By Albert Parkman - Spring 2010
The longstanding wisdom about the Finger Lakes can best be summed up by a
passage from a 1951 book entitled "Slim Fingers Beckon" by Arch Merrill. This local
"There is an old Indian Legend that the Finger Lakes came into being when the
Great Spirit placed the imprint of his hand in blessing on the Upstate Land.
Scientists will tell you that those long, slim streaks of blue in the center of the
New York State map go back to the glacial age, that when the great ice sheet
melted, its deposits dammed the parallel north and south valleys, which filled with
water from springs and streams".
Merrill goes on to define 10 fingers from Skaneateles in the East to Conesus in the West.
This designation leaves out Otisco lake, which is smaller than Skaneateles but lies only a
short distance to the West. Merrill's designation also ignores the fact that Keuka lake
does not look like a finger at all, having a stunning Y shape and centered further to the
south than the other 10. So there appear to be 11 lakes in the group, with Keuka lying in
the center and 5 on either side.
This essay takes a fresh look at the patterns of the Finger Lakes, and asks basic
questions about the meaning and implications of the "old Indian legend". The evidence
points to some remarkable suggestions that evidently have not been previously discussed,
and leads to some modifications in how the patterns of the lakes can be interpreted, and
what these patterns might imply.
Unconventional View – Fingers plus Ayin
Another viewpoint can be taken by considering two groups of 5 fingers each as
follows: the larger right hand is composed of Seneca through Otisco lake, whereas the
smaller left hand is denoted by Canandaigua through Conesus lake, including the
relatively small Canadice Lake. These are reasonable interpretations considering the
figure below but leaves out Keuka Lake. Consider that Keuka, the "crooked lake" of old,
actually resembles the shape of the Hebrew letter Ayin.
This letter, a silent vowel, has the symbol or meaning of "eye" or seeing, in some
contexts alluding to the Divine. By extension it is commensurate with wisdom and
vision, also the divine light. A secondary meaning has Ayin representing a fountain, an
inexhaustible supply of life-giving water. In numerology it has the value of 70, which
associates with a fullness of age and a complete, abundant quantity. The re-grouping of
the lakes into 3 partitions; the larger left hand, the smaller right hand, and a symbol of the
divine vision, also suggests a Trinitarian concept.
Even if we disregard Keuka's resemblance to Ayin, there remains an additional
and important question: if the Finger Lakes are the imprints of the Creator's fingers, what
do they point to? If they were all directed true north/south according to the general flow
of glaciers, they would point northward along longitude lines towards the Arctic Pole.
However, the northernmost parts of the major lakes actually point towards a particular
focus, located only a modest distance to the North, in Canada.
This figure was created by examining the northernmost quarter of each lake, determining the central axis of each and projecting that central axis along its direction. A convergence is found across Lake Ontario to the North. Another way of stating this is “the fingers are pointing to a place on the Northern shore of Lake Ontario”. A few neighboring lakes also point in the same direction.
The Bay of Quinte
The general locus of projections of the major “fingers” brings us specifically to the Bay of Quinte, an unusually long series of connected channels surrounded by fragments of land and islands. The area has a fascinating history, as the navigable bay and surrounding farmlands attracted both the Mohawk Nation and the Loyalists (resettling near their allies in Canada after the American Revolution).
Figure: the Bay of Quinte with inner channels highlighted in yellow for enhanced contrast.
Lake on the Mountain
One of the striking features above the Bay of Quinte is the mysterious Lake on the
Mountain, a small round lake that is consistently full and overflowing without any major
inlet of water. The surface elevation of the lake is nearly 200 ft higher than the Ontario
lake level, with a steep cliff and a waterfall separating the two. A little thought would
convince skeptics that any body of water held 200 ft. above Lake Ontario would have
immense pressure (or hydrostatic "head") that would tend to drain the water through rock
fissures. Thus, it is remarkable to have a full, overflowing lake so close yet elevated
above the bay, especially with no major river to supply fresh water. According to the
local legends, the Mohawks called this Onokenoga, or Lake of the Gods, and held that
spirits dwelled within its deep waters. During the planting season they offered gifts to the
spirits to ensure a successful crop. The Mohawks and the early settlers to the region
considered the source of the overflowing lake to be a great mystery, with some
suggesting that deep underground conduits supplied water from far away Great lakes.
