Yak Tityu Tityu, Northern Chumash, and the Chumash:
A General Overview
by Karl Kempton
Edited by Carol Georgi
The following Yak Tityu Tityu and general Chumash solstice site materials are a result of over 40 years of my occasional archaeo-astronomy studies and recoveries. The materials have been pulled from my manuscript, "Rite Angles," on the solstice sites of the Chumash in general and Northern Chumash, Yak Tityu Tityu, specifically. Information on the Pole Star comes from greater details in my work in progress, "The Way Of The Poet: God Realized Rishi & Yogi, Taoist & Buddhist Ch'an & Zen, Sufi and Christian Mystic Poets in the World's Many Spiritual and Mystic Traditions."
I want to thank Norm Hammond for his contribution to this article by sharing some of his photos and significant recoveries. For over 40 years, he has been a keen eyed critic of my ideas by playing the role as a contrarian to my feelings, thoughts and extrapolations. Some of his own recoveries over the years support what I have to share for the first time in this article. He is a friend and honest sounding board. Norm, among his books and articles, wrote The Dunites.
I also thank Carol Georgi for her patience and keen-eyed editing. She has insured a less dense presentation of this complex subject.
Part Two, Section A
This article is part two of a presentation on the Chumash in general and the Northern Chumash, Yak Tityu Tityu, specifically. Read part one to learn about the Chumash relationship with the ocean, land, and coast.
Part two focuses on the Chumash ethnosphere in two sections: Section A covers some known weavings of their cosmology associated with their solstice sites. Next month's article, Section B, continues the Chumash ethnosphere by briefly covering the Chumash language and the rise of the overriding dominant culture.
The following overview covers the criteria of archaeological, historical, and cultural significance of the Chumash People in general and — more specifically — the northern most speakers of a Chumash language, Yak Tityu Tityu, the people, living north of Point Sal, California. Criteria for National Marine Sanctuary protection include, "its conservation, recreational, ecological, historical, scientific, cultural, archaeological, educational, or esthetic qualities; the communities of living marine resources it harbors; or its resource or human-use values." (See: Sanctuary Designation Standards)
Previous Marine Sanctuary articles outline our internationally and nationally significant oceanographic features and habitat (that is, the criteria of "ecological, scientific, and esthetic qualities and the communities of living marine resources it harbors"). This addition to the articles continues the broad outline with a short article on the Chumash, whose population today is in the thousands.
Quick Overview: Chumash Ethnosphere
The ethnosphere, a term coined by Wade Davis, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, is defined as "The sum total of all thoughts, dreams, ideas, beliefs, myths, intuitions, and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. It's a symbol of all that we've accomplished and all that we can accomplish." (Utne.com - Tales of the Ethnosphere). For the Chumash in general and for the local northern Chumash, Yak Tityu Tityu, this includes their relationship with ocean, land, coast and their belief and experience that all life and that which supports life are sacred.
For a deeper look into the meaning of ethnosphere, see (Ted.com - Wade_Davis_on_Endangered_Cultures). Wade pointedly states, "There is, indeed, a fire burning over the earth, taking with it plants and animals, cultures, languages, ancient skills and visionary wisdom. Quelling this flame, and reinventing the poetry of diversity is perhaps the most important challenge of our times." (Good Reads - Edmund_Wade_Davis)
To help put out the local blaze destroying the Chumash culture, we need to:
1) demand protection against misuse and pollution for our land and ocean insuring sustainability, and
2) demand respect for the local culture and Way of Yak Tityu Tityu and the wider Chumash culture and Way, including sacred sites, and their present-day north to south resurgence by thousands of Chumash People living between Ragged Point and Malibu.
The Chumash Way, their cosmology and symbols, are thoroughly integrated with Mother Earth who is viewed as a living, conscious being. Sacredness, and thus, respect for the entire web of life and that which supports life is a given. Within our dominant culture's ways, as our capacity to store facts and information increases, individually and collectively, our willingness to remember the details of the complex cultural legacy shrinks due to the easy access to knowledge and facts. Our social organization continually reduces contact with the nonhuman life forms and ways of Nature. Daily, the straight lines we are exposed to are humankind made, the longest of which are the transport functions of street, highway, rail, fuel or power line, etc. that are carved into or strung across landscape and seafloor.
The prodigious memories in non-literate cultures are well documented. Quite possibly many surviving visual symbols are doorways into stories and songs that long ago unraveled from a teller's, poet's or singer's recall for days, even weeks, on end. A Chumash individual scanning a landscape from a distance would have a detailed memory of its parts far greater than most of us can even imagine. It has been walked for uncountable generations and stockpiled with lore. Horizon to horizon line of sight was the longest straight line for the Chumash; memory extended it beyond. Pinpoints of fire extended site lines further at night. Even more distant, of course, are the solar, lunar, planetary and stellar beings.
