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Native American Legends

How the four winds were named

An Iroquois Legend

When the world was first made, says the old Iroquois Grandmother, Gaoh, the mighty Master of the Winds dwelt in his lodge in the Western Sky. So fierce was he and so strong that had he wandered freely through the heavens, he would have torn the world in pieces. So he stayed in the Western Sky, and, blowing a loud blast, summoned the creatures of Earth to ask them for help.

And when his call had ceased, and its thundering echoes had died away, Gaoh opened the north door of his lodge wide across the Sky. Immediately the thick snow fell, and a fierce wind tore around the lodge. And lo! there came lumbering up the Sky, Yaogah, the bulky Bear. Battling with the storm and growling loudly, the Bear took his place at Gaoh's north door.

"O Bear, you are strong," said Gaoh. "You can freeze the waters with your cold breath. In your broad arms you can carry the mad tempest, and clasp the whole Earth when I bid you destroy. Therefore you shall live in the North, and watch my herd of Winter Winds when I let them loose upon the Earth. You shall be the North Wind. Enter your house."

And straightway the Bear bent his head, and Gaoh bound him with a leash, and placed him in the Northern Sky.

Then Gaoh trumpeted a shrill blast, and threw open the west door of his lodge, summoning the creatures. Clouds began to cover the Sky. An ugly darkness filled the world. Strange voices shrieked and snarled around the lodge. And with a noise like great claws tearing the heavens, Dajoji, the Panther, sprang to Gaoh's west door.

"O Panther, you are ugly and fierce," said Gaoh. "You can tear down the forests. You can carry the whirlwind on your strong back. You can toss the waves of the sea high into the air, and snarl at the tempests if they stray from my door. You shall be the West Wind. Enter your house."

And straightway the Panther bent his head, and Gaoh bound him with a leash, and placed him in the Western Sky.

Then Gaoh sent forth a sighing call, and threw open the east door of his lodge, summoning the creatures. There arose a sobbing and a moaning. The Sky shivered in the cold rain. The Earth lay in gray mist. There came a crackling sound like the noise of great horns crashing through forest trees, and Oyandone, the mighty Moose, stood stamping his hoofs at Gaoh's east door.

"O Moose," said Gaoh, "your breath blows the gray mist and sends down the cold rain upon the Earth. Your horns spread wide and can push back the trees of the forests to widen the paths for my storms. With your swift hoofs you can race with the winds. You shall be the East Wind. Enter your house."

And straightway the Moose bent his head, and Gaoh bound him with a leash, and placed him in the Eastern Sky.

Yet Gaoh was not content, for there remained still one door to open. He threw it wide to the south, and in gentle tones like sweetest music summoned the creatures. A caressing breeze stole through the lodge, and with it came the fragrance of a thousand sweet flowers, the soft call of babbling brooks, and the voices of birds telling the secrets of Summer. And daintily lifting her feet, ran Neoga, the brown-eyed Fawn, and stood timidly waiting at Gaoh's south door.

"O gentle Fawn," said Gaoh, "you walk with the Summer Sun, and know its most beautiful paths. You are kind like the Sunbeam, and feed on dew and fragrance. You will rule my flock of Summer breezes in peace and joy. You shall be the South Wind. Enter your house."

And straightway the Fawn bent her head, and Gaoh bound her with a leash, and placed her in the Southern Sky.

And now, when the North Wind blows strong, the old Iroquois Grandmother says, "The Bear is prowling in the Sky." And if the West Wind snarls around the tent door, she says, "The Panther is whining." When the East Wind chills the tent with mist and rain, she says, "The Moose is spreading his breath." But when the South Wind caresses her cheek, and wafts soft voices and sweet odors through the tent, she smilingly says, "The Fawn is going home to her mother, the Doe."

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