Photo: Lake on the Mountain, Ontario, Canada, high above the Bay of Quinte
Aleph Mem Nun
The shape of the Bay of Quinte is characterized by a series of long branching
inner channels. These make an unparalleled set of sheltered waterways for boating and
sailing. A canal at the western end enables one to enter from the eastern inlets, and then
exit from the western side without the need to retrace the journey through the long
channels to the open waters of Lake Ontario.
The orientations of the different branching channels at first appear to be somewhat
irregular. However, the shapes can also support an alternative interpretation: the pattern
of channels resembles three Hebrew letters: Aleph, Mem, and Nun, albeit with a tilt of
the letters towards the northeast. Hebrew is read and written right to left, the opposite of
the Roman alphabet. Therefore, the letters Aleph Mem, Nun (reading from East to
West) would be read as "AMN" or phonetically "Amen". In fact there are several
meanings of the word "AMN" depending on the variants of the pronunciation of the
letters. From the Maskilon Hebrew dictionary,
(http://www.hebrewatmilah.org/index.htm) the variants are as follows:
1. To confirm or verify
2. To train or tame
3. Artist or Craftsman
4. Amen, or "may it be so"
If we allow the suggestion that the Finger Lakes point across Lake Ontario to a
great AMN written in stone and water, what possible meanings could this have? The first
variant, to confirm/verify suggests a permanent, indelible mark of confirmation of the
work of the Creator. He created the heavens and the earth, left his finger marks on the
crust of the North American continent, and then left a confirming signature just as an
artist would sign a work of art.
The second variant of meaning, to train/tame suggests the sentiment expressed in
Genesis and in Proverbs about ordering the world and setting limits to the waters.
The third variant, Artist or Craftsman, suggests a reference to the Creator in the
most literal sense within the book of Genesis, and to Wisdom in Proverbs.
The fourth variant, Amen, meaning "may it be so" or "so may it be" suggests the
end of a prayer with fervent intent that the words or works may come to completion as
intended. Remarkably, Proverbs 8 (see endnotes) conveys and combines in very poetic
language the four variants discussed above.
Is there any precedent?
Has God ever undertaken a direct written communication, in his own hand and in
a human alphabet, or is it preposterous to even consider this? From the Old Testament
we have two examples of highly dramatic written communications. Moses received the
commandments in written form on tablets. The prophet Daniel was called in to interpret
"the writing on the wall" which was seen but not understood by the King and his court.
Thus it is not impossible that the Creator could write with his own hand (utilizing
whatever physical forces of glaciers and geology) an indelible message, and there are
precedents for God's direct signing in readable alphabets. It is true that the knowledge
of Hebrew and Scriptures would not arrive in these territories until the 1600s with the
arrival of the French Jesuits. However, the Native Americans (according to the legends)
understood the general authorship and implied blessing of the fingers of the Great
Manitou, even without satellite photographs and knowledge of written Hebrew letters.
The message simply has become clearer with time and additional tools, indicating: the
Craftsman verifies, confirms, and tames the creation, and seals it with a lasting "Amen".
This approach suggests an interpretation of the Finger Lakes that is more in line
with the original concepts attributed to the Native Americans; that the Lakes' pattern is
the anthropomorphic signature of the "hands" of the Creator, pregnant with meaning and
implied blessing, gift, authorship, and relationship. Furthermore, there is an additional
layer of meaning tied to the Hebrew alphabet. Ayin (Keuka Lake) signifies the wisdom
and "eye" or vision of the divine. The fingers themselves point to a specific target, where
the letters AMN confirm the great work of creation, and confirm the Artist and
Craftsman's intent to tame the elements and provide a blessing, and leave an indelible
Amen that all this would remain as He intended. One is always free, of course, to
conclude that these patterns and pointers are simply the result of random chance
operating on geology and glacial flows.
Albert Einstein and other scientists have referred to the sense of awe that arises
from the contemplation of the created universe. Psalm 19 says "The heavens declare the
glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork". Those of us living in the Finger
Lakes region can contemplate the impressions that were placed directly in front of us, in
creation, hidden in plain sight, and ponder what that handiwork could mean.
Footnote: Proverbs 8:22-31 NIV; the famous discourse on Wisdom:
22 - "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;
23 - I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.
24 - When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water;
25 - before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,
26 - before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world.
27 - I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 - when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 - when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 - Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,
31 - rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.