2. markveale@hotmail.com'

    Richard, Great research again! Lots of barbaric activities in the old world on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems likely a trade route extended from Mexico up the Mississippi/ Ohio River and over to Northern Europe till the fall of the Hopewell Cultures (500 AD). A possible connection with the bronze age Tokah/ Finn/Laplander people is the Finnish word “Ta-lossa” which seems to be a connection with the names: Ca-lusa, Tus-ca-loosa. very close is the River “Coosa”. Wi-lusa (Troy) must have been remembered by these Sea fairing peoples that traded Up/down the Danube river and connecting with the Rhine rivers with Sea peoples that were crossing the short route across the Northern Atlantic.

    Reply
    • Gotta watch those Europeanized words, Mark. Tvskalosa means “Warrior Black” in the Alabama language. Coosa was actually Kaushe, which is a Panoan word meaning “elite.”

      Reply
      • markveale@hotmail.com'

        Thanks Richard. Reading the lore of the Delaware people against the Tallgewi of Ohio (most likely ruled by Denisovan people) indicates a migration from the N.E area of the U.S. down the Ohio / Mississippi rivers. The Teotihuacan and the Anasazi both indicate a connection with 2 star signs. https://www.ancient-origins.net/history/denisovan-hybrids-0010522

        Reply
  3. jesstowns@gmail.com'

    Richard– I’m visiting relatives in Ridgeland, SC Jan 16-29 and hope to get in some exploring while there. I’ve downloaded your “Indigenous Settlement Sites in Savannah, Georgia”. Are any of the mounds and middens on your map still visible? I’m also hoping to get in a trip to Etowah where I’d probably stop at Ocmulgee and hope that I can see something there despite the government shutdown. Besides mounds, astronomical sites, etc. I’m also very interested in arts/crafts artifacts and petroglyphs. As you and I have discussed before, there’s a surprising lack of Native American artifact collections on public view down there. Any suggestions or advice for me?
    Thanks for any help and, as always, much thanks for your valuable and important research!
    Jess

    Reply
    • The Bilbo Mound is visible, if you are willing to wade through a swamp. Several of the “hills” in the Savannah Golf and Country Club are actually ancient Indian mounds. There are about a dozen shell mounds on the other side of the river, but still in Georgia. You will need a canoe or boat to reach them.

      Reply
      • jesstowns@gmail.com'

        Sounds like boots, binoculars, and maybe an inflatable boat would be a good idea for the Savannah expedition. My resourceful Ridgeland brother-in-law may be coming in particularly handy in the near future. Thanks Richard. Ocmulgee Mounds sounds particularly cool, looking forward to seeing that too.

        Reply
  4. jamesrhodes666@msn.com'

    Simply amazing….

    Reply
  5. romoqqd@aol.com'

    Very interesting Richard. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with us. By the way, I saw your name mentioned in “ANCIENT AMERICAN” magazine’s latest issue, Volume 22 – Issue number 121 page 15.
    Thanks again. Ron

    Reply
  6. shannoneileen@gmail.com'

    I was reading earlier about the connection between Utah and the Aztecs. All of this information is so fascinating to me! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • There are many petroglyphs in Parawan Gap, Utah, which are identical to those found throughout the Georgia Mountains. Parawan is a hybrid Ute word, which combines the Panoan (Peruvian) word for ocean/Amazon River with the Ute word for people.

      Reply
  7. retdagm@gmail.com'

    I earned my PhD under Caldwell and knew Art Kelly, his daughters Trish and Sheila well. Larry Meier was a good friend. Please contact me
    1/19/19

    Reply

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