A quick explanation of a solstice site is necessary because what was once a common human event and experience in this area and around the world is essentially gone. The earth's axis tilts 23.5 degrees causing the illusion in the northern hemisphere that the sun itself is moving and rising further north each day after the Winter Solstice between December 20 to 22. After June 20-22, the Summer Solstice, the sun's trek reverses and the sun rises and sets further south each day. The actual physical cause is that this tilt, as the Earth orbits the sun, alters the angle of rise and set on the horizon. To mark these occasions, the Chumash formed solstice events at chosen sites and shaped rock, and perhaps landscape, for the meeting of light and shadow. Aligned with the site are distant major features such as mountain or hilltops or saddles the sun rises over or sets behind, as well as rock outcroppings and other unique features. Some of us are certain the solstice sites now recovered on the present day coast had alignments to features now underwater.
Nearly all, if not all, European Neolithic solstice sites of ancient dolmens, cairns, tombs and stone circles formed events such that light was channeled to penetrate and dominate shadow. This sun-penetrating template was not always the case in the Chumash cosmological landscape nor did they form sites with dolmens, cairns, tombs and stone circles. While there are many events with light penetrating shadows, there are other events where shadow penetrates light. There are additional events where light and shadow meet as equals; one does not dominate the other. It appears these types of balanced events can be interpreted that light and shadow are equals.
For example, there is an event where a shaft of light reduces to a dot of light seeming to represent an open eye for the shadow profile of a human (see Midday event below). There are two other events of small shafts of light surrounded by shadow. At this moment, several Pole Star alignments have been either documented or suggested. Recovery work continues for other stellar and constellation alignments. Several intriguing possibilities are under study. I use the term recovery because this is the actual act; it was the Yak Tityu Tityu and other Chumash who discovered the means and ways to compose these events in and on specific rock features framed within their cosmological Way.
Recovering Coastal Solstice Site Events
In 1978, I recovered my first coastal solstice site event, a sunset alignment. In 1979, I recovered the first midday event on a Winter Solstice at the same site. This is the moment the sun is opposite the Pole Star. That same year archaeologist Robert Gibson recovered the Winter Solstice sunrise event at this site. A few years later Norm Hammond recovered another Winter Solstice sunrise and a Summer Solstice sunset alignment at this site. He, by the way, has seven solstice site recoveries to his credit and has visited eight other solstice sites for a total of 15 experienced event sites.
Local Yak Tityu Tityu and two expert archaeologists accepted my recoveries. However, these recoveries were rejected by other archaeologists since the Winter Solstice sunset was over the ocean; they were unable to think back to when the ocean was miles away from the site. They especially rejected the midday event as an impossibility because of its sophistication and implication of a knowledge they believed the Chumash could not have grasped. Obviously these archaeologists could not grasp the simple notion that during a full solar eclipse, the Pole Star appears proving its constant position and watch over the cosmological landscape.
About every 54 years there would have been a full solar eclipse somewhere over Chumash land. That means over the last 13,000 to 20,000 years the number of these occurrences would have been considerable, and held within their sacred Way.
Alignments to the Pole Star are now being looked for as a result of findings published in the 2010 article, "Archaeological Implications Of A Northern Chumash Arborglyph" by Saint-Onge, Rex W, Johnson, John R. and Talaugon, Joseph R. Norm Hammond and I shared concepts with Rex Saint-Onge in northern hemisphere archeo-astronomy, symbology, Pole Star lore and astronomy.
Also of importance is the fact that the Pole Star of today was not the Pole Star when the Arlington Springs woman died and was buried 13,000 to 13,500 years ago on what is now called Santa Rosa Island. At that time, the Pole star was Vega, the fourth brightest star visible in the northern hemisphere, just off the polar ecliptic. The polar ecliptic is the line the Earth's North Pole draws during the long wobble of Earth's axis. When the mastodon was butchered 20,000 years ago a few miles from where I am typing this, the Pole Star was Alpha Cepheus or Alderamin.
About 5000 years ago, as the Chumash navigated the ocean, the Pole Star was Alpha Draco. The wobble in the Earth's axis rotates one full revolution every 24,920 years. A star on the horizon before sunrise on the Vernal Equinox will not be in that exact location on the Vernal Equinox sunrise horizon for another 24,920 years. Or, every 72 years, one average human life span, the star appears to move one full degree. This wobble creates the illusion of the constellations on the ecliptic (our zodiac constellations) changing during the Vernal Equinox sunrise every 2000 years or so. For example, the sun is moving out of Pisces into Aquarius. Today's Pole Star has yet to set itself dead center in the north point; it is about half a degree away.
In 1980, I recovered my second of four solstice sites. It was a Winter Solstice sunset event. Its site location was along the equinox line of my first find. This alignment confirmed for me that the Chumash, like others in Neolithic Europe, not only formed solstice sites aligned to distinct markers on the sunrise or sunset horizon, but also aligned sites along these lines over great distances. The possibility of such a series of extended alignments rests not only on this one find.
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