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Algonquian Bestiary

Compiled by Rod Mackay

Copyright © by Rod C. Mackay
Illustrations and Design
by Rod C. Mackay


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Published in Canada by The Caledonian

First Edition Before Publication
The Algonquins

The Algonquian family surrounded the Iroquois on every side, and extended westward
toward the RockyMlountains, where one of their famous ofFshoots, the Blackfeet, gained a
notoriety which has rendered them the heroes of many a boyish tale. They were milder than the
Iroquois, and less Spartan in habits. Their western dIvision comprised the Blackfeet, Arapaho
and Cheyenne, situated Iiear the eastern slope of th Rocky Mountains . the northern division,
situated fo the most part to the north of the St. La wrence, comprised the Chippeways and Crees ;
the north-eastern division embraced the tribes inhabiting Quebec th Maritime Provinces, and
Maine, including the Montagiiais and Micmacs ; the central division, dwelling in Illinois,
Wiscons;Indiana, Michignl and included the Foxes, Kickapoos, Ohio included the Foxes,
KIckapoos, Menominees, and others, and the eastern dIvision embraced all the Algonquiam tribes
that dwelt along the Atlantic coast, the Abnaki, Narragansets, Nipmucs, Mohicans (or
Mohegans), Shawnees, Delawares, aiid Powhatans.

The AIgonquians were the first Indians to come intc contact with the white man. As a rule
their relations with the Erench were friendly, but they were frequently at war with the English
settlers. The eastern branch of the race were quickly defeated and scattered, their remnants
withdrawing to Canada and the Ohio valleyy. Of the smaller tribes of New England, Virginia and
other eastern states there are no living representatives, and even their languages are extinct,
save for a few words and place names. The Ohio valley tribes with the Wyandots, formed
themselves into a loose confederacy and attempted to preserve the Ohio as n Indian boundary;
but in 1794 they were forced to cede their territory. Tecumseh, an Algonquin chief carried on a
fierce war against the United States for a number of years, but by his defeat and death at
Tippecanoe in 18 I I the spirit of the Indians Was broken, and the year I8I5 saw the
commencement of a series of Indian migrations westward, and the wholesale cession of Indian
territory whichi ccontinued over aperiod of about thirtv years.

Lewis Spence. 1914


A nickname for Glooscap’s closest companion.

The Micmac “little-god” named Martin was also called

Abistariaooch , Also known as Martin, he was a shape changer who
appeared variously as a baby, a boy, a youth, or young man. He always ate
from the witch-kwed-lakun-cheech, or birchbark dish, which he carried on
his person. In times of danger, he dropped the dish and Glooscap finding it
could look into it and determine what had befallen him. One of the
mikumwees, or wee-folk, he shared the dwelling of Glooscap and
Muinwapskw. It was said that when Glooscap completed the worlds, he
made the supernatural elfs and dwarfs first, the wee-folk from the bark
of the ash tree. Later he released the spirits of men, by shooting arrows
into this same tree, but they came from the pith beneath the bark. The
“first-born,” or Mikumewees, were also known as the Oonabgemessûk,
which tells us they were the folk born to Oona. Unlike men, the little
people had the ability to move instantaneously through space and time and
could travel freely between the worlds. In many of the tales these three
deities are seen living together in the dead lands, the underworld of
natural caverns found in northeastern America. The proper word Ulaidh is,
of course Ulster. Glooscap, for his part, always referred to Martin as uch-
keen, “my younger brother.” Their relationship was close enough that
Glooscap frequently lent the little man his power-belt.


A class of mortal magicians found occupying the

northeastern coast of America when the French explorers
arrived there in 1604.

Old French, aouguste , one honoured through the presentation of

offerings; moine (pronounced mwan), a monk, friar, wonder- worker. As
an adverb, moin indicated a person of lesser authority, thus inferior to
the main gods of the countryside. This was not a native term for their
magicians but one coined by Marc Lescarbot in his History of Acadia. The
Wabenaki equivalent wasouahich. The art of these magicians is
remembered in the atookwaykun or “wonder tale.”
In the Micmac society there were three classes of magician: the
kinapamaq, noted for their physical powers; the mentouk, possessors of
psychic powers; and the puoinaq, the healers or medicine men of the tribe.
The mentouk, who the Ojibwa called the manitouk, produced the most
spectacular results, and were often improperly equated with the creator-
god, Kji-kinap (great power). The arts of magic were never severely
specialized, but most men mere more advanced in one are than the others.
Great magicians, such as the god-giant Glooscap, had great abilities in all
kinds of magic.

Lescarbot made the first detailed report of the religious beliefs of

the Micmacs, whose lands lay east of the Saint John River in what is now
New Brunswick Canada: "Our savages have, time out of mind, the use of
dances for the purpose of pleasing their gods... In all their dances they
sing; some of their dances and songs are to the honour of the devil, which
sheweth them their game. They dance also when they feast anybody as a

When Abbe Maillard preached among the Lnuk (Micmac people) in the
mid-1700's he noted the natural cadence of their speech and said, "I
affect, above all, to rhime as they do..." As a Roman Catholic priest, the
Abbe had an understanding of the magic of charms, or the chanting of
words. Working with people of this same Algonquin confederacy in 1634,
Father Paul Le Jeune discovered that their "superstitious songs were used
for "a thousand purposes." Speaking with a magician he learned that men
in want of food were advised to sing, "for when they had sung, they found
something to eat."

In their song they addressed not only gods, but powerful magicians
and other spirits of animals and the land. Lescarbot found that they, "do
generally believe in the immortality of the soul and say that after death,
good men are at rest, and the wicked in pain (a result of the fact that they
were forced to dance without ceasing)." Their beliefs were not Christian
since they defined "good men" as those who "have well defended their
country taking many of their enemies with them to the death-huts."
Further, their belief was in reincarnation, rather than in the ressurection
of the body. In the former, spiritual compounds are formed from the
recombination of ghosts released to the earth; in ressurection, the body is
reformed as a spiritual whole, inviolate, the processes of decay reversed.
Lescarbot met with Membertou, "a soothsayer, magician and
medicine man", signalling him as chief of all the arts. He was identified
as carrying the "mark of his trade, hanging at his neck". This was
described as "a purse, triangular in shape, covered with embroidery work,
which they termed matachias. What was contained in this I know not, but
it was of the bigness of a small nut, and he said this was his "devil" or
"aoutim". Six hundred years earlier, a Norse man named Thorstein had
visited this same portion of the coast, and in return for a favour, was
gifted with one of these triangular badges, which he discovered could be
use to influence the weather (see dverge).

Thorstein's badge of magic was a stone, but Membertou carried a

leather pouch decorated with porcupine quills. Both were triangular and
may have symbolized the three aspects of magical power. John Robert
Columbo touches on this in writing about the Ojibwa "Manitou": "The
Algonkian word for "spirit" is "Manitou" defined in Handbook of Indians of
Canada (1912) as "the mysterious unknown potencies and powers of life
and of the universe." "Gitchi Manitou" means "great spirit", and "Mitchi
Manitou" means "evil spirit." The home of the Manitou is held to be
Manitoulin Island, and certainly that island in Georgian Bay has an eerie
landscape. Homage was paid to the Manitou by the Algonkian-speaking
Ojibway of that region. Not much is known of the nature of the Manitou.
In this regard it rather resembles the Third Person of the Christian
Trinity, God the Holy Ghost..."1

We emphasize that the mentouk are not gods, but they are god-like.
Ruth Holmes Whitehead has noted their ability to travel between the six
worlds: that beneath earth, that beneath the water, that in the sky, that
above the sky, ghost world, and the earth known to most men. She says
"Mn'tu'k are Persons, entities who do not necessarily need to take form,
although they can and do, as it pleases them."

Membertou was one of these, but he was also puoinag, one with the
power to heal. Those who could heal could also curse and bring down
enemies. Thus, the old tales speak of magicians who were abandoned,
driven out, or killed by rivals, from a combination of fear and jealousy
often coupled withn a desire for revenge. Whitehead has said, "Puoinaq are

1Columbo, John Robert, Columbo's Book of Marvels, Toronto

(1979), p. 111.
shape-changers capable of handling enormous Power, well past the
domestic magics of the ordinary People. They excel at manipulating

The triangle magicians carried was their puoin (sometimes written

as buoin), the focal point for their psychic powers. We can guess, from
later descriptions, that Membertou's consisted of moosehide patterned
with porcupine quills, and that it contained small bits of hide, sticks,
stones and bones and a few healing herbs and possibly a variety of poisons.
While the pouch contained the ingredients of magic, it was in itself
Membertou's "oracle", a physical representation of his cowalker, or
external soul. If he wished, he could remove a small portion of animal hide
and animate it, projecting the cowalker upon it so that it could gain
information in the past, present or future. Lescarbot watched this
procedure and reported as follows: "If any be sick, Membertou is sent for.
He maketh invocations on his devil (the puoin). They he bloweth on the
part which is damaged, maketh incisions and sucketh the bad blood from
the place. If there is an open wound he healeth it by applying a round slice
of the beaver's stones."

This procedure was followed for the following four hundred years,
as witness this much later description: "The ordinary procedure of the
medicine man was about as follows. He inquired into the symptoms,
dreams and transgressions of tabooo of the patient, whom he examined,
and then pronounced his opinion as to the nature (generally mythical) of
the ailment. He then prayed, exhorted, or sang, the last. perhaps, to the
accompaniment of a rattle; made passes with his hand, sometimes
moisted with saliva, over the part affercted; and finally placed his mouth
over the most painful part amd sucked hard to extract the immediate
principle of the illness. This result was apparently accomplished, often
by means of sleight-of-hand, producing the offending cause in the shape of
a thorn, pebble, hair, or other object, which was thrown away or
destroyed...For these services the healer was usuallly well compensated." 2

2Handbook for Indians of Canada (1913). Published as an

Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographical Board of
Canada. As quoted by John Robert Columbo, Columbo's Book of
Marvels, Toronto (1979), p. 115.
If other matters were at hand, Membertou still consulted "his
spirit", afterwards rendering "oracles", which Lescarbot observed to be
"commonly doubtful, very often false." Nevertheless, the Frenchman
admitted that some of the observations on the future were true, "as when
he was asked whether Penoniac were dead. He said unless the man
rteturned within fifteen days they could count him dead but killed by the
Armouchiquois (Iroquois). The savage Membertou also rendered a true
account of our coming to Monsieur du Pont...he did affirm that there should
come a ship and that his devil had told him."

"When the savages be hungered they also go to him and he saith

unto them, "Go to such-and-such a place to find game." Sometimes they
do so and find some and sometimes not. If none is found, he gives the
excuse that the spirit of the beast wanders. More often they find food as
promised and this makes them believe that his devil is indeed a god; and
they yield no service or adoration to any but Membertou and his devil.

This is not to say that there were not other spirits abroad, and in
cases of deep trouble they were sometimes consulted for news of what
was happening in remote regions. To do this Lescarbot noted that they dug
a pit, fixing a staff in the middle of it to which they tied a leather thong.
Membertou then put his head at the edge invoking the underworld spirits
"in a langauage unknown to the others." "When this devil is come the
master Aoutmoin makes them believe that he holdeth him in check by the
cord, which he holdeth fast against his (invisible) body. Thus he forces
him to give answers before he will be released. This done, he beginneth to
sing (I think) something of praise to this devil, and the savages do answer
his chant making concordance and dancing, with songs I understood not."
"After their songs," continued Lescarbot, "our savages make a fire and leap
over it; but are not detestible as they do not sacrificer men to the devil
through it."

Lescarbot observed that most of the Micmacs lived to an advanced

age, "but Membertou was well over one hundred years, and had not one grey
hair. They all have their teeth, and go bareheaded, not caring the least to
make hats as do our countrymen when they live in this part of the world."
He attributed their good health, not to magic, but to a healthy life style.
"Although they sometimes exceed in their "tabagies", or feasts, they diet
afterwards, living very often eight days upon the smoke of tobacco. Also,
they want no exercise one way or another."
Like magicians who lived in Europe, the aoutmoins did not work
without recompense. A person cured of disease was expected to give the
magician venison or hides. Lescarbot commented that all "questions of the
spirit" resulted in the presentation of gifts. "For there is, among these, as
with the Greeks, an opinion that, "without money Phoebus, oracles are

The Medea Chant of the Algonquins asked, “Who is mento? Who has
Power?” The proper response was always, “He who walketh with a
serpent, following it on the ground; he is manito.” Lewis Spence admitted
puzzlement at this charm, and left it nboting that the sensuous
movements of the snake were wind or water-like, and that winding rivers
were termed kennebec or “snake.” He supposed that this identified the
snake as a water-deity. This reference is easily understood in terms of
shape-changing and the jipjakamaq, “the horned-serpent people (which
see).The mentouk were obviously those who could become horned-serpents
and regain their human shape at will. The process of shape-change only
required that a man lie within the the land print of this sea-serpent, but
the reverse process required strong magic.


An enspirited rock-face reserved for inscribing messages.

Penobscot. The Earth World itself was influenced by the spirits of

air, fire and water. Thus places which were otherwise flat and innocuous
had reputations as healing places or places of evil. In the Penobscot world
the Arquarharseedek, or “stepping ashore place,” was considered to lie
between these extremes: “In the olden times when members of the tribe
visited here, they only stopped long enough to make the sign of their visit,
showing in which direction they were going (for the information of friends
and the distress of enemies), the number of their party and canoes etc. On
account of its being a marking place no one was ever allowed to mar or
deface its outline by using it for a camping ground. The reason for

3Lescarbot, Marc, History of Acadia, Paris. As quoted by

George Frederick Clarke in Someone Before Us, Fredericton
(1970), pp. 219-236.
selecting this place was because it was always the last prominent place,
from entering a river from the bay (Fundy), or going out into the bay from
the river, Coming and going all stopped here and made their marks. Some
were represented by animals, fish and reptiles, and others by well-known
implements, the moon, sun, etc. Each mark showed the number of the
family and the direction taken.” As noted elsewhere, men imparted some
of their spirit to magical totems, thus these places were reservoirs of a
great combined power which had to be feared (Joseph Nicolar, 1887).


An Indian magician.

Wabenaki, Passamaquoddy, represented elsewhere as bouin or

pouin . Confers with the Innu angakok. The abilities of these people
centred on maya or “illusion.” It is said that storms raised by these
people are “the worst of all.”


A disembodied spirit.

Penobscot, Genius Astral, a ghost, the act of being startled.


A creature also known as the jipjakimaq.

Wabenaki, Micmac dialect, the horned or wingless “dragon” said

identical to wiwillmekq’. A singular “horned worm found on trees or
within water.” Capable of assuming a vast size and gifted with
supernatural powers.


An enspirited river cavern.

River caverns are associated with soft rock. Thus the Miramichi River
between Chatham and Bushville is noted for rocks which have been
sculpted in cave-like undercuts by the passing water. The most
remarkable of these is on the northwestern branch of this river, at a place
formerly known as the Big Hole. The Mimacs recognized the identity of
this place in the word Condeau-weegan, the “Stone Wigwam.” Its only
entrance was from the water beneath an overhanging cliff. In 1840, the
floor of this cavern was located 10 inches above the average water-level.
The height of the most inner plateau was seventeen feet above the floor of
the cave, and the width of the entrance to it was estimated at seventy
feet. When Moses Perley noted that the Hole had an interior spring and a
smoke hole, “whether natural or artificial I cannot say.” The ricks in this
place were sandstone of a coarse grit studded with angular pebbles of
rose and white quartz, giving the appearance of a fairy grotto. Perley
noted that the Indians stood within the cavern and speared Salmon as they
passed the entrance. These they placed in the hollow basin of the spring
where “the coldness of the water keeps them for two or three days.” The
Sheriff of Northumberland county, Colonel Robert Call, said that he went
fishing regularly at the Hole in a decade thirty years later. He said he was
told that an Indian woman gave birth there during the great Miramichi Fire
of 1825. In 1903, George Brown, the owner of a hunting lodge in the area,
said the Big Hole was much smaller than that described by Perley, which
is quite likely considering the fact that sixty years of erosion had
intervened. Dr. Nicholson of Chatham, on the other hand, wrote Dr. Ganong
saying that the earlier measurements were absolutely accurate.


A monster bird, the shape-changed form of certain

Wabenaki master-magicians.

Corresponds with the thunderbird in every particular except that the

impelling spirit is human.


Spirits incarnate as land-forms standing in the sea.

An adjunct to the manitous or “devils,” were the epukunikeks, the various

“things one ought to go around.” The menahol, or “islands,” usually posed
fewer problems that the moniecooks, “things joined together.” This latter
Penobscot word could identify an island attached to the mainland by a bar,
or two isolated joined to one another in a similar manner. Usually these
were places where the connecting neck of land was only visible at low
tide, and a danger to sea-going canoes at other times. Examples of land-
forms, which used to be so namedhave included Barter’s Island, in the St.
George River, Maine, and Van Horne’s, or Minister’s Island, near St.
Andrews, New Brunswick. Worse than these bar-islands were the
sobaquarscooks, or “sea rocks,” which were thought to represent real
spiritual presences within the Bay. This last word indicates “a waterfall
in salt water,” the first part of the word being derived from soubekou,
“salt water” and the latter from kapskwak, a word indicating something
placed in a variable tidal current, or tidal rip.

Here is what Nicholas Tracy has to say about one of the largest
collection of sea rocks within the Bay: “The area of tide races and ledges
5 miles south of Grand Manan and east of Machias Seal Island, is a
challenge most yachtsmen with their heads screwed down will find it
possible to resist, unless, of course, they make the mistake of letting the
set of the tide drive them there.” They might well be warned off by the
Indian name of that island, which Eckstrom interprets as “the place of the
bad little falls.” Sometimes written Mecheyisk, the word may also be
given as meche, “rough;” yisk, “run of water.” Nicholas Denys identified
the machias as a magical pouch worn at the neck, said to contain the
individual totem-spirit of the wearer.

Tracy thinks that the sea in this district has “some of the worst
rocks and rips in the Bay of Fundy.” Notable among these are those
charted as the Black Rocks, the Brazil Shoal and Tinker Shoal. He says
that “Clarks Ground produces exceptional rips on a southwest ebb tide.”
He also cautions against approaching the Old Proprietor Shoal and an area
not far distance known as the Devils Half Acre: “It is certainly a
devilishly large half acre, and the tide behaves very badly in its precinct.
The whole area must be treated with circumspection. a word with Latin
roots meaning, “looking about for a better way.”

The power of the sea is 800 times that of the air due to the greater
density of sea water when compared with air. Hurricanes have been known
to sweep the area clean, but the damage that the tide does it often
underestimated. In most regions of the Bay of Fundy the shoreline is not
what it was at the time of Champlain’s explorations, the landfalls of the
French now being little more than mud or sand on the bottom of the Bay or
the Gulf of Maine.
A case in point is Boot Island at the mouth of the Avon River in Nova
Scotia. When the earliest map-makers were at work, there was no such
place amidst the waters of the Minas Basin. It is certainly not marked on
J.F.W DesBarre’s, “Atlantic Neptune,” (1762 - 1775). None of the less
formal maps of the region, dating back to Acadian times show anything
more than a peninsula of land in this location. The French called this
headland which became an island “le Bout,” (presumably because it had a
look something like that of the present Italian peninsula). At first the
English sea-charts retained this spelling, naming the new island “Bout

Men who have owned the island say that their records show that it
originally measured close to 1,000 acres. Today it occupies less than 100.
On the Minas Basin side, the effects of the passing tides into and out of
the river are dramatic, but on both sides the red soil is being dragged
away at a rate that will soon number this as one of the “disappearing”
islands of the Atlantic (perhaps this was the fate of Brendan’s Isle?) The
channel between the landward side and the island is still called the
“guzzle,” because of the peculiar noise the fast past tides make in
passing, but the sucking noise has become much reduced over the years
past. Today this opening is a half mile wide, but when the tides first cut
this place off from the land (about 150 years ago), it was said to be so
narrow that people routinely walked out to the new island at low tide. In
the Indian world this place was once a monacook, “an island tenuously
joined to land.” The loss of so much soil had one good effect and this was
the creation of the tidal flats which the Indians called kadebungedek, “the
place where one takes clams.”

Chignecto Bay has a similar place known as Grindstone Island, a

feature cut out of this Bay by the tidal run in the Petitcodiac River. This
island is now less than a mile in width and is a mere six hundred years at
its widest. It has been reduced to about 30 acres from the 113 acres
when it was granted to the Anglican Church in 1823. In this case the
natural business of weathering and erosion has been hurried by the fact
that building stones were quarried here. In spite of the name, few
grindstones were actually cut from the island, these being taken from the
shore near the low tide line.

A pillar-stone considered to encompass the soul of a

Passamaquoddy, epti, “woman.” Dr. Ganong has renamed one of these

natural standing-stones on Grand Manan Island as “Old Maid Rock.”


Wabenaki, fires of the dead; the will-o'-the-wisp.

In their mythology, fire-balls were seen as the wandering spirits of

magicians, or those of dead souls, and were considered a dangerous omen.
A man who was followed by one of these used the weapon of cold steel
(well-known in European mythology) against it: Plunging his knife into a
tree he faced the spirit commanding that it pass benmeath the blade.
Unable to resist, it did so, exploding and discharging in a a burst of colour
and smoke.

At Indian Beach, Grand Manan, New Brunswick, a spirit of this kind

was created at the death of a native woman named Lemushahindu, who
burned in a wigwam fire. Her cowaker materializes once in seven years
appearing as a woman entirely encircled by flame. An observer said, "I've
heard the old squaw myself, at least the old folks say it was her; (she
made) a loud gurgling sound. But I've never seen her, not in thirty years of
fishing on the back of the island..."


A mortal earth spirit of the Maliseets characterized by

small stature.

