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- The Algonquin Legends of New England - 50/54 -


will try to live, or else die in a month; but it will be a hard fight.' So he made him a bow, and strung it with his wife's hair; [Footnote: In a Chippewa legend a boy confers magic power on a bow by stringing it with his sister's hair.] and having done this, he shot an arrow through the smoke-hole of his wigwam. [Footnote: This is also mentioned in a legend where it is said that every arrow killed a supernatural enemy.]

All this was at Nessaik, near Eastport. Then he said to his wife, 'Take one of your leggins and put it on my head.' She did so. Then he took medicine. A rainbow appeared in the sky, and a great horse-fly came out of his mouth, and then a large grasshopper. He cried to his wife, 'Do not kill it!' And then came a stone spear-head. [Footnote: This is all in detail perfectly Shamanic. The smell of the fresh fish after such a fight is the same in an Eskimo legend. The horse-fly (_gan_) is Lapp.]

'Now,' said the governor, 'this is all right so far, but the great struggle is yet to come. It is a _wee-wilmekq'_ who has done this.' (You know what that is: the Passamaquoddies call it _weewilmekq'_. It is a worm an inch long, which can make itself into a horrid monster as large as a deer; yes, and much larger. It is _m'teoulin_; yes, it is a great magician.) 'I am going to fight it. You must come with a small stick to hit it once, and only a mere tap.' [Footnote: In the legend of Partridge, a mere tap stuns the water-fairy.] But she would not go. So he went and fought with the Weewillmekq'. He killed it. It was a frightful battle. When he returned he smelt like fresh fish. His wife bade him go and wash himself; but let him bathe as much as he could, the smell remained for days. The pond where he fought has been muddy, and foul ever since.

The governor could with a gimlet bore a hole in any tree in the woods, and draw from it as he pleased; any kind of wine or other liquor. Once he was far in the forest with some white gentlemen; he wished to entertain them. He did this, to their astonishment. He produced tobacco in a miraculous manner when it was wanted. Then, returning to Eastport, he went to Mr. Pearce, who kept a store, and showed him that a certain amount of wine had disappeared from his barrels, and paid him for it. He never drank wine or spirits himself.

He once went hunting. He took his wife with him; she was _enceinte_. It was in midwinter. She had a great yearning for green corn. He put a dish on the ground, and there fell from above ears of fresh-boiled green corn into it. 'There,' said he, 'as I promised, you have it.'

She had a silver cross and beads. One day she lost it, and grieved very much. He said, 'Put that wooden dish upside down, near the fire.' It was done, and when she turned it up the cross was under the dish. And he said the Ketawks, or Spirits, had brought it."

The following legend, told me by Tomah Josephs, sets forth another manner by which _m'teoulin_ may be acquired.

"There were two Indian families camped away at some distance from the main village. In one lived a young man, and every night he would go to the other wigwams to see some girls. His mother warned him that he would come to harm, for there was danger abroad, but he never minded her.

Now, one night at the end of winter, when the ground was bare of snow, as he was walking along he heard something come after. It had a very heavy, steady tramp. He stopped, and saw a long figure, white, but without arms or legs. It looked like a corpse rolled up. He was horribly frightened, but when it attacked him he grew angry. The object, though it had no arms, fought madly. It twined round him; it struck itself against him, and thrashed itself, bending like a fish all about. And he, too, fought as if he was crazy. He was one of those whose blood and courage go up, but never down; he could die, but never give in till dead. Before daylight the Ghost suggested a rest, or peace; the Indian would not hear of it, but fought on. The Ghost began to implore mercy, but the youth just then saw in the north _Kival lo kesso_, the break of day. Then he knew that if he could but endure the battle a little longer he should indeed get a great victory.

Then the Ghost implored him, saying, 'Let me go, and whatever you may want you shall get, and good luck all your life.' Yet for all this he would not yield, for he knew that by conquering he would win all the Spirit had to give. And as the first sun-ray shone on him he became insensible, and when he awoke it was as from a sleep. But by his side lay a large, old, decayed log, covered with moss. He remembered that during the fight he had seemed once to plunge his fist, by a violent blow, completely into the enemy up to his elbow, and there was a hole in it corresponding to this wound. He had torn away the other's scalp-lock, stripping the skin down to the waist; he found a long, hairy-looking piece of moss ripped from the end of the log to the middle. And all about lay pieces of moss and locks of his own hair, testifying to the fury of the fight.

He was terribly bruised and torn, but that he did not heed, for now he was another man, and a terrible one. His mother said, 'I warned you of danger:' but he had conquered the danger. He had all the strength of five strong men, and all the might and magic of the Spirit; yes, the Spirit itself was now in him. After this he could do anything, and find game where no one else could. To conquer a ghost gives power."

To conquer the dead, or to fight terrible spirits, to thereby absorb their power, and finally to keep them in a struggle until the day shines on them, is both Norse and Celtic, if not, indeed, world-wide. But the grim spirit of this narrative is Norse; it is that of the hero wresting from a corpse's hold the sword of victory.

