THE ENCHANTED ROCK  |   POSTSCRIPT:

  

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There are many unusual stories regarding Enchanted Rock. In the absence of fact, legend and speculation combined to answer compelling questions. In the past, such stories have been the only source of readily available information on Enchanted Rock. The stereotype of the Indians as superstitious savages motivated by fear and ignorance was at the heart of these tales.

It is often said that the Indians feared Enchanted Rock, that they would not even shoot arrows in its direction. In fact, it was not fear but respect, that motivated their actions. The Indians held Enchanted Rock as a sacred, living entity. Who among us would discharge a gun in a church, temple, or synagogue? And if we refused to do so, who could truthfully say fear motivated our actions?

Another common tale is that the Indians feared the Rock because of the mysterious "groaning" sounds it emanated. Contemporary geologists attribute this phenomenon to the rapid contraction and expansion of granite during sudden changes in temperature. Despite such logic, if those sounds do occur, would not the entire granitic region in Gillespie, Llano, Burnet, and San Saba Counties have been feared or held sacred by the Indians?

Also, if the Indians feared Enchanted Rock, why are there so many ancient campsites so close to the place? There are, in fact, archeological sites on both sides of Sandy Creek, upstream and downstream for miles.

Several tales of Indians sacrificing virgins or other members of their tribe at Enchanted Rock to appease an "angry god" have been circulating for years. However, in the Plains Indian cultures there is no evidence that they ever practiced human sacrifice of their own tribal members to appease the Great Spirit, or any other deity. What we do find, due to a drastic reduction in their numbers to disease and conflict with Whites, is a tradition of tribes capturing women of other races in order to bear children and increase their numbers.

The tales of intertribal sacrifice may well have their roots in earlier contacts between the Spanish and Aztec cultures which were handed down from conqueror to conqueror. As Peter Furth noted in Man’s rise to Civilization, "Human sacrifice never occurs in societies beneath the level of chiefdom... Only as societies become increasingly complex does the awareness of kinship lessen; only then does man become inclined to sacrifice one of his own kind or any animal surrogate." Other studies have suggested that human sacrifice is found in large communities of early agrarian cultures; not among hunter-gatherer cultures.

There is another story of a white woman who escaped her Indian captors, only to spend the balance of her life in total madness at Enchanted Rock. Her howls, it is said, created fear among the Indians. This story actually has a ring to truth. The only problem is, again, the emphasis on fear, which is inappropriate when applied to an entire race. Actually, the Plains Indians considered the insane as having been touched by the Great spirit. The insane were respected, avoided, sometimes cared for, but never molested.

These and similar stories have been circulating for generations and will doubtless continue. Setting these legends aside, there is still enough inherent magic and mystery regarding Enchanted Rock to satisfy even the most unimaginative mind. There are numerous contemporary stories of people—of all ages and from all walks of life—who have seen spirits of vanished Indians and heard the sounds of ancient drums.

A particularly interesting account is found in Legends of Texas Rivers and Sagas of the Lone Star State by Fannie May Barbee Hughs, published in 1937. In the chapter entitled "The Legend of Enchanted Rock" the author writes, "Near the head of the Perdernales is the ‘Enchanted Rock’. Little is known of this singular rock, but legend has it that it is supernaturally illuminated. It is accessible by means of a natural stair which winds around it to the top. As one approaches, an aureole, ghostlike in appearance, envelops him, and as he steps on the stairs the rock begins a circular movement and the traveler’s ears are filled with incredible and peculiar sounds. These sounds challenge investigation." While this story has little basis in fact it does illustrate how folklore and personal experience blend and find their way into history.

The Indians believe the mountain spirits live, that their and profound message can still be heard today. The stories of humans can be lost, but the spirit of the mountain lives forever. Its voice is as ancient as Enchanted Rock.

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION |  PART 1: THE FIRST PEOPLEPART 2: THE IMAGINARY FRONTIER  |  PART 3: GONE TO TEXAS 
PART4:
WILLIAM KENNEDY'S TEXAS | PART 5: JACK HAYS  |  PART 6: THE NEW PROMISED LAND  |  PART 7: THE OPEN FRONTIER 
  PART 8:
PIONEER ARTIST  |  PART 9: INTO THE MODERN ERA  |  PART 10: POSTSCRIPT

(c) 1999   Ira Kennedy   All rights reserved