Monday, November 9, 2015

Cahuilla Pictograph Boulder - San Jacinto Mountains

These pictographs were created by the Cahuilla Indians several hundred years ago (at a minimum) and related to female puberty initiation rites. The initiates themselves are thought to have "painted" the symbols. The symbols included various forms of chains, diamonds and zig-zags. These patterns are known to represent rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are the "spirit helpers" associated with females. 

"Other parts of the initiation rites involved isolation in a warmed pit for three days, thereby mimicking the ritual isolation and immobility practiced at childbirth; the ingestion of tobacco and resulting receipt of a supernatural vision; and apparently at the culmination of the initiation, the painting of the designs representing the spirit received during the girl's altered state." (David S. Whitley)

 A slightly different take on the last part of the initiation follows:
"The final event of the Indian puberty celebration consisted of a race, called a "hayie," to a certain rock where a relative of each girl awaited her with a little pot of red ochre paint. On arrival, each initiate painted a design on the rock.  Indian informants indicated that these designs were always diamond-shaped and represented the rattlesnake." (Dolcie H. Vuncannon)

Once the initiates had completed these rites, they were considered women.

 A photo of the "pictograph rock" You can see part of the fence around it also

 The same photo enhanced by DStretch

A closer view of  the symbols

 Same image after DStretch - Notice that all the patterns described above are present here

 Included just because I liked it

Earlier posts to similar pictograph sites:
Female puberty initiation site in Joshua Tree National Park
Female puberty initiation site (possible) in Joshua Tree National Park
Female puberty initiation site in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park



  1. I never thought about a rite of passage for a woman. That was a lot of diamond shapes on that rock.
    And glad you included the tree - I like it as well!

  2. Very interesting! I had no idea this even existed in our local area. I won't ask where it is...
    ~Cheryl Ann~

  3. I've thought this before but never asked, but are the cultures that produced these remarkable glyphs still around, or are these markings essentially cultural fossils? Good on you for introducing them to a wider audience Pat.

  4. Very interesting post, and I LOVE that last photo of the tree!!

  5. Very interesting post - and I LOVE the last photo!! (I've been trying to post this comment, but it doesn't seem to want to take).

  6. Hello, what an interesting post. The pictographs that survive hundreds of years are just amazing to me. I lov ethe last shot of the huge tree. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

  7. DStretch really helps you visualize the artwork. It's incredible to think of this history.

  8. I LOVED these photos! The patterns on the rock are amazing. I love those designs. Such an interesting ritual. Thank you, Pat! And the tree at the end is beautiful!

    Also, thanks so much for your wonderful comments on my blog recently. I truly appreciate it. :)

  9. I think it's fascinating that women were written about in these drawings.Fantastic.

  10. Alex J. Cavanaugh - Yep! Those folks were made of much tougher stock that we are today. Thanks Alex!

    trav4adventures - When I was there, I was wondering if you knew about it.

    dennis hodgson - In spite of the Spanish, the Catholic Missions, Americans, miners, settlers, Mormons, squatters, slavers, and others, who did their best to exterminate them, the Cahuilla still exist and live in the area. I think there are about eight bands of Cahuilla living in this part of the state. Many of these sites are sacred to them.

    Montanagirl - Thanks! I loved the tree also.

  11. eileeninmd - Thanks Eileen! I agree and they always amaze me as well. Happy Monday to you also.

    Wayne - DStretch is a fantastic tool. I agree about the history. I can't go to a place like this without thinking about and visualizing what went there.

    Pam Tucker - Thanks Pam! I also think they are amazing. The comments are always my pleasure Pam.

    Bouncin Barb - Not only about the women, but much of this type was actually done by them. Thanks Barb!

  12. That really was interesting Pat. Hey, I like the tree too, it looks like it's from the enchanted forest!

  13. Beautiful shots. Rattlesnakes as spirit helpers? Who'd have thought it.

  14. I have seen paintings on rock in the northwoods, done by native americans, but I don't think I have seen any in the desert. These pictographs were done much later than the tock art I've seen in the Southwest. I wonder if they were done after European contact or why they used paint instead of chiseling. Nice photos.

  15. Brian - Thanks Brian! It was really big.

    William Kendall - Yep! They live in the rocks. Thanks William!

    sage - Thanks Jeff!

