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The Catskill Witch






Category: THE HUDSON AND ITS HILLS

Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

When the Dutch gave the name of Katzbergs to the mountains west of the
Hudson, by reason of the wild-cats and panthers that ranged there, they
obliterated the beautiful Indian Ontiora, mountains of the sky. In one
tradition of the red men these hills were bones of a monster that fed on
human beings until the Great Spirit turned it into stone as it was
floundering toward the ocean to bathe. The two lakes near the summit were
its eyes. These peaks were the home of an Indian witch, who adjusted the
weather for the Hudson Valley with the certainty of a signal service
bureau. It was she who let out the day and night in blessed alternation,
holding back the one when the other was at large, for fear of conflict.
Old moons she cut into stars as soon as she had hung new ones in the sky,
and she was often seen perched on Round Top and North Mountain, spinning
clouds and flinging them to the winds. Woe betide the valley residents if
they showed irreverence, for then the clouds were black and heavy, and
through them she poured floods of rain and launched the lightnings,
causing disastrous freshets in the streams and blasting the wigwams of
the mockers. In a frolic humor she would take the form of a bear or deer
and lead the Indian hunters anything but a merry dance, exposing them to
tire and peril, and vanishing or assuming some terrible shape when they
had overtaken her. Sometimes she would lead them to the cloves and would
leap into the air with a mocking Ho, ho! just as they stopped with a
shudder at the brink of an abyss. Garden Rock was a spot where she was
often found, and at its foot a lake once spread. This was held in such
awe that an Indian would never wittingly pursue his quarry there; but
once a hunter lost his way and emerged from the forest at the edge of the
pond. Seeing a number of gourds in crotches of the trees he took one, but
fearing the spirit he turned to leave so quickly that he stumbled and it
fell. As it broke, a spring welled from it in such volume that the
unhappy man was gulfed in its waters, swept to the edge of Kaaterskill
clove and dashed on the rocks two hundred and sixty feet below. Nor did
the water ever cease to run, and in these times the stream born of the
witch's revenge is known as Catskill Creek.





Next: The Revenge Of Shandaken

Previous: Catskill Gnomes



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