Abenaki, simliar to the mikumwees of the Micmac tribes. Pat Paul

of the Tobique Reserve has said that these little people were “often seen
beside or near water places... river banks, marshy grounds, brooksides or
lakeshores.” Like their European counterparts they were often seen to be
tricksters. They exercised an attractive force over domestic animals who
came to their water-side and they often travelled to farms and stables. In
these places they would create annoyance for the keepers of animals by
braiding the hair of their head and tails. Paul says that elders at Tobique
speak of the place named Muskumodeak, which consists of a rock located
on a flat ledge. In the middle of the rock there is an 18” x 18” section
which looks as if it were mechanically removed. This has left a seat-like
formation in the rock. Beneath this there is “a tunnel-like opening” where
entrance is tabooed. It has been suggested that this is the haunt of a
obodumkin, a legendary water-creature, or perhaps the lair of the
geowludmosiseg. It has even been suggested that the steps and the tunnel
are the work of these folk in distant times. These structures can no
longer be seen as two hydroelectric dams, built in the years between 1953
and 1959, flooded the location. An elder once observed the “fires” of these
people burning in an area near his home. The peculiarity in this was the
fact that the flames burned high unimpeded by tons of water that fell upon
it from a summer thunderstorm. At this same residence the lady of the
house saw four of the little folk passing by. She observed that they were
three youngsters, three boys and a girl, the latter dressed “ever so neatly
in a yellow blouse.” They came walking up the driveway toward the house
and then passed toward the back yard. Since the normal entry was by way
of the back door, she presumed they might be coming to visit, and went to
that door as they disappeared around a corner of the house. When whe
opened that door she saw the starngers “jumping for joy, with their arms
just a flying and a swinging.” Because she was deaf the observer could not
tell if they made any sounds. As she turned to call her husband’s attention
to this peculiarity the folk vanished. She did, however, see them again as
they crosssed a road and disappered into a hollow near the river. This was
later taken as a death-omen, as several youngsters from the reserve died
soon afterward. The geowludmosiseg were sometimes classified as
tricksters and healers and their sighting was not invariably taken as a
sign of danger. In either case it was thought wise to propitiate them with
gifts of tobacco. The healers among the folk were said to be capable of
quickly curing flesh wounds, skin disorders and other less visible
malfunctions. The tricksters “would do their little tricks in the middle of
the night...Little tricks like thumping on the side of your camp or canoe,
braiding horses manes, tying up clothes on the clothes line, or a stone
thrown into the still waters where you are quietly fishing...” They could be
coerced and “The tricks would immediately stop after the giving of the
tobacco.” Pat Paul says these folk were a mixed blessing to men: their
good spirit falling upon men of balanced humour; their ill will on those
who feared them. At the Passamaquoody (Sebayik) Reserve it was claimed
that the tiny stone beads found there were made by the “little People.”
The beads were described as ranging in size from a millimetre to perhaps
two centimetres in length. “Despite the tiny and random configuration of
each stone bead, a hole to allow a thread is available in each, although not
straight in some cases. The beads seem compased of some shale-like
material...” Information is from the Maliseet Nation WWW Home Page,

Kluscap kills his half-brother Lox


A mortal earth spirit, the culture-hero-god of the

northeast woodland Indians.

The earliest written description of Glooscap came from the pen of

Silas Rand, a baptist minister who worked among the Micmacs. He
translated portions of the Bible into their script and compiled a Micmac
grammer and dictionary. His information was obtained from a Miucmac
tribeman named Stephen Hood in 1869.

In this version of Glooscap's origin, this "divine being", who had the
form of a man, came across the sea from the east. Although later writers,
such as Frederick Pohl, attempted to relate him to an early European
explorer, Hood said "He was not far from any of the Indians." This may
mean that he understood their ways of doing things, but it is more
probable that they meant that he resembled them in physique and

If Joseph Nicolar is correct in saying that "he came into the world
when the world contained no other men than himself," it is difficult to be
certain from what quarter he came. Some tribesmen claimed that he
descended from "mother-moon" in his stone canoe. Others said that their
ancestors remember him arising from a cave, or first saw him striding out
of the deepest woods in the land. Nicolar said that Glooscap existed
before time as a sentient but unmoving man-like hill. When he first
became aware of his senses he opened his eyes and found his head pointed
east and his feet west. His right hand was outspread to the north and his
left to the south. At first he had no sense of direction for the sun and the
moon stood static, standing side-by-side in a noon-day position. He could
see the stars fixed in the sky, mountains, lakes and rivers and the nearby
ocean, but was without the spirit needed to raise any part of his gigantic

As he lay motionless a sphere of light flew across the sky and

approached his face. When it was almost within touching distance
Glooscap felt a flood of warmth coming into his flesh and fell into a deep
sleep. When he awakened a soft breeze fanned his brow, and the light had
been replaced by "a person not unlike himself." This creature passed his
right hand from east to west, and then from north to south. At each pass
lightning split the clouds. "Then the Great Spiritanswered Glooscap's
thoughts aying: "Now, man of the dust, stand on thy feet. Let the dust be
beneath thee. As thou believest, so shall thou gain the spirit to stand and
walk." Immediately strength came into the "ketuk" (enspirited-god) and
he found himself able to perform as instructed.

This done the Kjikinap, or creator-god, turned to the unmmoving sun

and moon, commanding them, "Go thy way!" At this, the sun glided away to
the west followed twelve hours later by the moon and stars. With time in
motion, the Great Spirit turned to Glooscap and said, "Now we will make
men in our own image." The first of these were two an one half foot
experiments, the mikumwess "dwellers in rocks". After that, Kjikinap
enspirited the trees and instructed Glooscap to liberate some of them
from bondage to the ground by shooting magic arrows into their bark. This
done the People, emerged from within, sometimes splitting their spirit,
leaving second souls within the trees. Because the mikumwess observed
that men were the reformed spirits of the ash tree, they suggested naming
them Lnuk, or Tree-men. 4

When all this work was complete, Glooscap and Kjikinap had a long
conversation concerning the fate of the new world, which the creator-god
explained was formed "by the wish of my mind." He taught some of the
secrets of life to the man-god and contested with him to see which could
bring the most interesting creature into existance. With a tendancy to
overstatement, Glooscap animated a moose as tall as himself and much
larger than the mikumwees and men. His first squirrel was so large it
was capable of tearing down trees while the prototype for the white bear
was so strong none could resist it. After questioning the beasts and
determining their attitudfes toward men he reduced some in size through
a slight pressure applied to his magic belt. At first Glooscap took the
loon as his familiar spirit, but this animal absented himself so often he
chose instead two wolves (as did the god Odin) one black and one white,
representing the good and evil aspects of his character.

A member of the Micmac tribe at Port Hood, Nova Scotia, categorized

Glooscap as "a wonder-worker... Not Nikskam, Father Of Us All. nor
Kesoolkw (Knijinap), Our Maker, nor Espaae Sakumow, The Great Chief, but
he was par-excellence, the Micmac." 5 He was, obviously, more than this,
being a spiritual personification of the earth itself. Stephen Hood also
told Rand that Glooscap was "the friend and teacher of all Indians; all he
knew of the arts he taught them. He taught them the names of the
constellations and stars; he taught them how to hunt and fish, and cure
what they took; how to cultivate the ground..."6

This may sound altruistic but it has to be noted that, "The Master

4Nicolar,Joseph, The Life And Traditions Of The Red Man,

Old Town, Maine (1893), privately printed. As retold by Peter
Anastas, Glooscap's Children, Boston (1973), pp. 8-10. Both
writers were members of the Passamaquoddy band.

5Creighton, Helen, Bluenose Magic, p. 86. Quoting REv. D.


6Ibid, p. 32.
retained the monopoly in stoneware, the toboggans, knowledge of good and
evil, pyrotechinics (including control of fire and weather) and all other
commodities until the time when the plentious others (the bulk of the
native population) had arrived. He shaved the stones into axes, spear
points and other forms, but the braves preferred plucking the beard to
scraping with one of his razors. He got fire by rubbing togerther for, well,
perhaps two weeks. Knowledge of all sorts was his. He towered over the
animals and the elements...After a rest of about seven moons Glooscap got
busy clearing the rivers and lakes for navigation..." 7

Men may appreciate what is done for them, but fear the power and
distrust the man-god who is the power-broker. Behind his back, it was
said that some of Glooscap's claims were fictions, thus his name became
a synonym for "liar" just as Odin was understood to imply one who was an
"oath-breaker." Those who doubted his part in the origin of men said that
Glooscap was certainly coexistant with creation but thathe was for many
years a lonesome man in an empty landscape. "After seventy-seven days
and seventy-seven nights that were appointed, there came to him (as
promised by Kjikinap) a bent old woman...She was Nogami (an general
epitah for an elderly woman), who owed her existance to the dew of the
rock (a metaphor for semen and the male penis). Glooscap thanked the
Great Spirit for fulfilling his promise to him." 8 Rand was told that
"Naogumich" was "not his wife, nor did he ever have a wife. He was
always sober, grave and good..."9 This has to be taken in view of the fact
that the Micmac who relayed this information was speaking to a Christian
cleric and wished to represented Glooscap in the best light. In certain
other tales, Nogami is described as Muiniskwa, or Bear Woman, a shape-
changer, who could be human or beast, aged or full of youth through acts of
will. In our view she is not necessarily aged, but rather, "the woman of
long, long ago, whose first home was a tree, and whose clothing was
leaves," the one who "walked through the woods, singing all the time, "I

7Creighton, Helen, Bluenose Magic, quoting Rev. D.

Macpherson, p. 87.

8Creighton, Helen, Bluenose Magic, pp. 86-87.

9Fowke, Edith, Folklore Of Canada, p. 32.

want company; I'm lonesome!" From far away a wild man heard her..." 10
On the noon following the coming of Nagomi "a young man came unto
Nogami and Glooscap." Fully grown he claimed to have been "born of the
foam of the waters. (semen?)" "The waves," he explained, "quickened the
foam, and the sun shone on the foam and warmed it, and the warmth made
life, and that life is I, See, I am young and swift, and I have come to abide
with you and be your help in all things." 11 Glooscap is said to have named
this newcomer Nataoa-nsem, my siter's son, but there is reason to suspect
his "sister" was Nagomi, and this lad his own son.

On the following "noon", their arrived a maiden who "stood before the
two (men) and said, "I have come to abide with you and I have brought with
me mmy love. I will give it to you and if you will love me all the world
will love me well...Strength is mine and I will give it to whoever may get
me; comforts also, for though I am young my strength shall be felt over
the earth. I was born of the beautiful plant of the earth; for the dew fell
on the leaf, and the sun warmed the dew, and the warmth was life, and
that life is I." 12

Nataoa-nsem was youth and age and completely reincarnate, like

many of the deities of Europe (most noteably Mhorrigan). As the
population of Abenaki-speaking Indians increased, a faminine fell on the
land "and the first mother grew more and more sorrowful" At last she
came to her husband inssiting that she must be killed so that her spirit
could be returned to the earth to rejuvenate the soil. He husband at first
refused, but consulting with Glooscap, he at last agreed to honour her
strange request. The woman seemed happy at this and went on to say,
"When you have slain me, let two men lay hold of my hair and draw my
body all around a field, and when they have come to the middle of the
field, there let them bury my bones. Then they must come away, but when
the seven moons have passed let them come again into the field and gather
all that they may find and eat it. It is my flesh, but you must save a part

10Leland,Charles, The Algonquin Legends Of New England,

Boston (1968) p. 309.

11Anastas, Peter, Glooscap's Children, pp. 12-13.

12Anastas, Peter, Glooscap's Children, pp. 12-13.

of it to put in the ground again. My bones you cannot eat, but you may burn
them, and the smoke will bring peace to you and to your children." 13 After
these riotuals were complete men came into the first harvest field from
which they took Indian corn and the leaves of the plant now called tobacco.

At the introduction of the young earth-goddess Glooscap praised the

Great Spirit for the benefit of her company and afterwards married the
young woman to the young man, "and she became the first mother of the
tribes." This is not to say that Glooscap rejected the "strengths and
comfort" offered by the earth-mother, although the Indians were careful
to point out that Glooscap never had children of his own. We know he was
not immune to sexual advances for he once encountered "the witch of the
ocean", who seemed comely and submissive enough when she asked
Glooscap for passage in his canoe. However, "She proved to be a very bad
girl; and this was manifested by the troubles that ensued. A storm arose
and the waves dashed wildly over the canoe; he accused her of being the
cause, through her evil deeds (wanton sex), and so he determined to rid
himself of her." 14 Glooscap accomplished this, by paddling to shore
pushing the canoe oceanward and maintaining it at a decent distance
through magic. His former partner became alarmed and enquired how she
was to reach shore, but Glooscap was only concerned enough to say that
would never happen. He did, however, give her the option of taking
whatever fish-form took her fancy and she finally opted for that of the
"keeganibe", or fish with a "back-sail", which is known to white men as
the dog-fish shark.

If this seems shoddy treatment of a "friend" remember that Glooscap

was as as perverse as any European culture-hero. While he benefited
mankind, his occasional reaction to Power was sufficiently ill-advised for
some to suggest that he had an evil twin-brother. Those who advanced
this theory claimed that Glooscap's "twin" was the one named Malsum.
While Glooscap had been born of mother-earth in normal fashion, Malsum
had been so avaricious he had torn himself from her womb "killing her" in
the process. Malsum's deep introspection made him at once jealous and
suspicious of his brother and this intensified as he watched Glooscap

13Anastas, Peter, Glooscap's Children, p. 13.

14Fowke, Edith, Folklore Of Canada, pp. 32-33.

creating life. Malsum tried to duplicate Glooscap's magic, but was unable
to invigorate the earth with anything more spirited that the evil creature
known as Lox (the wolverine). Glooscap was at first content to leave his
alter-ego in peace, but his brother used Lox to institute a whispering
campaign against him, suggesting, among other things, that he was a liar.
The forces of chaos finally rose to the point of battle, and at that
Glooscap let it be known that he would confront Malsum.

At this time the two brothers donned "power-belts", rather like the
one Thor used to intensify his energies. This super-weapon appears to
have been a device for converting the will of the gods into laser-like
destructive beams, which they directed at one another. It is said that this
battle of the minds was almost totally runinous of the environment,
finally ending when Glooscap holed his twin and Perce Rock with a blast of
pure hell-fire. This accomplished Glooscap's purpose, but had the
unexpected result of tearing a hole in the time-space fabric, releasing a
host of hitherto unseen spirits through this gate to the other worlds. The
new arrivals included hairy cannibalistic giants, witches and magicians,
shape-changing bird people, earthquake men, and men without bones.
Glooscap had intended to move from the land after "killing" his brother but
could see that these new arrivals would subjugate his People. He
therefore remained within the land until all of these undesirables were
either destroyed or became his allies.

Peter Anastas says that a time came when "Glooscap had conquered
all his enemies (within and without), even the Kewahqu' (who some called
the kukwess or canoose), who were giants and sorcerers, the m'teoulin,
who were magicians, and the Pamola, who is the evil spirit of the night
air, and all manner of ghosts, witches, devils, cannibals, and goblins..." 15
He at first employed the Kulu, or thunderbird people, to transport ordinary
birds from Sky World to Earth World, later breaking their "wings" so that
they might not unleash thunderbolts against men. He befriended two of
the giants, Coolpujot the Boneless (who is sometimes said to personify
the seasons) and Kuhkw (whose name is a synonym for Earthquake), a
human inadvertently turned into a powerful magical entity when he passed
through the underworld.

Chief William Paul of Shubenacadie said that Glooscap left Atlantic

15Anastas, Peter, Glooscap's Children, p. 14.

Canada because the land had become "distroubled.": "Well now then," he is
supposed to have explained, "I am going to leave after I've show you
everything I want to show you (the once monopolized arts of canoe-
making, pottery and snow-shoe construction). Your province will soon be
taken by those people which you are going to live with them. But I am
going to build your home away up north where nobody else can come...And
your home (after death)'ll be mountains of gold...In years to come you
(the living) will think our province is all taken by these palefaces, but
that will not be so. I will (return and) see the fair play (in the end) you
will hold your home and province." 16

Having said this, Glooscap "made a rich feast" near the Fairy Hole in
northern Cape Breton (some say it was held on the shores of Minas Basin).
"All the beasts came to it, and when the feast was over he got into his
great canoe and sailed off to the northwest. Until then the men and beasts
had spoken but one language, but were now no longer able to understand
each other, and they fled, each in his own way, never again to meet in
council until the day when Glooscap shall return and make all dwell once
more in amity and peace..."17

As to the fate of the whites, it is rumoured that the great Sagmo

sits each day in a longhouse: "He is always making arrows. One side of the
lodge is full of arrows now...and when it is full he will come forth and
make war...He will make war on all white people. He will expel them from
this country. He will make war on all, kill all." 18


A mortal sea-spirit of the Wabenaki Indians, particularly

characterized by its death-dealing shrieks and known as a
collector of souls of the living and the dead.

Wabenaki, Micmac dialect, gou , forest, primal time or place;

16Creighton, Helen, Bluenose Magic, pp. 88-89.

17Anastas, Peter, Glooscap's Children, p. 124.

18Anastas, Peter, Gl;ooscap's Children, p. 154.

perhaps related to the obsolete English goul , a shout or yell. This word is
synonymous with Geol , an Anglo-Saxon winter month better known as the
Yule , a time when the winter-god's shouts froze the souls of the living
and the dead. All the above confer with our word yell .

Gou Gou or Goo Goo remains a family name among the Micmacs. We
think it may correspond with Ku Ku , kukwees and canoose , the last two
being dialectic names given the hairy, cannibalistic giants that invaded
the Atlantic Provinces after Glooscap inadvertently blasted a "gate"
between their world and that of men (see Glooscap). John Robert Columbo
says that the linguistic scholar John Steckley has noted that Gougou is
"etymologically related to the Micmac word for earthquake, as are the
given names of three other beings: Kuhkw , a powerful warrior and
companion of Glooscap (who could "pass along under the surface of the
ground, making all things shake and tremble by his power"); Kukwes
(meaning "little Gougou"), a cannibalistic (giant) that produces an
incredibly loud whoop or call when about to pounce on its victim; and
Kukuwes , the Great Horned Owl, a name imitative of its cry." 19 This
beast was first described by Samuel de Champlain, an French
cartographer, who came to the region with DeMont's expedition in 1604:

"There is another strange thing worthy of narration, which many

savages have assured me was true; this is, that near Chaleur Bay (Bay of
Heat) towards the south, lies an island, (Miscou) where makes his abode a
dreadful monster, which the savages call "Gougou". They told me it had
the form of a woman, but most hideous, and of such size that according to
them the tops of the masts of our vessel would not reach her waist, so big
did they represent her. And they say that she often devoured and still eats
many savages; these she puts, when she can catch them, intp a great
pocket, and afterwards consumes. Those who have escaped the danger of
this ill-omened beast say that her pocket was so large that she might put
our vessel into it."

The monster...makes horrible noises (from the interior of) that

island, and when they speak of her it is with unutterably strange terror,
and many assured me they have sighted her. The aforementioned Sieur de
Prevert told me that, while going in search of mines, he passed near the
haunt of this fearful beast, and he and all on board heard strange hissings

19Columbo, John Robert, Columbo's Book Of Marvels, p. 71.

from the noise it made, and the savages with him assured him this was
the beast, and were so afraid they hid themselves whereever they could,
for fear it would come and carry them off. And what makes me believe
this tale, is the fact that all the savages fear it...If I were to record all I
have been told of the Gougou it would be considered untrue, but I hold that
this place house some great devil that torments the people in the manner

In the myths, it was contended that Glooscap bragged of his defeat

of all the Powers on earth, but was remined "by a certain old woman" that
"there remains one who has never been laid low and will never be bested
to the end of time." Glooscap asked, "Who is this?" and was informed "The
mighty Wasis, the Gou Gou of the world! I warn and implore you not to
meddle with him, for you cannot defeat him!"

Glooscap was, of course, immediately drawn into a contest of wills.

Meeting the creature, who sat in the middle of a tent "sucking a piece of
maple sugar", Glooscap attempted to overcome him with friendship. He
smiled at Wasis and invited him to talk. The creature smiled back but
made no effort to do as he was instructed. At this, the Master summoned
his best thunder-and-lightning voice and demanded compliance, but Wasis
only shrieked terribly and would not move. The master then called upon
his most terrible spells, sangs the songs that raised the dead and expelled
devils and called forth wonderful monsters. At this, Wasis looked on
admiringly, and with interest, but did not budge an inch. Glooscap
surrendered in despair and the tiny baby said "Gou! Gou!" Thus, the primal
cry of nature was always seen as more powerful than the gods of earth.

Gougou is an able personification of the screech of moving earth as

well as that of a child. Northern New Brunswick, the former seat of the
Gougou is a zone of "only moderate earthquake activity, and is not in a high
risk area such as the west coast of North America." This may not always
have been the case as it is noted that local earthquakes are related to
"movements on pre-existing geological faults, possibly a delayed response
to the unloading of the crust due to the melting ice sheet (of the last
continental glacier) about 13,000 years ago." If this is the case, then the
surface may have been more active at times closer the thermal maximum

H.P., The Works Of Samuel de Champlain (1922-
26), Volume I, loosely paraphrased.
(about 8,000 years ago) when unloading of the crust was rapid.

According to our best reports Kukwu, the earthquake giant, became

allied with Glooscap and sometimes assisted him in his projects. When
three men came to Glooscap's underground "wigwam" seeking favours, he
found that the first wished to be the tallest Indian in the land; another
wished that his nature-worship should go on indefinitely, while a third
wanted a long life and good health. Hearing this, Glooscap took the men to
the surface and called upon Kukhw to open a crack in the earth. This was
done, and the three men fell in, at which the earth closed rooting them to
the spot. Afterwards, Glooscap invoked his magic causing the supplicants
to become pine trees thus fulfilling their needs in an all too-literal
fashion. Some white "experts" have claimed that Glooscap was not a
trickster but he did possess a unique sense of humour.

When Glooscap withdrew from Atlantic Canda, it was claimed that

Kukhw went with him to the north-west, where earthquakes are still
virulent. Occasionally he has returned to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia
to remind folk of his power over men. The 1982 Miramichi earthquake, the
most powerful recorded by seismogrph, occured at 8:53 a.m. (AST)
registering 5.7 on the Richter Scale. This was sufficient to have created
widespread destruction except for the fact that it took place in an
entirely uninhabited region of New Brunswick.


An important mortal Gaelic god-spirit of the sea the son of

Ler often entitled Manan mac Ler.

French grand from Olf French grant from Latin grandis , similar to
the English word grand in meaning, viz, a great person, one having high
rank; of large size (as Grand Manan Island); imposing in appearance (as is
also the case for this island). Manan is perhaps derived from manth , the
English “mantle,” the cowl of one belonging to a religious brotherhood.
Since the cowl hides the identity of the wearer, the word may be used as a
verb to mean cloaked or hidden from view, thus a foggy island. The word
resembles the Anglo-Saxon munuc from which we have the English monk
and these words confer with the Gaelic manach , “a solitary person or
hermit,” and manachainn , “a monastery.” The monks were originally
involved with making predictions hence the Old Gaelic mana , “an omen.”
The casting of future and past events was traditionally the role of the
sea-giants of Scandanavia and Britain and a chief among them was Manan
mac Ler whose eastern land outpost was the Isle of Man in the Irish
Sea. The name is also written Manann and Manaun. This word also
comes close to the Old French menthane , “cloaked,” or “hidden.” Oddly
enough we find munanook in the Maliseet, munego , in Micmac and
menahan in Penobscot, all indicating “a solitary thing (as an island)
standing by itself.” According to Ganong the first syllable of the word
indicates an island, the remainder of the word being descriptive: The
ending syllable an , aan or ahan , taken alone, indicates “the sea” or “out
at sea,” and is considereed to be an abbreviation of the Micmac word
uktan , “the open sea.” It has been guessed that this was modified to
agon or egon , in the various dialects, the consants ultimately being
dropped. Manan , “the isolated sea-island,” has counterparts in the
nearby islands of Menanouze (somethimes called Petit Manan) and
Monhegan , these names being variants of Menahan. Amazingly the Gaelic
Manaun is also a two part word, the man or mam portion indicating “a
large round hill” or “handfull of anything” standing in isolation (as the
mammary glands or human breasts). In a supplimentary way it indicates
a pair of things, and indeed there was, from earliest times a Petit Manan
as well as a Grand Manan. Because of the swellings there, the groin was
referred to as manachan . The latter part of the word equates with
uaine . “green,” which has its root in uag , “wet,” thus again “an isolated

This island-spirit was actually referred to as ktanagook, “the most

important island,” in the tongue of the closest Indian inhabitants. It was
Etienne Belanger who first recorded the name Menane . Halkyut followed
this lead extending the name to the body of water now called the Bay of
Fundy.Northern Forests.” Samuel de Champlain’s rendering was
Manthane , probably having reference to persistent summer fogs. It should
be noted that these islands were anciently considered to be the god in
incarnate, if inactive, form.

