Autumnal Equinox Celebration
September 21, 2013
It was a gorgeous day, thankfully, after the dreary rainy day we had yesterday. Puddles of water still stood in the flat “plaza” area at Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park today, as about 50 of us, of all ages, came out to watch the sun set over Mound A from the vantage point at Mound H, much as the Plum Bayou culture natives did on this same spot a thousand years ago.
I learn something every time I visit Toltec Mounds! Today, the Park Archaeologist, Dr. Elizabeth Horton, gave a presentation to the families who came out, a little bit of the background of what we already know about the Plum Bayou people as well as give us some updates on what has been discovered more recently and the current projects she is working on.
We walked the Knapp Trail around the mounds, finishing up by Mound H where the staff had set up seating for us so that we could observe the setting sun from the correct angle. The fall equinox marks one of two days during the year where the days and nights are the same length of time. The other day occurs in the spring (“vernal equinox”), and there is a mound alignment for that here at Toltec as well, I believe.
As the sun was setting, it didn’t appear to me to be directly over Mound A, but a little bit far to the south. I figured it was probably an optical illusion due to the point where I was standing. Then, as the sun continued to go down, it seemed to move more and more towards the ‘center’ of Mound A… and the moment we had all be waiting all afternoon for was about to happen!
In a matter of minutes, we all started taking pictures of the setting sun… then we stood there and gazed in awe at the stunning view.
One of the interpreters had mentioned that there are some Native Americans communities who still utilize this site for certain ceremonies and rituals. I have to admit that stepping into the ‘inner circle’ around the mounds does bring about a sense of respect and reverence. Maybe it’s because it is such a large cleared area, and standing there makes one feel quite small and almost insignificant in the big scheme of things. By the same token, being here as part a large group of people (much larger than we had today), make give a person a sense of community, of belonging, and that’s why these sacred areas were designed this way…. ah, who knows, right?
I should have been an anthropologist like I told my dad I wanted to be. (He had given me this quizzical look before asking me again if I had thought about what I wanted to do when I grew up – lol!) I find all this tremendously fascinating, and I hope to share some of my enthusiasm with you!
FYI, my future blog posts will be about other things Arkansas… people, events, food! But just know that history and lore are where my true passions are. Well, food, too, but that’s another matter 🙂