Thus Spake Sasquatch: Notes on that Mormon/Bigfoot Connection
These past couple weeks, a Mormon Bigfoot story has been making the rounds on the web. Loren Coleman published a post at Cryptomundo, there was a post at the 10 Zen Monkeys website concerning Bigfoot and Mormonism, and thereíve been many references and links to Shane Lesterís vanity press novel Clan of Cain: The Genesis of Bigfoot.
While all this is somewhat interesting, thereís an intriguing aspect that has been largely overlooked; that is, within the fanciful font of Mormon folklore, there is an documented encounter in which Sasquatch speaks like a man.
While as Loren Coleman states, one can find Mormons with personal connections or interests in Bigfoot, itís not really, objectively, any more compelling or meaningful than Methodists who report UFOs. And for any ideas regarding Mormon conspiracies and Bigfoot, it would be unwise to overlook the Churchís long history of being at the center of all manner of dubious and inflated, and hysterical sentiments. Thereíve been false rumors and accusations of Mormon presence behind the illuminati, reptilian alien alliances, the Coca Cola and/or Pepsi fortunes, and on and on.
Iíve always felt all these Mormon rumors are unnecessary--as the true history, practices, and origins of the Church are interesting and rich enough without any of the hype; and this is most certainly the case regarding Bigfoot. Several months ago, I wrote an article entitled Musings on Sasquatch within Mormon Folklore, pointing out that Mormon apostle David W. Pattenís 1835 infamous interaction with what can easily be described as a classic Bigfoot may hold some keys to the beastís (at least cultural) meaning.
Most importantly, as I stated before, Pattenís report includes the creature actually speaking. This may be the only case of such; I could not immediately find any other reports. If we are to momentarily put aside the subject of the creatureís dialogue, and perhaps even the Ďrealityí question here and take the episode at face value, the act of intelligent discourse itself certainly lends an air of dignity and humanity to Bigfoot, perhaps more than within any other report.
Pattenís encounter was first reported in his biography entitled The Life of David. W. Patten, by L.A. Wilson, then more famously in the hardcore Latter Day Saint classic, The Miracle of Forgiveness by church president Spencer W. Kimball. The account is related as follows:
"As I was riding along on the road on my mule, I suddenly noticed a very strange personage walking beside me.... His head was about even with my shoulders as I sat in my saddle. He wore no clothing, but was covered with hair. His skin was very dark. I asked him where he dwelt and he replied that he had no home, that he was a wanderer in the earth and traveled to and fro. He said he was a very miserable creature, that he had earnestly sought death during his sojourn upon the earth, but that he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men. About the time he expressed himself thus, I rebuked him in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, and commanded him to go hence, and he immediately departed out of my sight..."
There seems to be a wealth of information within this report. Itís important to note here, that although the notion that Bigfoot= Cain has been inferred and translated along the way at some point within Mormon folklore, itís evident from the conversation between the creature and Patten that this was not a direct claim of the creature.
"The mark of Cain" itself within Mormon lore is rather a hotbed of speculation, and itís no mystery that either Patten, a comrade, his biographer Wilson, etc. made the connection. Although there is no scholarly or general consensus on the style or manifestation the mark of Cain is, 19th century Mormons, like other Christians, adopted the easy, racist, almost apologist notion that the mark refers to black skin.
However, in letting this go, along with the entire Mormon/religious context and all imposed meanings and assumptions, as we look at the actual words and claims of the creature, it all undeniably fits with the idea of Bigfoot as an inhabitant of some kind of borderworld. Having no home and wandering, seeking death yet unable to die, align strongly with ideas of liminality. Pattenís Bigfoot exists in the margins, between worlds. According to the account, the creature also seems to have appeared and disappeared suddenly, magically. These ideas fit within contemporary accounts of Bigfoot experiences.
Putting the entire episode back into a context, it all fits there too. The idea that Bigfootís self-described role is that of a destroyer of the souls of men may allude to a Trickster type persona. Like that of the greenman, and other hybrids, Bigfoot is a reminder of our connection and intertwinedness to the natural world.
As I wrote in my Musings on Sasquatch article, "Bigfoot may be the expression and embodiment of our animal and uncivilized origins, and a reminder of our 'true nature.' It is appropriate that this 'talking Bigfoot' encounter take place in the mid-nineteenth century. Darwin's Origins of the Species would be published a little less than two decades later, and the full-swing status of Westward expansion and Industrial Revolution of the time would forever change our lifestyles, and idea of what it means to be civilized/uncivilized.
So, as Mormons would take part in the general Westward movement, and be so actively engaged in this idea of stepping into a new and unknown world, Bigfoot emerges in the confines of a small, but important new religion as a witness of the natural and evolving Self."
Mormon folkore contains all manner of accounts concerning occult matters, and mysteries. And perhaps because of Mormonismís exact historical timing and placeóitís very reflexive within its larger American setting; referential and mirrorlike. Much meaning may be gleaned from its folkloric stories and tales. The Patten Bigfoot episode is only one of many pertinent offerings. Some links for further investigation and reading are below.
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