Thanks to a cable outage, I did not have internet for much of the day, so you’ll have to content yourself with some short thoughts for today.
You’ll recall that last week America Unearthed host Scott F. Wolter claimed that the Knights Templar sent word to the Mississippian city of Cahokia announcing their coming, which triggered the Mississippian collapse due to an undisclosed prophecy that required all Native Americans to give up civilization and “go wild” to survive the coming of White People.
I’ve been trying to puzzle out exactly how Wolter came to believe that the Knights Templar sent word to Cahokia to abandon the city before the awesome white guys arrived to take it from them in the name of the Holy Bloodline of Jesus and the Goddess of the Cistercians. I am coming up close to empty-handed. There isn’t anything in the literature to suggest that the Knights Templar had anything to do with Cahokia, not even in the crazy Templar conspiracy literature. The only connection I found was one writer who claimed that the Templars and the Mississippians both built sacred structures because they were the joint inheritors of sacred geometry and ley lines from the advanced culture that inspired Stonehenge.
In 1787, Benjamin Smith Barton claimed that mounds like those found at Cahokia were the work of Vikings, and we know that Scott Wolter has re-assigned the imaginary voyages of the Vikings and the Norse to the “Norman French” Templars, so I guess that’s one connection—but Wolter doesn’t say that the Templars built Cahokia, but rather that they caused its collapse.
With that line of inquiry coming up dry, I next tried to turn to legends about Cahokia. Wolter claimed that his Native American informants provided him with oral histories that are hitherto undisclosed. This would be an interesting trick since there is no way to tie a modern tribe to the original inhabitants of Cahokia given the extensive population shifts of the post-Collapse and post-Contact periods. But there are relatively few legends of Cahokia. One, a Siouan tale, doesn’t actually mention the city but talks about a “mountain” near St. Louis, which archaeologists say refers to Monk’s Mound. Another, the legend of Red Horn, is thought to reflect a late form of Mississippian cult beliefs about an all-red god.
The only connection I can find in fact comes from alternative literature where an imaginary “white” god with a beard and a tunic is imagined to have wandered across the Americas teaching Native people how to be civilized. Derived from Spanish misconceptions of Aztec and Peruvian myths, alternative writers, particularly the credulous anthropologist Pierre Honoré, who fabricated false quotations to support his idea of white master race that ruled the ancient Americas, later writers have imagined a “White God” (from the title of Honoré’s 1964 book In Quest of the White God) all across the Americas. Terry J. O’Brien matter-of-factly asserted that such white gods were present at the construction of mound sites like Cahokia in Fair Gods and Feathered Serpents (1997). That said, a few references to a single recitation of the Sauk myth of Getci Mu’nito suggest that this fellow was “an old, white-headed man of majestic appearance” who taught the art of civilization and vanished into the north. But I’m pretty sure it referred to white hair, not white skin.
Weirdly enough, the foreign man who wandered into Cahokia and became a god was a brief allusion in a 2010 short story by Kurt Anderson called “Human Intelligence” in Neil Gaiman’s anthology Stories: All-New Tales. Anderson placed the visitor in 1317.
The only prophecy I can find is the one related of the allegedly “white” Quetzalcoatl and later applied to the Spanish at the Conquest. I am skeptical of any oral traditions that have left no trace in the ethnographic literature until 2012-2013. As we have seen before, old Native American myths of monsters were transformed into dinosaurs as soon as dinosaurs became popular. We have also seen how genuine Micmac oral traditions about the French colonization of Nova Scotia have been backdated to become “proof” of Henry Sinclair’s imaginary voyage to Canada.
Burrows Cave "Templar" with beard, boat (right) and menorah (top). Theoretically, this photo and image would be under copyright if the rock is a fake, but since it is claimed to be hundreds or thousands of years old, a faithful reproduction of a two dimensional work of art that old can't be copyrighted. So do you want to admit it's a fake?
Here’s the only Templar connection I can find. Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas claimed in The Hiram Key that the Knights Templar found a manuscript in Solomon’s Temple that promised a prosperous land in “Merica” to the West and therefore discovered America. I do not have time to trace back the Merica name tonight, so that will have to wait until tomorrow. According to conspiracy literature, the fabricated stones of Burrows Cave show Knights Templar, proving that they had invaded Illinois. The stone above shows what Rixon Stewart called a bearded Templar with a boat. Clearly, it’s a modern fake based on what looks like a standard image of Jesus, much like the one that used to hang in my grandmother’s living room.
Could this be the origin for the claim that the Templars reached the Mississippian lands and caused the Cahokia collapse?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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