Pictograph of an Analemma
In 1836, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque published a book called The American Nations in which he included an English translation of the Walam Olum¹. The Walam Olum was held to be the annals of the Lenape people of Wapahani, Indiana.
Rafinesque was very vague about the source of the Walum Olum. Historians have therefore surmised that the records probably consisted of a series of pictographs which were etched on either birch bark board or birch sticks and coloured in red. The pictographs would have functioned as the memory aid for a narrator. The narrator would also have been the document’s guardian or keeper, with the job of maintaining the records. At important events, the oral history would be recited in the form of verses that accompanied the pictographs.
The received version of the Walum Olum is a copy. The original document no longer exists. It is therefore impossible to say whether copies of the pictographs accurately reflect the originals.
However, amongst the pictographs is one that stands out because of its striking resemblance to the Abri Blanchard almanac. Pictograph number six from the first part of the Walam Olum can be seen below. It illustrates ‘the measurement of time’.
The pictograph includes what appears to be an analemma associated with the moon. The distinctive shape echoes that of the Abri Blanchard almanac where the analemma was folded to save space.
The diagram on the left is based on a time-lapse photograph created by Juan Carlos Casado². It shows a bow-shaped lunar analemma. The cycle starts with the first quarter moon.
In the Walam Olum analemma, the moon is depicted as a waning crescent on the same side of the earth as the sun, after which point the analemma has no more dots. This coincides with the start of the period around the new moon.
From this, we can deduce that the first dot in the Walam Olum cycle represents a waxing crescent.
It is difficult at first to imagine how the bow-shaped analemma might relate to the Walam Olum diagram. It is important to understand that my bow-shaped diagram is based upon a picture of the moon in the sky. Whilst the Walam Olum diagram is based upon the sky mirrored upon Earth. Think of the moon’s image reflected on the surface of a large lake.
In the image on the left, I have rotated the pictograph to put the loop at the top, and then flipped the image (reversed the mirroring) in order to obtain an image based on the sky.
The analemma in the pictograph starts one phase earlier than the analemma in my diagram, with the waxing crescent. The next phase is the first quarter moon. From this point, you should be able to see the similarities in the two diagrams.
Follow the loop round to the waning gibbous phase. After this, you would expect the moon’s descending path to cross the ascending path, and to begin to form the other side of the bow. However, the artist has taken the loop back up, as if to indicate that the analemma is being folded in half.
The pictograph also incorporates a sun symbol. The sun symbol is placed directly overhead, in other words it depicts noon, and is associated with 12 dots around what appears to be the dome of the sky. My interpretation is that there are 12 points that would be used to plot a solar analemma. 12 points on the solar analemma are equal to one point on the lunar analemma. Thus, the clear message is that the apparent distance travelled by the sun in 12 days is equal to that travelled by the moon in one day.
The first published version of the Walam Olum was in English text with some key words in Lenape. The translation was accompanied by some explanatory notes. Rafinesque also published what he described as a specimen of the original Lenape poetry³. My understanding is that the full Lenape text and the full set of pictographs were not published until the Daniel Brinton version of 1885⁴.
In the Brinton version, the pictograph of the analemma is accompanied by a transcription of the verse in both Romanized Lenape and in English. However, this transcription was not added by the original document’s guardian. This may explain why the verse merely hints at the contents of the pictograph.
The Lenape text reads: "Wemi-sohalawak yulik yuchaan."⁵
Two different versions of the English text are given below:
|English Translation of the Verse||Translator||Date|
|"And all these he caused to move well."⁶||Rafinesque||1836|
|"He made them all to move evenly."⁷||Brinton||1885|
Whilst the apparent movement of the astronomical bodies is the key to the measurement of time, neither Rafinesque nor Brinton picks up on this fact. It is interesting to compare the equivalent paragraph from Genesis. It is much more explicit:
Genesis: "And God said,
[Walam Olum Part 1, Pictograph Number 5: not shown] Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night;
[Walum Olum Part 1, Pictograph Number 6: the analemma] and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years."⁸
The Walam Olum is now widely held to have been a hoax. It is not my intention to prove or disprove the authenticity of the Walum Olum, but merely to point out the similarity between two diagrams. One diagram belonged to a group of hunter gathers who lived 35,000 years ago. The second is of more recent provenance.
In my opinion, the guardian or keeper of the Abri Blanchard almanac would have had no difficulty in understanding the diagram first published by Brinton in 1885. I find that fascinating.
Memory Aid for Verse Number 6 from the First Part of the Walam Olum: Daniel G. Brinton, 1885: The Lenâpé and Their Legends; With the Complete Text and Symbols of the Walam Olum, A New Translation and an Inquiry into its Authenticity, Chapter VII, Page 170: Philadelphia: Digital Image from Sacred Texts: http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/walam/wa01.htm: Accessed: 11 August 2014
Bow-shaped Lunar Analemma: Lynn Fawcett, August 2014: After Photo: Lunar Analemma Composite: Juan Carlos Casado: TWAN: The World at Night: Source: http://twanight.org/newTWAN/photos.asp?ID=3003707: Accessed: 8 August 2014
Lunar Phase Symbols: Astrological symbols, Lunar phases: Wikimedia Commons: Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrological_symbols: Accessed: 8 August 2014
1. C. S. Rafinesque, 1836: The American Nations, First Volume, Chapter V: Philadelphia
2. See Photo: Lunar Analemma Composite: Juan Carlos Casado: TWAN: The World at Night: Source: http://twanight.org/newTWAN/photos.asp?ID=3003707: Accessed: 8 August 2014
3. C. S. Rafinesque, 1836: The American Nations, First Volume, Chapter V, Page 160-161: Philadelphia
4. Daniel G. Brinton, 1885: The Lenâpé and Their Legends; With the Complete Text and Symbols of the Walam Olum, A New Translation and an Inquiry into its Authenticity.: Philadelphia
5. The Lenape text was transcribed by Brinton from a Rafinesque manuscript dated 1833.
6. C. S. Rafinesque, 1836: The American Nations, First Volume, Chapter V, Page 126: Philadelphia
7. Daniel G. Brinton, 1885: The Lenâpé and Their Legends; With the Complete Text and Symbols of the Walam Olum, A New Translation and an Inquiry into its Authenticity, Chapter VII, Page 171: Philadelphia
8. The Bible: Genesis: 1:14, King James Version