Quebec’s Curious Hammer

Tracking Canada’s Mysterious Origins

In 1964, archaeologist Thomas E. Lee was scouting near an excavation underway near the village of Imaha, in north­ern Quebec, when he found a tall, curious monument on the desolate north bank of the Payne Estuary, 15 miles above the village of Payne Bay, near the west coast of Ungava Bay. The two-ton stone structure stands 8 feet high and measures 4-1/2 feet across at its pointed lintel, surmounted by a 14-inch-high capstone. While the pillar was a sur­prise to Lee and his colleagues, he later learned from the native Inuit that they had known of it for generations. Yet, they laid no claim to it, insisting that the strange object was already standing long before the first of their ancestors arrived in the area. Moreover, the Inuit never worked in stone on such a large scale.

Lee was struck by its roughly Nordic design and dubbed it “the Hammer of Thor.” The stone structure might also be a direction indicator, because it appears to point toward the remains of a rectangular stone structure (80 feet long and 30 feet across) not far away. The outline of slanting walls half-buried in the hard ground resemble a Viking long­house from the 10th or 11th centuries. Greenland is not very far from this point in Quebec, so Norse visitors 1,000 years ago could have sailed the distance in their sturdy dragon-ships and left a memorial to their arrival.

Lee’s characterization of the Ungava Bay object as a “Hammer of Thor” does not seem inappropriate. Similar stone structures appeared throughout Viking Age Scandinavia; the Temple of Thor in Sweden dates before 1125. We know that Nordic seafarers voyaged at least as far as Newfoundland and that they certainly did not lack ships to bring them to Quebec from relatively nearby Greenland. Thor’s hammer was the most commonly reproduced religious ob­ject of the period. It was known as Mjoellnir, and was envisioned as the lightning, as it flew from the storm-god’s hand. He was the patron deity of fertility, but also of courage and decisive action.

Thor was portrayed in saga and art as a middle-aged man of great strength, with long, red hair and beard. He was sometimes shown being carried across the universe in a great chariot drawn by rams. The 1,000 year-old Quebec monument was probably set up to call upon his strength of will in a difficult land. Interestingly, a bronze statuette from Northern Iceland (National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik) of Thor with his hammer, circa 1000, portrays him wearing a conical hat virtually identical to the headgear worn by male figures depicted at the white stone of Ontario’s Petroglyph Provincial Park.

Mjoellnir was not merely a symbol for meteorological events, however. The gods of Valhalla (the Aesir) proclaimed it the single most valuable object they possessed, and its likeness appears to have been reproduced by Viking shamans to hallow marriage rites, to bless the recently departed souls of the dead at funerals and to consecrate newborns into the community. Mjollnir’s image was inscribed on a Swedish tombstone at Stenqvista. It thus resembles a higher symbol of the birth-death duality not unlike the sacred Double-Headed Axe of the Bronze Age, particularly as realized in Minoan Crete. In a particularly revealing myth of Thor and his Hammer, he restores the dead to life through the potency of its magic.

As the Norse specialist, Ellen Davidson, writes, “It would seem indeed as though the power of the thunder-god, symbolized by his Hammer, extended over all that had to do with the well-being of the community. It covered birth, marriage and death; burial and cremation ceremonies; weapons and feasting; traveling; land-taking and the making of oaths between men. The famous weapon of Thor was not only the symbol of the destructive power of the storm and of fire from heaven, but also a protection against the forces of evil and violence.”

But “Thor’s Hammer” is not the only stone structure of its kind in Canada. During August 1972, Dawn French took up residence in the small town of Pushthrough, an outpost thirty miles west of Bay du Nord, on the south coast of the island of Newfoundland. While there, she heard strange tales of the legendary Stone Cross, a structure suppos­edly venerated by the local Micmac Indians for centuries before the arrival of modern European immigrants. No one had actually seen it and its whereabouts were unknown.

Curious to learn more, French studied the native traditions, which described a sacred precinct, lonely and barren, where people in need of healing would find a large, unusually shaped cross spread out on the ground. It was the site of supposedly miraculous cures, but, over time, with the advent of the white man’s medicine, the place was aban­doned to myth.

The Micmacs are an interesting people. Their name means “Allies,” a reference to the confederacy of clans they formed and led, thus becoming the largest and most important native tribe in Canada’s eastern Maritime Provinces. A seasonally nomadic people, the Micmacs’ Algonkian dialect differs greatly from that of their neighbors, and has some suggestion of Scandinavian cognates. Their possible linguistic links to Medieval Europe are underscored by what ap­pear to be Nordic recessive gene traits among the Micmac (recurring blondness) and especially by the discovery at the island’s northern extreme of the first professionally authenticated Viking site in the New World, at L’Anse aux Mead­ows, today a National Historic Park. Even more intriguing, the late epigrapher Dr. Barry Fell demonstrated a fascinat­ing parallel between Micmac birch-bark characters and ancient Egyptian script. What, if anything, these possible pre­historic themes may have had to do with the lost Stone Cross of southern Newfoundland, French was not sure, but she was determined to find it.

Basing her work primarily on old legends, she compiled a rough map that took her inland from the Bay du Nord and over the high cliffs of Devils Dining Table. On their opposite side, in a barren plain surrounded by hills thick with spruce trees, she found the object of her quest. It was spread out on the arid ground, the huge outline of a diamond-shaped cross, as though it were opening itself up from the center. Measuring 30 feet from north to south, it more closely resembled a compass. The design was encircled by a ring of numerous white stones, some of boulder propor­tions and others piled into rough heaps, mimicking crude towers or the abstract configuration of statues. From the vantage-point of one of these piles, French could make out the faint image of a man upon the cross, not in a crucified position, but as though he were emerging from the diamond opening. She remembered a Micmac tradition concern­ing these stones: It was permissable for a visitor to remove one, to keep it for his own healing purposes, so long as he replaced it with another. Two stone basins lay near the south end of the structure, one perhaps for ablutions, the oth­er for donations; in the latter she found several old coins, a single example dated 1865.

