Prayer for Rain Southern Utah


(not local name for site)
Chihuahuan Polychrome Abstract Style ?1000 B.C. to 1000 A.D. Garfield County, Utah

If you look closely at this ancient but well preserved miniature painting, you will see layers of delicately horned serpents with wings of rain or zig zag motifs which seem to be snakes in the form of lightning.  What is the connection between rattlesnakes and rain? 

I saw very few rattlesnakes before I began photographing rock art.  I walked on well-used hiking trails, oblivious of snake habitat.  Searching for rock art led me to desert water sources and rattlesnakes.


A ninety-six year old man who observed the Hopi Snake Dance in the 1920s told me that the medicine men gathered rattlesnakes at springs near the mesa, calmed the reptiles with smoke and danced holding the snakes with their mouths.  The legends and stories of the Hopi people, the living descendents of the Anasazi and Pueblo cultures, may offer clues to understanding the abundance of snake images in rock art.


I’ve encountered rattlesnakes gliding through deep grasses near creeks and pools, swimming in desert springs, even rattling while partially submerged in shallow water.  These mysterious reptiles move between the dark underworld and the surface, magically shed their skins and kill with powerful venom.  They must have seemed extraordinary to early Utah inhabitants.