Muggahmaht'adem, the dance of old age (version 2)
A Passamaquoddy Legend
It was in the autumn, the time when Indians go up the rivers to their hunting-grounds, that two young men left home. They ascended the stream; they came to a branch, where they parted: one going alone, another with his married brother.. This latter, with the brother, had left in the village a female friend, a witch, who had forbidden him to go hunting, but he had not obeyed her.
And she had cause to keep him at home, for, when he was afar in the woods, and alone, he met one day with a very beautiful girl, who fascinated him, and gave herself to him. And when he said that he did not know how to conceal her from his friends she told him that she was a fairy, and could make herself as small as a newly born squirrel, and that all he need do was to wrap her up in a handkerchief and carry her in his pocket. When alone, he could take her out, enjoy her company, and then reduce and fold her up and put her away again.
He did so, but from that hour, while he carried the fairy near his heart, he began to be wicked and strange. This was not caused by her, but by the girl at home. He was entirely changed; he grew devilish; he refused to eat, and never spoke. His sister-in-law began to fear him. When she offered him food he cried out, "Unless I can devour one of your children I will have nothing!"
When his brother returned and heard all this, he, too, offered him meat, but met with a refusal and the reply, "Give me one of your little children." To which he answered, "The child is so small that it will not satisfy you. Let me go and get a larger one." Then he ran to the village and informed his friends of what had come over the brother. And as they knew that he was about to become a kewahqu' (chenoo) they resolved to kill him.
But there was a young man there, a friend of the sufferer, who said that he could save him. So all who were assembled bade him try.
And when night came he went apart, and began to sing his m'téoulin, or magic song. When it ended there was a loud sound as of some heavy body falling and striking the earth, which fairly shook. The next morning he called all his friends and the married brother, and showed them a human corpse. "Now leave me," he said. "Go to my friend and tell him that I have food for him." The Indians did so, and in horror left the two cannibals to devour their disgusting meal. When the insane youth was satisfied, his friend asked, "Have you had enough?" He replied that he had. Then the magician said, "You are bewitched by the girl who forbade you to go hunting; she knew you would find a maid better than she is. Now come with me."
They went to a small lake; they sat down by its side; the sorcerer began his magic song. And as he sang the waters opened; from the disturbed waves rose a huge Weewillmekq', a creature like an alligator, with horns. And, as the terrible being came ashore, the magician said, "Go and scrape somewhat from his horn and bring it here!" The young man had become fearless; he went and did as he was bid: he scraped the horn, and brought the scraping.
"Now, my friend," said the magician, "let us try this on a tree." There was a large green beech growing by them. It was simply touched with the fragment from the horn when another color spread all over the bark as rapidly as the eye could follow it: in an instant it was dead, and in a few minutes more it fell to the ground, utterly rotten, as if it were a century old.
"Now," said the sorcerer, "we will experiment with this on the witch who wishes to destroy you." So as it was night they went to the village. A dance was being held, and the beautiful tall witch having paused to rest, the two men approached her. The young man placed his hand on her head; he held in it a scraping of the horn of the weewillmekq'. As he did so she grew older in an instant, she became very old; a pale color rippled all over her; she fell, looking a hundred years, dead on the floor, shriveled, dried, and dropped to powder.
"She will not trouble you any more," said the sorcerer. "Her dance is over."
This is the same story as the preceding, but I give it to show how differently a tale may be told by neighbors. In one it is the spretæ injuria formæ, the wrath of rejected love, which inspires the witch to revenge; in the other it is jealousy. In one she inflicts madness; in the other she turns him into a cannibal demon, as Loki, when only half bad, was made utterly so by getting the "thought-stone" or heart of a witch. This legend was sent to me by Louis Mitchell. It is written not by him, but by some other Passamaquoddy, in Indian-English.
Return to Passamaquoddy Legends