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The Witch Of Pictured Rocks


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

On the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior dwelt an Ojibway woman, a widow,
who was cared for by a relative. This relative was a hunter, the husband
of an agreeable wife, the father of two bright children. Being of a mean
and jealous nature, the widow begrudged every kindness that the hunter
showed to his wife--the skins he brought for her clothing, the moose's
lip or other dainty that he saved for her; and one day, in a pretence of
fine good-nature, the old woman offered to give the younger a swing in a
vine pendent from a tree that overhung the lake.

The wife accepted, and, seating herself on the vine, was swayed to and
fro, catching her breath, yet laughing as she swept out over the water.
When the momentum was greatest the old woman cut the stem. A splash was
heard--then all was silent. Returning to the lodge, the hag disguised
herself in a dress of the missing woman, and sitting in a shadow,
pretended to nurse the infant of the household. The hunter, returning,
was a little surprised that his wife should keep her face from him, and
more surprised that the old woman did not appear for her share of the
food that he had brought; but after their meal he took his little ones to
the lake, to enjoy the evening breeze, when the elder burst into tears,
declaring that the woman in the lodge was not his mother, and that he
feared his own mother was dead or lost.

The hunter hurled his spear into the earth and prayed that, if his wife
were dead, her body might be found, so he could mourn over it and give it
burial. Instantly a bolt of lightning came from a passing cloud and shot
into the lake, while the thunder-peal that followed shook the stones he
stood on. It also disturbed the water and presently something was seen
rising through it. The man stepped into a thicket and watched. In a few
moments a gull arose from the lake and flew to the spot where the
children were seated. Around its body was a leather belt, embroidered
with beads and quills, which the hunter recognized, and, advancing
softly, he caught the bird--that changed at once into the missing woman.
The family set forth toward home, and as they entered the lodge the
witch--for such she was--looked up, with a start, then uttered a cry of
despair. Bending low, she moved her arms in both imprecation and appeal.
A moment later a black, ungainly bird flew from the wigwam and passed
from sight among the trees. The witch never came back to plague them.

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Previous: Lake Superior Water Gods

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