"Farewell, daughter! Fleet give I thee, Five men's bane, If thou it believe."

But the great element or chief cause of magic power among, the Indians is that of Will. It manifests itself in many forms, mere courage being one. Thus the _Weewillmekq'_ confers supernatural ability or other favors only on those who are not afraid of it. The demon Log, as we have just seen, gives strength and prosperity to a man for simply fighting like a bull-dog. Beyond courage, pluck or bottom is with these Indians as nearly allied to magic as poetry was among the Greeks, or with an Eschenwaya. When the true magician "gets mad," and continues to get madder till the end, he is invincible. Allied to this is perseverance. The Rabbit is rewarded with skill as an enchanter merely for continuing to try. His very failures have this in them, that he keeps on resolutely, though in a wrong road. No one can fail to be struck, in these legends of the Northeast Algonquins, how often a boy, or adult, when asked if he can do a difficult thing, replies, "I can try." All of this apotheosis of pluck, perseverance, and patience is _far_ more developed among these legends than in those of the Chippewas or other western and southern tribes, at least so far as I am familiar with them. It exists wherever there are red Indians, but the Eastern Algonquin seems to have thought it out more and made more of it than others have done. Therefore his cycle of myths, or his Edda, occupies a higher place. It is less chaotic; it is more consistent; it is a chorus in which every voice is trained to respond to or correspond with the leader. In this respect it has a remarkable resemblance to the Scandinavian myths and poems. In its theory that magic power may be obtained by "penitence,"--I do not mean here "repentance,"--that is by self-inflicted pain, it agrees with the Hindoo, and in fact more or less with all religions. But it is only, I believe, in the red Indian and Hindoo creeds that it is distinctly admitted that man can attain the power to do both good and evil, or whatever he pleases, if he will only pay for it by suffering. The doctrine of power through penance is so simple and obvious in its origin that it would long precede monotheism. A man exercises himself with great exertion in lifting stones, as in an Eskimo tale, till he is strong; he practices shooting arrows and running after them, as in the story of the Chief's Son, till he can outrun them. Then the secret of such marvelous deeds is supposed to exist in the bow, and it becomes a fetich.

A very important part of _m'teoulin_ is the materials employed. In Old World magic these are exclusively objects which startle or disgust, parts of the human body, dead reptiles, or things singular and rare. Among the Indians, very commonplace articles are employed indifferently with those of the former kind. The magic consists not in them, but in the magician and his methods. He has had, let us say, his dreams, or received, while alone in the forest, his inspirations, which have told him what to do. He takes the objects suggested, and with them performs his wonder works. Sometimes he tells others to do the same with the same things, but in this case he is still the motive force; it is _his_ enchantment. In illustration of this I give the following legend:--

Far in the woods was an Indian town; near it lived two old people, who had two beautiful daughters, and no son. The girls were very shy. They seldom let themselves be seen. They would not listen to the young men.

The chief of the tribe had a fine son, a great hunter, and skilled in mysteries. [Footnote: In Passamaquoddy, _N'paowlin_: a man learned in mysteries, a scholar. This is my own Indian name. It is apparently the same with: _boo-oin_; that is, pow-wow man.] The young man wanted one of the girls. His father went to their parents and obtained their consent, but the girls refused to be married.

There lived in the village a young man who was neither strong, handsome, nor clever at any kind of work. Hearing that the chief's son had failed to get one of the shy or proud girls, he said--but all in jest, for he had but a poor opinion of himself--that he was the right kind of a man to get them. "If they had, for example, only seen _me_, now," he exclaimed, "they would have wished to be married at once!" Then they all laughed, and proposed that they should go that night and try to see the girls, and how they would receive the plain looking youth.

So they went quietly, about supper-time, and entered so suddenly that the girls had not time to hide behind the curtain, and so were obliged to receive the visitors. After supper they engaged in playing _Mingwadokadjik_. In this game a ring is hidden in the ashes or sand, and each player, with a pointed stick, makes a plunge until the ring is hit, and brought out. (This is Indian _poker_.--T. B.)

So the evening passed, and nothing was said of marriage; and at last the guests went away, and for some time the young man made a jest of his having gone courting. One day he was far and alone in the woods, when he met an old woman of very strange appearance. She was wrinkled and bent with extreme age, and her head was braided up with a very great number of _sakalobeek_, or hair-strings, which hung down to her heels. After greeting him civilly, she asked him if he was really anxious to marry one of the beauties whom he had visited. "O _Nugumee_" (grandmother), he replied, "I do not care about it." "Only if you did," she replied, "I can give you the one you want, if you will only say so."

Now the young man saw that the old woman was in earnest, and he replied that in fact he would be very glad to get one of the girls, but that no girl worth having would look at him. Then the old dame, taking one of her hair-strings, said, "Roll this up, and carry it in your pouch for a while; [Footnote: One of the infallible ancient methods to make


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