“Yig Country” (1993) by Ann K. Schwader

In this particular case, we are looking into the possibility of a single mound inhabited by an Indian snake-god of death, referred to as “Yig” by Zealia Bishop. […] After trudging through the countryside around Binger [, Oklahoma], I have not had the luck so far of stumbling across the mound mentioned by Zealia Bishop. […] In retrospect, it is well known that Indians even now will not often divulge the true location of something held sacred to their tribe – much less something which is feared and forbidden. Should information leak out concerning such a spot, the informant might fear the finger of tribal suspicion pointed in his direction. The Indian ways have changed little in the last three hundred years, and it is not their nature to trust a man from outside the tribes.
—W. E. Baardson, “The Mound of Yig?” in Etchings & Oddyseys (1973) 10-12

As I braced myself for the tourist trap, I bet Wallace [Baardson] a quarter we’d have to pay to see the Snake Mound. Certainly, there would be dozens of bright painted signs with the come-on, “Only two miles to the horrible Snake Mound…..one mile…..one yard….. […] But where was the arrow pointing to the mound? It had to be Binger’s second most famous site! […] For my part, I have given up the search for the Binger Mound and Father Yig but Wallace is still searching. He has found several mounds in that section of Oklahoma and is still searching for some peiece of evidence to throw more light on the subject. If anyone can find it, I’m sure Wallace can. For now, though, it looks as though the mound does not exist. Perhaps only Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop know the truth.
—J. J. Koblas, “In Search of Yig” in Nyctalops#9 (1974), 11-12

Lovecraft blundered in selecting the location of his mound. There are no mounds of Indian (or pre-Indian origin) in Oklahoma, the setting of “The Mound.” […] None of the extant Amerindian cultures has a snake god that even approximates Yig.
—Michael DiGregorio, “‘Yig,’ ‘The Mound,’ and American Indian Lore” in Crypt of Cthulhu #11 (1983), 25-26

Searchers after Yig Country have, for the most part, been looking in the wrong place. Zealia Bishop did tell H. P. Lovecraft real bits of local folklore about Binger, Oklahoma around which he wrote “The Curse of Yig” (1929) and “The Mound” (1940)—but Yig Country is not marked on any gas station map or visible from GoogleEarth. It is a province of Lovecraft Country, and the borders grow gradually in works like “Mother of Serpents” (1936) by Robert Bloch “Medusa’s Curse” (1995) by Sakura Mizuki (桜 水樹氏)The Queen of K’n-yan (2008) by Asamatsu Ken (朝松健)Winter Tide (2017) by Ruthanna Emrys, and Wrath of N’kai (2020) by Josh Reynolds. As the lore grows, so too does Yig Country spread…from contemporary China & Japan to ancient Zambebwei in the Hyborian Age.

Yet rarely in Oklahoma, for all that is where the original two stories were set, and have their real-world roots.

Low tom-toms throbbing through the autumn air,
Shrill Pawnee whistles rising day & night,
Alter the learned traveler to beware
Of this cursed region’s legendary blight.
—Ann K. Schwader, “Yig Country” in Twisted in Dream 85

“Yig Country” is part of a collection of poems that Schwader has written inspired by “The Mound” and “The Curse of Yig.” The others are “Namesake” (In dread K’n-yan’s spired citadel, Tsath”), “Survivals” (“In Anasazi lands where ruins rise”), “Drums of the Father” (“Dread autumn brings a throbbing on the wind”), and “Guardians of the Mound” (“In Caddo County where the snake-god’s rite”). Of all the works that were inspired by Lovecraft and Bishop’s stories, Schwader’s poems might come closest to capturing the promise of this Southwestern corner of the Mythos…and with a degree of consideration that some searchers after Yig Country have lacked.

Both “The Mound” and “The Curse of Yig” explicitly incorporate the presence of Native Americans, and suggest that Yig and the eponymous mound are a part of their local folklore, history, and religion. Lovecraft invented Gray Eagle as a representative, but he did not invent the Pawnee; fact and fiction were woven together—and it is always a question of appropriateness how far to pursue that particular warp and weft, because the Native Americans are still around, in the United States, in Oklahoma. It was perhaps a bit easier in past decades to be ignorant about Native American culture, to pretend they were just like they were depicted in the movies and on television. Maybe this, as much as anything, is why authors following on Lovecraft and Bishop so rarely return to Caddo County, and are more content with K’n-yan than Binger; the geography is a bit too real.

Even the Tewa do not remember why certain glyphs were first carved, or what waits coiled between the stars until they fade. But the Old Ones do.

And the Old Ones still whisper.
—Herbert J. Spinden, Songs from the Tewa (1915), quoted in Twisted in Dream 85

No one has yet written the Mound as a tourist trap, like Innsmouth in “Down into Silence” (2018) by Storm Constantine. The descendants of Aubrey Davis do not haunt the dilapidated sideshows of the circus that follows the dusty road to set up outside the quiet little town, charging for a peep. Yig Country is still frontier territory, even for dedicated searchers after horror. It grows in fits, a poem here, a short story there. Shedding the scales of racist rhetoric as it outgrows them, turning into something fresh and new, bigger and deadlier than it once was…and no one yet has captured that attitude as well, in a single poem.

Drive on to a cleaner country if you’re wise
—Ann K. Schwader, “Yig Country” in Twisted in Dream 85

Ann K. Schwader’s “Yig Country” was first published Eldritch Tales #28 (1993), it has been republished along with her other Yig- and Mound-inspired poems in her collections The Worms Remember (2001) and Twisted in Dream: The Collected Weird Poetry of Ann K. Schwader (2011).


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

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