    The first encounter with Europeans took place in 1774 (Juan Bautista de Anza) on the coast. The Cahuilla and some other desert centered tribes, didn't have any real contact until the mid-1840's because the Spanish (and others) considered the desert to be no value to them. Either way, if these pictographs were only 400 years old, that would have been over 150 years before first contact. In addition, these pictos weren't created with "paint." They were done using "red ochre" and they actually could be as old as 1500 years, because that is when the Cahuilla people came to this area. Their villages were in the desert and they came to their mountain camps to escape the summer heat.

    Although, most of the "rock art" found in the southwest are petroglyphs (chiseled, etc), there are also a TON of pictograph sites. Many of them just as old, or older than many of the petroglyphs. Thanks for the comment, I love it when someone goes beyond the usual, and don't just say "nice post" or something like that. Thanks again!

  16. Pretty remarkable stuff you're doing Pat. Recording this stuff, putting it out there for those who can see. A good endeavor, my admiration.

    Winter is damn near here in Montana, snow on the ground, pretty mild though, only 26f outside.

    Take care, pal.


  17. Pat-- Lovely these can go on my living room wall right now. I like the idea that these pictographs were puberty rites. As a woman we have several different stages in our lives...child, maiden, mother, etc.

  18. Those rituals were a little harsh, for sure... but I think we've lost something by not noticing or celebrating life's passages.

    Beautiful job of enhancing the designs (wonderful to be able to do that digitally) ... they are definitely rattlesnakey. And I love the tree.

  19. So glad my tribe didn't have that ritual! I never would have lasted in a pit...heated or otherwise. I like the tree too. We went to the redwoods earlier this year and I was dazzled by the trees.

  20. How incredible the effect the DStretch has, tres interesting to see the symbols so clearly but more so reading what they mean. Oh la the tree shot is magnificent Pat!

  21. Happy you've recovered to the point you can do what you love! Wow, that tree, I thought it would never end!

  22. It was so interesting reading about the rite of passage. Loved seeing all of the pictographs. You did a wonderful job on this series. Maybe one day I will get to see something like this. It would really be a treat for me.

  23. That tree shot is amazing... or should I say tree-mendous! ;-)

  24. Interesting as always. However, that tree photo is FANTASTIC!

  25. It goes without saying that the pictures are beautiful. I'm just glad to see you back on here.

    I don't think I've ever asked, and I am probably just not seeing it, but do you have a map of sorts that shows where you have been so far during this ongoing journey?

  26. Should Fish More - Thanks Mike! I appreciate the nice things you said. I really wish that "they" would try to educate people about these things. It would probably help reduce vandalism, if people really understood what they are destroying. 26 degrees?j Brrr! We just had our first cool weather in about 10 months. Today is just about perfect. 70 degrees, with a bit of a cool breeze.

    msmariah - Thank you! Feel free to enlarge any of my photos and hang them. I guess when you don't have TV, the internet, phones, etc.., the different stages of things mean a lot more. I know these symbols just look like squiggly doodling to a lot of people, but they really do tell stories. I really wish we understood more though.

    Sallie (FullTime-Life) - Especially so, when it culminates in going off and having a baby totally alone. Thanks Sallie!

    #1Nana - I'm sure most women would totally agree with you on that. Rattlesnakey! Love that...

    PerthDailyPhoto - Oh yeah, I love DStretch. Sometimes, it allows you see things that are totally invisible to the naked eye. Thanks so much!

  27. jeannettestgermain - Thanks so much! I'm getting there. It sure was easier and quicker to recover from things when I was younger. I loved that tree also...

    genie - Thanks so much Genie! I hope you get the chance to see some of these places in person.

    ladyfi - HA! Thanks! Tree-mendous...

    VEG - Thank you my friend! I have to admit that I really liked that photo also.

    Valerie Troutman - Thanks Valerie! It's nice to be back. I don't have a map that shows where I've been, but when I get to one of these sites, or find something odd, I record the coordinates. So I could probably make a map without too much trouble. I will think about it.

  28. Can I just say that I love that tree!!! Wow! Awesome. So was the rest of the

  29. Not that I would have had a choice back then, but I think I would prefer the race to the isolation. 3 days would be a long time. Then again, maybe back then the isolation was sought after, the ability to take a break and have peace and quiet and take a break from life. I'm not sure, the isolation sounds kind of nice. :)

  30. Also, that tree is magnificent! I love the gigantic trees!

  31. The tree is glorious.

  32. Bouncin Barb - I also love that tree! Thanks Barb!

    Baby Sister - Thanks Amanda! I think these folks had plenty of peace and quiet. At least the did until we came along and ruined it for them. I also love that tree!

    altadenahiker - Glorious and Ginormous!


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