Native American Legends
Muggahmaht'adem, the dance of old age, or the magic of the Weewillmekq'
A Passamaquoddy Legend
Of old times. There lived in a village many Indians. Among them
was a handsome young man, very brave, a great hunter. And there
was a beautiful girl, What was her name? Mahli-hahn-sqwess, or Kaliwahdazi,
I don't remember which. But she was proud and high-tempered, and,
what was worse, a great witch, but nobody knew it. She wanted the
young man to marry her, but he was very busy getting ready for the
fall and winter hunt, and had no time to attend to such a thing;
and told her so very plainly.
Yes, he must have been very plain with her, for she was very angry,
and said to him, "You may go; but you will never return as you went."
She meant that he would be ill or changed. He gave no heed to her
words; he did not care for her nor fear her. But far away in the
woods, far in the north, in midwinter, he went raging mad. The witch
had struck him, when far away, with her magic.
He had with him an elder brother, a great brave, a very fierce
man. He, not being able to do aught else, did the most desperate
thing a Wabanaki Indian can do. He went down to the river, and sang
the song which calls the Weewillmekq'.
"We que moh wee will l'mick,
We que moh m'cha micso,
Som'awo wee will l'mick!
Cardup ke su m'so wo Sawo!"
I call on the Wee-will-l'mick!
I call on the Terrible One!
On the One with the Horns!
I dare him to appear!
It came to him in all its terrors. Its eyes were like fire; its
horns rose. It asked him what he wanted. He said that he wished
his brother to be in his right mind again.
"I will give you what you want," said the Weewillmekq', "if you
are not afraid."
"I am not afraid of anything," said the Indian.
"Not of me?"
"Not of you nor of Mitche-hant, the devil himself."
"If you dare take me by my horns and scrape somewhat from one of
them with your knife," said the monster, "you may have your wish."
Now this Indian was indeed as savage and brave as the devil; and
he had need to be so to do this, for the Weewillmekq' looked his
very worst. But the man drew his knife and scraped from the horn
till he was told that he had enough.
"Go to your camp," said the Worm. "Put half the scrapings into
a cup of water. Make your brother drink it."
"And the other half?" asked the Indian.
"Give it to the girl who made all this trouble. She needs medicine,
He returned to camp, and gave the drink to his brother, who recovered.
When the hunt was at an end they went home.
They arrived at night. There was an immense lodge in the town,
and a dance was going on. The younger brother had prepared a cool
drink,--sweet with maple-sugar, fragrant with herbs,--and in it
was the powder of the horn of the Weewillmekq'. The witch, warm
and very thirsty from dancing, came to the door. He offered her
the cup. Without heeding who gave it, she drank it dry, and, turning
to her partner, went on in the dance.
And then a strange thing happened. For at every turn of the dance
she grew a year older. She began as a young girl; when at the end
of the room she was fifty years of age; and when she got back to
the door whence she started she fell dead on the floor, at the feet
of him who gave her the drink, a little wrinkled, wizened-up old
squaw of a hundred years.
Aha, yes? wood enit atokhahgen, muggoh mah't adem. This
is the story of the Dance of Old Age. But you may call it Sektegah,
the Dance of Death, if you like it better.
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