Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, Complete

Page: 213


Many are the scenes of religious miracles in this country, although French Canada and old Mexico boast of more. So late as the prosaic year of 1889 the Virgin was seen to descend into the streets of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to save her image on the Catholic church in that place, when it was swept by a deluge in which hundreds of persons perished. It was the wrath of the Madonna that caused just such a flood in New Mexico long years ago. There is in the old Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Santa Fe, a picture that commemorates the appearance of the Virgin to Juan Diego, an Indian in Guadalupe, old Mexico, in the sixteenth century. She commanded that a chapel should be built for her, but the bishop of the diocese declared that the man had been dreaming and told him to go away. The Virgin came to the Indian again, and still the bishop declared that he had no evidence of the truth of what he said. A third time the supernatural visitor appeared, and told Juan to climb a certain difficult mountain, pick the flowers he would find there, and take them to the bishop.

After a long and dangerous climb they were found, to the Indian's amazement, growing in the snow. He filled his blanket with them and returned to the episcopal residence, but when he opened the folds before the dignitary, he was more amazed to find not flowers, but a glowing picture painted on his blanket. It hangs now in Guadalupe, but is duplicated in Santa Fe, where a statue of the Virgin is also kept. These treasures are greatly prized and are resorted to in time of illness and threatened disaster, the statue being taken through the streets in procession when the rainy season is due. Collections of money are then made and prayers are put up for rain, to which appeals the Virgin makes prompt response, the priests pointing triumphantly to the results of their intercession. One year, however, the rain did not begin on time, though services were almost constantly continued before the sacred picture and the sacred statue, and the angry people stripped the image of its silks and gold lace and kicked it over the ground for hours. That night a violent rain set in and the town was nearly washed away, so the populace hastened the work of reparation in order to save their lives. They cleansed the statue, dressed it still more brilliantly, and addressed their prayers to the Virgin with more energy and earnestness than ever before.


Between Zuni and Pescado is a steep mesa, or table-land, with fantastic rocks weathered into tower and roof-like prominences on its sides, while near it is a high natural monument of stone. Say the Zunis: The goddess of salt was so troubled by the people who lived near her domain on the sea-shore, and who took away her snowy treasures without offering any sacrifice in return, that she forsook the ocean and went to live in the mountains far away. Whenever she stopped beside a pool to rest she made it salt, and she wandered so long about the great basins of the West that much of the water in them is bitter, and the yield of salt from the larger lake near Zuni brings into the Zuni treasury large tolls from other tribes that draw from it.

Here she met the turquoise god, who fell in love with her at sight, and wooed so warmly that she accepted and married him. For a time they lived happily, but when the people learned that the goddess had concealed herself among the mountains of New Mexico they followed her to that land and troubled her again until she declared that she would leave their view forever. She entered this mesa, breaking her way through a high wall of sandstone as she did so. The arched portal through which she passed is plainly visible. As she went through, one of her plumes was broken off, and falling into the valley it tipped upon its stem and became the monument that is seen there. The god of turquoise followed his wife, and his footsteps may be traced in outcrops of pale-blue stone.


Many fantastic accounts of the origin of man are found among the red tribes. The Onondagas say that the Indians are made from red earth and the white men from sea-foam. Flesh-making clay is seen in the precipitous bank in the ravine west of Onondaga Valley, where at night the fairies "little fellows" sport and slide. Among others, the Noah legend finds a parallel. Several tribes claim to have emerged from the interior of the earth. The Oneidas point to a hill near the falls of Oswego River, New York, as their birthplace; the Wichitas rose from the rocks about Red River; the Creeks from a knoll in the valley of Big Black River in the Natchez country, where dwelt the Master of Breath; the Aztecs were one of seven tribes that came out from the seven caverns of Aztlan, or Place of the Heron; and the Navajos believe that they emerged at a place known to them in the Navajo Mountains.

In the under world the Navajos were happy, for they had everything that they could wish: there was no excess of heat or cold, trees and flowers grew everywhere, and the day was marked by a bright cloud that arose in the east, while a black cloud that came out of the west made the night. Here they lived for centuries, and might have been there to this day had not one of the tribe found an opening in the earth that led to some place unknown. He told of it to the whole tribe. They set off up the passage to see where it led, and after long and weary climbing the surface was reached. Pleased with the novelty of their surroundings, they settled here, but on the fourth day after their arrival their queen disappeared.