Severed Hand is a ceremonial way; a place our ancestors went to "train" and study medicine. Here, within the rock pile’s niches, stones are often arranged for filtering sunlight to shine through and to give the impression that glowing eyes are watching you. This, I have seen many times and is considered ceremonial to represent the “Spirit of Place;” a glyph in itself which reminds us “the Spirit of Place” is always watching.
You may not see spirit but spirit sees you.
When taking from nature, the ancestors instructed, you must also leave something behind. The concept of balance is always foremost in nature; nature abhors vacuums. It is also how we are taught to “walk;” humble, reverent and respectful. If you take something; leave something. Even if it is only a strand of your hair. The idea and intent of "giving back" is a strong theme within sacred places.
There are many stories from our Indigenous ancestors which speak of Spirits of Place and The Spirits of the Path.
"It would be virtually impossible to list every feature of the natural environment which was regarded as a spiritual entity according to aboriginal belief. All of nature was thought to have been shaped through incidents that occurred in the period before humans existed and in their modern form not only the plants and animals but even the trails were believed to have feelings and power to influence human life all over the region. Walking trails were regarded as conscious beings and in traveling the Indian had to observe certain rules in order to avoid insulting them. It was considered wrong, for example, to step out of a trail and in again without making some gesture of respect, and indeed the traveler had to observe many such customs." Cry for Luck; Sacred Song and Speech among the Yurok, Hupa, and Karuk Indians of Northwestern California by Richard Keeling.
Spirits of Place are guardians of a sacred location; they are numinous Beings.
Spirits of the Path, on the other hand, are the rattle snakes, the scorpions, the ticks, the spiders; all the things you don’t want to be stung, bitten or injured by; yet they will only do their “duty” and injure you if you break the rules. With a grain of salt "if you bush wack your way up a hill without care for the surrounding environment." For a native person, the environment is a valuable asset. Though, we speak of it as alive and conscious, we also know in everyday reality, it sustains us.
If you go off the animal path, you will injure new growth of which, in an odd way, is an act of conscious evolution. Spirits of the Path are considered conscious themselves and under a domain; Beings which are controlled by a higher, over-arching mind, known to us as The Creator. It is much the same as how tribal people saw (see) game animals; like picking fruit from a tree, when you took (take) the life of an animal for your survival, you were not killing one soul but harvesting the fruit of a larger over soul better known as the “soul domain” of the animal. Hence, hunting was (is) much like picking fruit from a tree; the tree did not die when you stripped the fruit from it. And yet our ancestors (and folks today) honored every life they took reverently. Our brothers and sisters, the Deer, Elk and other animals, thought to "step into the path of our death blows" in the act of offering up their lives to sustain that of the tribe's. The Pulikla have a saying: "kill to live."
Our ancestors were also prolific forest farmers and cared for the land in a manner that was sustainable and often unnoticed by early settlers; they lived with it in harmony. They harvested the natural resources in a way that allowed them to thrive and continue "on their own." They knew they came up from nature, they were a part of it, and even in the darkest times looked to nature for protection and wisdom. With that in mind, they treated nature as "family." Different from today’s mainstream, the ancestors did not fear nature. And even today, native people still feel and live with these feelings.
At the grass roots level, our teaching stories of caution serve a protective service to our survival as well as to the Earth’s and all her creations. If you must go off the animal path, sit a moment and leave an offering or prayer for the Spirits of Path and Place. Ask the Spirits of Place for wisdom; they're always watching. And, ask the Spirits of Path not to harm you. I have walked an area riddled with rattle snakes, with two dogs, for almost a decade and followed custom. We have never been injured by rattlesnakes which is in way, quite mysterious to the mainstream.