Preliminary Anthropological Report on the Saugerties Mud People

by Zimmerman Skyrat, 101Bananas.com, September 1994

The recent musical concert known as Woodstock II held in Saugerties, New York, during August 1994, provided this author a unique opportunity to study at first hand the culture and social structure of an elusive, seldom-observed band of homo sapiens commonly called “Mud People.” These people, first noted in the literature after suddenly appearing at the original Woodstock music festival 25 years ago in 1969, are unique in all the world’s societies in that there appears to be absolutely no racial or ethnic basis for the origin of their society. The individual Mud People from many different ethnic backgrounds share a culture based solely on an affinity for mud. They are immediately visually recognizable by their unusual practice of covering themselves in mud literally from head to toe, their eyes generally being the only area of their body not coated with mud.

Mud People 1
Mud People milling about at the Saugerties site

Several bands of approximately 20-40 Mud People were noted at the Saugerties site in areas where the mud was particularly thick and plentiful. Some smaller bands were also in the vicinity, and an occasional couple or individual was seen separated from any group. While a slight majority of the observed mud people were male, there were also many females in the groups, sometimes, due to complete mud coverage, only being recognizable as female due to their wearing no clothing above the waist.

Mud People 2
Topless female (on left) demonstrates the Mud People attitude towards nudity

There has been speculation that the Mud People’s society actually originated at the 1969 musical concert, and that many Mud People remained in the Woodstock/Saugerties area and have been living there in the hills for the past 25 years, though this has not been confirmed.


Mud People at Play

The primary social activity of the Mud People was observed to be playing in, rolling around in, sliding in, and throwing, mud. This was a constant activity, and apart from a single instance of religious preaching (discussed later), appeared to be their only waking interest. There was an occasional throwing around of what appeared to be a volleyball or basketball as a toy, but usually their time was spent milling around in groups and sliding down slight hills where a mud slide had appeared due to the rain. This was perhaps some sort of rite of passage, as several Mud People would be seen encouraging, or perhaps daring, each other to take a slide down a long muddy hill. When it seemed they had worked up enough courage, they would take off, usually in small groups of 4-8, run down the hill and perform either a belly flop or a buttock slide to the bottom.

Mud People 3
A single Mud person belly sliding down one of many Saugerties mud slides

Occasionally a dominant alpha male, perhaps in a show of bravado for the female Mud People, would run and simply fall down, rolling and tumbling over and over in a completely uncoordinated and dangerous fashion. This was always greeted with enthusiasm and congratulations by the other Mud People, and by a round of applause from the non-Mud People spectators watching.

Another playful activity of the Mud People was a seemingly spontaneous “rave,” where 5-10 individuals would break off from the group and make a mad dash straight towards the heavy crowds of non-Mud People there for the music and not the mud. Warning shouts of “Mud People! Mud People!” would immediately erupt, and the crowd parted instantly, as it was obvious that no one wanted to be pushed, run into, or even touched by a Mud Person. This reaction allowed the small band to miraculously create a path straight through a heavy crowd, and they would circle around on the instantly created path back to their mud pit.


Recruiting Attempts of the Mud People

Several instances of obviously forced recruitment into the Mud People society were observed, along with the initiation rites that followed on both forced recruits and those who voluntarily joined the Mud People. On several occasions a small group of Mud People would pick out one or two individuals from the crowd of non-Mud People, who were simply attempting to walk up the hill on the edge of a mud slide without slipping or falling. With a coordinated run and slide right into the chosen person(s), very much like a bowling ball knocking down pins, the Mud People had their victim. Those chosen in this way would sometimes, though not always, apparently decide that since they were now quite muddy, they might as well join the Mud People, and so the Mud society had another convert to their lifestyle.

Mud People 4
A group of Mud People forcibly recruiting more converts

However, most of those who were observed to join the Mud People were voluntary converts, though they did receive much verbal encouragement. When someone from the surrounding crowds, after much deliberation and persuasion, would finally decide to make a run down the mud slide, there was a general joyous celebration among the Mud People, with lots of hollering and yelling. The initiation rite was then invariably performed when the new convert reached the bottom of the hill. Mud People would surround the novice and kick, throw and splatter mud over him or her until literally every inch was covered with mud, and he/she was now indistinguishable from the other Mud People. (This practice seems strangely reminiscent of the banana-slinging rites performed by the Walros of New Guinea on males at their 12th birthday, as noted by Drs. Barfenbaget and Dogerwasten in their study published several years ago by Harvard University, “A Cross-Cultural Study of the Walros and the Nanas of Eastern New Guinea.”)


Religion of the Mud People

Very little is known about the religious beliefs of the Mud People, but one individual Mud Man was observed preaching to a crowd of non-Mud People listeners. Since this was the only instance of its type observed, and no other Mud People were in the immediate area, it is not known if the beliefs of this particular Mud Man are commonly held in the Mud culture in general. This particular Mud Man was observed in a mud pit approximately 20-30 feet across surrounded by a large audience of non-Mud People listeners. He was quite articulate and specific in his convictions, but sometimes tended to ramble on and on about the ills of American society in general when someone from the crowd would shout a question to him. He was heard to denounce the fact that many drugs, particularly LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), are illegal in the United States, and he urged the U.S. Congress to make LSD legal, stating that “...LSD lets you get in touch with your soul.” His religious convictions became apparent when he told the crowd, “LSD is the blood of Jesus Christ....when Jesus was on the cross, his heart bled LSD.” (It would certainly be interesting, though beyond the scope of this preliminary report, to trace this belief back to what this author feels could be shown as its origin in the Acidian Cult of Northern Egypt in the second and third centuries A.D.)

This Mud Man was encouraged by many in the surrounding crowd to remove his clothing, which he promptly did, telling the gathering that they shouldn’t really have to wear clothes since there was nothing wrong with the human body. Given his behavior and pronouncements regarding drugs, several in the crowd speculated that he had been there in the mud since 1969, high on LSD for the past 25 years.

Mud People 5
Nude Mud Man preaching to non-believers


Preliminary Conclusions

Much work remains to be done in the study of this fascinating culture, but several conclusions can be reached thus far.

• Mud People are definitely not a separate species, as has been suggested by some. The conversion of some persons from the surrounding crowds clearly demonstrates that the Mud People are homo sapiens who form a separate cultural and social group based on mud.

• The Mud People’s culture is in general a playful and non-violent culture with most of their day being taken up with playing in mud. The sole exception to non-violence is the occasional forced recruitment of outsiders to their Mud culture.

• Based on the one Mud person observed preaching to a crowd, it would appear that at least some of the Mud People have some sort of drug-based religious beliefs. Some have even suggested that their rolling around in mud is actually a drug-induced ecstatic religious frenzy.

• Their general playfulness is also sometimes manifested by running around naked, or in some (female) cases, topless; thus nudism appears to be an accepted part of Mud society.

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It is anticipated that this author will be able to complete this study at Woodstock III in the summer of 2019.