“There is now, yet to be seen on the Earths Surface, and near Lovetts Post Office, in Adams County, Ohio, the figured lesson of a large Serpent, which gives wonderfully clear and faithful testimony to the facts given by Moses.” Rev. Edmund Landon West, 1908 The Reverend West was, of course, referring to Ohio’s amazing Serpent Mound, which he believed represented the Biblical serpent of Genesis and had been placed here, perhaps by God Himself, to mark the location of the Garden of Eden. According to E. O. Randall, longtime secretary for the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, the Rev. West believed Serpent Mound was “an everlasting object lesson of man’s disobedience, Satan’s perfidy and the results of sin and death.” Brook Wilensky-Lanford tells the story of “the Serpent Lesson” in her delightful essay subtitled “Adam and Eve at home in Ohio,” published online in The Common. The essay appears to be an excerpt from her book Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden. I highly recommend both to your attention. Wilensky-Lanford compares West’s theory to a sermon: It is “original and deeply felt. And like sermons, the Eden theories of Bible believers like West are only as convincing as the person behind them. Reverend West believed that the Bible is the Word of God, and Moses was a ‘writer of history.’ Given these beliefs, when confronted by an unexplained thousand-foot-long snake, what was the preacher supposed to think? The way he saw it, he hadnt gone out in search of Eden, Eden had come to find him.” Serpent Mound certainly represents a kind of serpent, but it also certainly has nothing to do with the subtle serpent of Genesis. Christopher Chippendale, in his book Stonehenge Complete, observed that visitors to that site find “a mirror which reflects back, more or less distorted, that view of the past which the onlooker takes there.” The Rev. West gazed into the mirror of Serpent Mound and saw his own theology reflected back at him. There is a lesson here for all of us who seek to understand the original purpose and meaning of Serpent Mound. Brad Lepper
The renowned English archaeologist Jacquetta Hawkes famously wrote that “every generation gets the Stonehenge it deserves.” Much the same could be said for Serpent Mound — for all the same reasons.