Native American Legends
The Spirit Bride
An Algonquin Legend
There was once a young warrior whose bride died on the eve of their
wedding. Although he had distinguished himself by his bravery and
goodness, the death left the young man inconsolable.
He was unable to eat or sleep. Instead of hunting with the others,
he just spent time at the grave of his bride, staring into the air.
However, one day he happened to overhear some elders speaking about
the path to the spirit world. He listened intently and memorized
the directions to the most minute detail. He had heard that the
spirit world was far to the south. He immediately set out on his
journey. After two weeks, he still saw no change in the landscape
to indicate that the spirit world was near.
Then he emerged from the forest and saw the most beautiful plain
he had ever seen. In the distance was a small hut where an ancient
wise man lived. He asked the wise man for directions.
The old man knew exactly who the warrior was and whom he sought.
He told the lad that the bride had passed by only a day before.
In order to follow her, the warrior would have to leave his body
behind and press on in his spirit. The spirit world itself is an
island in a large lake that can be reached only by canoes waiting
on this shore. However, the old man warned him not to speak to his
bride until they were both safely on the island of the spirits.
Soon the old man recited some magic chants and the warrior felt
his spirit leave his body. Now a spirit, he walked along the shore
and saw a birch bark canoe. Not a stone's throw away was his bride,
entering her own canoe. As he made his way across the water and
looked at her, he saw that she duplicated his every stroke. Why
didn't they travel together? One can only enter the spirit world
alone and be judged only on one's individual merits.
Midway through the journey, a tempest arose. It was more terrible
than any he had ever seen. Some of the spirits in canoes were swept
away by the storm-these were those who had been evil in life. Since
both the warrior and his bride were good, they made it through the
tempest without incident and soon the water was as smooth as glass
beneath a cloudless sky.
The island of the blessed was a beautiful place where it was always
late spring, with blooming flowers and cloudless skies, never too
warm or too cold. He met his bride on the shore and took her hand.
They had not walked ten steps together when a soft sweet voice spoke
to them-it was the Master of Life.
The Master told them that the young warrior must return as he came;
it wasn't his time yet. He was to carefully trace his steps back
to his body, put it on, and return home. He did this and became
a great chief, happy in the assurance that he would see his bride
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