Although French had discovered (perhaps re-discovered) the Stone Cross, she found no answers to her questions: How old was it? Who made it and why? Who was the last to see it before us? What illnesses had been cured? How many had been truly healed? Beyond these enigmas, she experienced a feeling of profound wonder, a sensation of be­ing in a sacred zone, a sacrosanct area with an emotional character all its own that was not frightening, but certainly powerful. If the Stone Cross of Newfoundland is Norse, its diamond shape renders it a most peculiar Christian design occurring nowhere else, its compass-like configuration might refer to a kind of “Christ-of-the Mariners” for Vikings far from home, even if that home were only L’Anse aux Meadows. It could also pass for an icon of that other people who supposedly impacted the Micmacs, the ancient Egyptians. For them, Ausar (better known by his Greek name, Os-iris), the man-god of resurrection, was a proto-Christian concept associated with the Cross of the Four Cardinal Di­rections. Despite the presence of a male figure, the Newfoundland Cross is not a crucifix. Whether Christ or Osiris, or someone altogether different, the man received homage in the recent past, judging from the coins left at the site as apparent offerings. But Micmac traditions establish a prehistoric origin for the cross.

With a population of 56,000, Moncton is New Brunswick’s second largest city and long an important communica­tion hub. But its status as a venerable rail center and maritime headquarters has nothing to do with its otherworldly significance. This rather unprepossessing metropolis with elegant Victorian Hotels (the Beausejour and Canadiana are the most charming in the province) features two different, apparently unrelated phenomena of nature in extre­mis. Observers standing in Bore Park, at the east end of Main Street, witness a twice-daily occurrence which most dramatically takes place around the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. This is the world’s highest tidal bore, caused by the tides of the Peticodiac River accelerated by those in the Bay of Fundy. Converging shorelines here and an upward sloping bottom give it the configuration of a funnel.

As the tide enters, the water must only go up. From an optimum vantage point, the bore begins to spread across the inlet in a soft hush, steadily gathering momentum into a dramatic roar. Although usually from a few inches to only a foot, the tidal bore sometimes rises to over 50 feet (at the nearby Minas Basin) in a deafening crescendo. As the locals describe the tide, “sometimes it’s impressive; sometimes it’s not.” A bore timetable is on public display in the park.

Visitors in search of Moncton’s other natural curiosity should either drive or bicycle to the corner of Mountain Road (126) and the Trans-Canada Highway. There, they will experience a dimensional warp, an inexplicable fold in the fabric of space, an optical illusion to defy reason, where gravity seems to operate in reverse. What appears to be an upgrade is actually a downgrade. The marvel was first noticed seventy-five years ago, when drivers of the earliest au­tomobiles in Moncton, while driving to the bottom of the hill, appeared to coast back up to the top when they let off the brakes. A billboard erected by the city at the spot reads, “Welcome to Magnetic Hill! Proceed to sign ahead for nat­ural phenomenon.” Interested visitors should drive down the slope until they reach the bottom, then cross to the left side of the street and stop at the white post. From this spot, turn off the ignition, put the gear in neutral, release the brakes and your car will magically coast on its own up the same slope back to the top.

More than seven decades of investigation have failed to adequately explain what people experience. Baffling as Magnetic Hill may be, it is not unique. Other examples have been found in Ontario (outside Darce, southwest of Ren­frew, and near Hamilton, in Burlington) and in Quebec (at the eastern townships and in Montreal). But the Moncton Hill is most pronounced in its effects. Investigator Andrew Tomas writes that Moncton’s hill is not actually “magnet­ic,” because materials other than iron are similarly affected by its forces. Objects of wood or rubber behave identically and even water has been seen to flow up hill at the site. He quotes several out-of-town tourists, as well as local peo­ple, who report sensations of vertigo or nervousness when near the hill: “There is something here in the ground. You feel it in your bones.” Tomas speculates that pursuing the mystery may someday unlock the secrets of antigravity, the propulsion system by which UFOs are believed to operate.

French researcher Jacques Bergier takes a more esoteric approach to Magnetic Hill. He writes that it is a dimen­sional portal to another level of existence created by a powerfully negative “mascon” beneath the city, and is focused at the intersection of Mountain Road and the Trans-Canada. A mascon is a concentration of exceptionally dense mate­rial (in this case, iron) just below the surface. He also describes an entire Indian settlement in the area that vanished during historic times.

Indeed, there are Native American folk traditions of individuals and whole villages which have disappeared. And such tales are not confined to the new world. The ancient Egyptians believed in the concept of the “false door” as part of their funerary practices. In the tomb was placed (and specially set up and empowered according to criteria since lost) a sealed door, or sometimes just the sculpted rendering of a door, through which the spirits of the departed may travel from this life to the next and back again. In this book’s chapter on New York, we sited the Thompson Park Lines, where inter-dimensional shifts still occur, while the Irish concept of “stray sod” describes a similar phenome­non.

Moncton’s Magnetic Hill appears to be a survival of these ancient, worldwide “secret doors” to levels of being be­yond our own. How they may be spiritually accessed is part of a lost wisdom and, consequently, the site should not be trifled with. Its chief value today lies in the bridge it forms between our material existence and that alternate uni­verse, a bridge not easily crossed perhaps but important to demonstrate the reality of that universe.

BY FRANK JOSEPH

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