Nourishing Body and Spirit
Known as "Muddy Spring" in Andrew Jackson's time, this fast flowing spring was the primary source of water for the fifty to eighty enslaved men, women, and children who lived in the nearby Field Quarter.
Along with its life-sustaining water, the spring also kept perishables cool. These waters may have also provided for something other than just sustenance for the body.
Although the enslaved at The Hermitage were born in the United States, their ancestors were among the ten million people kidnapped, sold, and shipped to the Americas from Africa. A large number of those brought to the American colonies and the United States were Bakongo.
In Bakongo belief systems, springs such as this one are important boundaries between the living and the dead. Such locations allow the living to commune with spirits of the ancestors and those that have come before. This line between the living and the dead, as well as the communing between worlds, is symbolized by a cross-like figure in which the horizontal line represents the water boundary of the spring.
It is likely that this spring was such a place of sustenance for both the body and the spirit.
The Bakongo Cosmogram is one possible explanation for the appearance of "cross" symbols on artifacts found at The Hermitage and other sites occupied by the enslaved.
Archaeologists have found several pierced coins at The Hermitage. Such coins were worn arond the neck or ankle to ward off evil spirits. Other possible spiritual objects found on site include special bones, prehistoric projectile points, and lumps of sulfur. These things do suggest that the enslaved at The Hermitage shared spiritual beliefs that differed from those of the Jackson family.
Several marbles displaying the "cross" symbol have been found in archaeological excavations at The Hermitage.
Archaeologists who have studied slave sites in North America have noted that blue beads are found much more abundantly in slave quarters than in places occupied by masters or overseers. Many archaeologists note that in some African cultures, blue beads represent prosperity and were frequently part of a bride's dowry.