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Devil's Lake


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Any of the noble rivers and secluded lakes of Wisconsin were held in
esteem or fear by the northern tribes, and it was the now-forgotten
events and superstitions connected with them, not less than the frontier
tendency for strong names, that gave a lurid and diabolical nomenclature
to parts of this region. Devils, witches, magicians, and manitous were
perpetuated, and Indians whose prowess was thought to be supernatural
left dim records of themselves here and there--as near the dells of the
Wisconsin, where a chasm fifty feet wide is shown as the ravine leaped by
chief Black Hawk when flying from the whites. Devil's Lake was the home
of a manitou who does not seem to have been a particularly evil genius,
though he had unusual power. The lake fills what is locally regarded as
the crater of an extinct volcano, and the coldness and purity kept by the
water, in spite of its lacking visible inlets or outlets, was one cause
for thinking it uncanny.

This manitou piled the heavy blocks of Devil's Door-Way and set up Black
Monument and the Pedestalled Bowlder as thrones where he might sit and
view the landscape by day--for the Indians appreciated the beautiful in
nature and supposed their gods did, too--while at night he could watch
the dance of the frost spirits, the aurora borealis. Cleft Rock was
sundered by one of his darts aimed at an offending Indian, who owed his
life to the manitou's bad aim. The Sacrifice Stone is shown where, at
another time, a girl was immolated to appease his anger. Cleopatra's
Needle, as it is now called, is the body of an ancient chief, who was
turned into stone as a punishment for prying into the mysteries of the
lake, a stone on East Mountain being the remains of a squaw who had
similarly offended. On the St. Croix the Devil's Chair is pointed out
where he sat in state. He had his play spells, too, as you may guess when
you see his toboggan slide in Weber Canon, Utah, while Cinnabar Mountain,
in the Yellowstone country, he scorched red as he coasted down.

The hunter wandering through this Wisconsin wilderness paused when he
came within sight of the lake, for all game within its precincts was in
the manitou's protection; not a fish might be taken, and not even a drop
of water could be dipped to cool the lips of the traveller. So strong was
this fear of giving offence to the manitou that Indians who were dying of
wounds or illness, and were longing for a swallow of water, would refuse
to profane the lake by touching their lips to it.

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