power of Sedona
Claims of vortexes,
new age stores and a town that was founded in 1902 might make
Sedona an unlikely claimant to being one of the oldest settlements
in America. But that is precisely what the Yavapai creation legends
should be seen as the unofficial New Age capital of the world.
North Arizona University concluded that 64 percent of the near
four million annual visitors to Sedona come in search of a spiritual
experience. It is Arizona’s second most popular tourist
attraction, after the Grand Canyon. Indeed, seeing the town offers
psychics that can do things like “multidimensional glitch
removing”, it is clear that expectations are high –
though perhaps not totally clear what one should expect. Apart
from psychics, however, the town also offers stunning scenery,
which some suggest is on par with the Grand Canyon – some
even argue it is better, but in such matters there is of course
a great deal of personal preference.
Many believe that the attraction of Sedona only came about because
of the so-called “vortexes”, believed to be psychic
places of power. In 1981, medium Page Bryant announced that she
had channelled information, claiming that Sedona was the “heart
chakra of the planet” – which is why and how Sedona
became the “New Age capital of the world”. She pinpointed
her first vortex at a location where she felt that this “earth
energy” was specifically powerful. Its fame rose so quickly
that by August 1987, Sedona was one of the key sites hosting the
Harmonic Convergence, bringing 5000 people to the town. At the
vortex of Airport Mesa, a circle of twelve people, chanting the
Om mantra, raised their left arms to the sky and their right arms
down, to direct positive energy into the earth. Elsewhere in town,
people paid 75 dollars (some claim it was high as 150 dollars)
for a seat on Bell Rock, at the time when it was supposed to launch
itself to the Andromeda galaxy. As you will know by casually watching
the news: this event did not happen. But despite this non-event,
Sedona’s fame continued to rise.
43 percent of those seeking enlightenment, say they come to Sedona
for the four vortexes believed to be here, as identified by Bryant.
Apart from the Bell Rock and Airport vortexes, the two other vortexes
are Boynton Canyon and Cathedral Rock. Bell Rock and Airport Mesa
Vortexes are said to be masculine, Cathedral Rock feminine, while
Boynton Canyon is said to be both masculine and feminine. The
sexual connotations are related to the type of energy said to
be present on these sites: masculine vortexes are said to be upflows,
with the energy coming out of the earth, while female vortexes
are inflows, with energy going into the Earth. Upflows are largely
considered to be mountain or mesa tops, and inflows, canyons and
other depressions. But what does that all mean?
Sedona is a quaint place. For one, people have noted that the
town itself lacks any true centre and town planning was, for many
decades, an alien notion. Sedona was furthermore only founded
in 1902 and named after Sedona Schnebly, T.C. Ellsworth’s
wife, the man who created the town. It therefore appears that
there was little that would warrant Sedona’s inscription
into the list of sacred sites and that Page Bryant created the
attraction out of nothing, and that the Harmonic Convergence almost
immediately gave it a bad – though high profile –
name. Claims like those by Raymond Mardyks in “Sedona Starseed”
– “There exists deep within Boynton Canyon an area
used as a teleportation instrument… the Beings who travel
[these] holes in space are from a planet that orbits an invisible
star near Sirius” – have done little to give the site
any scientific reputation. However, in 1876, the first settler
in nearby Oak Creek, J.J. Thompson, did find gardens abandoned
by the Native Americans and brought them back to life.
Which begs the question: is Sedona sacred? Look at Courthouse
Rock, next to Bell Rock, and you find it is a red rock version
of the Devil’s Tower, which featured so prominently in Close
Encounters of the Third Kind. Devil’s Tower was a sacred
site to the Native American of the region. Look at Cathedral Rock
and parallels with Meteora in northern Greece might come to mind,
though the Greek version is on a larger scale. But visually, you
have similar almost inaccessible mountain tops that became the
site of monasteries. One can only wonder why the monasteries were
built at Meteora. Some might argue it was to seek silence, others
might argue that the Church had to “occupy” pagan
“places of powers”. Either way, it doesn’t really
matter, as Meteora, both its views and its monasteries, is spell-bounding
and today is definitely a sacred site.
A related question is whether these vortexes exist. As there is
no clear definition of what they are meant to do or are, clearly,
the argument is that they are nothing more, or less, than places
sought out by people who might indeed feel revitalised, if only
because each site does offer stunning views that should (re)charge
a visitor by the awe Nature instils in us. Sedona is a landscape
that changes as time crawls from sunrise to sunset; those who
have seen Sedona in sun, rain and snow argue that each element
adds to its mystical quality; having seen the town in all three
conditions, I can only agree. Resident author and guide Mark Pinkham
is aware that the vortexes sometimes do little to those seeking
them out. He underlines that there is no “right way”
to feel and that it is all about personal experiences. Christians
travel to Lourdes to unburden their sins or offer their prayers,
but does it matter whether the Virgin Mary really appeared there
or not? As such, people come to Sedona to unburden their problems,
using the vortex sites of Sedona to let go of their “negative
energies”, or charge themselves with “positive energy”.
And that’s why so many people come to Sedona, as for many,
it has become a modern pilgrimage site and for a pilgrim, it is
the journey and the state of mind that is important, not the site.
