Osseo Or The Son Of The Evening Star





ALGONQUIN LEGEND.





There once lived an Indian in the north, who had ten daughters, all of

whom grew up to womanhood. They were noted for their beauty, but

especially Oweenee, the youngest, who was very independent in her way

of thinking. She was a great admirer of romantic places, and paid very

little attention to the numerous young men who came to her father's

lodge for the purpose of seeing her. Her elder sisters were all

solicited in marriage from their parents, and one after another, went

off to dwell in the lodges of their husbands, or mothers-in-law, but

she would listen to no proposals of the kind. At last she married an

old man called OSSEO, who was scarcely able to walk, and was too poor

to have things like others. They jeered and laughed at her, on all

sides, but she seemed to be quite happy, and said to them, "It is my

choice, and you will see in the end, who has acted the wisest." Soon

after, the sisters and their husbands and their parents were all

invited to a feast, and as they walked along the path, they could not

help pitying their young and handsome sister, who had such an

unsuitable mate. Osseo often stopped and gazed upwards, but they could

perceive nothing in the direction he looked, unless it was the faint

glimmering of the evening star. They heard him muttering to himself as

they went along, and one of the elder sisters caught the words,

"Sho-wain-ne-me-shin nosa."[37] "Poor old man," said she, "he is talking

to his father, what a pity it is, that he would not fall and break his

neck, that our sister might have a handsome young husband." Presently

they passed a large hollow log, lying with one end toward the path. The

moment Osseo, who was of the turtle totem, came to it, he stopped

short, uttered a loud and peculiar yell, and then dashing into one end

of the log, he came out at the other, a most beautiful young man, and

springing back to the road, he led off the party with steps as light as

the reindeer.[38] But on turning round to look for his wife, behold, she

had been changed into an old, decrepit woman, who was bent almost

double, and walked with a cane. The husband, however, treated her very

kindly, as she had done him during the time of his enchantment, and

constantly addressed her by the term of ne-ne-moosh-a, or my sweetheart.



When they came to the hunter's lodge with whom they were to feast, they

found the feast ready prepared, and as soon as their entertainer had

finished his harangue (in which he told them his feasting was in honor

of the Evening or Woman's Star), they began to partake of the portion

dealt out, according to age and character, to each one. The food was

very delicious, and they were all happy but Osseo, who looked at his

wife and then gazed upward, as if he was looking into the substance of

the sky. Sounds were soon heard, as if from far-off voices in the air,

and they became plainer and plainer, till he could clearly distinguish

some of the words.



"My son--my son," said the voice, "I have seen your afflictions and

pity your wants. I come to call you away from a scene that is stained

with blood and tears. The earth is full of sorrows. Giants and

sorcerers, the enemies of mankind, walk abroad in it, and are scattered

throughout its length. Every night they are lifting their voices to the

Power of Evil, and every day they make themselves busy in casting evil

in the hunter's path. You have long been their victim, but shall be

their victim no more. The spell you were under is broken. Your evil

genius is overcome. I have cast him down by my superior strength, and

it is this strength I now exert for your happiness. Ascend, my

son--ascend into the skies, and partake of the feast I have prepared

for you in the stars, and bring with you those you love.



"The food set before you is enchanted and blessed. Fear not to partake

of it. It is endowed with magic power to give immortality to mortals,

and to change men to spirits. Your bowls and kettles shall be no longer

wood and earth. The one shall become silver, and the other wampum. They

shall shine like fire, and glisten like the most beautiful scarlet.

Every female shall also change her state and looks, and no longer be

doomed to laborious tasks. She shall put on the beauty of the

starlight, and become a shining bird of the air, clothed with shining

feathers. She shall dance and not work--she shall sing and not cry."



"My beams," continued the voice, "shine faintly on your lodge, but they

have a power to transform it into the lightness of the skies, and

decorate it with the colors of the clouds. Come, Osseo, my son, and

dwell no longer on earth. Think strongly on my words, and look

steadfastly at my beams. My power is now at its height. Doubt

not--delay not. It is the voice of the Spirit of the stars that calls

you away to happiness and celestial rest."