Grand Manan was, and is, sheathed in "magic mist" through much of
the summer sailing season, to the extent that the entire Bay of Fundy was
missed by the men who drew the first charts of the northeast coast of the
United States and Canada. While the waters south of Cape Cod are largely
influenced by the warm Gulf Stream, the Bay receives only twenty percent
of its tidal waters from this source, getting the rest from the frigid
Labrador Current. This means that the waters of the Bay are close to the
freezing point at mid-summer. Since the air temperature is much warmer,
the dew point of water is easily reached and fog generated on an almost
constant basis.

It will be remembered that monks went to lonely islands to

"commune with God," which is the polite way of saying they hoped to
obtain additional god-spirit and thus secular power over their dangerous
world. In doing this, they had the example of Jesus Christ who spent time
in a desert-wilderness. The druid priests and the scalds, who had come
before them, had similar examples of men who had attained full god-hood
through isolation and contemplation. The most noteable of these was King
Odin, a capable magician, but not a fully realized talent until he turned to
what we would now call "a wilderness experience." There, Odin hung
himself for nine days and nights from the Norse world-tree, "self-
wounding himself with his own spear, ere he won the knowledge he
sought." When he emerged from this experience it was noted that he had a
new "magic" which enabled him to place the spoken word upon wood and
other materials, recalling its sounds at will. It was said that these
"runes" gave him "power over all things."

The Glooscap, the prime god of the Abenakis underwent a similar

although unintended experience and his wilderness seems to have been
Grand Manan Island. According to some Glooscap lived in those days at
what is now Liverpool, Nova Scotia; others were sure that his base was on
an island near Saint John, New Brunswick. Most agreed that he was born a
member of the Black Cat tribe on his mothers side and one of the Bear
people by his father. As a youth he caught the eye of a mature witch-
woman named Pook-jin-skwess, one of the Cat people. All of this race
could take the form of their totem animals but this "lady" could take many
forms "for she could be man or woman, or many (of either sex) when she
willed it. Glooscap had not yet attained the powers of magic he possessed
as an adult so he was forced to flee her unrequited love. According to a
Passamaquoddy tale he leaped from the coast of Maine to take refuge on
the island of Grand Manan. In doing so he is supposed to have left his
snowshoe prints on both sides of the water, deeply embedded in the rocks
of the land.

Others explained his coming to the island without resorting to a

supernatural happening, claiming that the witch woman tired of
Glooscap's advoidance-reactions and finally sought revenge. Taking the
form of a man she invited the young chief to go collecting bird's eggs on
this off-shore island. Having stranded him there she paddled away
singing, "I have left the Black cat on the island; Now surely I shall be chief
of the People." Fortunately Glooscap was able to telepathically warm his
immediate family (Grandmother and a mikumwees named Marten) of her
intentions so that the entire tribe was able to flee into the woods.

The length of Glooscap's isolation is given as something between

thirteen days and seven months. His introspection ended when he recalled
a Fox ally who had telepathy and magical powers. "And he sang a song and
Fox heard it although he was many miles away..." The fox came to him on
the island and offered him his tail in order that both might attain the
mainland. What magic Glooscap possessed was severely drained for he
found the return trip troublesome and long and thought "We shall never get
to land." But the Fox-man responded, "Do not believe it, the winds are high
and the waters wild at the command of the witch-woman, but she will not
overcome us." In one day and one night they reached land where Glooscap
was ritually reborn as a magician his powers now extending over death
itself. It must be recalled that Manan mac Ler was the soul-gatherer of
the dead, the god who transported men to An Domhain, the Deep beneath
Tir nan Og, an island which stood in the western sea. His outward voyage
seemed to take an hour of time but actually required one day and night of

With his spirit recharged, Glooscap followed the witch to

Newfoundland and utterly destroyed her. In some versions of this myth
Isle Haut at the head of the Bay is given as Glooscap's monastic retreat,
and at least one version insists he attained godhood not with the crossing
of Grand Manan Channel but after the defeat of the witch, when he canoed
home through the underworld.

Grand Manan Island was probably not thought of as an embodiment of

Glooscap, but it did have “The Hole In The Wall,” an entrance to the
Otherworld on its northern coast at Whale Cove. It may be significant that
the island was alluded too obliquely as “The Sentinel,” when it was not
called simply, “The Island In The Sea.” The former name carried the
implication of “the most important island.” From this we can guess that
the island was the quietly brooding death-god Papkutparut (see separate
entry), a gigantic shape-changer who had once been human. Those who
approached him came by way of Water World and found him “as a mountain
among mountains, as a terrible storm and as wind.” Those who drew his
attention by uttering his name were advised to bare their stomach for his
death axe and give themselves to his justice. Those who returned from
death world, by his leave, were further cautioned to “chant and dance in
his honour.” If our guess is correct then Grand Manan may very well be An
Domhain, the western terminus for Manan mac Ler’s death-ship, for
Papkutparut and Manan are one of a kind.

It is noteworthy that men came to Grand Manan but made no

permanent residences there until after the American Revolutionary War.
The island was in a war zone through much of its early colonial history.
Its southern coast was dangerous, its western coast inhospitable because
of high cliffs (excepting perhaps Dark Harbour and Indian Point), and its
easily accessed eastern coast was often in fog. It was also too large to
be defended and may have been a place of now forgotten taboos.


A spirit encompassed in stone.

Penobscot. Of the various things in earth-world, the stones are considered

the most elemental, being referred to in all mythology as "the bones of the
earth." Throughout the region, the Indians noticed that "living stones"
betrayed their presence at dusk and dawn, by showing the same peculiar
light as that which surrounded the bodies of men, other living animals and
certain plants (including most trees). When shamans were tracked they
often hid themselves within stones, and were often brought down from
careless shape-shifting. If an arm or leg happened to be left unreformed,
it could be struck off with a spear creating a trauma that entrapped the
magician for a long time within his rock. Particularly large, overbalanced,
or peculiarly striated or coloured stones were regarded with great
suspicion, and men formerly collected bits of such stones, reasoning that
possession of a fragment gave them control of the spirit of the whole.
Among the Indians there were those who persistently looked down hoping
to see and recover a keskamzit or “magical” stone. They believed that
power was likely to reside in “stones shaped like birds or animals.”

One of these spirited stones was raised by Glooscap at Rocky Point,

near the present city of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. In the days
before this island had become Isle Royale, an Micmac chief lost his
daughter Mineota to a river-manitou he had offended. Although Glooscap
could not restore the woman to life he raised a stone at a spring which the
French later named Le Grand Source. This stone had the form of the
maiden and became a place of healing. After the French gazed upon this
stone it was said to have become magically reduced in size and sank to the
bottom of the spring. After that time the Micmacs resorted to bringing it
up from the bottom for healing purposes sinking it when it was not in use.
In line with a promise made by Glooscap this stone crumbled to dust when
it was placed beneath the head of an ailing white girl named Marie
Granville. Marie recovered but her own people regarded her as a witch and
burned her alive at the place once called Point de la Flamme.

The Stone Cross at Bay du Nord, Newfoundland, has similar pre-

historic connections with the tribes of the region. When Dawn French
went there in 1972 she found it located on a towering cliff overlooking
the Devil’s Dancing Table. Apparently this figure is in outline on the stone
of the barrens, and measures about thirty feet in its north-to-south
dimension, slightly less in the remaining one. Its position is emphasized
by a ring of white boulders. It appears guarded by cairns of rock, and
there are two indentations in the rock, one now used for holy water the
other for coins, some of which have remained there since 1865. “Micmacs
and liveyeres (residents of the Labrador coast) say that each rock has the
power to heal, and can be removed as long as another is put back in its
place.” 21


A spirit of the four seasons.

If there are supernatural forces at work in this region, one is certainly

the winter-giant, who was Glooscap’s companion, and the lazy god of the
seasons. This fat giant was moved four times each year on his handspikes,
and his farts were seen as the winds of the world. In the north, a little
ice age drove the Norse out of Greenland by the year 1300. This situation
continued in most places until about 1850. The alteration in the long-
term plan for weather, which we term climate, was noted by our earliest

historian, a man named Peter Fisher: “the changes in weather here are
frequently very sudden. Often in the space of two hours (in fall and
spring) there is an alteration from the mild temmperature of September to
the rigor of winter...(When the wind) blows from any of the points from
the S.W. to the N.E. the air is mild; but when it veers N.E. top N.W. it
becomes clear and cold; and it frequently shifts very suddenly... The
coldest month is on or near the full moon in January...the greatest heat in
summer being in July, after the sun has, to some extent, exerted its
influence on the earth...From observations by several persons, it is well
understood that a gradual change has been taking place in the climate of
the American continent within a century past. The change in the province
since 1783 has been very great - the summers having abated much of their
former heat, and the winters grown proportionately milder. Neither are
there such excessive droughts in summer, as formerly; the seasons being
cooler, with more rain; neither does the snow accumulate to such depth on
the earth. Frequent thaws now take place in the winter season. For
several years prior to 1816, the seasons had been growing gradually
cooler - less warmth being felt on the mean in each succeeding year till
1816, when the cold appeared to have arrived at its acme; for in that year
it appeared to predominate; for whatever cause has not yet been
acertained... is certain the genial warmth of the sun appeared
nearly lost; for when shining in meridian splendour in the month of June
and July, a rigorous cold was felt. There was a fall of snow, which was
general over the province...on June 7th, to the depth of three or four
inches...There followed severe frosts in every month in that year. The
crops were very light...Even the never failing potatoes were chilled and did
not yield half a crop. After this the seasons began to improve; but the
failure of crops brought great distress to the poor.” This was certainly
“a wind to stir them,” living and dead alike, but fortunately Fisher
reported that, “the extremes of heat and cold in winter are (now) not so
great, and the rains are more generally diffused through the year.”


The Hel-spirit as represented in Indian mythology.

Wabenaki, It is said that “The Indians of New England paid their

principal homage to Hobbomocho. They imagined he was an evil spirit, and
did them mischief, and so out of fear they worshipped him, to keep him in
good humour. (Rev. Henry White, 1841).Interstingly, Old Hob, is not
unknown in English mythology and as he was equated with the Devil so was
this creature. In our region the Devil was characterized as ghe was
elsewhere. He was a shape-changer, varying in form from a boar through a
bear to a deer; he frequently left giant foot or hand-prints in stone. He
lent his name, in anglicized form to numerous rocks, caves, glens and
hidey-holes throughout the region. The whites, confusing this spirit with
their own Devil assumed that the aboriginals were Devil-worshippers, but
the Indians knew nothing of Christian mythology until they were informed
of it by the newcomers. The local aboriginals were at first loathe to
worship the One God since he was represented as a god of love, truth,
justice and understanding, and obviously not to be feared.


A mortal earth spirit of the Abenaki, characterized by his

uncanny laugh.

The Maliseet "chuckling ghost", is certainly related to the

Goodfellow and to the pucks and pooks of the English countryside. It has
been suggested that their kind are not intentionally violent, doing men
down following their job description rather than out of malevolence.
Robin Goodfellow is known to have led men a circuitous route through the
swamps as they came home "from making merry with their sweethearts."
He sometimes met them as a walking fire, which had a hypnotic effect
upon them, and they followed, "walking up and down until daylight" when
he vanished with a hearty, "Ho, ho, ho!" Confers with the Anglo-Saxon

The late Dr. Peter Paul, a former chief of the old Lower Woodstock
reservation in New Brunswick, suggested that their spirit did not act out
of a sense of merriment and glee: "Whenever it was heard, someone on the
reservation would die..." The voice of the hohoh man was described as
"weird, not very loud, but it carried far at that time of night particularly
over frozen ground. Stuart Trueman, who heard an imitation of the call,
described it as "a croaking, unnerving noise. It sounded like nothing human
- definitely not the kind of omen that would bvode any good." Dr. Paul
noted that the sound was invariably heard three or four days before a
death and said that he had once heard it himself: "It was in the semi-dark
(just after sunset). We always carried our water from a field, and had to
walk seventy-five yards. There was a little wet snow and it was freezing
on the ground. When I went to get a pail of water at the spring, taking a
path through a field of turnips, I heard it - a strange sound - a very weird
sound, almost guttural, like a duck being choked." At that he heard he was
joinmed by Jim Sapper and two young boys of the village who had also
heard this "funny laugh". That same night, Paul went to the outhouse
between the hours of one and two a.m. and saw the shade of an elderly
woman. When he returned to his own home he was met by kin-folk who
told him that his grandmother had just died.

In later 1930's excavators were digging out a the cellar-hole of an

abandoned house when they came across the bones of a man. A pathologist
at Saint johnestablished the fact that these bones had lain in polace for at
least eighty years. Older poeople suspected that they may have been the
remains of Noel Lalar, a former moose-hunting guide. He had been a
reprobate, living "in sin" with an unmarried woman, drinking heavily and
playing cards. No one knows if foul play was a part of his death but the
church had refused to bury him in consecrated ground, which explains why
he was buried close to the foundation of his former home. The Indians
were convinced that a death-spirit projected itself through these bones
producing the ominous sounds, and most agreed that his remains should be
transferred to hallowed ground. "They gave the bones a proper burial,"
noted Dr. Peter Paul. "And no one on the reservation has heard a chuckle


The creator-god of the Maliseets.


The spirit of the crow.

Wabenaki, Micmac. The Passamaquoddy is kahkahgooch . “The crow

is represented as always peeping, spying, bewgging, pilfering, and tale-
bearing. The Passamaquoddies have peculiar superstiti0ons as regards
killing the crow. See corby.

A mortal spirit of the air, usually seen as a huge bird.

Abenaki, Micmac dialect, kaqtukwaq , the thunder-people, the word

has an animate case ending and is always plural. These differ from the
shape-changing kulus, individual magicians who take a occasionally take
similar, in the fact that their alteration of form was not completely
predictable or controllable. They have been characterized as, "Persons
who live as most people do...But their power-shapes are those of great
birds, and when they fly and beat with their wings, the people down below
on Earth World have storms. Kaqtukwaq are akin to the Thunderbirds of
Northern Woodlands and Plains cosmology; they are often portrayed as
helpful to the People." Parsons, 1923.

These creatures are not the "kulus", individaula human magicians

who assumed an eagle-shape to carry out their own ends. Spirits of the
air, the kaqtukwaq lived mostly after the fashion of ordinary Micmac
tribesmen, "but their Power shapes are those of huge birds, and when they
fly and beat their wings, the people down below on Earth World have
storms." This is surprisingly akin to descriptions of the Norse storm-
giants; further, the kaqtukwaq are found on the western coast, in the
plains and the Great Lakes region.

One description is reminiscent of a war-plane and pilot: An Ojibway

elder who had some knowledge of the thunderbird men, said that his
ancestors had seen white men making an attempt to attract the birds.
Knowing that the thunderbirds were the enemies of the great land-
serpents (the horned serpent-people), they assembled a decoy, "a great
serpent that was hollow inside." The thunderbirds were interested, and
dropped from the heavens upon this dummy, the heavens erupting "in
showers of lightning." They failed to fly away but were pulled into the
hollow interior and stored. "When the white men had enough they took of
the heads and put them into pots," finally decanting juices that were a
source of electricity. This power-juice was transferred to a waiting
flying-machine of different design. The strangers then took to the air and
shot down several other thunderbirds from the sky with a ray of light."

This is indeed suggestive, as is the contention that Kluscap called

upon the Thunderbird people to transport various species of animals to
earth from Star World. In the end he found them to dangerous to leave
among men and shattered them with his power belt. Nevertheless, like
Thor, the big birds were usually friends of men: "As birds they flew up to
the skies, making a great deal of noise with lightning..." When Micmac
hunters became lost in their campground eight of the "thunderers" turned
out to give assistance and as they were about to depart, the grandmother
of the tribe came to see them off. "Don't you be too fast, too loud,
remember that you are the ones who make the big lightning." Each human
climbed onto the back of one of the shape-changers and were quickly
flown to their own wigwams.

The thunderers were very like Kluscap himself. When they wished to
eat they called up their clouds and gathered lightning, and by clapping
their hands discharged bolts of energy against animals they wished to kill.
The "wasoqotesh", or light-energy, was seen to be potent against huge
stones and tall trees, but the thunderers had difficulty focusing their
weapons upon the god-like Kluscap because of his personal magic. It was
rumoured that the bird-people knew the taste of human blood, and
preferred it to that of other animals. Unfortunately for them, they were
not often able to kill one of the People, as the spirits of the Micmac were
protected by the shadow of the Great Master.


A water-spirit, who the French called “La Grand Source.”

Wabenaki, keesookbok , a summer spring, a warm spring as opposed

to, utkuboh, a winter, or cold, spring. It was said that springs of the
summer kind often had green margains even amidst the snows of winter.
This spring was located on the inturn of Rocky Point, at the entrance to
the harbour of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

In times long past a chief came to visit a friend on this island,

bringing with him a son named Sunfells and a daughter called Mineota. The
trio visited happily in a summer encampment with their friends and each
day the young man went off into the woods seeking game. The island
shaman, who was their host, warned all the newcomers against crossing a
nearby stream after dark, explaining that it was the residence of a water-
manitou, who hated the light but was likely to vent his temper against
men once darkness had fallen. The son promised his father he would avoid
this place, but coming back after dark could not resist taking the quick
route to the fires of home. The splashing of water awakened the evil
water spirit who immediately drowned the youngster. Seeking retribution
his father hid by the river bank and on a subsequent evening tried to bring
down the spririt with an arrow. When the manitou was grazed, rather than
killed, he unleashed flood waters upon the land. Realizing his complicity
in the trouble of the islanders, the chief consulted his shaman friend to
see what might be done. The medicine man brought back word from
Glooscap that a sacrifice of his daughter was needed to placate the
water-god. The lady in question flung herselff into the flood and soon the
waters sunk to their normal level. Glooscap appeared before the grieving
father, noting that the girl’s spirit could not be returned to the land, but
said that her sacrifice would be remembered in a standing-stone he would
erect on the river bank. Many miracles were wrought by the spririt of
Mineota acting through this stone, but in 1663 the French government
sennt Captain Doublet to establish a fishing station on Prince Edward
Island. They came upon the stone, and overnight it disappeared as
Glooscap had said it would in the presence of white men.

By magic the Stone of Mineta was reduced in size and hidden within
the waters of the spring which came to be called La Grand Source. There,
safe from the prying eyes of the whites, the stone retained its magical-
powers of regeneration and healing, being brouight to the surface by a
diver when it was needed. In the 1700s, Marie Grenville and her mother
came to the island seeking her father, a privateer who had come ti L’isle
Royale to recover treasure he had buried there. He was not found as he
was captured in these waters and transported to London to be hanged. The
mother and daughter remained encamped near La Grand Sopurce, and
Madame Grenville apparently recovered the treasure for it was said that
she always carried a pouch filled with gold coins. The couple were
shunned by the French colonists, it being noted that the older woman
controlled the weather and sold favourable winds to fishermen. They got
along much better with the Indians, Marie eventually becoming one of the
wives of the Micmac chief Kaktoogwasee. In winter, the Micmacs always
retreat4ed to the mainland, but the women remained encamped on Isle
Royale. On spring, the chief returned to find the campsite empty and the
women dead on the beach. In desparation, the chief had the Stone of
Mineta brought up from the spring, drew the required magical circle
around it and his dead wife, and called upon the life-source to restore her.
When her left hand was placed upon the stone she breathed again, but the
stone itself crumbled to dust as Glooscap had promised if it was used to
help any white. Shortly after a disgruntled tribesman killed the chief
with a arrow through the heart and the grieving Mineta went insane with
lonliness. Shunmned by her former Indian friends she was finally taken by
the French colonists, who tried her for witchcraft and burned her alive
upon Rocky Point itself.


A human imbued with supernatural physical abilities after

possession by an external spirit.

Abenaki, Micmac dia., plural kinapaq . Men whose physical strength

or perceptions are superhuman. They are named after Kji-kinap (the
Great-power). The kinap are sometimes born to power but some develop
their abilities through force of will and training. "They can outrun the
wind. They dive deeper, hold their breath longer and let it out as storms;
they tear trees in half and carry a ton of moose meat on their backs. When
they dance their feet sink deep into the earth with each stamp of a foot.
Some of these were the nikani-kjijitekewinu, those who no in advance,
while other possessed the "second-sight". Even blind kinaps could predict
the future and could see distant happenings although they might not see
events close at hand.

Peter Toney (1894) said that a group of Micmacs out torching fish
were almost totally annihilated by a group of Kenebec braves. As a result,
the Nova Scotians put together a war-party to march into Maine: “The
party was led by the kenap whose name wasKaktoogo , “The Thunderer.”
Being a mighty puoin as well as a warrior, he could render himself
invisible and invulnerable and thus they fell before him.”

Another of this kind Sak Piel Saqmaw, also known as James Peter
Paul a one time resident of Schubenacadie. When he was an elderly man,
walking with the assistance of a cane he came upon boys who were playing
at pulling apart the two sides of a widely branched tree. “He put his cane
down and puit his hands one on each side of the crotch and then he ripped
that whole big tree in half.” Later at Pictou Landing men were straining
at the task of moving a whole house down the road on rollers. When they
saw James Paul arrive, the Indians immediately moved away.. Paul went
up to the house, “and touched it with his cane. He just touched it and then
said, “Now.” (After that) The house just moved along for the men as easy
as anything.”

Nowlan, p. 43: chief who refused to die.


The foremost star-man, incarnate in the North Star.

Abenaki, Micmac dia., literally Old Man Star, the Pole Star;
alternately known as Mouhinchich, the Great Bear. The three closest stars
were called the Little Bears and were supposed to be pursuing hunters,
"but they have not yet be able to overtake it." LeClerq,(ca. 1680). The Old
Man Star was named "The one who seldom blinks" and ten neighbouring
stars were declared "the Bear's Den." This pole star was noticed to be
immobile in the night-sky. Since other stars wheeled abouty it in
subservience it was assumed the focus of some Great Spirit, possibly that
of the ancient creator god.

