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P. 1
Myths

Myths

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Published by Rodney Mackay

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Published by: Rodney Mackay on Nov 26, 2007
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09/27/2014

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1
Catherine Parr Trail, Roughing It In the Bush, pp. unknown
2
Ibid, pp. unknown
3
Ibid, pp, unknown
4
Ibid, pp. unknown
I started out planning to leave the "Introduction to the Maritimes" just as I found it: But technically it wasn't really a story. Still I thought it rather neat, so I've ended up merging Dad's somewhat technical dissertation on the Maritimes  physical structure with his stories. A lot of these stories are not from our family, but I felt that they gave a context and relevance to the ones which are.
 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE MARITIMES
In 1836 Catherine Parr Traill was homesteading in Upper Canada when she wrote: We have neither fay nor fairy ghost, nor bogle, satyr nor wood-nymph, our very forests disdain to shelter dryad or hamadryad. No naiad haunts the rushy margins of our lakes, or hallows with her presence our forest rills. No druidclaims our oaks ... we look upon things with the curious eye of natural philosophy alone.
1
In her situation Traill felt the need to think of her surroundings as a place "with no scope forthe imagination."
12
The lady further said, "The only beings in which I have any interestare the Indians, and even they want the warlike character and intelligence that I pictured they  would possess."
23
Obviously,Catherine Parr Trail did not really want the Indians to show more aggression and she did notask them what they thought of her theory that Canada was a new world, "its volume of history as yet blank."
34
Had she enquired, Traill would have found a well-developed mythology, areal cause for whistling in the dark. Traill's sister, Mrs. Susanna Moodie made a similar dismissal of the native culture in 1852, whenshe wrote: The unpeopled wastes of Canada must present the same aspect to the new settlerthat the world did to our first parents after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden; all the sin which could defile the spot, or haunt it with the association of departed evil, is concentrated in their own persons. Bad spirits cannot besupposed to linger near a place where crime has never been committed. Thebelief in ghosts (spirits), so prevalent in old countries, must first have had its
 
5
Unknown, may be Catherine Parr Trail, Roughing It...
6
Rupert Brooke, unknown
7
Earle Birney, unknown
foundation in the consciousness of guilt.
45
 The English poet Rupert Brooke, who was active during the period of the First World War, wason the same wave-length as the Traill sisters: The maple and the birch conceal no dryads and Pan has never been heard among these reed beds. Look as long as you like [He was able to spare a few weeks.] andyou shall not see a white arm in the foam. A godless place. And the dead do notreturn. That is why there is nothing lurking in the heart of the shadows, and nohuman mystery in the colours, and neither the same joy nor kind of peace indawn and sunset that older lands know. It is, indeed, a new world.
56
It must be remembered that Brooke represented a fading imperialist empire, but, it is harder tounderstand the motives of native born men and women who have promoted a similar image of Canada as a grey, unspirited wasteland. In 1948, Douglas Le Pan published a thin book of poems, which included a poem entitled, "A Country Without Mythology." Hopefully he wasdecrying our lack of interest in the tales which comprise our myths, legends and history.Perhaps the same may be said for Earle Birney, who suggested in 1962 that, "it's only by ourlack of ghosts we're haunted."
67
In the Maritime population it has been estimated that only about eight percent of the originalsettlers were English. More than half were Scots and the rest German, Irish, and Scot-Irishsettlers. These were soon joined by Yorkshire men, who settled the upper Bay of Fundy, by more Scots who were ousted during the Highland Clearances, and by the Irish who had to movebecause of famine at home. When my great-great grandfather Alexander Mackay came to theMagaguadavic River he probably spoke Gaelic and no English. My great-great-great grandfatherGuptill may have spoken some English when he moved to Grand Manan from Maine, but Isuspect he knew as much German. My extended family included the "English" Russells, who were originally Scandinavian, and the Gillmors, who probably preferred Irish Gaelic over thelanguage now in use. These people became an integrated population when English was takenup as the common tongue, but even as late as 1941, 10,000 Cape Bretoners still listed Gaelic astheir mother tongue. The Celtic peoples had a strong tradition of belief in the supernatural and they brought thisbelief with them to Canada. Some of this representative group knew of "witches" and "fairies"but most of the Gaels would have spoken of the "boabhe" and the "sidhe" and the Teutons would have spoken of the "hexen" and "albs", which approximate rather than equal oneanother. This means that the major sources of Maritime folklore are Indian, Gaelic, German,
 
8
Charles G. Leland, unknown
9
Abbe Morillot, unknown
and English.Luckily not all new Canadians were so blind as the Traill sisters or Rupert Brooke to thesupernatural world around them. Charles G. Leland, a long-time resident, disagreed with thepoet Brooke, saying: The Wabenaki mythology (...) gave a fairy, an elf, a naiad, or a hero to every rock and river and ancient hill.... When the last Indian shall be in his grave, those whocome after us will ask in wonder why we had no curiosity as to the romance of our country....
78
 The French missionary, Abbe Morillot disagreed as well, candidly remarking: "This country isone of the most suggestive of superstition I have seen. Everything here, sea, earth and heaven,is very strange."
89
  When the immigrants arrived in Canada they would have found an already established folklorefor certainly the local Indians would not have agreed with those who opined that Canada hadno supernatural. They believed in an extensive system of spirits and spirit worlds. In Indianbelief those things which seem dead to us, rocks and trees are rather the living tombs of diversebeings and spirits. The geography was thus seen as completely animate, the strangest featuresof the landscape being regarded as particularly worthy of attention, and avoidance or placation with gifts. In the old tales, unusual trees, mountains, deep clefts, and unusual boulders were allconsidered as possible incarnations or reincarnations of forceful shape changers or spirits. Among the Indians whirlpools, waterfalls, rapids, giant waves and other great races of water were considered to be incarnate sea-spirits which clustered about peculiar configurations of thesea-bottom. The Celtic people's beliefs were similar. Their god, Manan mac Ler, was rarely seen in human form but the men who defended ancient Ireland swore that they saw himtravelling inland from the open sea in the form of a huge wave driven by three, centrally connected, turning legs. Islands on the ocean were sometimes seen as shape-changers whichmight become marine monsters from time to time. Unusual patterns or colours on the surfaceof the sea were routinely avoided because they suggested something uncanny just below thesurface. Black patches on the sea were particularly avoided as supernatural "evil islands."Since the Maritimes are based in an area of extreme geological differences, numerous "uncanny patterns" are easy to find. My sea-going relatives who lived on Grand Manan Island were never willing to enquire, either, into any strange disturbances of the water, always turning away fromit, "moving with the sun" (in a clockwise direction). It was believed that turning "widdershins"(counterclockwise) would place the boat and its men in the care of "the devil."Of the various things in earth-world, stones are considered the most elemental, being referred

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