The words were intelligible to Osseo, but his companions thought them

some far-off sounds of music, or birds singing in the woods. Very soon

the lodge began to shake and tremble, and they felt it rising into the

air. It was too late to run out, for they were already as high as the

tops of the trees. Osseo looked around him as the lodge passed through

the topmost boughs, and behold! their wooden dishes were changed into

shells of a scarlet color, the poles of the lodge to glittering wires of

silver, and the bark that covered them into the gorgeous wings of

insects. A moment more, and his brothers and sisters, and their parents

and friends, were transformed into birds of various plumage. Some were

jays, some partridges and pigeons, and others gay singing birds, who

hopped about displaying their glittering feathers, and singing their

song. But Oweenee still kept her earthly garb, and exhibited all the

indications of extreme age. He again cast his eyes in the direction of

the clouds, and uttered that peculiar yell, which had given him the

victory at the hollow log. In a moment the youth and beauty of his wife

returned; her dingy garments assumed the shining appearance of green

silk, and her cane was changed into a silver feather. The lodge again

shook and trembled, for they were now passing through the uppermost

clouds, and they immediately after found themselves in the Evening Star,

the residence of Osseo's father.



"My son," said the old man, "hang that cage of birds, which you have

brought along in your hand, at the door, and I will inform you why you

and your wife have been sent for." Osseo obeyed the directions, and

then took his seat in the lodge. "Pity was shown to you," resumed the

king of the star, "on account of the contempt of your wife's sister,

who laughed at her ill fortune, and ridiculed you while you were under

the power of that wicked spirit, whom you overcame at the log. That

spirit lives in the next lodge, being a small star you see on the left

of mine, and he has always felt envious of my family, because we had

greater power than he had, and especially on account of our having had

the care committed to us of the female world. He failed in several

attempts to destroy your brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, but

succeeded at last in transforming yourself and your wife into decrepit

old persons. You must be careful and not let the light of his beams

fall on you, while you are here, for therein is the power of his

enchantment; a ray of light is the bow and arrows he uses."



Osseo lived happy and contented in the parental lodge, and in due time

his wife presented him with a son, who grew up rapidly, and was the

image of his father. He was very quick and ready in learning everything

that was done in his grandfather's dominions, but he wished also to

learn the art of hunting, for he had heard that this was a favorite

pursuit below. To gratify him, his father made him a bow and arrows,

and he then let the birds out of the cage that he might practise in

shooting. He soon became expert, and the very first day brought down a

bird, but when he went to pick it up, to his amazement, it was a

beautiful young woman with the arrow sticking in her breast. It was one

of his younger aunts. The moment her blood fell upon the surface of

that pure and spotless planet, the charm was dissolved. The boy

immediately found himself sinking, but was partly upheld, by something

like wings, till he passed through the lower clouds, and he then

suddenly dropped upon a high, romantic island in a large lake. He was

pleased on looking up, to see all his aunts and uncles following him in

the form of birds, and he soon discovered the silver lodge, with his

father and mother, descending with its waving barks looking like so

many insects' gilded wings. It rested on the highest cliffs of the

island, and here they fixed their residence. They all resumed their

natural shapes, but were diminished to the size of fairies; as a

mark of homage to the King of the Evening Star, they never failed, on

every pleasant evening, during the summer season, to join hands, and

dance upon the top of the rocks. These rocks were quickly observed by

the Indians to be covered, in moonlight evenings, with a larger sort of

Puk Wudj Ininees, or little men, and were called Mish-in-e-mok-in-ok-ong,

or turtle spirits, and the island is named from them to this day.[39]

Their shining lodge can be seen in the summer evenings when the moon

shines strongly on the pinnacles of the rocks, and the fishermen, who

go near those high cliffs at night, have even heard the voices of the

happy little dancers.





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