According to the Abenaki myths all stars once had names and were
as animated as men or animals, the Milky Way being described as "The
Spirit-Road". Ruth Whitehead goes even further noting that "all animals
were (at) first stars living up in the sky." According to the myths they
were brought to earth by the thunderbird men at the request of Glooscap.
The stars were shape-changers and some men were considered to have
been stars, or were destined to become stars through reincarnation.
Micmac belief parallels Old Norse mythology, for Odin was said to be, or at
least have his permanent residence in the Pole Star, which was referred
to as "Odin's Wain (wagon)." The hunters who pursue the creator-god star
have parallels in the fierce Norse "wolves" that dog the stars, the sun and
the moon of the Europe. Occasionally, these spirits close on either the sun
or the moon and there is an eclipse, but to this point, both have survived
although the following monsters lust for the end of time. In the final
battle the colossal Fenris wolf is destined to slay Allfather Odin, its wide
jaws finally crushing out "all the space between heaven and earth."

There are inklings of space visitations in the tales of the star-men.

Alden Nowlan told one of these in Nine Micmac Legends (1933): When the
Old Ones still occupied their camps, two beautiful young sisters were
overtaken at night in the woods. As they slept, they dreamed of two young
men and when they awakened they found the pair before them in the real
world. Evbentually they married and camped with these two men, but they
were both intrigued and bothered by the fact that the men had prohibited
them from lifting an perfectly round flat stone that lay a few yards from
their wigwam. Eventually curiosity had its way and they did overturn the
stone. "What they saw made them start back and cry out with fear. For
the stone was like a trapdoor (in the sky)... Far below they saw the village
of their childhood surrounded by the forest in which they had fallen
asleep." They knew immediately that they had been abducted into World
Above Sky and complained to their husbands. The space-travellers were
not unreasonable and suggested they would return the girls to Earth World.
This process involved singing them down the world-tree which was known
as a dangerous process. The men advised that the women should kep their
eyes shut against vertigo until the heard the sound of squirrels chattering
on the face of their own planet. One did as instructed, but the other did
not and plunged to earth as a fireball.

The star-men were sometimes referred to as "spiders" since it was

suspected that they built webs in the sky and lowered themselves from
the stars on long life-lines. Like the girl who fell to earth, many of them
had accidents and their bodies, igniting with the friction of air, were seen
as meteor-traces The gates in the sky were well known, the chief being
identified as the evening star, which showed an inertness in its lack of a
twinkle. Other flat lights in the sky were also seen as trapdoors and
these have been identified as the other planets.


The son of Kukwu and a mortal Algonquin woman.

Wabenaki, Micmac dialect, “the one born after the mother’s death.”
One of the giant kin, Kitpooseagunow was placed on a raft destined for the
underworld when his father decided he could not care for him. The twelve
year old succeeded in passing through Ghost World, and emerged on the Bay
of Fundy reborn as a powerful maguician. His mortal blood made him yearn
to clear the world of all evil. As he progressed against various enemies
he grew in stature to twelve feet, and became somewhat conceited. He
had not heard of Glooscap. but when the two met they engaged one another
in magical and physical feats. The giant had to admit Glooscap’s
superiority, but like his father before him, became a friend to the culture-

Cannibalistic earth spirits incarnate as giants.

Abenaki, Micmac dia., pronounced kukwesk; sometimes written

kookwees , confers with Passamaquoddys canoos ; the word has
something of the sense of kaqtukwaq “thunder.” "Giants covered with
hair. They crave human flesh. The sound of their screams cause death."

Kukwees was the name given the northeastern bigfoot by the Micmac
Indians of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. They were also known west of
the Saint John River, where the Woolastook tribesmen identified them as
the "canoose". An aboriginal described them as, "giants covered with hair.
They crave human flesh and the sound of their screams cause death." Like
all of the hairy-bodied "devils", the kukwees was a cavern-dweller whose
lair was found in the deepest forests. The tribes of the east concurred
with the ancient Celts and the Norse in recognizing the giants as a race
who had occupied their Earth World prior to the Great Flood. Again, it was
thought that they were the losers in some ancient quarrel and thus bound
to the underworld. Kluscap inadvertently released them when his laser
opened a gate in Perce Rock, but he remained in Earth World until they
were either killed or imprisoned beneath the earth. The village named
Canoose, located in southwestern New Brunswick may be a memorial to
them or may locate the place where the last of them "disappeared into the

While they walked the surface world they were a dangerous foe,
because they possesssed great physical strength. The Micmacs used to
avoid the "screaming death" by rendering "qamu", or moose fat, which they
used to stopper their ears against sound. Those whose sense of hearing
was acute sometimes took the extra precaution of rolling themselves
several times within their sleeping robes. At that it was said that the
"Sounds of Power" would strike men and women like a physical blow in
spite of every precaution. The kukwees were said to scream three times
coming into a battle, each sound being less lethal than the last.
Fortunately the processs could not be repeated without recharging of the
giant's vocal cords. At that they remained a hazard for the Indians said
that the kukwees used whole trees as their spears and arrows. Like the
Fomors,the kukwess cannibalized men in the belief that this added to
their accumulated spirit. Like the Celtic giants, they were also
accomplished shape-changers using outer garmets as the focus for their
power. Ordinary men sought these "Robes of Power" in order to acquire the
strength of the former wearers. Although the robes were oversize for men
it was noticed that they grew to fill them when they first tried them. In
doing so, the possessor became possessed: "Their Power fills him; their
knowledge and strength come to him."

Like the wendigou, the kukwess were "those who are always hungry",
and therefore appear to be personifications of famine. They sometimes
lived for brief spells with a human of the opposite sex, but this was
usually a dangerous match for the latter. When Kitpusiaqnaw's kukwess
grandmother permitted her son to marry a human woman he felt he could
not live without the "old bear" refrained from eating her until the boy had
tired of his new toy and given permission. This old kukwees dearly loved
her husband and after she had eaten him she mused, "My poor old man, the
dear old fellow, he had a very sweet liver!"


The giant spirit whose bad temper produced earthquakes.

Wabenaki, Micmac dialect, earthquake. One of the kukwees, or

“giants,” a creature noted for his tendancy to stamp his feet during
temper tantrums. He accompanied Glooscap, when the latter made public
entrances and exits. In a moment of reason the giant married a mortal
woman who was able to control the trembling of the earth, but she died
leaving him alone to raise their son Kitooseagunow. Realizing he was
likely to be a violent parent, Kukwu placed the child on a raft on a river
that travelled through Ghost World. Mourning the loss of his wife, the
thunder giant moved from the Maritimes, which is why others now suffer
from the effects of his tantrums, while this region is largely untroubled
by trembling earth.


The bird-spirit form of certain skilled human magicians.

Abenaki, Micmac dia., thunderbird; "a monster in size, into the form
of which certain chiefs, who were wizards, powwows and cannibals, are
able to transform themselves, retaining their intelligence, and able at
will again to resume the shape of a man...These birds are described in
some legends as able to carry a great number of men on their backs at
once, along with immense piles of fresh meat; they have to be fed every
few minutes with an whole quarter of beef, which is thrust into the mouth
while they are on the wing." Silas Rand, 1848. These creatures resemble
the kaqtukwaq (which, see).

"The Indians (tell a tale) of a boy who was carried away by a large
bird called a Gulloua, who buildeth his nest on a high rock or mountain...the
gulloua came diving through the air, grasped the boy in her talons, and
although he was nearly eight or ten years of age, she soared aloft and laid
him in her nest, food for her young." (John Gyles, ca 1690.)

In 1894 Susan Barss of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, told

Silas Rand of this remarkable shape-changer, "a remarkable bird. a
monster in size, into the form of which certain sanguinary chiefs, who are
wizards, powwows (sic buoinaq) and cannibals, are able to transform
themselves, retaining their intelligence, and able at will again to resume
the shape of men..." These birds were described as able to carry a great
number of men at one time, along with immense piles of meat: "...thye had
to be fed with a whole quarter of beef, which was thrust into the mouth,
while they are on the wing."

Kulu-men were known to the Woolastooks (Maliseets) as well as the

Micmacs, and while John Gyles was a captive among them he spoke of the
"gulloua", "a bird who buildeth his nest on a high rock or mountain. A boy
was hunting with his bow and arrow at the foot of a rocky mountain, when
the gulloua came diving through the air, grasped the boy in her talons, and
although he was eight or ten years of age, she soared aloft and laid him in
her nest, food for her young."

If the kulus required food on the wing, they remained voracious, and
could be cannibalistic, when they were on the ground. One of their chiefs
ate his own kind: "he goes round and round the circles (of wigwams)
eating first one, and then the next, and then the next." Men usually tried to
kill them but some argued for their lives; thus young Kulusi suggested, "Do
not kill me. And when I am full grown I can fly you over great distances. I
will take you to places from which you can find the most beautiful women
from which to choose a wife. I will take you to World Above Earth..." It is
clear that the kulus and men were one species for the man who was
promised a beautiful wife married a kulu-woman and they had a child. The
baby was peculiar in his tendancy to shape-change into a bird without
warning, but he could be reconstituted as a man at a touch from the father.

Kulusi lived for a time in Sky World, where he shared a wigwam with
this man, his wife, the wife's sister, and the child but they were forces to
leave the World Above Earth: "The two women, the little baby, the man, all
sit on the back of Kulusi in his Great Bird Shape, and they hold on to all
those bundles of furs and things, and Kulusi leaps from the cliff into the
sky, into the clouds. Lower and lower he sails down the wind, until they
can see the Earth World below. The land rushes up towards them, growing
in their eyes until they see the old camp, and wigwam of the young man's
family. The old people are still alive. They are glad to see their son again.
They welcome his wife and sister, they play with the baby. And the People
of that camp make a feast. They make a feast for the young man and
Kulusi and they are eating and dancing and playing. They are eating
dancing all night long."


The air spirit which served as Glooscap’s messenger.

Wabenaki, Micmac dialect, the loon.


A mortal earth spirit of the Abenakis; the wonder-worker

known widely as a trickster.

Abenaki, lox , the wolverine, "a very fierce and mischevious

creature, about the bigness of a middling dog, having short legs, broad feet
and very sharp claws, and in my opinion may be reckoned a species of cat.
THey will climb trees and wait for a moose and other animals which feed
below, and when opportunity presents, jump upon and strike their claws in
them so fast that they will hang on them till they have gnawed the main
never in their neck asunder, which causes their death..." - John Gyles.
The description was correct, but Gyles was speaking of a member of the
weasel or polecat (poultry cat) rather than the true cat family. The
Woolostook name for this animal was "carcajou", or black devil, a name
they extended to white men who cheated them. This creature is
sometomes considered synonymous with Malsum the evil twin of the god-
hero known as glooscap.

The Abenaki character personalized as Lox is similar to Nanabozho

of Chippewa mythology and the Wisakedjak (Whisky Jack) of the Crees. He
is Coyote on the western plains and Raven among tribes of the Pacific
coast. These shape changers appeared in human or animal form. In human
disguise, the trickster was sometimes benevolent toward mankind, but in
totem form, he was a model for malicious mischief. It has been noted
that Glooscap "the main character in the stories of the Micmacs and the
Malecites ...appears only as a benefactor and as a human or superhuman
being, never as a trickster or an animal." This is because the culture-hero
had his alter ego in the twin brother known as Malsum, who he finally
fought and killed. While Glooscap aided the creator-god in inspiring men
and the useful animals, Malsum struggled mightily to raise up a small
mound of clay and only succeeeded in creating Lox. If this animal was
small, it incorporated all of Malsum's jealouy and hatred for his brother.
Like the Norse god Loki, or the tale-bearing squirrel that infested the
branches of their world-tree, Lox served his master by spreading the
rumour that Glooscap and Malsum were one and by gathering men to rise
against him. At this, Glooscap destroyed his brother but was apprently
unable, or unwilling, to bring down his single creation, thus Lox continued
to spread dissent and damaging gossip among men.

Speaking to the subject, a Passamaquoddy noted: "Don't live with

mean people if you can help it. They will turn your greatest sorrow to
their own account if they can. Bad habits (such as those entertained by
Lox) get to be devilish second nature. One dead herring is not much (to
bear), but one by one you may get such a heap as to stink out a whole
village." 22

Lox's approach to humour is made apparent in his interaction with

Mrs. Bear, a middle-aged widow, who house-mate was another woman of
somewhat advanced age. One night as the two ladies lay asleep
"witusoodijik" (heads to feet) with their backs to the fire, Master Lox,
The Indian Devil, crept in under the wigwam bringing with him long
sapling pole. Seeing some potential for mayhem in their positions, he

22Anastas, Peter, Glooscap's Children, p. 49.

lighted the end of the pole in the fire, and touched the burning point first
to the foot of one woman and then to the other. Mrs. Bear woke up and
accused her companion and then the other awoke and levied a counter-
claim of distress. Soon the two were fighting, and at this Lox fled to the
outside of the wigwam where he burst from laughter and fell down dead.

In the morning, the women had given off warfare and finding the
corpse of some animal in their yard decided to cook it for breakfast. They
skinned Lox, hung the kettle to boil and popped him in. Feeling the scald,
the Devil came to life and leaped clear of the kettle, grabbed his skin in
passing and retreated into the greenwood. At that, Lox had time to
consider a parting trick. As he left he kicked over the pot sending
scalding water into the fire, which threw up ashes blinding Mrs. Bear.

John Gyles reported: "The wolverines go into wigwams which have

been left for a time, scatter things abroad, and most filthily pollute them
with odure. I have heard the Indians say that this animal has sometimes
pulled their guns from under their heads while they were asleep and left
them so defiled. An Indian told me that having left his wigwam, with
sundry things on the scaffold among which was a birchen flask containing
several pounds of powder, he found at his return, much to his surprise and
grief, that a wolverine had visited it, mounted the scaffold, hove down
bag and baggage. The powder flask happening to fall into the fire,
exploded, blowing up the wolverine, and scattering the wigwam in all
directions. At length he found the creature, blind from the blast,
wandering backward and forward, and he had the satisfaction of kicking
and beating him about. This, in a great measure, made up their loss, and
then they could contentedly pick up their utensils and rig out their
wigwam." 23

Fierce, malicious, and diabolically cunning, this animal eventually

became the bane of white travellers and trappers. In 1791 the Scottish
writer Patrick Campbell noted that one of these beasts had entered a
trappers hut, untied a carefully secured bundle of furs, and hild them
"piling them under snow in heaps in a thousand different parts of the
place." Campbell noted that where Indians set out a trap line, Lox would
not rest until he had sabataged the whole chain, even where it was ten

23Gyles,John, Memoirs of Strange Adventures, Odd

Deliverances etc, no place of publication, 1869, pp. 40-41.
miles long.
The spirit of Lox was abroad among men at the time of "The Turning
of the Brain", a bacchanal at the end of winter. This holiday was very like
the European Yule except that it took fifteen days following the twenty-
second day of February. A missionary-observer noted, "This is The Time of
all Kinds of Fooleries...with everyone disguised in a thousand ridiculous
Ways. They break and overset every Thing, and no Body dares contradict
it...they give a good Drubbing (while disguised) to those they think have
done them Wrong. But when the Festival is over, every Thing must be
forgot...One would have taken them in this state for a People drink or stark

Indian Captive John Gyles notes: “I was once travelling a little way
behind several Indians and, hearing them laugh merrily, when I came up I
asked them the cause of their laughter. Tley showed me the track of a
moose, and how a wolverene had climbed a tree, and where he had jumped
off upon the moose. It so happened that the moose had taken several large
leaps and come up under the branch of a tree, which striking the
wolverene, broke his hold and tore him off; and by the tracks in the snow
it appeared he went off another way with short steps, as if he had been
stunned by the blow that had broken his hold. The Indians were
wonderfully pleased that the moose had thus outwitted the mischievous


The Wabenaki wild cat. Sometimes another name for Lox.

Anglo-Norman, lucifer , “bringing light,” the morning star. The

Latin rendering of the Hebrew h e l i l , “day-star,” the planet Venus. Satan
as a rebel archangel before the fall, thus a demonic character.

At Jordan Falls, Nova Scotia (1949): “I don’t rightly know what they
are, maybe like a cross atween a wolf and a wildcat, only they’re tied up,
with the Devil, so the story goes. I’ve heard my father tell of one
thatcome out and yelled near the village when he was a boy. The men
grabbed their muskets and took after it, for the snow was soft for
tracking. They got into the woods and then they quit. There was the
critter’s tracks plain as day, but when it comes to a big tree there was
one half the tracks on one side of it, and half the tracks on the other side.
They weren’t following that sort of thing, not them!” 24


The M’ is the personal possessive pronoun referring to Glooscap.

Thus M’anghemak, “Glooscap’s snowshoes.” Near the lighthouse at Dice’s

Head, Castine, Maine, there once were marks on a ledge believed to have
been snowshoe prints impressed in the living rock by the hero as he leaped
across Penobscot Bay pursuing a giant moose. Clara Neptune noted wryly
that you could “see his prints plain till the white folks spoil ‘em.”

There is a legend that Glooscap killed a giant moose whose carcasse

became a hill known as Kemo. He threw down his kettle and left it as
Kettle, or Little Spencer Mountain. Where he threw down his pack there is
M’sabotawan, also called Big Spencer Mountain.

The river or rock fairies.

Passamaquoddy. The rivers of the region were considered adjuncts of the

ocean, the magic of place being inversely related to the distance from the
abyss. Larger rivers were considered the most powerful. Thus the Saint
Lawrence was considered more potent that the St. John, which is the
largest flowing into the Bay of Fundy. The latter is no dwarf: Rising in
northern Maine it is separated from the Penobscot by the famous Indian
“Northeast Carry” (the site of Champlain’s Norumbega. This powerful
river is four hundred and fifty miles in length, and the largest body of
water between the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi. It swings in a wide
half circle in its first 145 miles of travel entirely within the State of
Maine. Within New Brunswick it forms 75 miles of border with the United
States until it approaches Grand Falls. The remainder of its course is
entirely within New Brunswick, where it gets innumerable tributaries,
some having their headwaters close to the St. Lawrence. Having drained
26,000 square miles, this extraordinary system plunges twice daily
between high perpendicular fault-cliffs, at the “Narrows” and falls into
Saint John Harbour where it argues perpetually with the tides of the Bay.
As we have noted elsewhere, a powerful manitou was said to exist

24Bird, Will R., This Is Nova Scotia (1950) p. 155.

incarnate as the Reversing Falls which run between these last two

The clefts in the Narrows, and similar rock faces elsewhere, were
observed to be edalawikekhadimuk , “places where they make markings or
writings on the rock.” “They” in this instance is the managameswakamaq
, the “rock fairies,” who were sometimes identified as “water-fairies.”
These were not the land-dwelling mikumwees, a race of little-people who
averaged about two-and-a-half feet in height, but a separate species,
“only a few inches tall.” There presence throughout the region is revealed
in a large number of places named either Fairy Lake or Fairy Pond.


An ill-spirited island.

There are several islands within the Fundy bearing the “Penobscot”
name Marchin. This is said to be the modern form of Malsum or “wolf,
“and these places are, by connotation, islands which should be avoided.
Although this is said to be a native word, there is surely some connection
between it and the French marcheur, a “walker,” one constantly on the
prowl? It may be recalled that this was the name of Glooscap’s evil
brother who was put down after a battle-royal in Northern New Brunswick.
In the world of the past not even evil-doers were permanently laid to rest
and these islands may represent the remains of “The Wolf.” Not all men
care to emulate heroes, and Champlain has noted that, “beyond Kinibeki
(Kennebec, Maine) there lies Marchin Bay, which was named for the
individual who was chief there. This Marchin was killed in the year that
we left New France, 1607.” The place referred to seems to be entered on
champlain’s map of 1607 as Baie de Marchen. Aside from this, we have
the islands referred to as Ies Perdu, “the Lost Isles,” on Champlain's
charts. Exactly what is meant by this is uncertain, but the English may
have revived an earlier name in referring to them as “The Wolves.” This
collection of islands will be found about seven miles north-east of Grand
Manan, on the ferry route between North Head and the mainland at Blacks
Harbour. There are two small islands called the Eastern Wolf and the
Southern Wolf, and between these two islands there are three small islets
that make the passage between very difficult. A dangerous shoal is known
as Wolf Rock, and this stands north of Eastern Wolf Island.

An Alogonquin spirit associated with deep water.

Penobscot, Majahhundopamumptunque, “the Devil’s Track, at Red Bridge on

the Kenduskeag River, near Bangor,, Maine. A site above the Bangor Dam
was once called Matchihundupemabtunk, “The Devil’s Footprints,” marks a
place where one of these beasts left an imprint on stone. The last word
is represented in full as awahandu and is the equivalent of the Iroquois
manitou, a word more generally known. The matchiwoodadawaboodi, is
“The Devil’s Armchair,” a natural rock formation not far from the
footprints in a ledge along the river bank. I had “a high back and high
arms,” as if fashioned for the use of a giant. Men did not linger here in
better informed times.

The basin of the Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,
was once a relatively dry valley, isolated from the open ocean by the
banks of glacial debris at its mouth. About 6,000 years ago a relatively
sudden rise in melt waters allowed that barrier to be broached connecting
this valley with the Atlantic. Since that time the, tides have increased in
range by about 6 inches per century. The Fundian basin was, and is,
wedge-shaped, deep and wide where it joins the Gulf of Maine, shallow and
narrow where it cuts into mainland New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. As
sea-water is pulled into the Bay by the moon it must rise in height where
it cannot spread in width. This effect is emphasized because the Gulf and
the Bay form a container which is in “seiche” with the phases of the
oceanic tide.

This vast movement of water has produced a great scouring action,

piling up muds at the head of the Bay, excavating deep holes wherever the
tidal rip is pronounced. The tidal rip is strong in many places, including
the infamous Western Channel, which the Passamaquoddies called Matchi-
hundu (sometimes represented as Mutchi-hondo), “the bad spirited manito
(devil).” Here at approximately three hours before flood tide one may
encounter some form of the whirlpool known as the Old Sow. Nicholas
Tracy has said that the movement of waters approaches 5 to 6 knots on
the flood tide and (on occasion) this produces “spectacular whirlpools and
eddies. The worst of these is known as the Old Sow (and she is found)
close west of Deer Point... When it forms it is 30 feet in diameter and up
to 4 feet deep, and it can cause difficulty for large ships. It is folly to try
and sail through it, or even speak disrespectfully of the gods anywhere
near it. When the Old Sow fails to form a number of smaller whirlpools
(piglets?) take its place. Reportedly the whirlpools are at their worst
three hours after low tide.”

In the elder days, Indians contemplating a sea voyage in

Passamaquoddy Bay had no doubt that Matchi-hundu represented an
incarnate sea-spirit. This knowledge caused them to avoid this part of
Passamaquoddy Bay and even tabooed landing on the closest island, now
called Indian Island, but once named Mutchignigos, “the bad island.” In
1950 Joseph Neptune of the Passamaquoddy reservation at Pleasant Point,
Maine, told historian Harold A. Davis that this belief persisted and that
the Old Sow itself “is held in superstitious awe by the Indians and is also
feared and avoided by fishermen.”

