In my own animist work here in south Florida, connecting to spirits of the land and whole bioregions, I have come to appreciate certain connections between natural, spiritual, and human-built places. Many examples abound just here in Florida and the nearby mythic geography: The state borders being somewhat near the borders of the underlying aquifer, which dominates the flows in and out of ground and standing water, the atmospheric water cycle that accompanies it, the flora and fauna and all their associated native stories springing from that foundation. I’ve come to believe that all these things “talk” and influence one another.
When I started watching Hellier, I could not help but to see echoes of my own research and experiences down here in Florida. Certainly not the goblins, but the way mines and cave systems linked their appearances in rural towns. The stories of hills and hollers throughout Kentucky, and much of the rest of the folklore of Appalachia, linked itself easily with the older settler of the Gentle Folk (fae) and other such beings from the Old World. While not necessarily nature-spirits (my forte), these beings exist in a closer relationship to the natural world, the Other-worlds, and legend than we can presently appreciate in our modern lives.
I already knew some of the deep-time geological history of the Appalachian Mountain Range. I am naturally drawn to science and deep-history, plus some of the chapters in that tale are linked with the formation of my own wyrd/mythic state, Florida. In my wanderings through the spirit wilds here, I have even heard mention of “Grandmother Appalachia” (eroded soils from those mountains made their way down to the FL peninsula and created a very rich type of soil we call “muck”). The land formed as the western European and North American plates collided during the times of Pangea, raising mountains as high as the Rockies today. Erosion over the next hundreds of millions of years smoothed out peaks into domed and forested landscapes, spreading the rich soil east and west and south to feed the Eastern Woodlands of the North American continent, home to so many of the First Nations that thrived there (and built mounds there).
The continents are in very different positions today, but the mountains remain.
Of course, Appalachia has counterparts all throughout the Old World (see map above). The Caledonian Mountains of Norway, the Scottish Highlands and Irish formations, and even sections of the desert peaks throughout Morocco were once one mountain range in old Pangea. Even Newfoundland (notoriously full of fae tales) and glacial Greenland are implicated in this ancient formation. These lands are notorious for their “corresponding” tales of mysterious humanoids coming in and out of passageways in the ground to interact with humans in strange and mysterious ways. I realized that there is a resonance there, an echo or sympathy, where ancient ground fed the same people and the same legends separated by time and space and cultures. The fact that it recurs today might be perhaps an echo cast adrift in time, or the playing out of forgotten dramas that only the Land remembers.
Another thought is layered on this, now. In the last Chapter of the Penny Royal podcast, the host and creator wanders about a painting of Alister Crowley’s after his visit to the Appalachian region in 1919. It is a “study” of the Moon Tarot card, and the host insists that it lines up neatly with points of interest in the geography of Hellier/Elkhorn/Somerset/Point Pleasant. While I was not able to get it to line up the same way–perhaps just doing it wrong at the moment–I did notice a vague correspondence. I wanted that answer, that subtle hint from the greatest occultist of the previous century, because I had been seeking a “focal point” for Grandmother Appalachia. It felt right that there should be a brain/heart to her mystery, perhaps a secret cave never explored filled with her great quartz bones and teeth.
That discovery still eludes me, and I suspect it will require much more work, mapping, and even dowsing on location. But I did spot something else:
Ancient “spine” or the figure of tree like a poplar?
Rotating the map around on Google Earth, I eventually had the following impressions: there is a road (or a couple of interstate roads, to be precise, 81 and 59) that travels along the “spine” of the Appalachian Mountains; and, when looked in a certain way, it suggests the outline of a twisted poplar, with its protected national forests on either side resembling foliage. What you see above is a lazy sketch of that shape along with another feature that truly floored me–a semi-circular pot at the “roots”?
It shows up as a nearly perfect semi-circle of farmlands cutting across much of the states of Mississippi and Alabama. There are no other roads or railways to suggest this shape was useful, nor are there any other landscape features that would impose that shape on human activity. No ridges, rivers, valleys, or mountains. The farms along this area merely seem to exist, forming this shape around the foothills of one of Earth’s oldest mountain range. (Another curiosity, they’re roughly equidistant from Birmingham. Why? There’s has to be a historical reason, at least!)
The interstates were also of interest, at least because of the American story they tell.
I-59 moves southwest from Birmingham, joining I-20 for a while and then I-10, until it ends roughly in New Orleans, a notoriously magical and paranormally-active city with a lake of legend. Past Chatanooga, it plays relay with I-75, which further connects this “glyph” with the Florida Everglades (final resting place of Appalachian soil, forming aforementioned muck) and splitting off by Knoxville. From there, it heads up toward the northern-most American land around the Great Lakes, while I-40 continues the relay briefly to the east. It came from the west, snaking through the desert and Mississippi River all the way from Bakersfield, CA and is heading across to end in Wilmington. From this point, the interstate relay resumes its path northeast across the spine of the Appalachian Mountains as I-81. Following its meandering tectonic folds, it missing Washington, DC, then curves straight north, up through Syracuse, and dies finally at the Canadian border on the other side of the Great Lakes.
There are a few other interstate roads that seem remarkable at a glance, but only because they seem to “cross” this path, and because they’re near to previous locations where the phenomena has been encountered in the past. I-24 seems to exist only for a little stretch of land–from Nashville to Chattanooga–but it goes very near Hopkinsville, KY, where the goblins were first spotted in 1955. I-40 comes very close to Brown Mountain, in NC. I-75 doesn’t connect to, but passes near Somerset, KY. I-64 and I-77 cross Appalachia together and bracket Point Pleasant and Ashland (the Hopewell mounds?) on either side. I-77 seems to stretch from Cleveland (on the coast of Lake Erie) to Columbia while I-64 comes down to Chesapeake, VA near Virginia Beach from St. Louis, MI in the west.
I don’t know if these very human landmarks are significant, but I do know this:
+ In a magical sigil (or glyph, or symbol), it matters what “crosses” the main line of power.
+ While interstates were meant to connect distant parts of the country, and they follow the path of least resistance through a landscape, they nonetheless carry the auto and petroleum power of this country, as well as the vast quantities of commerce and lives.
+ If you were going to draw Nazca-like pathways to harness the power of the land, you’d do that with frequently traveled roads in our modern times, binding together a nation.
+ Roads are and have always been places of magical and spiritual importance. Crossroads/intersections even more so. They are always liminal.
+ The spirits of the land subtly influences what lines we draw on a map. It hides and blocks off parts of itself, or reveals them to those deemed worthy.
What does this all add up to? I don’t know yet, but these are some of the strange roads my research is going down now (pardon the pun). I am, of course, reminded of the work on ley or dragon lines in the British Isles, with all the controversy that took (pathways for the fae, landing guides for UFOs, or roads often traveled for commerce, etc). I’ve always had the impression that maps of leys drawn perfectly straight are just people connecting consequential dots. If they’re indeed “dragon” lines, they’d meander like roads, or rivers, or ancient mountain ridges! Perhaps Appalachia isn’t in the shape of a poplar, but a serpent, like the MI mound discussed in The Rebirth of Pan?
One question does suggest itself immediately for research: If some roads “crossing” the Appalachian Mountains have known phenomena activity, can we find similar flaps/hotspots in others? Other interstates that cross that path (albeit briefly) are: I-26, I-66, I-83, and I-476.
Thank you for sticking with me in this LONG post. I hope some of this is helpful.
EDIT: Would love if someone used the Secret Cypher on the numbers of these roads!