Onondaga Lake
gateway to the Finger Lakes
cradle of democracy
in the New World
December 21
Onondaga Lake
is Sacred
a presentation by
David Yarrow
at the
Prayers for Peace Ceremony
September 8, 2002

The Legend of the Peacemaker tells us that Onondaga Lake is where The Peacemaker gathered the Five Nations to bury the hatchet, and where he planted The Tree of Peace. Somewhere beside this lake is the area of land where The Peacemaker imparted The Great Law of Peace to form the Haudenosaunee, or Five Nations Confederacy.

But Onondaga Lake was sacred even before this legendary event. Indeed, some places are sacred apart from any action of humans. Some places by their very nature—naturally—are holy, without any human intervention or invention. The Tree of Peace

I believe The Peacemaker knew this, and recognized Onondaga Lake as a sacred place—the logical, natural and special place to teach The Great Law of Peace and found a form of government committed to peace.


The first part is simple geography.

Onondaga is the first Finger Lake, and the Finger Lake watershed is the gateway to the Great Lakes, the largest fresh water lakes on Earth. These huge lakes are tucked in North America's interior, shielded behind the folded ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Only three routes reach these Great Lakes:

  • The natural route is up the St. Lawrence River, the waterway that drains the lakes. This requires a journey far to the north.
  • Another route to the Great Lakes is far to the south—all the way down the Atlantic Coast, around the Florida peninsula, and up the Mississippi River. Finally comes a short portage over land to the Great Lakes watershed.
  • Between these two routes, separated by such a great distance, the only other route to reach the Great Lakes is up the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. These rivers penetrate the wall of mountains separating the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean.

This third route to the Great Lakes brings a traveler to the Finger Lakes. At Rome, the Mohawk River curls to the north. From there, a short portage overland takes a traveler to Oneida Lake, the first in the Finger Lakes watershed.

This third—and easiest—route into America's heartland made New York a great state—the Empire State. The Hudson-Mohawk passage from Hudson Harbor to Lake Ontario allowed millions of Europeans to reach the Midwest, and an abundance of natural resources and industrial products to reach New York City for export. The Erie Canal was built to assure the free flow of people and products—of labor and wealth.

In this passageway, the first Great Lakes watershed encountered is the Finger Lakes, and the first finger of these lakes is Onondaga. Because terrain to the south is steep ridges and valleys, and to the north were soggy, sandy swamplands, a traveler's route would necessarily pass by Onondaga Lake.

Long before Europeans came to America, it was said "all paths lead to Onondaga."


The second part of why Onondaga Lake is sacred is geology.

A unique collaboration of geology created the Finger Lakes. A succession of three Ice Ages sent rivers of ice to scour long, deep and wide valleys into the tilted bedrock of the Alleghany Plateau. This glacial sculpturing of the land created a geological feature that is unique on all the Earth. No where else on Earth is there a watershed like the Finger Lakes.

Geology also left thick layers of salt in bedrock under the land. Water flows through these subterranean salt beds, dissolves the minerals and carries them to the surface to emerge as salt springs. Onondaga Lake was named "The Salt Lake" by the first European explorers because its waters were brackish from mineral springs flowing into the lake. Today, the Carousel Center shopping mall sits where the richest of these salt springs bubbled to the surface.

Salt was such a valuable economic resource, it was known as "white gold." New York State's first governor—George Clinton—wanted this salt, and in 1788 had The Salt Treaty written to get permission from Onondaga Nation extract salt from the springs at the foot of Onondaga Lake. For nearly a century, Onondaga Lake supplied most of America's salt, and much of New York State's revenues.

The Roman Empire paid its warriors in salt. Our modern word for wages—"salary"—comes from this payment in salt.

But salt is more than an economic commodity. Salt is essential to life. Salt is the fire in the water. Earth's earliest life evolved in salty seas.

To create life, first we need a container—a vessel. This is filled with pure water. Then, salt is added to season those waters—to create living water, with the power and proportion to permit life's special chemistry to occur. Each of us—and every living thing, from single cell to the tallest tree or largest whale—is a body of water seasoned with a special mixture of salts.

This deepens our appreciation for Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount, when he declared,

"You are the salt of the earth."

In tarot cards, the High Priestess sits on a cubic crystal of salt, because salt was the special power of the Virgins—not sexual virgins, but ceremonial virgins—Vestal Virgins, dedicated to service in the Temple.

We all come into this world through a uterus—a sacred space whose saline solution is our own Water of Life. And Onondaga LakeThe Salt Lake—nestled in limestone bedrock, was once such a special vessel for the gestation of life, uniquely endowed to harbor and nurture the fecund abundance of Nature. Onondaga Lake was a unique jewel of ecology and biology.


Onondaga Lake is also sacred because of geometry.

Onondaga Lake is one mile wide and five miles long. This 1:5 ratio embodies one of sacred geometry's most important principles, and echoes the numerology of Five Nations united in the Finger Lakes under a White Pine Tree of Peace with five needles in one bundle.

