Chatting with Forrest Fenn: Medicine Rock
The last paragraph in the preface of Forrest Fenn’s book, The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo, shares one of his key purposes for writing it;
“We have decided to say what we wish in a conversational tone as we look at the objects from San Lazaro and consider the mysteries and secrets that surround them. So, if you have an open mind and a romantic bent, please pull up a cushioned chair and come in a little closer. We will try to hand you something.”
Although the book does just that, I believe Forrest lives to do the same for all places and things. I feel he loves sharing with others remarkable stories and insights from the many adventures he has experienced, and enjoys talking about the numerous beautiful items he has collected over the years. This passion for sharing is also evident in his giving of The Thrill of the Chase to all.
Recently, my family and I, on our way back home from California, had the wonderful opportunity to stop and chat with Forrest. We were happy to ‘pull up a chair’ in the way previously quoted from the San Lazaro book’s preface. So much history, with amazing paths to further explore, were handed to us by listening. We considered the mysteries and secrets of the artifacts that surrounded us in his office. And then later, we did the same while exploring the San Lazaro Pueblo.
As you can imagine visiting with Forrest was such an awesome and unforgettable time. I hope to convey some of the things shared in this new series, ‘Chatting with Forrest Fenn’; starting with Medicine Rock.
Now Medicine Rock is not one of the plentiful items sitting on the packed shelves in Forrest’s office. It’s actually a large boulder that is part of a great mystery at the San Lazaro Pueblo. When I first read The Secrets of San Lazaro Pueblo, it was one of the places that truly fascinated me. I love the mysterious, and so seeing it in person, was an absolute thrill.
Medicine Rock can be easily seen from afar as it sits isolated on a small rise, but otherwise relative flat surface. The windblown sandy ground, small trees, shrubs and grasses that surround it help make the large mass of sandstone look simply magical. It can be imagined this rock’s powerful command in the landscape is one of the reasons why it was chosen for its special, but remaining mysterious purpose.
Behind Medicine Rock is found a rectangular shaped shaft (tomb like) chiseled out of bedrock. It descends almost 30 feet straight down. We were careful not to slip while looking deep into the formidable hole. At the bottom of the shaft is an entrance to an underground tunnel which traverses under the large rock and exits out the front of it on the other side!
Forrest told us that a Tewa elder, Franklin Shipla, whose ancestors lived at the pueblo centuries ago, believes the shaft and tunnel were used to initiate or introduce Warrior Indians to the tribe. The warriors would be lowered down the shaft (possibly by a rope or ladder), in order to crawl through the tunnel to spectacularly emerge from the tunnel in front. They possibly walked between burning bonfires on either side of the tunnel’s exit for added allure. A magnificently dressed Shaman would also be standing on top of the rock to bless the warriors as they ascended from below and into the light. The tribe would be there to welcome them.
Besides being unsure of all the details for this extraordinary ceremony, Medicine Rock gives another mystery to ponder. In the tailings around the shaft behind the rock are tiny pieces of Jet scattered about. Jet is not to be found (naturally or unnaturally) anywhere else on the Pueblo. And so no one to date has a reason for its presence here. Were these pieces of Jet part of the warrior ceremony? Was it believed to hold sacred properties? Was there another use for Medicine Rock, unknown today, which used the Jet?
So much can be wondered about the rock; its use of the tunnel, the shape and sculpting of the shaft, the possible altar within the Rock and what might have been placed there? What were the Warrior Indian thoughts when being lowered down the shaft? Etc.
I love that mysteries still exist and only need searched out and realized to then be pondered upon!
I was able to climb and stand on top the rock and look around. The view is desolate, lonely, and quiet now. But it is clear San Lazaro was a lively place from excavations Forrest and others have done. It must have held more than the silence and mystery it keeps now; and maybe for all time forward.
More Chats with Forrest to come!
Best of luck with whatever you seek!