The second most powerful whirlpools in the region are found at Falls
Point, near Sullivan, Maine. Here a great “horseback ridge,” technically a
glacial kame, cuts across the great tidal stream from Sullivan Harbour
with predictable effect. Captain Manning tells of chasing a French ketch
“up into the river,” on August 7,, 1674: “We bore vp vpon her & she claped
close vpon the wing & shott a Cables lenght more on head. We had lost
Ketch & men, but we came too & had a stout scurmighs with them...” The
reason they hesitated was because of the whirlpools and for fear of “The
Great Cellar Hole,” which sometimes emerges as the tide falls in the
vicinity of Mount Desert Ferry. The Indian name for this place is
Adowauskeskeag, “the sloped hill where the tide runs out.”

In both these places the current roils the water because it passes
between through tight spaces between the land. Unfortunately there are
plenty of these narrows among the West Isles of the Bay of Fundy. The
channels around Campobello, Grand Manan and Deer Island all have serious
rips, accompanied by minor whirlpool activity. This is why sailing guides
warn that “the approach from the eastward through a mass of islets is
not recommended to strangers. Tracy says that channels like Letite and
Little Letite Passages carry rips of up to 5 knots and should be avoided
at night, “although in good conditions, a yacht may on the tide slip into
the Bay (Passamaquoddy) by this route.”

A little east of here, at Saint John, New Brunswick, this same

writer found another spirited place, the Reversing Falls: “produced by the
narrow, rocky gorge through which the Saint John River flows into Saint
John Harbour. At low tide, the volume of water flowing out produces a
very strong current with turbulence greater than most ocean-going yachts
are designed to navigate. As the tide rises, the back pressure gradually
tames the torrent. At half tide, passage either way is easy... At high
water the inflow from the sea is too rapid and again produces too much
turbulence for passage. There is about an hour of safe navigation
beginning two hours after high water...”

At that, there are more extreme tidal rips on the Nova Scotian shore
and in eastern parts of the Bay. A very spirited place is found at the
extreme northwestern corner of Nova Scotia, where a spectacular
outcropping of basalt creates Briar Island, Long Island and Digby Neck.
The channel between the first two islands is known as Grand Passage, and
here the rip moves waters at up to 6 knots. “The heavy overfall outside
the northern entrance prevents Grand Passage from being the route usually
chosen for ships moving between Yarmouth and the north.” Larger vessels
usual take the Peitit Passage between Briar Island and Digby Neck,
although the race there can be up to 8 knots. Some of Champlain’s men
were turned back at the southern rip, now called the Roaring Bull, where
we are told there is “an extreme overfall if the wind is in the south, “and
where, “sailors should be prepared for sudden shears produced by the tide
boiling up from the bottom.”

Champlain’s difficulties started when he arrived at Grand Passage

when the tide was too low to allow the passage of his barque. He decided
to anchor just outside and wait until the tide rose sufficiently to let him
pass into St. Mary’s Bay. The error in of this decision became apparent
when a strong rip began dragging the anchor. Before long the anchor was
torn away along with the cable that held it. The sailors then had a
difficult task getting out of the southward stream of water and had to
return to their base on the Saint John River to procure a second anchor.
They returned, and on the second try, were able to manage the Grand
Passage. Nicholas Denys who followed Champlain to the region three
decades later had the same trouble at exactly this place, and was forced
to agree with Champlain’s notice that the channel was, “very dangerous
for vessels that choose to risk it as a passage.”

Even at the more benign Digby Gut, Marc Lescarbot (1606) stated
that, “we entered on the ebb tide, though not without much difficulty, for
the wind was contrary, and gusts blew from the mountains like to carry us
upon the rocks. Amidst all this the ship sailed stern-first, and more than
once turned completely around, without us being able to prevent it.

Knowledge of this danger did influence the next generation of

mariners. When Captain Peter Capon came to the region seventy years
later, following a report that some English-speaking fishermen had been
captured by Indians, he chafed at his long stay before Grand Passage
waiting the lifting of contrary winds and fog. The greatest annoyance in
the region was actually at the western end of Briar Island, where the
basalts of North Mountain continue out under the sea. This drowned
mountain creates underwater shoals , “so bad, so great an enemy to
navigators, that it is called the raging bar (Joseph-Octave Plessis, Bishop
of Quebec, 1815). Fortunately a lighthouse was erected here in precisely
that year.

In the last century, a geologist named Daly noted that all about these
islands, “excavation by tidal scour is going on apace.” The Digby Gut,
further east, on this same shore, is today eighty metres feet deeper than
the seafloor outside Digby Harbour because of the two million cubic feet
of water that abrade the inner entrance on each tide. Here the race is
approximately 5 miles per hour. Within the Minas Basin, where the water
moves between the Cobequid Shore and Cape Blomidon, the speed
approaches 9 miles per hour and here the swirling undersea currents have
gouged out three pot holes, one 200 feet below the surrounding sea
bottom. The record for tidal rips is in the Minas Channel where the sea
moves as fast as 12 miles per hour. Perhaps the heaviest rip on the flood
tide is off the shores of Cape D’Or. The only place of equal spirit on the
New Brunswick shore is the aptly named Cape Enrage, just within
Chignecto Bay.

An enspirited mountain.

Penobscot. The basement rocks of Atlantic Canada belong, essentially, to

two vastly different past environments, one the Avalon Belt and the other
the Meguma formation, both between 600 and 400 million years of age.
The Avalon Rocks of southern New Brunswick and Newfoundland were laid
down as sediments in warm seas, while the Megumas of southern mainland
Nova Scotia were deposited in a cold arctic-like environment. Although
these rocks now touch in places, it is theorized that they were originally
separated by hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres. About 400 million
years ago these vastly different land massed were brought into contact by
a collision of the North American and African land-plates, giving rise to a
series of parallel hills and valleys, termed, respectively, the Appalachian
anticline and geosyncline. For about 180 million years, the Bay of Fundy
held no water, but was an uplifted region supplying sediments to
surrounding lowlands. The unconsolidated matter collected and became
compressed producing rocks of Devonian, Permian and Jurrasic age.
During the late Triassic and Jurrasic, block faulting took place and the
present Bay was depressed below sea level. The Atlantic Ocean was born
in this time, about 165 million years ago, as a rift opened in the mid-
Atlantic. The sides of this rift-valley have, ever since, moved apart by a
few centimetres each year. This rifting process immediately began to
stretch the crust, and where it was particularly thin, fingers of molten
basalt began to move upward from the earth’s basement. These erupted
from a series of volcanoes, located in northwestern Nova Scotia, that
spilled lava over most of the present Bay bottom. After cooling and
crystallizing into black basalt, the Bay became a collection site for sands
and silts, which finally consolidated as the siltstones, shales and
limestones now found overlaying the basalt.

Vulcanism ceased as the plates became more widely separated, but

the cracks in the crust, which favoured earthquakes and volcanoes,
remained as an inheritance from the days when the Appalachians were
uplifted. In the immediate region, these faults trend northeastward from
Cape Cod and underlay all of the Bay near its northern shore. These
Fundian Faults (a part of the more extensive Cabot Fault System) emerge
from the water at Cape Split, penetrate the Cobequid Mountains of Nova
Scotia, and veer south-east through Cape Breton, before striking off over
the continental shelf. It is now more or less agreed that they are
continuous with similar breaks in the crust of southern Newfoundland, and
that they can be traced from here to the Great Glen of Scotland and beyond
into Europe as far as the Ural Mountains. When the Atlantic Provinces
were in uplift following the removal of the continental glacier, there
must have been considerable readjustment along these stress lines, and
earthquakes were a common part of Maritime prehistory. Consulting
historical notes shows that there were major earthquakes within the
region at Plymouth in 1638, at Newburyport in 1727 and at Scituate in
1755. Major movements have always plagued the St. Lawrence River
(which lies above an equally impressive fault system) and one of North
America’s most intense earthquakes took place at sea, where this river
overrides the continental shelf headed for the abyss. In Maritime Canada
most of the action has been along branches of the Cabot fault zone in
southern New Brunswick or in the unquiet northern uplands of that same

James Simonds one of the first trader-settlers at Saint John, New

Brunswick arrived at Portland Point in April 1764. He and his partner,
James White, had a busy and difficult year being pulled between fishing,
building a house, damming the marsh, erecting a mill, creating a schooner,
clearing land, and other odd chores. In the midst of all this they were
given pause on September thirtieth by, “a very severe shock of earthquake
at St. John coming at about 12 o’clock noon.” The effects are not recorded
but Simonds went on to say that “the winter that followed was of unusual
severity with storms that wrought much damage to the shipping.”

Early historian Peter Fisher said that “New Brunswick appears to be

but little liable to the great convulsions of nature, such as earthquakes,
hurricanes, tornadoes &c. There has been but one shock of an earthquake
experienced by the present inhabitants since they have settled the
country. This shock happened on the twenty second May, 1817, at 25
minutes past three o’clock in the morning. The duration of the shock was
about 45 seconds. It was attended by the usual rumbling noise, without
thunder. The appearances, however, usually indicating earthquakes, such
as fiery meteors, the uncommon brilliancy of the aurora borealis &c. had
been frequent the winter preceding.” Peter Fisher says nothing of the
epicentre or damage, but the country was sparsely settled and had few
skyscrapers or super highway ramps to be damaged at that time. We can
only note that the very destructive Californian earthquake near Los
Angeles in 1994 lasted for only 20 seconds, and at the time it was
predicted that the expected “great quake” along the San Andreas fault
would last approximately two minutes. In other times this local quake
might have been a spirit worthy of greater note!

In 1852 the Carleton Sentinel said that an earthquake had shaken

Gloucester County in northern New Brunswick: “On Monday, the 2nd
instant there was a smart shock of an earthquake at this place (Bathurst).
The motion of the earth was a rocking motion (suggesting they were not at
the epicentre), and then followed several (perhaps eight or ten) lifting or
vibrations of the ground. It was accompanied by a heavy rolling sound...The
whole lasted at least five to six minutes... Our houses being chiefly low,
suffered no damage beyond the loss of a pane of glass or two. The Court
House being the only brick or very heavy building, had several panes of
glass broken, the plaster cracked in many places, and at the south-west
corner the main walls were separated nearly an inch...We understand that
the rumbling noise was distinctly heard in Newcastle and the vibration
(felt) on the North-West (Miramichi).”

The letters of my family, who settled Charlotte County, New

Brunswick, speak of earthquakes as commonplace just before and at the
turn of the century: “Another shaking up Thursday last.” The same
situation seems to have been the case for the southern edge of the Bay of
Fundy: The Fred Allen family settled Boot Island, within sight of
Blomodin in 1915,, and not long after Mrs. Allen lived through, “a full-
fledged quake. Not just a tremor, of the sort most Maritimers experience
from time to time. It was strong enough to bounce the house up and down
on its foundations and topple the dishes from the shelves. Because of the
lack of kitchen cupboards, the plates had all been standing on their sides
on high shelves near the ceiling...Since the dishes had been a wedding
present...Mrs. Allen regretted their loss for years.”

In 1925 the “Telegraph,” published at Saint John, said that

“distinct shocks were experienced throughout New Brunswick” on the
second day of March: “Those who were in the streets looked in amazement
to see tall buildings quivering. The tall Atlantic Refinery building
trembled... Saturday night’s earthquake was more severely felt in Moncton
and vicinity than any earthquake within the memory of Moncton’s oldest
residents...At Fredericton the stores were just closing and the picture
theatres were also filled...When solidly built buildings began to quiver and
crack there was a general rush for the open streets.”

Currently the entire region is regarded as a zone of “moderate

earthquake activity,” and not in the running with high-risk regions such
as Japan and the western coast of America. The 1982 earthquake in the
woods several hundred miles north of Fredericton was the most severe in
historic times. The main shock registered 5.7 on the Richter Scale at 8:35
a.m. on January 9th. The epicentre of that shake was at 46.99 degrees N.
Latitude and 66.62 degrees W. longitude. Luckily all the roughness took
place in an unpopulated region, so there was little significant damage.
It is acknowledged that “Earthquakes in New Brunswick are mostly
related to movement on pre-existing geologic faults - possibly a delayed
response to the unloading of the crust due to the melting of the ice sheet
about 13,000 years ago.” In Nova Scotia the process of gaining
equilibrium is virtually over, and upward movements in New Brunswick
are less impressive than they were in the past. Notice that Glooscap had
the man named “Earthquake” as his closest companion, and it was said
that the “god” always appeared and disappeared in moments when there
was a great displacement of the earth. There are other suggestions that
earthquakes were once a common occurrence: “Tidal waves” at sea were
blamed on the jipjakamaq or “horned-serpent” people; but it was further
claimed that the shaking-earth was prompted by the fact that these
mythic creatures were able to swim through solid rock as easily as
through water.

Ethnologist Fannie Eckstrom says that the Indians regarded the hills
and mountains as potentially dangerous. While the Penobscots might refer
to a local landmark as megunticook, “the big mountain,” or as megankek.
“a steep hill,” or note the presence of the wajo, “sugar-loaf hills,” they
did not personalize them. This is because they understood that the
horned-serpent people took their rest as mountains and it was feared that
naming them would make them active, causing an earthquake. In the elder
days it was understood that the hills might move. Historian Daniel
Boorstin says this is not a local peculiarity: “Every mountain(world-
wide) was idolized by people who lived in its shadow.”

The ultimate stone was a mountain peaks. These were seen as

residences of the air-spirits, and as jumping-off places for gods of the
upper air and as the focal points for unusual magic. Thus an unmarried
woman of the Penonscot tribe once looked upon Mount Kathdin (in present
day Acadia Park, Maine) and seeing its beauty in the red sunlight said, "I
wish the mountain were a man that I might marry him!" After making this
wish, she disappeared from the tribe appearing three years after with a
small child, who was beautiful, but particularly noted for the fact that his
eyebrows were of stone. "For the spirit of that place had taken her as
wife, but he forbade her to tell any of their union."

In later days a hunter on Katahdin followed snowshoe tracks on this

great mountain and found them terminated at a rock-face near the summit.
Here he found many signs that people had passed to-and-fro, seemingly
through the solid rock. "And as he stayed watching the place grew
stranger and stranger. At last he heard a sound of footsteps, and lo! a girl
stepped directly (out of the rock) out of the precipice onto a platform (of
stone). And although she proved kindly and sweet he was afraid because
he saw she had powerful "m'teoulin." In spite of this, they got on rather
well and she took him into the heart of the mountain to meet her father
and her brothers. All of this clan comprised the "thunder-people" "giants,
stupendous and of awful mien. And their eyebrows were of stone, while
their cheeks were as hard as rocks."

In Scandinavia, winter storm used to be blamed on the passage of

Odin’s Wild Hunt, which rode out in search of the souls of animals and men.
Something of this is implicit in tales of the local gougou, who whites
called the “wood’s-whooper” or the “eastern big-foot.” A little north of
here this wood’s-spirit was called the wendigo. All of these correpond
with that haunt of the English forest known as the woodese (his name just
happens to be a similie for Woden). In western North America this
creature is sasquatch, a vile smelling, tall, hair-covered humanoid
creature with a distinctive agnonizing call. Like Odin, the gougou was
guessed to ride counter-clockwise upon the wind, trailing lost souls in his
wake. The noise of the storm was sometimes credited to the creatures
known as “thunderbird,” shape-changers, who lived within the highest
mountains of the region, and could be distinguished from men by the fact
that their faces were half grey stone. It was their huge wings that beat
out the winds on which the hunters of the sky travelled, and their eyes
that blasted the earth with lightning. In Scandinavia, all of these powers
were credited either to Thor, or Odin, or the frost-giants, all capable of
taking the form of huge black birds.

Here in America, as in Europe, men supposed that thunderbirds (like

Odin in his eagle form) dwelt in the heights of mountains, while serpents
lay curled at their bases. In point of fact, little pre-glacial land has
remained unaffected by the last sweep of the ice, the sole remnants being
the highest mountain tops. In the Mount Carleton Park region of northern
New Brunswick there are a examples of peculiar land-forms that
developed during deglaciation. While the temperature was constant the
rock faces exposed above the ice, which are termed nanataks, were
unaffected, but with thawing and freezing these rocks were subject to
intense frost heaving and they shattered. This left angular projecting
bedrock the features now

namedtors.. Tors, or are found on most of the higher peaks and are
particularly characteristic of the mountain known as Sagamook. In some
quarters the shattered rocks were thought of as the remains of the giants
put down by Glooscap. These specialty words, from the world of geology
are closer to myth than science; tor originating with the Norse godThor,
whose lightning bolts were seen to damage the earth in a manner similar
to that of thawing ice and freezing water. Nanataks are also located in
northwestern Newfoundland and within the Cape Breton Highlands.
Intesrestingly, these three separte places share a common flora and fauna.
Some biologists have suggested that there was a migration of species
between these regions when the rest of the land was covered with ice, but
the problems of such cross-migrations would have been almost
insurmountable under past conditions of extreme cold.


An earth-spirit capable of instantaneous time and space

travel sometimes incarnate in human form

Abenaki, also variously seen as mento , mentoo , mentouk ,

mentook . Entities thought to exist in dematerialized as well as in
corporeal bodies, the chief exponents of "meda" or magical powers. These
were not the healers or the physically powerful, but those who obtained a
place over other tribesmen by being capricious, eccentric and malicious.
The Micmacs said that some were born with these skills while others
acquired the arts as they grew older. Leland distinguished the mentouk
are those that were witches as opposed to those who were simple
entertainers. He said that malicious magic was largely innate although
the skills might be deepened with practise. Acquisition of knowledge
concerning simple sympathetic magic was said to be acquired through
fasting, abstinence and ceremonial rituals. The mentouk were called upon
to settle family fueds, being paid to take one side or the other. They
sometimes clashed with one another where two or more magicians were
hired by opposing parties. Like the witches of English-speaking
communities, the mentouk directed their energies through familiars they
called puhigans, baohigans, bogans or logans (names strangely reminiscent
of Gaelic underworld spirits). Usually these were carried in a pouch in the
forms of apparently inert animal furs, but they were easily aroused
creating phantom animal attack-animals or spy-beasts. Kluscap was
considered the most adept of this witch-tribe. The mentou were
particularly associated with the horned-serpents, but able to revert to
human shape at will. Many men became jipjakamaq but only the mentou
and those who were horned serpents from birth could reverse the shape-

Francis Parkman has added the fact that these were the creatures
known to the Hurons as okies or otkons. He says: “These words
comprehend all forms of supernatural being, from highest to lowest, with
the exception of certain diminutive fairies or hobgoblins, and certain
giants and anomalous monsters, which appear under various forms,
grotesque and horrible...These beings fill the world and control the
destinies of men. In nearly every case, when they reveal themselves to
mortal sight, they bear the semblance of beasts, reptiles or birds, in
shapes unusual or distorted. Sometimes they take human proportions, but
more frequently they take the form of stones, which being broken are
found to be full of living flesh and blood.”

Tales of the mentouk include that of an elderly female mentou who

went into the woods with her sister-in-law and two brothers. The men
went on a hunt promising they would return within three days. When they
did not appear at the appointed time, the young woman became disraught
and the older woman agreed to contact them. Not being familiar with the
use of magic the younger woman watched aghast as the woman lay upon
her robes and apparently stopped breathing. While an attempt was being
made at revival a globe of fire emerged from a nostril and started
spiralling in a counter-clockwise path away from the body of the
magician. For an hour the body lay as if dead but finally the force-ball
came barrelling back along its outward path and entered an ear opening.
At that the mentou got up and calmly explained that she had seen her
brothers standing at their camp-fire and that they had been delayed by
particularly good hunting. This lady was obviously a very powerful adept,
most mentouk being forced to project their souls upon some form of
matter which they then animated. Like the familiar the shadow-traveller
put the mentou at hazard if it happened to be injured. The species most
favoured as puhigans were predatory mammals, beavers, owls and loons.
Two hunters found themselves harassed by the attentions of a large and
ugly porcupine. When it blocked their smoke-hole in the wigwam, one of
the men fired at it with his spear and injured the animal's left leg. In
their home village, the local magician was found with an injured left arm.
The most impressive magic of the mentouk involved "earth-dancing",
where the legs of the mentou were seen to penetrate the earth, moving
through it as if it were fog. The mentouk were both admired and feared
which is why they were often assasinated or driven from their villages.

The rivers of our region are tidal; the Saint John, for example,
carries salt water inland north beyond the city of Fredericton. Because
the Avon, in Nova Scotia, and the Petitcodiac and the Saint John, in New
Brunswick, all have constrictions near their mouth they sometimes show
their spirit in a peculiar phenomena known as a tidal bore. At certain
phases of the moon and tide when the pile up of water is extreme at the
mouths of these rivers, a solitary wave front is formed which travels
upriver show a crest as much as four feet in height. Something like this
is also seen as the rivers reverse and flood out to sea. Salt and fresh
water will mix, but not immediately. Since river water is predominately
fresh it enters the Bay en mass, and retains its integrity as a stream. In
the case of the St. John River, these borders persist far out past Grand
Manan Island. At the front, at the turn of the tide, there forms a peculiar
tidal bore that streaks seaward and is locally known as “the streak.” At
the leading edge of the river within the sea the warmer, less dense, fresh
water piles up above the colder salt water, and an entity is created that
picks up all the debris in the water as it sweeps toward the ocean. Men
who have nets in the water must rush to remove them to keep them from
becoming fouled or pulled under. In earlier days these tidal happenings
were seen as manifestations of water manitous.


The creator-god of the Algonquins.

Wabnaki, Upper Canadian dialect, originally Michwabo from the root

wab , which may mean “white, east, dawn, light,” or “day.” Thus
Wabenaki , or Abenaki , “children of the dawn.” The hare was probably
considered the totem of the procreative god from its vigor in mating and
producing offspring. Other forms of the name include Manabozho ,
Messou , Michabou , Nanabush .
See also Hesolup and Kjikinap who are localized forms of this god.
In a creation tale it is claimed that Michabo was hunting with his wolf-
dog when the animal broke through the ice and was eaten by serpents.
Angered Michabo transformed himself into a stump at the edge of the lake
and waited until the serpent people emerged to sun themselves. While
they slept he cut many of them to bits. The reamining serpent-mentous
reacted by flooding the world. As Micabo was himself the pre-eminent
mentou, he escaped death by enlarging himself as the waters deeopened.
Standing nose-deep Michebo sent his totem raven to find a bit of land from
which the world might be regenerated, but the bird quested
unsuccessfully. Then the god sent his otter form on a similar errand, but
it failed to find even a bone of the earth. At last the muskrat dove deep
within the water and returned with the nuclear matter, which Michabo
used to fashion solid land. In recognition of this help the Great Hare
copulated with the muskrat and from her arose the sons of men. It is
obvious that Michabo is a combine of gods, since he is represented
elsewhere as forming the world (like Odin) from the carcasses of beasts,
birds, and fishes left over from the flood.

It was suggested that the creator took a single grain of sand from
the ocean bed and made from it an island which he launched on the primal
ocean. The island, being a giant tortise, grew to great sizee, its back
being so expansive that wolf-man attempting to cross it die of old age in
the quest. Uncertainty prevailed concerning the creators homeland, some
said it was on an island in Lake Superior, otherrrs said he lived on an
iceberg in Arctic waters, but most agreed that his home was weast of the
sun, “beyond the great river that surrounds dry land.”