In geometry, the figure with five sides is the pentagon. Draw the diagonals to create a five-pointed star. Divide the length of a diagonal by a side, and the result is an irrational ratio nearly equal to 1.618. Like PI, this ratio has no precise number value, and so is designated by a Greek letter: PHI. This ratio of five-sided symmetry is also called the Golden Mean, or Divine Ratio, or Extreme and Mean Proportion.

I won't drag us through the complex but fascinating mathematics of this remarkable ratio, but consider these facts:

  • PHI is the ratio used to build DNA, life's genetic code.
  • PHI is the ratio of primary viruses.
  • PHI is the ratio of molecules clustered around chlorophyll—the light-fixing pigment in plants that transforms sunshine into sugar.
  • PHI is the geometry of growth: the nautilus shell, the leaves emerging from a growing plant shoot, the coil of a fern leaf unfolding.
  • PHI is the ratio of the double spiral in a sunflower, coneflower and many other flowers.
  • PHI is the ratio of folded tissues of the pineal gland, master endocrine gland perched atop our spine.
  • PHI is the ratio of the double spiral of seeds and sepals in pine cones—including white pine cones.

So we see, Nature uses this ratio to construct the bodies, cells and molecules of living organisms. PHI, the ratio of five-sided symmetry, is the geometry of life.

And one more fascinating PHI-ing: Salt City Chakras

  • PHI, as measured by a polygraph (or lie detector), which registers physiological responses to emotions, is the ratio of the emotion of love. When we generate the feeling of love, our every cell and nerve vibrates in tune to this harmonic proportion of life.

    Along Onondaga Lake's western shore, where Nine Mile Creek enters the lake, a point of land divides the lake into this fascinating PHI ratio.

    Where better to unite people in peace than by a lake whose dimensions resonate to the divine ratio of love?

    A remarkable geometry links Onondaga Lake to the City of Syracuse. From Tully to the center of Syracuse, Onondaga Valley runs straight from south to north, except a slight bend west around the Big Hill at Onondaga Nation. Beyond downtown Syracuse, the Valley bends a few degrees to the west, and Onondaga Lakes lies in this slightly tilted section of valley.

    In Long Branch Park, north of the lake, is an earthen mound. From this mound, a line drawn down the center of the lake passes through Syracuse, eventually to touch the top of the highest hill at Syracuse University—with an auspicious name: Mount Olympus, home of the gods in ancient Greece. At the foot of the lake, Hiawatha Boulevard divides this line in half. The northwest half is the lake. The line's southeast half passes through the heart of the Salt City. First, through the old industrial center, then the financial center around Clinton Square, then the political center around Columbus Circle, then comes the cultural facilities, followed by the medical complex around Upstate Medical Center, and last, the educational apex of Syracuse University. Like beads on a string, the city is threaded on this line.

    Such symmetry should give any thoughtful person pause to ponder the connections implied by this incredible geometry. In simple analogy, if the Finger Lakes are the imprint of the hand of God, then the line I just described is the fold that separates the four fingers from the one thumb.

    In acupuncture, the energy point between your thumb and index finger is named "Gokoku," and is one of the twelve great points of acupuncture. It is the most important point on the large intestine energy meridian, and is used for simple diagnosis. If you press this point and feel pain, this point is swollen, and its energy congested and stagnant—a warning your large intestine is also swollen, sluggish, and weak—and not effectively removing waste and mucous from the body.

    This image has deeply tragic irony today, when we look at Onondaga Lake, and see a body of water congested with wastes, poisoned by pollution from industry, and smelly with sewage from the city.


    The fourth part is Geomancy. This ancient spiritual science of a living landscape also tells us much about how Onondaga is a sacred lake. Today, I can only touch on two images.

    Years ago, I heard a legend that tells how, after the Creator had fashioned the Earth, he held it up to admire his handiwork. The Finger Lakes are the imprint where Creator's hand touched the Earth.

    For me, when I look at this aerial photo of the Finger Lakes, I see an orderly mathematical image.

    Again, I will spare us the complex mathematics, and simply state the Finger Lakes are the Land of PHI. When we grow as an embryo in a uterus, our arms develop as spirals curling outwards from the corners of our torso, and turning inwards to fold into hand and fingers. This spiral is another PHI ratio vortex, with the hand as the last inward turns of this spiral. Hiawatha wampum belt: New World Magna Carta and Constitution

    Currently, I live where the Mohawk meets the Hudson River. There, the energies of the land form a fist, with fingers clenched around the thumb. Another image of this is a serpent coiled around an egg, which was the icon of the Oracle of Delphi, the sacred place where for centuries ancient Greeks got their spiritual guidance. Greece was the Cradle of Democracy in the Old World.

    However, in the Finger Lakes, the energies are arranged differently. Here, the hand is open, with the fingers and thumb outstretched, and the palm revealed. This position allows us to read the pattern of lines etched across the palm, especially the Life Line, Line of Intellect, and Heart Line. Thus, we see the pattern of our past, and the state of our fate.
    Onondaga is Jerusalem
    in the New World
    Not a holy mountain, but a sacred lake
    Not to the Heavenly Father,
    but to the Earth Mother
    The Lady of the Lake.

    Where better to impart an instruction called
    The Great Law of Peace
    than this open hand of The Creator?

    My short summary of all this information is at right:

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