Pinkham has had one powerful experience himself, and this was
inside Boynton Canyon. It is agreed by many that of all places,
there is something magical about this canyon, though the magic
is quickly interfered with by a new tourist complex development.
The Canyon is seen as the “heart” – and in some
theories, the “heart chakra” – of mysterious
Sedona. Its “official” vortex sits on the so-called
Lady Kachina Rock, an upright rock, which does end in a rock that
resembles a face, staring into the distance. In fact, it is not
the only face that can be seen in the rocks of this region: the
Devil’s Kitchen in West Sedona equally has a face on its
slope, whose location and appearance resembles a similar face
on the Peruvian hill that overlooks the ancient ruins of Ollantaytambo.
the odds – judging from what we have so far – it is
actually a fact that Sedona is held to be a sacred place by the
local Native Americans, the Yavapai – something which too
few New Age adherents know or underline. Sedona is seen as a place
of emergence of the goddess Komwidapokuwia (or Kamalpukwia), which
means “first people with medicine” or “old lady
rock”. Indeed, just after the “birth” of Sedona
in 1902, a Native American creation legend, told by Mike Harrison,
born in 1886, and John Williams, was recorded in 1904.
“We came out at Sedona, the middle of the world. This is
our home. We call Sedona Wipuk. We call it after the rocks and
the mountains there. All Yavapai come from Sedona. But in time
they spread out.” The branch of the Yavapai that lived in
the Red Rock County – the area around Sedona – call
themselves the Wipuka, underlining this connection.
Woman, Boynton Canyon
However, the focus of the creation legend is not on Sedona alone.
According to the Yavapai, the “Lady of the Pearl”
was sealed in a log with the Woodpecker and sent from Montezuma
Well to prepare for a Great Flood. For days and nights to follow,
it rained incessantly. Flood waters rose to cover every land form
on the Earth. After 40 days, the rain stopped, the water receded
and the log finally came to rest in Sedona. The Woodpecker freed
the beautiful young woman from the log and guided her as she traveled
to the summit of Mingus Mountain, bearing the white stone or “Pearl”
that her people had given her for protection. There, she met the
Sun, who fell in love with her. Returning to Sedona, she bathed
in an enchanted pool in Boynton Canyon. Soon afterward, she became
pregnant and gave birth to a daughter who became the “First
Lady”, mother to all the Yavapai people. The creation myth
therefore speaks of three sites: Montezuma Well, Sedona, specifically
Boynton Canyon, and the Mingus Mountain, which makes up the “Sacred
Triangle of Sedona”.
Well is just north of Camp Verde and about twenty minutes by car
from Sedona. The Well has a number of cliff dwellings and is something
of a geological enigma – or, at least, anomaly. It produces
vast and consistent qualities of warm water, which rises from
somewhere deep underground. Scientists have not yet discovered
the origin of the consistently warm water. It is nevertheless
clear that the Yavapai were aware of this enigmatic resurgence,
and have linked it with their creation mythology. As the Yavapai
believe – like e.g. the Hopi – that we live in the
Fourth World, for them, the Third World, is literally our “underworld”,
and we emerged from under the earth into this Fourth World. Hence
why, no doubt, Montezuma Well is used as a place of emergence.
Specifically, the creation myth states that a very long time ago,
there was no water in that lake and that people lived inside and
below. Sometime later, the water came in the well, and later,
there came the flood. It is here that the Yavapai Ark was built,
which came to rest in Sedona. The highest peak in Sedona is Thunder
Mountain – also known as Capital Butte – which has
a somewhat pyramidal appearance and which appears to have been
the location where the female Noah’s log stranded: “There
at Sedona is a high place. It is the highest place all around.
And when the water were down, the log hit that high place. It
stopped right there. And the girl came out from the log.”
The Yavapai refer to this woman as Kamalpukwia, the “Old
Lady White Stone” – an interesting characteristic
for in Sedona, most of the stone is red. They add that “she
is the first woman and we came from her. She came out at Sedona
and that’s where all Indians come from.” Others, however,
have referred to this celestial virgin as Arizunna, the sun-beloved
maiden. And the all-important question is therefore whether the
name of the state, Arizona, should specifically be linked with
Sedona, her next stop was the Mingus Mountain, where she mated
with the sun. The precise location of what is likely to be a small
shrine near the summit is not known – or kept secret by
the Yavapai – though if somehow were to hazard a guess,
the site of Tuzigoot, on the outskirts of Cottonwood, is a sacred
site that might be related with this enigma. Even if Tuzigoot
is unlikely to be the site per se (seeing it sits in a valley
and not on the mountain as such), certain solar alignments –
still left to be discovered – between the site and Mingus
Mountain – which is visible on the horizon – might
reveal where precisely she fell in love with the sun.
From Mingus Mountain, Kamalpukwia returned to Sedona, and Boynton
Canyon, which for the Yavapai is the birthplace of their people.
However, the place of importance is not so much Lady Kachina rock,
part of the modern vortex phenomenon, but rather a cliff dwelling
somewhat deeper in the canyon, dated to 1200 AD and the Sinagua
culture. The cliff dwelling is remarkable, if only because it
is one of the few that one can actually visit – unlike e.g.
