Native American Legends
The Thunder and Lightning Men
A Passamaquoddy Legend
This is truly an old Indian story of old time. Once an Indian was
whirled up by the roaring wind: he was taken up in a thunder-storm,
and set down again in the village of the Thunders. In after-times
he described them as very like human beings: they used bows and
arrows (tah-bokque), and had wings.
But these wings can be laid aside, and kept for use. And from time
to time their chief gives these Thunders orders to put them on,
and tells them where to go. He also tells them how long they are
to be gone, and warns them not to go too low, for it is sure death
for them to be caught in the crotch of a tree.
The great chief of the Thunders, bearing of the stranger's arrival,
sent for him, and received him very kindly, and told him that he
would do well to become one of them. To which the man being willing,
the chief soon after called all his people together to see the ceremony
of thunderifying the Indian.
Then they bade him go into a square thing, or box, and while in
it he lost his senses and became a Thunder. Then they brought him
a pair of wings, and he put them on. So he flew about like the rest
of the Thunders; he became quite like them, and followed all their
ways. And he said that they always flew towards the sou' n' snook,
or, south, and that the roar and crash of the thunder was the sound
of their wings. Their great amusement is to play at ball across
the sky.When they return they carefully put away their wings for
their next flight. There is a big bird in the south, and this they
are always trying to kill, but never succeed in doing so.
They made long journeys, and always took him with them. So it went
on for a long time, but it came to pass that the Indian began to
tire of his strange friends. Then he told the chief that he wished
to see his family on earth, and the sagamore listened to him and
was very kind. Then he called all his people together, and said
that their brother from the other world was very lonesome, and wished
to return. They were all very sorry indeed to lose him, but because
they loved him they let him have his own way, and decided to carry
him back again. So bidding him close his eyes till he should be
on earth, they carried him down.
The Indians saw a great thunder-storm drawing near; they heard
such thunder as they never knew before, and then something in the
shape of a human being coming down with lightning; then they ran
to the spot where he sat, and it was their long-lost brother, who
had been gone seven years.
He had been in the Thunder-world. He told them how he had been
playing ball with the Thunder-boys: yes, how he had been turned
into a real Thunder himself.
This is why the Indians to this very day have a firm belief that
the thunder and lightning we hear and see are caused by (beings
or spirits) (called) in Indian Bed-day yek (or thunder),
because they see them, and have, moreover, actually picked up the
bed-dags k'chisousan, or thunder-bullet. It is of many different
kinds of stone, but always of the same shape. The last was picked
up by Peter Sabattis, one of the Passamaquoddy tribe. He has it
yet. He found it in a crotch-root of a spruce-tree at Head Harbor,
on the island of Campobello. This stone is a sign of good-luck to
him who finds it.
The thunder is the sound of the wings of the men who fly above.
The lightning we see is the fire and smoke of their pipes.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends