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Mysterious Judaculla Rock And The Slant-Eyed Giant Of The Cherokee

Ellen Lloyd – – The Judaculla Rock in North Carolina is one of the greatest mysteries in North America. The 230-square-foot soapstone boulder is covered with more than fifteen hundred ancient carvings and petroglyphs, and it is by no means an ordinary stone.

Who made the ancient carvings, and what do the engraved symbols mean? Several attempts to decipher the mysterious ancient signs have been made, but the Judaculla Rock refuses to give up its secrets.

An old photo of Judaculla Rock. Credit: Blue Ridge National Heritage

The Judaculla Rock is of great importance to the Cherokee, who have long held the rock sacred. The Cherokee say their people did not produce this enigmatic rock art. The Judaculla Rock was already there when the Cherokee arrived, and they were unable to read the pictographs.

The Cherokee believe the huge puzzling stone with its perplexing odd-looking characters is the work of Tsul’kalu, the slant-eyed giant who lived in a remote part of the Great Balsam Mountains.

Legend Of A Slant-Eyed Giant Tsul’kalu’

The Cherokee legend tells there was once upon a time a slant-eyed giant named Tsul’kalu’. It is the Cherokee name Tsulkalu which means “slant eyes”. Tsul’kalu’ was a great hunter who lived in nearby mountains.

Little is known about this giant humanoid creature, but legend has it he self-conscious and became very angry when people talked badly about his physical appearance. Tsul’kalu’ avoided people and remained hidden in the mountain. He used to come out late in the evening or at night when he knew people were indoors. The Cherokee say it was the slant-eyed giant who left the markings on the soapstone.
As legend describes, he scratched the rock with his 7 fingered hands. Others say he worked with his toes while scratching.

“Several other Cherokee stories provided more details about Judaculla. Most of these were preserved thanks to James Mooney, an ethnographer from the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology who spent several years during the late nineteenth century engaged in fieldwork among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

Giants had come once to visit the Cherokee. They were nearly twice as tall as common men, and had their eyes set slanting in their heads, so that the Cherokee called them Tsunil’kälû’ (Tsulkalu), “The Slant-eyed people,” because they looked like the giant hunter Tsul’kälû’… They said that these giants lived very far away in the direction in which the sun goes down. The Cherokee received them as friends, and they stayed some time, and then returned to their home in the west.

The Irish-American Mooney spent many hours with the Cherokee in the mountains of western North Carolina compiling many of their legends and traditions, thus preserving them for future generations.

Far and away, the most widely known adjunct of the legend of Judaculla is the story of his taking a young Cherokee woman to be his bride. Judaculla courted his bride by coming to her after dark while the girl was outside of her house in a small lodge called an asi. The girl only agreed to the romance because of Judaculla’s skills as a hunter.

Each morning when Judaculla departed from the couple’s nocturnal meeting place, he left fresh meat for the girl and her mother to eat.

Eventually the girl was able to physically see Judaculla, but her family members were not. At one point he allowed the mother to take a look. Mooney described what she saw: “The old woman came and looked in, and there she saw a great giant, with long slanting eyes (tsul’kalu), lying doubled up on the floor, with his head against the rafters in the left-hand corner at the back, and his toes scraping the roof in the right-hand corner of the door. She gave only one look and came back to the house, crying, ‘Ugs’se’ti’yu! Ugsa’se’ti’yu!’” Insulted by these negative comments about his strange appearance, Judaculla left in haste for his home high up in the mountains.

The giant did not stay away for long. The girl was revealed to be pregnant from their earlier liaisons, so Judaculla returned for his wife and child, taking his new family back to his mountain hideaway.

There was another legend passed down by the Cherokee that says they were visited by a group of “Slant-eyed Giants.” The event happened some time prior to the year 1800, but after the Cherokee had settled in the Southern Appalachians. The visitors were welcomed by the Cherokee, and remained for some time with them before returning to their homes, which were said to be a long distance to the west.” 1

How Old Are The Judaculla Rock Engravings?

The age of the Judaculla engravings remains unknown. Most experts think the rock carvings are roughly 4,500 years old, but some estimate the carvings are as much as 10,000 years old.

“A fire makes the images seem to come alive, and maybe a shaman did this in order to interact with the spirits of those images.” Photo Credits:”

The rock’s mystery continues to fascinate scientists and ordinary people as well. The carvings seem to represent humans, animals, and combinations of man and animal. However, according to experts, Native American art is almost always both abstract and highly stylized and perhaps, therefore, not immediately recognizable. So, who carved this most remarkable rock and when? This is a question we cannot answer now, and maybe we will never unravel the mystery of the Judaculla Rock, but there are some interesting theories about the strange carvings.

There is no doubt the Judaculla Rock in Jackson County carries a message that for centuries has remained secret.

One possible scenario is that the hieroglyphs “are the work of some pre-historic tribe or person or of some early Cherokee. Later Cherokees viewed the rock with awe and its markings as the work of Judaculla, a superman or god. A present-day theory is that the inscriptions on it may depict a battle, possibly between the early Cherokees and their enemies, the Creeks.” 2

No one can say for sure what the ancient images on the rock mean, and it seems the message of the Judaculla Rock is unfortunately lost to history.

Written by Ellen Lloyd –

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Tags:Cherokee, Giants, Judaculla Rock, North America, North Carolina

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