The Great Spirit, or father of all, was sometimes confused with

mortal-gods, thus he was regarded not only as lord of the wind, but also
as the inventor of picture-writing, the creator of fish-nets, and as the
instigator of all charms used in hunting and fishing. In the fall it was his
pipe which filled the air with the smoke of Indian Summer. The bringer of
light as well as civilization

Where Michabo is confused with man-gods his parents are designated

as the West Wind and his mother is given as a great-grandaughter of the
Moon. Glooscap is given a similar background, but he is not represented as
“a vain and treacherous imp,” as is sometimes the case with this god.
Micabo seems a combination of Malsum and Glooscap, “Sometimes he is a
wolf, a bird, or a gigantic hare, sometimes a human, a migthy magician, a
destroyer of sepents and evil manitous; sometimes full of childish whims
and petty trickery, the butt and victim of men, beasts and spirits. His
power for transformation is without limit; his curiosity and malice are

The Wabenaki equivalent of the earth-spirits known

elsewhere as elfs, sigh or fairies.

Abenaki, Micmac dialect, the little people, "dwellers under stone."

A native informant explained that they “live in caves or burrow in the
ground.” (They are) "beautiful and strong, flute-players whose music
enchants. Male and female, they appear to humans lost in the woods. They
are thought to have once been people, having become through Power, the
ultimate realization of human potential. Time runs differently in a
mikumesu wigwam: one night with them and a year has passed in the
camps of the People.”

It was always guessed that the little people were “human beings but
very small (averaging perhaps 2-3 feet).” Men said that they sometimes
hear their feet moving across the forest floor on warm summer days
although they were typically invisible. “They generally remain quiet
during the day but come ouit at night to do mischief and perform
wonderful deeds.” It was advised that people who offended them should
immediately cross water as themikumwees did not like to get their feet
wet. All of the wee folk had a slanted sense of humour and liked to
approach people who were at work in order to filch some needed tool.
When the individual had become stretched thin with trying to find the
needed implement, the thief restored it to plain sight, thereby creating
great embarassment and a source of laughter.

Stones found piled together in the forest were sometimes taken to

be the dwelling places of these creatures. When they were disassembled
they were invariably found back in cairn-form when men next passed that
way. Nearby, careful observers usually spotted many tiny footprints often
leading to a cavern or a cleft rock. Those who encountered the little
people said that they were able to follow their hosts into these small
places, apparenntly by having their size reduced. Friends of this race
sometimes travelled in their tiny canoes after a miraculous reduction in
size. Upon leaving one of their canoes a human was immediately returned
to more usual size.

These were first creations of Kluscap, and their progenitor was

Marten, who lived in the underground with Kluscap and the Great Bear
Woman. He was present at the creation of the first man and woman and
suggested they be named Ash and Elder after the trees from which their
spirits were liberated. Like all of his kind he was exceptionally
intelligent and a subtle orator. When the Great Bullfrog Man threatened a
source of drinking water, Kluscap called Marten to his side in hopes of
settling the issue. This was one case where the intellect of the
mikumwees failed for the animal continued to drink up water as Marten
lectured him. Perhaps tiring of the flow of speech Bullfrog Man
swallowed Marten whole and would have digested him if Kluscap had not
lost his temper and beat the creature across the back with his staff. At
that Bullfrog Man disgourged the little man and the valuable water, and
was afterwards magically reduced to his present size. The injury to the
frog's back renmains in all his descendants.

The mikumwees did not often live in close communication with one
another, and had little to do with the Lnuk, or normal people of the Micmac
world. All of their kind were mentou, or shape-changers, possessing an
ability to move instantaneously between the worlds. In addition, they
were buoinaq, having knowledge of the healing powers of herbs and the
flute. Finally most could generate kinap, or great physical power, and any
of these three would have been enough to set them apart. Those who could
heal, also had the power to destroy, and many mortal buoinaq were driven
from their homes, or were killed or left behind, out of fear, jealousy,
revenge, or as a simple insurance policy against their future behaviour.
The fact that they could call and control the dangerous horned serpent
people with their "ash-whistles" did little to convince people that they
were non-violent. Like the witch, the mikumwess camped in the midst of
the oldest forest, taking a genuine interest in men who were outsiders.

Kluscap considered the little people beings of superior virtue and

rewarded his favourite men with the means to becoming one of this tribe:
"Kluscap combs this young man's hair, and then ties it up with "sakklopi",
the hair-string of Power. The hair-string changes the young man, changes
him into mi'kumwesu. Kluscap has given him Power.
The mikumwees are not considered an extinct species. According to
Wilfred Prosper, a member of the Eskasoni band in Cape Breton, a friend
named Noel entertained a party of these little men in 1975. He might not
have been approached except for the fact that he was a "bull-beer" brewer,
who lived in a remote place to better avoid the attention of the law. He
was alone in his wood's-camp when "six of them came in. And Noel he told
me exactly where they sat, one sat there, and one on the table. Some sat
on the bed, some on the stool." "Little people," Noel explained, "were all
bout me and they were talking although I couldn't understand a word they
were saying. I'd heard if you were confronted with these folk, you should
give them something. All I had was cookies, so *I gave them cookies...It
wasn't too long they went along their merry way...but my God, I was scared
by them, scared to death. And someone came in to deliver oil or
something, and I was so damn glad..."

Because of their mutual interest in collecting and singing old hymns

translated from English into the Micmac dialect, Noel and Wilfred went
seeking music from an elderly man living on the Restigouche River. While
there, they were invited to visit an Indian community on the Gaspe and to
view the fairy mountain near the Mission St. Luke. To set the scene, their
guide explained that "This is farming country. There are some very big
farms there, and they have horses and cattle. And these fairies used to
harrass the animals to the point where some of them died. Some of the
horses had died. And in the morning the farmers go and tend to the
animals and find them full of sweat..And some of them had died. Mostly
horses. And their tails would be all braided. And their manes and
everything. They'd be running wild and like nervous and everything. So
they contacted the bishop or priest that ca,e down with a cross. You'll
see that, you'll see the cross still up there." At the actual site the host
pointed out deep scars on the face of the hill. "see those marks coming
down, like little brooks? Thos are put there by the fairies when they used
to slide down. There's the cross that the priest put up. After they put the
cross up there, that put an end to it. No more fairies. No more
harassment, no more nothing."


One of mikumwees made visble by a covering of moose-

Abenaki, Micmac dialect, moose-wood man (Acer pennsylvanicum).
Moosewood is the straight-growing wood used to make the hoop which
encloses and binds the central poles of a wigwam. Pipe-stems were made
from smaller shoots. See mikumwees. The moosewood tribe is
remembered for gifting men with a potent all-round medicine made of
steeped moosewood leaves.


The “white bear woman.”

Micmac, the “bear-squaw.” An albino black bear. After Glooscap

eliminated his brother it is said that he lived alone upon the land for
seven times seven moons, until there came to him others of his own race,
in particular the Muiniskw, or Bear Woman, who corresponds exactly with
the Winter Hag or Cailleach Bheurr of Gaelic myth. It was often said that
both these individuals were “born of the sea foam,” and it was sometimes
contended that Glooscap came to land out of the eastern ocean rather than
from the moon. In either instance, Micmac mothers used to consider it
their first duty to dip a newborn child in sea-water, thus dedicating him
to the god Glooscap. The bear woman was always obliquely addressed by
the People as “our grandmother.” It was said that in the latter days “she
could hardly move, and was old and blind.” This winter-woman is like the
Macha of the Mhorrigan triune, but she is also that more youthful woman:
“(She was) A woman of long ago who came out of a hole in the ground. She
made her house in a tree and dressed in leaves. In times past she walked
alone singing, “I want company, I am lonesome; and far away a wild man
heard her...” Her relationship with Glooscap was never definitely stated,
but when he departed from the northeastern coast it was said that he
regenerated her in the form of a maiden named Oona, and cast a blanket of
forgetfulness over her, so that she was able to continue her life in a
normal fashion.

Once, enemies invaded the camp of her People causing most of them to
flee. Being blind and stiff of joint she remained and was mistreated.
After a short time, the mistress of magic reformed herself as a white
bear lying “dead” at the edge of the encampment. The invaders finding
this easy source of fresh meat and grease carved her up and ate her. The
newcomers were dead in the space between dawn and evening. Eating
uncooked bear meat can be a painful experience as their livers sometimes
contain trichina worms, which burrow from the human stomach out into
the muscles and joints. Of more concern is the liver, which concentrates
amounts of vitamin A which are fatal when consumed by men. The
Scottish kelpies, the water-horses of inland lakes and streams might have
had this same problem with the people they ate, but they always had the
sense to discard the liver!


An island perceived as having an evil spirit.

There are tens of thousands of islands in Atlantic Canadian waters,

and in the Penobscot language they were distinguished by the presence, or
lack, of the absentive case. Generally, the ending menahan, “island”
indicated “a weak (inanimate) noun,” and a place of little hazard (although
that condition was always open to change without notice). An example of
an island with this ending is Cheemanahn, “Big Island.” Islands prefixed
with some form of the word naghem which also means “island,” were
known to be shape-changers, and capable of generating phenomena that
were, at least, likely to be unnerving. For example we have: Mutchignigos,
loosely, “Bad Island.” Another would be Kasoonaguk, “Crane Island,” now
called Mark Island, standing off Camden, Maine. In other days it was
considered wise to avoid this landfall. By contrast Pitaubegwimenahanuk.
the “Island that Lies Between Two Channels,” now a part of the town of
Islesboro, Maine, was considered spiritually neutral. The letter M’
prefixed to any word identifies the noun as the personal property of the
Penobscot god Glusgenbeh, thus we have M’dangamak, “Glooscap’s
snowshoes,” an early name for Dice’s Island near Castine, Maine. Near the
lighthouse on that island there used to be marks engraved in a rock ledge
which the Penobscots identified as those left by this heavy creature when
he leaped across Penobscot Bay in pursuit of a giant moose. These prints
in stone were greatly venerated by the Indians, but the white settlers
destroyed them as pagan artifacts.

Champlain came to Muttoneguis or Muttonegwenigosh , an island in

the Saint Croix River, one with a warning buried in its name. The Indians
stored their goods there, but did not live there, not only out of a sense of
taboo but also because it was known to stand amidst shifting cakes of ice
all winter long. Champlain had been a proponent of island life for
intending settlers, noting the advantages of security from attack by
Indians and wild animals. A few years later, speaking with hindsight,
Marc Lescarbot noted, “whoever intends to take possession of a country
will never succeed if they imprison themselves upon an island. There are
not many comforts on an island, often no drinking water and no wood or
other household needs.” These were not the sole problems for the
inhabitants many have been harried by the resident spirit for they
suffered joint pains, lost teeth and bleeding gums and a general draining
of vigour. This has since been diagnosed as scurvy due to a lack of vitamin
C, but the malignant epidemic would have been just as severe had the
French known its name. The winter of 1604 was very difficult. For
starters, the buildings were not well insulated, for the wine and beer
froze and fresh water could not be thawed from the limited snowfall.
When spring arrived thirty five of the original seventy-nine visitors were
dead and twenty more were at the point of death. When the enterprise was
transferred to Port Royal for the next winter things were a bit better but
twelve men died of the same disease. This is unfortunate as the remedy
stood all about them in the leaves of the balsam fir. These have a high
vitamin C content and were boiled by the Indians to create a prophylactic
drink against this disease.


The Wabenaki mermaid.

Similar to the nibanaba of Lake Superior, which Anna Brownell

Jameson (1838) recorded as a legendary creature of the Chipewawas, “a
being half human, half fish.” “The Indians dwelling in the region between
the Kennebecasis and the Saint John rivers were called Etchemins, the
name first given the Saint Croix River by Champlain. The several Etchemin
tribes were always closely associated. In both war and peace they acted
uniformly as one. Among their noted chiefs were Bashaba the Great...;
Madockawando (and his descendants) who ruled the Quoddy and Penobscot
tribes for two hundred years... These salt water saghems believed
themselves descended from a mermaan and the name Neptune seemed
fitting for them.” 25 When the French at Port Royal presented a pageant

25Murchie,Guy, Saint Croix The Sentinel River, (New York)

1947, pp. 66-67.
honouring the safe return of explorers from Cade Cod, they represented
Father Neptune as a central figure, and by this act inadvertently honoured
some of the Indian tribesmen, thus binding them to their cause.


Grandmother, a term of great repect. Also the name given

Glooscap’s constant companion.


The sable.

Wabenaki, Passamaquoddy, the totem animal of Glooscap’s little

friend, Martin. OONAHGEMESSUK

The water-goblin.

Wabenaki, a creature half-grey, possessing a single eye. Thus,

similar to the thunder-giants of Katadhdin mountain and the Innuvit elves.
Leland says they confer exactly with the Micmac mikumweesos. “Eles and
fairies.” “These can work great wonders, and also sing to charm the
wildest beasts. From them alone come the magic pipes or flutes, which
sometimes pass into possession of noted sorcerers and great warriors;
and when these are played upon, the woman who hears the melody is
bewitched with love, and the moose and caribou follow the sound even to
their death. And when thes folk are pleased with a mortal they make him a
fairy, even like themselves.”


The spirit of fog


The guardian-spirit of a man gifted on him at birth by the

Great Spirit.
Wabenaki, Micmac dialect. The first French settlers called its
container the aoutmoin (which, see). This was a real-world resting place
for the external soul, usually a peculiar shaped or coloured rock or stone
contained in a triangular leather pouch and kept abouit the neck on a thong.
A Micmac shaman said that his “devil” was pressed against the stomach
to overcome hunger or fatigue. Every effort was made to prevent this
extension from falling into the hands of enemies. The natives said that
this representative thing was part of the buowinodi or puoinoti, or “magic


The “Black Cat.”

Wabenaki, Passamaquoddy. The tribe of “wild cats” to which

Glooscap was sometimes said to belong. It is noted that “the chief of the
cats was by his mother the son of a bear.” Pookjinskeqwees who was
Glooscap’s chief rival also belonged to this tribe. The totem animal of the
“lord of men and beasts” was never entirely settled for elsewhere he is
represented as a shape-changed fisher or as a woodchuck or groundhog.


The “Evil Pitcher” of Indian myth.

Wabenaki, Passamaquoddy. The Innu had a similar character known as

Arnakuak. Like this creature she had the ability to change sex at will. In
Indian and Eskimo legends only wicked magicians had the ability to aleter
their gender in the fashion of the European god named Lokki.

Pookjinskeqwees exceeded all these others as she frequently

appeared among men as a man or a woman, or as several men and/or
women, according to her will. She was the chief antagonist of Glooscap
and once approached him as a poor woman in diminished health. It was said
that the god-hero “threw out his soul to all men,” and hence could not turn
her away. Fortunately his foresight prevented him from being injured by
her complicated designs. She was alternately termed “The Black Cat.” It
was said that her children were those “begotten on her by sorcerers,
giants and monsters.” Because all were ugly she stole the children of men
and raised them as her own. It was this witch-woman who abducted
Glooscap’s closest friends, causing him to follow, eventually bringing
them back from the land of the dead. See Pogumk .


An Indian magician or shaman.

Wabenaki, Micmac dialect, puninoti or buowinodi , the bag of

magical objercts carried about the shaman’s neck. This was neither the
class of men exercising great physical power nor those able to move
readily between dimensions in space and time, but men who were “able to
hear and see what was going on very far off.” In addition they were
masters of trickery and jugglery and ventriloquism, and other wonder-

The chief example was perhaps Ulgimmo , sometimes entitled

L’kimu . “he who sends out (his spirit): “Thomas Boonis told Silas Rand
that this was the man who drove the Kwedeches (Mohawks) from the south
side of the Bay of Fundy, urging them on at last to Montreal...” The
Kwedeches retired first to the Tantramar marshes and then to Petitcodiac.
As the place called Salisbury Ulgimoo followed and built “a mound and
fortifiactions which still stand (1894).”

It was rumoured that this shaman “could hear and see what was
going on very far off...” When the great magician was 103 years of age his
people were was still at war, and using forsight he saw the Mohawks
again moving against his village. The shaman sent his own people off into
the forest and allowed himself to become a captive. They quickly made a
fire for him and bound him to a tree amidst dried wood. One among the
Mohawks warned the others that this man was not to be taken lightly, but
they fired the wood pile in spite of his objections. Immediately this
supoerman burst his bonds and appeared before them as a young Glooscap-
like warrior. In the battle that followed the puoin emerged without hurt
but only three enemy warriors escaped from a carnage that killed

Ulgimoo died shortly after: “It was the beginning of winter when he
went; he had directed his people not to bury him but to build a high
platform and put him on it. This they did, and all left the place. He told
them to come back the following spring. They did so, and to their
astonishment found him walking about - exhibiting however proof that his
death was not a sham. A hungry marten had found the corpse, and gnawed
an ugly looking hole through one of the old man’s cheeks.” At his second
death a few years after the shaman predicted that he would expire by
morning, and that this time they must bury him but open the grave the
following morning. He assured them that if they did this he would walk
forever among them. He gave them a sign by which they would know the
exact time to unearth his corpse and then sank into his final sleep. On the
morning the sky was clear but at the assigned time there was a peal of
thunder. This time his friends and enemies were content to let him
remain dead and took special care to see that he did not become reanimate:
“They dug his grave very deep and piled stones in upon him. The plan was
successful as he has not yet arisen.”

In the last century James Paul was an impressive “juggler.” One of

his stunts involved china tea cup. Not realizing his physical strength,
Ja,mes was seen to have left finger prints in the non-plastric surface of
this drinking implement. Advised of this he laughed and sid, “I’ll
straighten it up, here!” “He straightened it up as if it were made of wet
clay.” Paul had a similar solution for carrying his clay pipe. ASfraid he
might breakm iit because of the long stem, he simply “stretched the pipe
around his hat,” and wore it as a band, reversing the process when he
wished to light up/ In another case, he stopped the motion of a huge
waterwheel at Dartmouth, when he spotted children playing at riding the
main shaft. “OLd James Peter Paul he grabbed it and the whole thing

Peter Sack, who lived earlier in this century, had similar skills.
Once he cautioned his son from going further in the woods because of an
undefined precautionary warning in his head. “He got a stick and started
tapping the ground, and WHAM, a bear trap!” “Pure luck, “ he noted,
“something told me to stop. I couldn’t make up my mind why I should
stop...If we had gone any farther, it’d have grabbed the boy.”

These abilities were never restricted to the male sex. In 1912,

when Old Woman Sallie was living at Pictou (she was said to be 100 years
of age), she once took thge train to New Glasgow. The conductor finding
that she lacked full fare put her off short of the town. Not far down the
line, the engine derailed. While they were putting the train on the rails a
second time, the conductor had his finger squashed between a wheel and
the rail. After that he began to give thought to Old Sallie’s reputation as a
witch and motioned her aboard. “After that whenever an Indian wants to
travel, the railway takes him, fare or not.”

Le Clerq referred to shamans as “jugglers, “ from their habit of

carrying bags full of items which they often manipulated in tyheir hands
to fortell events or create illusions. Among these items was the personal
“devil” or ouahich, an object thought to serve as a residence for the
external soul when it was not involved in some magical project.


The son of the beaver-spirit.

At the beginning of time this creature is supposed to have advised

Malsum to oppose Glooscap. Hence, Glooscap’s implacable hatred for this


The external soul of a human.

Abenaki, Micmc dia., skite-kmuj . m., the ghost body of men living or
dead. Confers with the taibh, cowalker, runner or doppelganger of the
white men. The ghost-body was said to exist for all spirited matter
whether animate or inanimate. With humans it was described as a black
shadow cast by that individual, sometimes attached to him at an
extremnity but sometimes seen at distance. "It has hands and feet, a
mouth, a head and all the other parts of the human body. It drinks and
eats, it puts on clothes, it hunts and fishes and amuses itself. With a
moose or beaver, it looks like a black shadow of the animal. For a canoe or
a pair of snowshoes, a cooking-pot, a sleeping-mat, it looks like a shadow
of these things, these Persons.”

Some men had knowledge of their guardian, or shadow-helper, at

birth, others sought it through ritual. In a typical situation a youngster
would go alone into the woods on his spirit hunt. Here he first bathed and
then fasted hoping to have a vision in which his skitekmuj would speak to
him. Guardians often appeared in the form of the family totem-animal, so
that those belonging to the bear often slept beside a bear’s-den hoping to
absorb some of the spirit-power of that animal. It was said that only
strong-willed people could persist until the vision materialized. If the
seeker did not flee “from his own voice,” it might tell him the number of
days to remain in “purification.” At the end of that time the disembodied
spirit would usually reward the individual by giving him spiritual or
physical powers and naming his personal totem. The person who retrurned
from a quest was under an obligation not to reveal what had been
revealled to him. Later, after the guardian spirit dances, he might begin
to wear a neck ornament as a carrying place for his spirit. When
attempting to practise magic or obtain help the individual would sing his
spirit song thus calling on the power of this supernatural creature.

After a death the skitemuj passed from Earth World to Death World
paralleling the European tradition. This was a place "above the sky" for
those who had been useful, worthwhile citizens in their former
incarnation. Others were shuttled off to World Beneath Earth where
people who were evil were forced to dance without stopping. Those who
lived exlemprary lives on earth were treated to shadow-canoes,
snowshoes, sleeping mats and twice-daily sunrises. "The sun renews
them when it shines," and it was said the Papkutparut, the guardian of all
the dead, "watches over them so that they always have enough meat to

At the death of a family member the Abenakis used to mourn bing

their hair, thus unbinding their own spirits to go to and comfort that of
the newly deceased. As with the Celts, the Indians thought that the souls
of friends were sometimes needed to fend off the spirits of enemies who
might try to prevent a man's skitemuj from reaching its destination. So
that they might not be recognized as mortals, the Abenaki used to blacken
their faces and call out "Uey! Uey!" repeatedly in the hope of scaring off
evil spirits. The shouting also had the function of drawing the ghost-
shadow from the body, and while this was being done the relatives
maintained a circle about it thus excluding dangerous spirits. At
internment useful items were buried with the dead, it being supposed that
the shadow-forms would detatch from each item and accompany the
shadow-man or woman to the Otherworld.

Very few living men penetrated the underworld and fewer visited
Ghost World. A group who did, knew the guardian's weakness for the
gambling game "waltes" They contested their souls against Papkutparuts
stakes of corn, spirit berries and a substance he called "tmawey"
(tobacco) and won. Thus these substances came as gifts to the People
from beyond Sky World. Getting the dead back from beyond proved more of
a problem. One father was given the spirit of his dead son contained in the
kernal of a nut within a leather bag. He was warned not to look into the
pouch until a ritual dance had been completed. Back on Earth World he was
occupied by this dance when curiosity caused an elderly woman to glance
into the bag.

In the best case, the spirit of a man was believed united whith his
shadow at death, and the shadow then travelled to Ghost World where it
lived a life similar to that on earth, but free of want and stress.

