Over on Graham Hancock’s website, Hancock has published the latest in a series of articles by Shawn Hamilton making some extreme claims about the Hopi. Hamilton is nothing special as far as fringe history believers go. Forty years ago, he worked with Oswald “White Bear” Fredericks, a Hopi who was heavily influenced by postwar pop culture and New Age ideas when he told an idiosyncratic version of Hopi mythology to Frank Waters in the 1960s. I have discussed White Bear’s ideas many times, but the issue, as I wrote previously, is that his version of Hopi mythology does not correlate with versions recorded prior to the 1960s, but does correlate with pseudohistory books of the preceding years. He talks about Atlantis by name, for Pete’s sake, so it’s fairly clear that he wasn’t drawing on unadulterated ancestral truths. His mythology, I wrote in 2016, was:
…recorded in the middle twentieth century by Oswald White Bear Fredericks and Naomi Fredericks and published in Frank Waters’s New Age Book of the Hopi (1963), which seems to reflect influence from cultural touchstones of its era like World War II, UFOs, and Velikovsky-style worlds in collision. This version of the myth involves cities engaging in devastating warfare through “flying shields,” and it includes references to the Earth falling off of its axis, destroying the world three times. […] The trouble is that these details don’t appear in earlier versions recorded before the New Age explosion of the twentieth century. Earlier versions of the story claimed that the Hopi climbed up reeds from world to world, from the first to the fourth, but after the pole-shift theory emerged from the work of Immanuel Velikovsky (1950) and Charles Hapgood (1958), we see shifting poles replacing the stacked worlds as the explanation for the three previous creations. I was unable to find a single reference to the Hopi speaking of pole shifts or the Earth’s axis prior to the New Age movement.
Hamilton accepts White Bear’s version of Hopi mythology as indescribably ancient, despite its manifest influence from 1950s pseudohistory, and therefore he builds from 1950s pseudohistory to more modern pseudohistory, mostly by the infusion of ancient astronaut claims and Templar-adjacent conspiracy theories:
In ancient times it was known among certain people that intelligent beings had come from space and helped cultivate mankind out of its primitive state, but this knowledge was nearly lost when the Earth suffered global and semi-global cataclysms. Some of this knowledge survived in the mythologies of aboriginal people, and even in the West some of this information remained concealed by various powerful institutions, often with contradictory interests, such as Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic Church.
So, yeah, there’s that. Hamilton went on to say that in 1978 White Bear interpreted one ancient petroglyph of a cross-like shape as a presaging the incarnation of Christ and another as the “Confederation of Planets” straight out of Star Trek. White Bear added that Atlanteans fly in spaceships powered by magnetic fields, echoing the Shaver Mystery and Theosophy, and he claimed that space aliens directed a migration from Atlantis to Tiwanaku, whose imagined date in deep antiquity echoes a fringe belief popular beginning in the 1950s, after Arthur Posnansky’s faulty archaeoastronomical speculations in the 1940s became widely known in fringe literature.
Hamilton’s efforts to ground ancient astronaut and lost civilization ideas in false Native American mythology isn’t new, or particularly interesting, but it represents a longstanding Western tradition of turning to non-Western sources as an exotic and primitive source of “pure” wisdom. The lack of critical thinking on display in this particular version was particularly noticeable, however.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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