Rain Old Man and the Horned Snake (Lightning)
A Seneca Legend
Once, when the Senecas were at war with the Cherokees, they got very hungry and seeing a bear they chased it till it came to a den and one of the men followed it into the den. When some distance in, he no longer saw the bear but he saw a fire and around it a number of men. A very old man looked up, and asked, "Why did you try to shoot one of my men? I sent him out to entice you to us. I want to send word to the oldest man in your camp. Tell him from me that his friend is here and in need of tobacco. Tomorrow as many of your people as care to can come to us."
The young man went back to camp and the next day five of his companions, each with a pouch of tobacco went to the den. When they gave the tobacco to the old man, he was glad, and said, "This will last me a long time."
One of the men in the den said, "I am tired."
"Lie down," said the old man.
He lay down. The old man got up and going to him rubbed his body from the feet to the top of the head. Then, putting down a vessel he had been holding in his hand, he unjointed every joint in the man's body and cut the body to pieces. He put each piece into a mortar and taking a pestle pounded the flesh and bones to jelly and poured the mass into a bowl. Then he took the bowl and the other vessel to another part of the den. After a time he came back, sat down and began to smoke.
Soon he called, "Come out, Nephew, you have slept long enough."
When the man came out, he looked as light and fresh as a young boy.
One of the Senecas asked, "Can you do this for me?"
"I can," said the old man, "if you want me to."
The Seneca lay down and the old man did with him exactly as he had with the other man. After he had carried the two vessels to another part of the den he came back and began to smoke. Soon he called, "Come out, Nephew, you have slept long enough."
The man rose up and came out fresh and young. He felt no weight in his body.
Another Seneca asked to be treated in the same way, the old man consented, and he too came out light and young.
A third Seneca asked the old man to change him, but he refused, saying, "I have done enough, now I will tell you why I did this. There is a wide opening extending from one end of the world to the other. In this opening there is a great rock and in the rock is a person with enormous horns. He is our enemy and we have tried to kill him, but cannot. I want the men, whom I have made young and strong, to try and crush the rock and destroy this person. But first you two must test your strength."
The two went outside and shot at a rock; it crumbled to pieces. They shot at a large tree; it fell to the ground, only a stump was left.
"Now," said the old man, "you may go to the opening and see what you can do. You will never die for we never die. Your companions can stay here. I always help my grandchildren. I cover their trail whenever they need to hide it. It is I who makes rain come."
The two went to the opening and seeing the rock, shot at it. Then they went back to the old man.
He asked "Did you use all of your strength?"
"We could have struck harder," said one of the men.
"Go back," said the old man, "and use all of your strength."
This time they struck the rock with all their strength. After listening a while they heard someone coming, and soon saw a man and, strapped on his back was the head of an enormous horned snake--they had killed the snake.
The two men said, "Our work is done, Rain Old Man's enemy, the great horned snake, is dead."
And they went back to their camp.
Return to Seneca Legends