This belief explains the grave-offerings found in lands all about the
Atlantic basin. Nicholas Deny, who was in Acadia in 1672, noted that
many individual graves held goods to the value about $2,000. These items
were within easy reach but the French did not dare rob the graves for fear
of causing “hatred and everlasting war.”

Marc Lescarbot commented that, “Their most valued possessions

were the copper kettles they got from us, and these they put within the
graves for use in the spirit world. On one occasion they opened a grave for
us, our people having it in mind to prove that all the objects were still in
place and not in any spirit world. A kettle covered with verdegris was
unearthed. An Indian struck a stone against it and noted that it no longer
sounded and lacked spirit. He observed that it was an item of recent
introduction and that its shadow had been taken into the other world since
it was needed there. As for the common grave robes, which were little
changed, he noted, “the dead man did not need them, but will take them as

In the elder world everything was seen to be raised by at the will of

the creator, the most spirited things being the most active in terms of
growth, locomotion or gross movement. Thus a tree, a man and a hurricane
were all observed to be supported by the spirit of god. This old world was
a dangerous place where death was common, but oblivion was not known.
The Algonquins, the Norse and the Gaels accepted the Law of Conservation
of Matter and Energy long before it was put on paper. They saw that their
world was in constant flux, that plants and animals arose and quickly
“went to earth.” that forests were reduced to earth by wildfire, that
waves in the sea and the air periodically altered the landscape, that there
was no physical surety for men, but believed, nonetheless, that all matter
was eternal. Ruth Whitehead says that the Micmacs regarded their entire
world as, “a nexus of Power moving beneath the outward appearances of
things, of Persons shifting in and out of form, of patterns recombining.”

In a world where nothing could be created or destroyed but only

altered, the People used a absentive case-ending, to describe the
inanimate parts of their environment. Thus, the dead who were without
motion, were not seen as totally dispirited but rather as animate beings
situated outside of time. If the body was not broken or decomposed
magicians were sometimes able to revive it by “speaking” the corpse back
to life. Thus in one instance Glooscap revived his little friend Marten and
his grandmother by simply speaking in their ears commanding them to
arise. Here it was imagined that some of Glooscap’s life-force was
transferred through the air to the other beings enabling them to return to
life. In other stories, hunters pursued the souls of loved ones to Ghost
World, capturing them there and bringing them back to Earth World to
reanimate the corpses.

If men believed that the world-spirit dwelt in all things, they also
considered that the part was a microcosm of the whole. Thus the concern
of Indian braves that some portion of their body be preserved after death.
The bones of men and animals were their power-cores, just as the
mountains were known to be the “bones” and the power-centres of the
earth. It was claimed that reformation of the dead was likely as long as
these centres existed to attract the atoms of dead flesh which became
reanimate in the ground, recharged by the earth-spirit. The ability of the
part to become whole explains the respect which men used to have for the
bones of animals and fish. These were returned to their element where it
was undestood they would reflesh themselves to the benefit of men and
the other animals that fed upon them. In a like manner men would not
unnecessarily destroy the plants of the earth since they understood their
dependence upon them.

The shaman namedL’kimu noted that, “It is a religious act among our
people to gather all bones very carefully, and burn them (thus restoring
them to the earth spirit) or throwing them into a river where beaver live.
All the bones from the sea have to be returned there, so that those species
will continue...domestic animals must never gnaw on the bones of wiild
things for this would diminish the species of animals which feed us.”

Parkman said that bone gathering took place every ten to twelve
years, “among the Hurons, the Neutals, and other kindred tribes.” He stated
that “The whole nation was sometimes assembled at this solemnity; and
hundreds of corpses, brought from their temporay resting-places were
inhumed in one pit. From this hour the immortality of their souls began,
They (the souls) took wing, some affirmed, in the form of pigeons; while
the greater number declared they journeyed on foot, and in their own
likeness (but as shadows) to the land of shades, bearing with them the
ghosts of wampum belts, beaver-skins, bows, arrows, pipes, kettles,
beads, and rings buried with them in the common grave.” While few
people returned from the Netherworld, complete reincarnation was not
thought impossible, and eventual return, in some form, was considered

The persistence of the life force in individual forms led to difficulty

in overcoming enemies. Unless every atom was thoroughly dispersed,
nothing could be eradicated for long periods of time. Having killed a man,
a brave sometimes ground his bones to dust, but even this was never
enough to prevent reassembly, and the most skilled knew that they must
magically transform the remains into midges, mosquitoes or flies, which
had a tendancy to disperse, delaying the reincarnation. Another way of
preventing this was to incorporate parts of a dead enemy into a new
construct. Bits of living things were often recombined to make newly
animate beings with very different characteristics from the old. Thus an
eelskin might be painted with earth-colours to make an entirely unique
“life-form.” Porcupine quills and skins and sinews of dead animals, were
given the absentive ending when they were incorporated into a headband,
thus recognizing the fact that they had become a new living being. A
man’s weapons, his clothes, his canoe, his snowshoes were all spirtual as
well as physical constructs, all vested with life force. Through long
association, these items absorbed some of the life-force of their owners,
becoming extensions of him. As the part of an object encapsulated the
whole, shamans carried about bags filled with the bones of enemies,
snakes, bears and those animals whose character they fancied. Contained
by spells these creatures became part of their keeper and were unable to
reincarnate in their previous forms. Nevertheless, their spirits might be
called upon to serve as a magical messenger or agent or construction or

Some North American men, in common with their European

counterparts, supposed the existence of at least one external soul
which they said resided within “a complete little invisible model of the
man himself.” The Innuit, like the Micmacs, believed in a shadow-man,
“One having the same shape as the body to which it belongs, but of a more
subtle and ethereal nature.” As far away as the west coast, the Nootkas
said that the soul had the look of “a tiny little man, whose seat is often
the crown of the head. So long as he stands erect all is well, but should he
fall, then the man loses his senses.” In the lower Fraser Valley, the
Indians suggested that men had at least four external souls, the principal
one in the form of a man, the others being, “shadows of it.”

In addition to making appearances as a human doubles, the external

souls sometimes became visible in the world of men as totem animals. In
addition, man-spirits were thought to reform themselves as stones, as
water, as fire, as stars, as horned serpents, as water-fairies, as little
people, as thunderbirds, or as giants. Whitehead says that none of these
shape-changes were intended as to be understood as metaphores; men
believed that shape-changing was actual and commonplace in the world of
men. Thus Kikwaju disturbed the peace of “a boulder-person,” who
challenged him by rolling after him down a hill. A white man once asked a
shaman if all stones were thus alive. “No,” he replied, “but some are!”
“How does one know which may move,” asked the questioner? “One
knows,” said his repondant, “by their glow at dusk and by the way they

As the ice fell away into the sea, and retreated northwards, it
exposed the highest peaks in the region including portions of Cape Breton
and the mountains near what is now Mount Carleton park. These bared
rocks were exposed to intense temperature changes between day and night
and became frost-shattered relics which geologists call "nunataks." This
word is borrowed from the natives of Greenland, who still use it to refer
to any isolated mounatin completely surrounded by an ice sheet. Here, as
there, the nunatak was understood to have the same force as the Innuit
"inukshuks," which are humanoid-form cairns thought to have been
deliberately erected in the faceless Arctic to create artifcial landmarks.
It was once rumoured that these rock piles were raised by men to
celebrate victories over the "frost-giants", an ancient race of dangerous
propensities. Other have contended that these actually are the spirits of
giants held in bondage by the magic of long dead shamans. Whatever they
are, they are more than simple signposts. Farley Mowat suspected they
were "guardians, who solidly resisted the impalpable menace of space
which is uncircumscribed..." When Mowat visited with them, he found
himself c0onversing with "these silent beings who have vital force
without the gift of life." In our region the ice is long gone and the
inuktuks have crumbled into "bedrock showing strange and irregular

The Norse said that the underground was ruled by the goddess Hel,
the daughter of the fire-god Loki. Interestingly she is spoken of as “the
parti-coloured deity of birth and death,” indicating that she had the
power to release men from her kingdom of Nifhelheim. At their root of her
world the fire-giant Svrtr (Loki) was said to be bound awaiting his
release to bring about the last days of the Nine Worlds known to men. The
death gods are perhaps embodied in Nidhug, the giant dragon that feeds
upon the roots of the world-tree and the bones of the unworthy dead. This
situation parallels Celtic belief with Donn and his mate taking the place
of Hel and Loki. It is noeworthy that Donn has as one of his totems the
nathair, or snake. The death gods are regarded as immortals, raised to
that position at the will of the creator-god.

In a similar manner, the Micmac death-god, Papkutparut is spoken

of as a fearful immortal who was once a man. In his present incarnation
he is still supposed to have an interest in smoking tobacco and the
gambling game called waltes, and men are known to have bargained their
way out of his kingdom using these levers. We are reminded that the
Celtic death-god had a similar fondness for the game known as fidchell, or
“raven.” The Micmac god was like a Fomorian giant, a shape-changer who
might appear, “huge as a mountain, like a mighty waterfall, or as a
terrible storm of fire or wind or water.” Like Hel and DonnPapkutparut
resented the arrogance of men and women who came to his land before
their time. Those who wished to escape his first rush against them were
expected to expose their bellies to his anger if they expected to survive
long enough to bribe him.

In the legends of the people the land called Ghost World is never
fully identified with the World Beneath the Earth, but it may be tucked
away there as the Norse Nastrond lies hidden within the larger kingdom
of Nifhelheim. One route to Ghost World was through the underground but
more often men took the ocean-route, which has been described as “many
days journey across water. Going to Ghost World is walking on top of the
World Beneath the Earth. The bodies of seekers walk through Water World
with their heads in Sky World. Their eyes see nothing but water all round,
edge to edge. Every night they rest upon sleeping platforms which they
build in the water. It is a hard and hungry journey and some die and travel
faster than the rest. When that land is near, men see Ghost World curving
up above the water like a bow. Then there are never jokes about the dead
or dying. Men who go on now see that there are dogs there, and beaver, and
moose, and caribou and snowshoes and the wigwams of people. Then they
must meet the Guardian of Souls before they can pass or leave this gate
between the worlds.”

Glooscap himself followed the water route into the land of the dead.
The place of his entry into Ghost World is variously given as Grand Manan,
Isle Haute, or Newfoundland. Some tales say that his conquest of death
was made alone, and that he swam through Water World to attain his goall.
Others note that he travelled by canoe and was accompanied by his boon
companions Marten and Grandmother, perhaps in the form of wolves or
foxes. In the latter versions it is claimed that his craft took him into a
cleft between the rocks, and that the water carried him to a place where
disembodied spirits swarmed, howling their warnings that he should
retreat. The river bed is said to have descended into a rocky unlit chaos
and in it his friends met a premature death from fright. The stoic
Glooscap sailed on chanting his magic, and emerged “on the other shore,”
and back in the world of men with new-found magic. Leaning over Marten
and Grandmother he breathed into their mouths, thus returning to them the
spirit of life. From this time Glooscap and his companions chanted their
way into the underworld at will and even encamped regularly within the
hollow hills of Atlantic Canada, travelling the bowels of the earth when
he wished to pass quickly from one place on the surface to another. Most
men were not privy to Glooscap’s secrets and were only able to access the
outer parts of his stoneoogotol, “wigwam,” at Blomodin and the Fairy Hole
in Cape Breton. Those who tried had to overcome falling rocks, overhangs,
rushing water, and “two great snakes which barred the way.” Some of
this is reminiscent of the troubles that Norse and Celtic heroes
experienced in trying to enter their ghost worlds.

It may be recalled that the Indians of our region periodically

gathered the bones of the dead for common burial rituals. Only after this
did their spirits move on to ghost world. Some said that the souls of the
dead were seen to rise as spherical lights, or as bird-like creatures, soon
after inhumation. These people believed that the departed souls
journeyed through the sky to the North Star lanmds by the Milky Way.
Other animals had their own routes to the Netherworld, dogs finding their
way by the constellation still known as “The Way of the Dogs.”

Others were just as certain that the dead travelled in their own
shadow-forms, bearing with them all items they might require in the
after-life. Some observed that the shadow men and women travelled
toward the deep woods, disappeared in a cleft rock, or vanished within a
lake or passed into the sea. Whether these shades travelled heavenward,
or were detined for lands under the sea or the eath, it was agreed that
there were perils along the road to Ghost World. Even in the sky it was
rumoured that there was a river that had to be crossed on a log that made
a shifty and uncertain bridge. Futher a ferocious dog (like that guarding
Hel’s domain) opposed their passage and drove many into the abyss. That
river was filled with sturgeon and salmon, which the dead-shadows
speared for sustinence. Beyond the river there was a narrow path between
animated rocks which had the unfortunate habit of crashing against one
another, sometimes reducing passersby to atoms.

At that, it was always claimed that the alternate world was worth
attaining and that Ghost World was actually close, so that “roving
hunters sometimes passed its confines unawares.” Only the souls of men
and women who died at their prime were full up to the journey to Ghost
World. The spirits of the very young and the very old were often too
enfeebled to take the long march, and they had to remain behind awaiting a
recombination of spirits. These departed souils remained close to their
village, their presence detected in the opening and closing of tent flaps
by invisible hands. In the corn-fields the voices of invisible children were
often heard driving the birds from the crops.


An earth spirit with mischievous tendancies.

Anglo-Saxon, skole , school, a place of rest from manual labour,

leisure + gan , born of, derived from; born of leisure. Hence the old
Maritime belief that too much learning is a dangerous thing. See also
hooligan .

According to the Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English these

spirits are often seen embodied in children. That source defines the word
as the equal of skinflint.


The fire-spirit.

Passamaquoddy. The spirits of wild-fire were often abroad, and men

were not usually present to see the lightning strikes that set them in
action. In the early seventeenth century Father Chretien LeClerq reported
seeing the entire Miramichi watershed aflame, an event that might have
been caused by lightning or human carelessness by whites or Indians. In a
dry summer during the year 1826, the horror of that scence was repreated
in The Great Miramichi Fire, which took 6,000 square miles of trees and
made them cinders. This time there were more people about and more than
five hundred were killed. The fire halted the lumbering industry for many
years and dropped the town of Newcastle into a deep financial hole from
which it is still struggling to gain high ground. Botanists have estimated
that at least half of the Atlantic region is completely burned over once in
two hundred years.

In the theology of the local Indians, the deep forest was only second
to the abyss as the source of chaos. It was sometimes said that Glooscap
and Malsum emerged from the primal woods rather than from the sky or
the sea. One reason to fear this place was the danger of displacement and
starvation, but there was also the possibilty of entrapment by the fire
spirits. The effects of fire appeared in many place-names which
Champlain found used by the Indians. The end of the great Gouldsboro
peninsula, now a part of Acadaia National Park in Maine was originally
Schoodic and we have nearby the Schoodic Lakes. The Indians encamped
regularly at the twin towns of Calais and St. Stephen on the Maine-New
Brunswick border, and called this place Schoodic, “a great clear place
made by fire.” The root, in each case, is skut, “fire.” In the days before
men had the means to clear land, great assemblies could only take place
where the spirits of fire had first held court.
The last continental glacier took a good portion of the best Atlantic
topsoil and dumped it as frontal moraines at sites which are now on the
continental shelf. Of all the provinces Newfoundland took the worst
beating from glacial scour, which left it with topsoil that was often
barely more than an inch thick. Today only about forty percent of
Newfoundland is forested and nearly all the trees that stand are destined
to be uprooted by wind. Where the soil is poverty-striken nothing stands
high, thus the endless vistas of rock and barrens and boglands which
characterize that island province. The Miramichi fire was scarcely more
than an inconvenience to the forest as compared with slighter fires that
ravaged Newfoundland in the 1960’s. Any place that is similar, and there
are barren-lands in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, incinerates the
land in any fire, and this leaves a place that will have tree growth for one
or two human generations.

Repeated fires, perhaps as few as three every century, have been

known to create the blasted areas which Newfoundlanders call the
“goodwiddy,” or “goldwithy,” a growth as dwarfed as a collection of
bonsai trees, but consisting of laurel, Labrador tee and blueberry bushes
all intertwined. The Avalon Peninsula was forested when Cabot first
spotted it. Now it is a barren, thanks to the beginning destitution of the
soil coupled with the fires of men and the gods. It will be remembered
that Glooscap taught his people the arts of civilization and these seem to
have included the idea of a “controlled burn,” which the Micmacs used to
gain camp sites and flush game from hiding. See fear dreag and Smokey


The sea-spirit found in tidal races and whirlpools.

Wabenaki, meaning unknown. Elsewhere, it was noted that there was

once a general upwelling of waters near the island of Miscou, and this
place was favoured by the Gougou. The Ugmugs were similar monsters,
who sought out turbulent waters. There are plenty of these in the vicinity
of the world's highest tides.
One place that comes to mind is the Wolves, which lie east of White
Horse Island and the West Isles of Passamquoddy Bay. A visitor to Deer
Island characterized these small islets as "the angry Wolves, on which, if
you visit them, you may be imprisoned for days by the wild surf that
pounds hungrily against their gaunt sides when there is the least
provocation of wind or water." Commenting more generally, Grace
Thompson (1908) said that the passages through the many islands of the
West Isles were a complex of "tides, eddies. ledges and whirlpools." The
same could be said for the shoaler waters of Campobello, and those of
Grand Manan and Briar Island. There is a great tidal rip off Cap D'Or and a
similar situation across Chignecto Bay at Cape Enrage. Within the Saint
John River one finds the Reversing Falls, one of numerous spirited places
in the Bay of Fundy.

Whirlpools were said to be caused by the spiral swimming motions

of Ugwugs who took the form of sea-serpents. These shape -changers
were never restricted to that form and also occured as huge, visible or
invisible, sea-people, as mer-folk, or as an ideterminate species of
marine animal.

The best known Ugmug lived within the shifting Reversing Falls
whirpool. Stuart Trueman has said that local tribeman considered this
spirit embodied within "a perpetually spinning log in a giant whirlpool",
but that's difficult to envisage since the fall's "whirpool" is really a
complex of constantly assembling and disassembling swirls, which
disappear completely at slack tide. He is probably referring to the Micmac
habit of launching a log into the falls to assess the temper of the resident
mentou (spirit). As the log drifted into the whirpool, or whirpools, it was
shot full of arrows bearing small gifts of propitiation, including the
required pouch of smoking tobacco. The log was watched very carefully
from the shore to see how the gifts were received. If the log passed
through the fury of the reversing falls and emerged with the gift pouches
removed it was considered safe to launch canoes on that part of the river.
On the other hand, the log was cometimes convulsively "clutched" by what
appeared to be gigantic submarine hands, and was upended, scattering
presents on the water. In this event, the Micmac or Maliseet watchers
assumed that the god-spirit governing this stretch of water was in bad
humour and found themselves another means of recreation or work for that
day. If the gifts were not scattered when the log was drawn down this

was considered a favourable notice, especially where they were seen to

have been removed when the log re-emerged within Saint John Harbour. If
the log simply disappeared this was thought to be a warning.


The ocean personified.

Penobscot. The most distant parts of the earth were always seen as having
the best potential for magic, chaos and danger. Chief among these was
uktan, the word the Penobscots used to describe the “ocean-sea,” which
comprised the most remote waters of the world, lying in the east, beyond
the dawn. This was the place most paquatanec, “out of the way, off the
road,” or “far from the haunts of men.” Embayments, or thoroughfares
were seeburessek , or “confined,” by land and here men safely piloted
their canoes if they avoided collisions with epukunikek, “the things one
must go around,” and ebagwidck, “the spirits floating between.” Similar
to this last is the Micmac word abegweit, “an island lying upon the stream
close to the mainland, thus Abegwait or Eppaygett, “a thing anchored on
the waves,” Prince Edward Island anciently carried this name, and a
number of ferries to the mainland have been called the Abegweit..

Glooscap appreciated the strength of the sea-spirits and cautioned

his people to stay away from the open ocean. About 20% of the waters of
the Bay of Fundy originate in the Gulf Stream, a warm mid-Atlantic gyre
of water which ultimately washes, and moderates, the shores of Britain.
Although Maritime Canada is in the same latitudes it is a much colder
place because the remaining waters of the region pour in from the
Labrador Current, which feeds upon northern glaciers.

This current starts travelling at the surface between Baffin Island

and Greenland and flows southeastward from there. Off Labrador it
strikes the dense, saline waters of the Stream and is deflected south-
westward; part of its mass joining a slow moving underwater “river” at
the base of the Atlantic, the rest streaming out over the continental
shelf. One arm of water moves due south along the eastern shore of
Newfoundland, the other intrudes through Belle Isle Sound entering the
Gulf of St. Lawrence. Just off the extreme edge of the Newfoundland Shelf

the Labrador Current comes into turbulent contact with water from the
Gulf Stream. The differences in water temperatures create rough waters
and the fog banks for which the Grand Banks of Newfoundland are famous.
This is the northern apex of something very like the Bermuda Triangle, a
place where there has been great loss of shipping. Rogue waves are
generated here by tsunamis aroused by earthquakes at sea, and there are
compass anomalies in addition to the fog, so no supernatural forces are
required to explain the marine disasters which have taken place in the

“Blunt’s Pilot” says that this part of the Atlantic is “a

maelstrom of currents, large and small, many of them flowing against the
wind.” In the earliest days their complexities could only be learned
through recurrent disasters. The Labrador Current is extremely quixotic
southwest of Newfoundland, sometimes its northern edge wanders only
250 miles south of Halifax, but at other times it is 500 miles distant as
it snakes its way toward the Gulf of Maine. when it curved far from the
shore it often took sailors within the waters of Sable Island. The Rev.
George Patterson could not recommend this place, saying: “currents round
the island are terribly conflicting and certain sometimes being in the
opposite direction to the prevailing wind, and sometimes passing around
the whole circuit of the compass in twenty-four hours. As currents of
water, like currents of air meeting from different directions, produce
eddies, these produce marvellous swirls around the island, making the
circuit several times, and the same is the case with bodies from wrecks.”
And there were wrecks, for as Franklin Russell has said, sailing ships
within these waters”became victims of a wild mixture of contrary
currents that almost always took them to their destruction.”

There is another matter known as “cabelling,” the immediate effect

of huge collisions between the Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream.
Sometimes they intrude gradually upon one another but sometimes they
have the effect of an immovable force hitting an irresistible object. When
this happens huge eddies are produced and submarine bubbling occurs.
This extreme mixing has the habit of bringing microscopic fish food to the
surface, but as some scientists have noted water infused with air has
little buoyancy. No one can predict quite where these collisions might
occur but they may be responsible for loss of ships under conditions not

otherwise explicable.


The Micmac Beginning Place, the site of Creation.