Montezuma Castle in Camp Verde. The cliff dwelling has a few rooms,
constructed around a small spring that emanates inside the overhang
that shelters the dwelling. Clearly, the dwellings were constructed
so as to make use of this water, as it flows through the structure.
Another interesting feature of the site is a stone just next to
the dwelling, whose surface betrays a history of some ritual use.
Here, half-way up the canyon wall, is the site of the enchanted
pool, where she gave birth to a daughter, the “First Lady”.
And for all we know, it might be indeed Her image that we see
on Lady Kachina rock. If so, it might explain why of all the four
vortex sites, Boynton Canyon is consistently said to be the one
that is able to inspire. The reason might be that out of the four
vortex sites, this is the only genuine ancient sacred site.
are many more myths around Kamalpukwia, of course, which take
place in the sacred landscape in and around Sedona, such as the
cave where she gave birth to a miraculous boy – though the
precise locations of these and other events in her life are sketchy.
Equally, though the cliff dwelling in Boynton Canyon is the home
of the sacred pool, it is clear that the true pool itself, was
no doubt located somewhere else, however nearby.
Contrary to what some people have therefore argued, Sedona has
Native American remains. Apart from the cliff dwelling in Boynton
Canyon, there is nearby Palatki, which equally has cliff dwellings
and an entire cliff face inscribed with rock art. In fact, some
of the pictographs at Palatki date back to 11,000-9000 BC, suggesting
that the extreme age about which the Yavapai speak – when
Montezuma Well was said to be dry – might no longer appear
to be so outlandish.
Palatki means “red house” and was named as such by
archaeologist Jesse Walter Fewkes in 1895. He believed that Sedona
and the Verde Valley was the legendary Palatkwapi, the great red
city of the south, which is spoken about in Hopi legends. Palat
in Hopi means red and ki, residence and it is said that the people
who settled here were from the Patki – Water – clan.
Of course, the entire creation myth of the Yavapai – which
might thus be just a more recent name for the Patki – involves
water and the “sacred cenote” of Montezuma Well, as
well as the sacred spring in Boynton Canyon, underline that water
was the principal element of the local people. And one can wonder
whether the Spanish name for this people Sinagua – sin agua,
without water – was a mocking reference to their true heritage.
Alexander M. Stephen, an early ethnographer of the Hopi, underlined
that the Patki came from the “Pala’tkwabi” (Palatkwapi),
noting that “No one knows just where that Red Land is, but
it is somewhere in the far southwest.” Some have suggested
this is Palenque, in Mexico, but this is first of all not in the
southwest, as seen from the Hopi homeland, and very far removed,
suggesting a mass migration. However, Sedona is to the southwest
of the current Hopi homeland and if there is one thing that should
typify Sedona, it is its red rocks.
Equally, the Hopi migration legend not only claims that Palatkwapi
is the red-walled city in the south, but that the settlement was
destroyed by a great flood, which wiped out the Third World, and
that its inhabitants fled. The Hopi claim that the tremendous
rainstorms that brought on this deluge were created by Palulukang,
the horned or plumed serpent, who was said to inhabit Montezuma
Well. It therefore seems that we have come full circle.
The Hopi add that after Palatkwapi drowned, it was abandoned,
that its people moved north, along the Palatkwapi Trail, and went
to Homolovi, near Winslow. From there, the Hopi travelled further
north, towards the Hopi Mesas. From Sedona, via Homolovi, to the
Mesas, is a distance of 150 miles and, today, easily doable by
car in a less than three hour drive.
For the Hopi,
the “Red City” was a great cultural and religious
center from a previous area; the Native Americans travelled from
there, towards the Mesas, but walking the “Good Red Road”
in the other direction, meant for them a return to the world of
spirit, a pilgrimage, a vision quest to a site where they would
commune with the ancestral spirits.
Knowing what the sacred sites of the creation myth are, we should
perhaps ask whether the cliff dwellings of Boynton Canyon, Montezuma
Well (and Castle) and the settlement of Tuzigoot really are “just”
settlements, or whether they are instead sacred structures: cells,
“hotels”, for pilgrims who came here, seeking inspiration,
guidance, or initiation – contact with the “First
modern “official” capital of Arizona is Phoenix. The
city is named after the mythical bird, which is known to have
risen from its own ashes, and herald in a new age. Sedona already
is the spiritual capital, but it seems that in the Third World,
it was the official capital of “Arizunna”. And it
is definitely a fact that under Page Bryant’s influence,
Sedona, the Red City, is once again rising from its ashes and
regaining its lost significance. And it suggests that Bryant was
perhaps a true psychic after all, who came to Sedona on her own
vision quest, and left a lasting legacy for the rest of us, who
flock in their thousands to Sedona to have a vision quest. Today,
the vision quest is no longer administered in the canyons itself;
the cliff dwellings are replaced by comfortable beds in cosy hotels
and the “lodges” where the quests occurred are now
more likely to be the many New Age shops along the main roads.
But for those who want to experience Sedona as it once was, nothing
will stop you from experiencing it.