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Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 261

It is little known that many of our own mountains are associated with aboriginal legends of the Great Spirit. According to the Indians of California, Mount Shasta was the first part of the earth to be made. The Great Spirit broke a hole through the floor of heaven with a rock, and on the spot where this rock had stopped he flung down more rocks, with earth and snow and ice, until the mass had gained such a height that he could step from the sky to its summit. Running his hands over its sides he caused forests to spring up. The leaves that he plucked he breathed upon, tossed into the air, and, lo! they were birds. Out of his own staff he made beasts and fishes, to live on the hills and in the streams, that began to appear as the work of worldbuilding went on. The earth became so joyous and so fair that he resolved at last to live on it, and he hollowed Shasta into a wigwam, where he dwelt for centuries, the smoke of his lodge-fire (Shasta is a volcano) being often seen pouring from the cone before the white man came.

According to the Oregon Indians the first man was created at the base of the Cascade Range, near Wood River, by Kmukamtchiksh, "the old man of the ancients," who had already made the world. The Klamaths believe Kmukamtchiksh a treacherous spirit, "a typical beast god," yet that he punishes the wicked by turning them into rocks on the mountain-sides or by putting them into volcanic fires.

Sinsinawa Mound, Wisconsin, was the home of strange beings who occupied caverns that few dared to enter. Enchanted rivers flowed through these caves to heaven. The Catskills and Adirondacks were abodes of powerful beings, and the Highlands of the Hudson were a wall within which Manitou confined a host of rebellious spirits. When the river burst through this bulwark and poured into the sea, fifty miles below, these spirits took flight, and many succeeded in escaping. But others still haunt the ravines and bristling woods, and when Manitou careers through the Hudson canon on his car of cloud, crying with thunder voice, and hurling his lightnings to right and left as he passes, the demons scream and howl in rage and fear lest they be recaptured and shut up forever beneath the earth.

The White Mountains were held in awe by Indians, to whom they were homes of great and blessed spirits. Mount Washington was their Olympus and Ararat in one, for there dwelt God, and there, when the earth was covered with a flood, lived the chief and his wife, whom God had saved, sending forth a hare, after the waters had subsided, to learn if it were safe to descend. From them the whole country was peopled with red men. Yet woe betide the intruder on this high and holy ground, for an angered deity condemned him to wander for ages over the desolate peaks and through the shadowy chasms rifted down their sides. The despairing cries of these condemned ones, in winter storms, even frightened the early white settlers in this region, and in 1784 the women of Conway petitioned three clergymen "to lay the spirits."


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