Often identified as present-day Newfoundland. In European mythology gods

of life and light invariably died and so did the Indian culture-hero named
Glooscap. It was said that his first residence was the island called Aja-
lig-un-mechk, located at the mouth of the Saint John River in New
Brunswick. Here, after a time among men, the Patridge Clan plotted to
kill the god and in this interest abducted the Bear Woman and Martin, and
fled with them into the forest. They had been gone for a month and a half,
before Glooscap returned home and peered into Martin’s birch-bark dish.
Following faint tracks to the shore he was confronted by a co-conspirator,
Win-pe, the giant of the north wind. Seeing his family in a distant canoe
Glooscap tried to rescue them but was blow back to shore by the wind. He
followed a decaying trail to Grand Manan, and some say that it was here
that he sought the dark lands. Others insist that he crossed over to
Kespoogitk (Yarmouth) and slowly guided his canoe along the southern
coast of Nova Scotia until he came at last to Uktukkamkw, the Beginning-
place. At the gates to the Otherworld Glooscap meditated for seven years
before pursuing the dark lord. When the time had come for action, he
pointed his canoe into the caverns of the Word Beneath Earth, where he
found and rescued his friends. On the outward journey, however, he passed
through places where men were not meant to go, so that Marten and the
grandmother both died of fear. But on the other shore, at home again he
said Numchashse! arise! and they were reincarnated. This incident of the
“sun” passing through the caverns beneath the earth, emerging again to
light the day, is a common theme in world myth. Here as elsewhere the
conquest of darkness was seen as giving the god power over death.

There is a similar legend concerning Grand Manan Island. Here, the

god Glooscap was stranded here by his enemies, and only escaped from the
by swimming through the underworldclinging to the tail of a magical fox.
In the process, he gained the magic that allowed him to overcome death.
Although Grand Manan was not forbidden to men, its waters represented
one of the entrances to the Otherworld. It is of interest that all of the

death-gods sported dog-like totems: For Odin these creatures were

wolves, and the same holds for Glooscap. The Celtic “day god” known as
Crom commanded a similar pair of gigantic dogs and it will be
remembered that Hel’s kingdom had a similar guardian at its entrance.
The same be said of the Grecian underworld, which was protected by the
creature named Cerebus. On of the best known mythic creatures of the
outer islands south of Grand Manan is a jet-black dog, as tall as a horse
with fiery red eyes. Nearby are the appropriately named Brazil Shoals.

The early colonists did not settle Grand Manan, and the only Indian
habitation was on the north west coast at a place called Indian Point.
Marc Lescarbot has said that the body of a famous Micmac named Panoniac
was “carried to a desolate island, towards Cape Sable (not The Sable
Island), some five and twenty miles distant from Port Royal. Those isles
that serve these people as graveyards are secret amongst them, for fear
some enemy should seek to disturb the bones of their dead.”

There may have been a taboo associated with Grand Manan, which
caused it to be left uninhabited until after the Revolutionary War. It is
known to have been given as a Seigneury during the French period, but the
land grant was not taken up. Further the northwestern shore, where the
Indians gathered once each year was the place where they obtained the
pipe-stone, whose mythic worth was such it was traded all over the
northeast. The Indians had oblique alternate names for the island such as
“the most important island,” and “the Sentinel.” Now the latter name
points quite directly at Papkutparut “the Guardian” of the dead lands,
“the master of life and death.” He is, we suspect the other-worldly form
of Glooscap himself! Those who approached him were advised to “be
respectful and polite” and give themselves up to “his justice.” It was
suggested that they say, “If anything remains of the people within Your
heart, any compassion or tenderness, accept these my gifts brought to you
from that Living World, and receive me and mine as friends.”

My brother, Arthur, who is a trained biologist, and not liable to

fudge his observations, spent a summer on Outer Wood Island trying to
gauge the effect of the last ice-age on small mammal populations. One
day he visited Castalia beach on Grand Manan proper. It was a clear
summer day, strangely free of fog or cloud, and he was watching the

horizon between Long and White Head Islands when smoke began to pour
from the surface of the water between his location and these islands. The
column went straight up and thickened for a half hour before it dispersed.
There are a number of interpretations: The accidental detonation of an old
World War II shell laying on the bottom; the escape of volcanic gases
from an underwater vent; or possibly smoke signals from the World
Beneath Waves or even the Underground itself.

As with An Domhain, ending places are also considered beginning

places: Thus the island of Newfoundland was sometimes spoken of as the
ultimate “Indian Island,” the “first place” of the tribes of the east. The
“sentinel island” of Grand Manan may have had similar status in the
mythology of the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians. In all there are
eight islands bearing the designation “Indian Island” in New Brunswick
alone, and each is considered a magical microcosm of larger, more
generally known, islands. Islands of this sort, set aside for ceremonial
purposes, were relatively small and within reach but large enough to
accommodate the first patriarchs of the tribe as well as every related
Indian. Unfortunately for the Indians, these islands were often
strategically placed from the standpoint of white settlers.

During my childhood it was still understood that Navy Island, which

faced the town of Saint Andrews was one of these sacred places. The
Indians were first disturbed by the erection of a small habitation in 1704
by French settlers, but this was nothing compared with the depredations
of James Chaffey who arrived in 1760. This strong-willed character
overcame the objections of the Indians by turning their place into a
profitable centre for trade. Before long he had twelve schooners berthed
at a time, and his interests drew other businessmen, including a man who
denuded the island in the interest of fuelling fires to convert sea-water
into salt.
The once-treed island became a barren rock and the People withdrew from
their tradition meeting-burial grounds.

The “Indian Island” in Richibucto Harbour has retained its name and
an aboriginal presence since its “discovery” by the whites in the
seventeenth century. When government surveyor Moses Perley went there
in the 1840’s he was puzzled by the “great fondness” which the natives

showed for this place, “where they have held their annual festival on
Saint Anne’s Day (July 26).” Perley recommended that the New Brunswick
Legislature give the Indians clear title, but a committee replied, advising
him to cease “interference with Indian Affairs.”

Like neighbouring Shediac Island, “Richibucto” Island is nothing

more than a wooded sandbar barely two miles in length. The channel
between it and the mainland is just deep enough to dissuade casual
visitors and this has helped to preserve ancient ceremonial markings in
the earth of the island. Something a little more powerful seems to be
directed against violaters of the sacred preserves: A clam-digger who
invaded the tidal flats of the island was dead by drowning before he could
return to encroach on the Indian’s diggings. A second clam-digger turned
up within the week but, “the spirits of the waters must have been
strongly offended” for within the week, this young healthy man was found
dead of a heart attack. A little later an aerial photographer attempted to
record the spirit of the island. His flights back and forth over the place
were without result as his sight began to fail before his aircraft landed,
and before the photographs could be developed he was blind.

In 1762 Surveyor-General Charles Morris said that “the island

opposite Aukpaque” was called “Indian (or Savage) Island.” He went on to
say that this was the place where the Maliseets held their annual council,
at which “all differences and disputes were settled. and hunting grounds
allotted to each family before they began their summer hunts.” Their
year-round village was on the mainland at the mouth of the Keswick, a
tributary river to the Saint John. W.O. Raymond says that the proper
written name for the place was Ekpawhawk, indicating a place “at the
head of the tide.”

Long Island, the largest, longest and highest island in the Saint John
River system was originally Quebeet-a- wasis-eek, “the Beaver’s cradle.”
This prototypical beaver was the animal which Glooscap made as large as
a lion. In the early days Quebeet constructed a dam across the Saint John
River near its mouth. This turned the land to the north into one huge lake
or jimquispam, and caused the People to send for Glooscap. He broke the
dam with his huge club (not unlike that of the Celtic Dagda) and sent the
water rushing through a new channel to the sea. Partridge Island, was

called Quakmkanik, “the piece cut away from the rest.” The mid-water
projection which created the Reversing Falls, just below the cut, was
called Quabeet- a-wasis-sogado, “the beaver’s rolling dam.” Glooscap’s
club thrown after the retreated spirit-animal became Split Rock, which is
still seen just below the old Suspension Bridge. Glooscap followed the
beaver into his lodge (the underworld) near East Riverside and killed him
there. Seeing that beavers were dangerous to men, Glooscap reduced the
tribe to its present size. The beaver’s nest then became Glooscap’s
summer-place. A similar tale is told of the Minas Basin and its flooding
by a giant beaver.

Miscou Island, the one-time dwelling-place of the formidable Gou-gou,

was Musqu in the Micmac dialect, and the word marks it as “low and
boggy.” According to Nicholas Denys this island was settled by Jesuits
between 1635 and 1662, its trees reduced to ashes by an accidental fire
before he set up a seigneurie on the island in 1652. The Jesuits concluded
that “the soil is not good, the water not wholesome, the trees lacking in
beauty.” The fact that half the island has always been “unfit for human
habitation” due to its bog-like character never troubled the cannibalistic
Gou-gou. The native people told Champlain that this beast carried off
their people and that its voice was often heard on the barrens. Le sieur
Prevert de Saint-Malo, who cruised the area looking for minerals assured
Champlain that he and his crew had also heard the beast. Allison Mitcham
theorizes that its “rumblings” may have been “the bubblings of that
unusual fresh-water fountain which Denys discovered welling up in mid-
ocean several hundred feet off the island. In 1906 W.F. Ganong went to the
island and searched for this fountain but did not find it. This is not
surprising as underwater vents are sporadic in their timing and effect.
The trees on Miscou did not recover from that early fire, and because
Miscou sits low in the water, it is gradually being eroded and weathered
to oblivion in spite of the attempts of residents to turn back the sea.

Isle Haute, at the head of the Bay, is not out of the running as a
Celtic or Indian entry-point for the netherworld, for it is high as the name
Hy-Bres-il demands. The cliffs there are nearly perpendicular and 320
feet in height. The tale of Glooscap’s enlightenment is also told of Isle
Haute and it also has reputation among mariners as a “floating-island,”
after the fashion of the islands of imagination in Celtic and Norse myths.

Those who have come to Fundy Park from the northern Caledonian
Highlands will know of this islands strange appearance. It seems always
detached from the stream of water on which it sits. Like Grand Manan it
is a place of aberrant compass readings, and it seems to slip here and
there in the fog.

There are a good many malignantly-named islands, and even mainland

locations, which might be considered attached to the land of the dead:
There are dozens of places called Dead Man’s Island, Deadman’s Harbour,
the Devil’s Gate, the Devil’s Half Acre, the Devil’s Cauldron, or the Devil’s
Head within Atlantic waters, and any of these might be thought suitable
for docking Manan Mac Ler’s ship of souls. Notice also the Penobscot
Hobomocco, which the English interpreted as “Hell.” The current
Hockamock Point on Arrowsic Island, Maine is derived from this word. A
little above this spot, modern maps identify Upper Hell Gate; and a little
below Lower Hell Gate. There is a place with a similar name on the
barrens of north-western New Brunswick.


The spirit of the northern lights.

Wabenaki, Micmac. One of the combatants (the other was

Wosogwodesk in a race around the earth. This spirit was the loser since
it was noted that the borealis was not able to race in every climate.


The wizard-warrior who ruled the northern sea.

In European mythology gods of life and light invariably failed and this was
so with Glooscap. It was said that his first residence was the island
called Aja-lig-un-mechk, possibly located at the mouth of the Saint John
River in New Brunswick. Here, after a time among men, the Patridge Clan
plotted to kill the god and in this interest abducted the Bear Woman and
Martin, and fled with them into the forest. They had been gone for a month
and a half, before Glooscap returned home and peered into Martin’s birch-

bark dish. Following faint tracks to the shore he was confronted by a co-
conspirator, Winpe, the giant of the north wind. Seeing his family in a
distant canoe Glooscap tried to rescue them but was blow back to shore by
the wind. He followed a decaying trail to Grand Manan, and some say that
it was here that he sought the dark lands. Others insist that he crossed
over to Kespoogitk (Yarmouth) and slowly guided his canoe along the
southern coast of Nova Scotia until he came at last to Uktukkamkw, the
beginning-place. At the gates to the Otherworld Glooscap meditated for
seven years before pursuing the dark lord. When the time had come for
action, he pointed his canoe into the caverns of the Word Beneath Earth,
where he found and rescued his friends. On the outward journey, however,
he passed through places where men were not meant to go, so that Marten
and the grandmother both died of fear. But on the other shore, at home
again he said Numchashse! arise! and they were reincarnated. This
incident of the “sun” passing through the caverns beneath the earth,
emerging again to light the day, is a common theme in world myth. Here
as elsewhere the conquest of darkness was seen as giving the god power
over death.


A natural stone pillar thought to encompass the soul of an


Passamaquoddy, “the Dishonoured One,” located on the western shore not

far from a sea-cliff. This pillar is now called The Friar’s Head. According
to local legend this is all that persists of a warrior who had the
misfortune to be conquered by a woman “long ago, in the historic age.”


A mortal sea-spirit incarnate as a horned serpent.

Passamaquoddy dialect. Also seen as weewillmekq' and as

weewilliahmek in the Penobscot tongue. Charles Leland has guessed
that this creature, which he describes as "an alligator or some kind of a
horrible water-goblin," was misidentified with a similarly named Micmac
worm, which was more often found in dried wood than in the sea. Later

accounts make it clear that a similie was intended, the creature being like
this two or three inch worm in body shape, but capable of of altering its
size to that of a horse. It was agreed that this kind often took human
form, and could move with equal ease through land and water.

John Gyles was captured by a Malseet and brought to live in this

region in 1689. While there, he was told by tribemen of a woman of such
beauty she could not be suitably mated. Her family lived beneath the
shadow of the White Hills, then called Teddon, at the headwaters of the
Penobscot River. One evening the girl was seen to be missing and her
parents could not locate her. After much time and effort Gyles says they
found her "diverting herslf with a beautiful youth, whose hair, like her
own, flowed down below his waist, swimming, wshing &c., in the water;
but they vanished on their approach. This beautiful person who they
imagined to be one of those kind spirits who inhabit the Teddon, they
looked upon as their son-in-law; and according to custom they called upon
him for moose, bear, or whateverr creature they desired; and if they did
but go to the water-side and signify their desire, that animal would come
swimming to them."

Lucy Pictou of Lequille, Nova Scotia, told a similar story (1923) in

which a girl married a "horned-snake". In this case, the girl first saw her
loved one sitting within a spring, deep under the water: "He sits there
quietly cross-legged with his arms folded across his chest." In this case
the couple remained among the Micmac until a child was born, then all
three were seen to remove their clothing, and as the tribe watched, their
bodies were seen to thicken and length as they shape-changed into horned
serpents. Afterwards they disappeared into an adjacent lake. John
Newell of Pictou Landing recounted the dangers inherent in consorting
with the sea-people (1911). In his tale, a man lay within a jipjakamiskwa
track and was converted into a sea-serpent He followed the spoor of a
female into the world beneath the water. A magic worker told the man's
brother that he was surely lost to the world of men "if he has slept with
her under the same blanket." Apparently he had not, for the puoin was able
to set a death trap for the female serpent and retrieve the human from the
carcase of the beheaded male. John Neptune, a chief of the
Passamaquoddies (1880), fought the final battle of his life against a
wiwilameq. Neptune identified this destructive serpent as the familiar of

a chief of a neighbouring Maliseet tribe. Neptune characterized damage at

a Passamaquoddy camp-site as, "the work of the inch-long worm that can
make itself into a monster as big as a deer." Having concluded this, the
"old governor" went through a complex ritual and "drank medicine" in
order to call his enemy to battle. Neptune struggled with his adversary at
the edge of Boyden's Pond on the reservation at Perry, Maine. Afterwards,
the marauder ceased his rampages but the pond was permanently polluted.
The lake, which is about four miles from Point Pleasant is even yet named
Neseyik, “the muddy lake” or Nesseik, “the place oppf the roiled water.”
Eckstrom says she was told that Chief Neptune took the form of a giant
eel in order to overcome this ancient enemy.


The windblower, a giant who controlled the north wind of


Wabenaki, “wind-blow.” one of the kukwees, similar to the god Odin,

who was also entiled the Lord of the Northern Mountains. It is said that
when this wind spirit was at his most destructive men hid in the caves of
the earth or took refuge beneath the evergreens of the inner forest.
Wokwotoonok often plotted with the giants Winter and Frost hoping to
eliminate Glooscap’s people, but he was thwarted by the fire-spirit and
the goddess of Summer who allied themselves with men. Leland described
him as sitting “on a great rock at the end of day. And it is because he
moves his wings that the wind blows.” He was described as “the
grandfather of men,” but he had little interest in them, so Glooscap “tied
both his wings,” and diminished his danger to men.


The fog-spirit.

Passamaquoddy, “white devil.” The spirit which some call a

mistpuffer. While one may by-pass the shoals and rocks of the Bay, there
is no escaping the wombe, which Eckstrom assures us had nothing to do
with Englishmen, but was a name applied to incarnate sea-smoke or fog.
Some men have said that the Fundy fog resulted when Glooscap threw out

his ashes from the point of land at Blomidon.

The Bay of Fundy is a funnel for wind as well as water and those who
choose to live nearby cannot escape from the effects of the collisions of
warm and cold air masses. In our part of the world the prevailing wind is
from the southwest, the ground-level air masses being dragged in this
direction by the overhead jet stream. In many places the air from the
southwest encounters hills, and the winds are reduced in velocity, but
those headed for Atlantic Canada are driven through the Cumberland Gap in
the Appalachian Chain and emerge with greater speed than might
otherwise be the case. This means that very hot air sometimes intrudes
very quickly on the cold air that typically blankets the Bay and where
these different masses come together fog is an inevitable by-product.
In the summer months, there is fog more often than not, and it fills
the north of the Gulf of Maine, shrouding all of the Western Isles
(excepting perhaps their westerly faces). The upper reaches of the Bay
sometimes blow free of fog, but everything from St. Martins west in
usually deep in the white stuff. At Yarmouth there are about 20 days of
fog in July and 19 in August; at Saint John, the count is 17 and 14, with
warm southwestern winds driving it most of the time. In the summer the
Bay of Fundy waters have an average temperature of 14 degrees, which is
precisely that needed to precipitate water out of the moving air.

“Sea-smoke,” “steam fog,” or “Arctic frost smoke,” is the

meteorologic term for what locals call “the vapours,” and this
phenomena is “ying,” to the “yang” of fog. In the winter the temperature
of the bays and harbours behind the Gulf of Maine falls to about 9 degrees
Centigrade, but the winds from the Canadian Arctic are often far colder.
The slosh and roll of the waves, and the roiling of the tides bumps water
particles into the air just as it does in summer. This local air is not
really very warm, but it is relatively warmer than the air masses moving
in from the north. It is also warm enough to accommodate small droplets
of moisture. When the invading air falls across it, what moisture there is
squeezed out as a fine earth-bound, or water-bound cloud. The ledged and
indented “drowned valleys” of this part of Atlantic Canada are superbly
suited to generating summer fog and winter vapour. The Gulf of Maine and
the Bay of Fundy are great winter heat-sinks, cauldrons which hold the
heat of summer a little past its season; in this sense sea-fog is a ghost

of summer.

George Lowell, a fisherman who worked out of Prospect Harbour,

Maine (1992), said that “vapour can be awfully thick. But it’s not ever as
bad as the fogs we fished in off Great Wass Island or off the banks of
Grand Manan Island in summer. It’d get so thick out there that we had to
put a watch up on deck so we wouldn’t run into another boat. I don’t
remember ever being frightened of vapour or fog. It was dangerous, I
guess, but you didn’t talk about it...When the vapour freezes (however) it
can be a job to sail through. Sometimes it will freeze right to your
oilskins. You’ll be going through it in the boat and your oilskins will be
turning white. Then you do this. It cracks. It falls right off.”

Because the droplets of water in sea-smoke are supercooled, they

freeze became ice when disturbed by contact with anything in motion. The
washboards, gunwales, and masts of ships can then became layered with
ice to such an extent they begin to list. If they are left undisturbed they
will overweight a craft and sink it, and I have seen losses of this sort in
St. Andrews Harbour. This is unfortunate in view of the fact that this ice
is not really solid, but somewhat crumbly and easy to knock away with an
axe or hammer.

Another Maine seaman, Sherman Merchant, noted that vapour was

frequently channelled, so that one could see through it and get some sense
of direction. “I’ve never been lost in vapour. But in fog one summer, I
went round and round before I was forced to give up. I took my canvas
(sleeping bag) out of the bow of the boat and went ashore to sleep for the
night. Fog in summer can be big and heavy (and dangerous). And it’s
always wet. I’ve seen vapour out on the water as late as April and as
early as November...”

Clarence Bennett who lived at nearby Vinalhaven, Maine (1988) says

that sea vapour that appears at sunrise, “leaping up into fluffy, deep red
smokes,” always promises two to three additional days of severely cold
weather. The spirit of fog has also been observed to have a few
predictable habits. Former airline pilot Carmine Capolla had a mentor, “an
old sailor who instinctively knew the tides for Boston,” who showed him
how to make the approach to Boston airport in the deepest fog. “hE told

me that about an hour before high tide, regardless of how thick the fog,
the ceiling would rise and the visibility would increase. He didn’t know
why, but it was reliable... (Knowing this) I have since amazed many
copilots and crew at my “supernatural” ability to predict weather
conditions at the Boston airport.” (OFA, 1994)

The local Indians might have explained the backing away of the fog
as a courtesy on the part of the spirits of the air. They understood that
the clouds of the sea might take lives, and perhaps represent a shape-
changer. Along the Maine coast, just north of Olamon Island is an island,
presently unnamed, which used to be called Wombemando, “White Devil’s
Island.” This place was never inhabited by white-skinned men, but was
named for an Indian who committed some atrocities at that place about
the year 1750. He must have been a virile spirit and a great magician for
he is reported to have come back from living among the Micmacs to rejoin
the Penobscots in 1930.

As we have noted there are two great islands of fog that still
bedevil Atlantic Canada, one within the Bay of Fundy, the other shielding
the continental shelf of southern Newfoundland. It may be remembered
that Cuchullain found his Fomorian opponents in a blanket of fog near the
sea-islands of Hy Falga and Dun Scaith; and it is perhaps not chance that
gave another part of the Otherworld the Gaelic name, “the Land of Two
Fogs.” Bear in mind, also the fact, that men often chanced on the
Netherworld by simply wandering into a land-based European fog. The
Celtic voyager Bran explored the island of Airgtheach, “The White House,”
and that called Argadael, “The Silver Cloud,” appropriate names for any of
our ocean-islands.

Since the constantly active Bay rarely cools to the -2 degrees C.

necessary to freeze salt water, the place usually remains ice-free, in
contrast with most other waters in the region. Some parts of the most
eastern upper bay do form ice on the shallows, but the tides quickly crush
them into ice cakes, which then shift before the winter wind. Sometimes
they pile up on shore or beach themselves on the tidal flats, but the high
tide inevitable refloats these “spirits on the water,” which show their
temper by ploughing across gravel and mud beaches as they drift seaward.
On cold days we have seen the Chignecto Bay entirely sheathed in white,

from one side to the other in seemingly solid ice, but at the next turn of
the tide this same area is seen as blue-black water, the ice only
persisting as a faint white band against the cliffs on the far shore.


Lightning personified.

Wabenaki, Micmac, the winner of a race with Weyadeask, the “Northern

Lights,” a creature tied to the polar regions.

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