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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Some Menominee Myths and Legends

Hi, dear friends and followers, thank you for dropping by. Today we visit the Menominee people

In between the waters of Lake Superior on the north and Illinois on the south is the state of Wisconsin. It is the last piece of the Northwest Territory to become a state.

The Ojibwe (Chippewa), Dakota Sioux, Ho' Chunk, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Munsee made this land of thousands of lakes their home. The oral history of the Menominee has been reasonably documented so we will look at some of their legends involving Manabush.

Manabush was a trickster-god of the Menominee. Brother of Moqwaoi, he was the survivor of twins born to Wenonah, a daughter of Nokomis, who died in childbirth. He turned into a white rabbit who later stole fire and gave it to the tribe.

When his brother, Moqwaoi, was killed by evil spirits, he killed two of their number. The other spirits then caused a flood from which Manabush was the only one to escape, which he did by climbing a pine tree and causing it to grow rapidly to beat the rising waters.

When Muskrat found a small piece of dry soil after Beaver, Mink and Otter had failed, Manabush was able to recreate the world.

In another story, Misikinebik, a monstrous serpent, ate nearly all the tribe so Manabush offered himself and, once inside the beast, stabbed its heart and killed it.

In some lore, Manabush is occasionally referred to as Manabozho, Hiawatha, Manabosho, Michabo, Nanabozho, Winabozho, Great Hare, Nanaboojoo, Nanabush, Abnaki, Gluskap, Ioskeha, Montagnais, Messou, Manabusch, Wabus, or Wabasso.

The Story of Manabush

There once was an old woman called Nokomis (Grandmother) who had an unmarried daughter. The daughter gave birth to twin boys and during the birth, one of the boys died and so did the mother.

Nokomis wrapped the surviving boy in soft grass and laid him on the ground at one side of her wigwam and placed a wooden bowl over him to protect him. She buried her daughter and the other grandchild a ways from her wigwam. She mourned them for four days and at the end of that she heard a small sound in the wigwam and it was coming from underneath the wooden bowl. The bowl moved, and suddenly she remembered her little grandchild, whom she had forgotten in her mourning.


Lifting up the bowl, she saw a little white rabbit with quivering ears, and she picked it up, saying "Oh! My dear rabbit, my Manabush." She loved the rabbit and it grew. One day the rabbit sat up and hopped slowly across the wigwam, causing the earth to tremble. The spirits underneath said to one another, "What was that? A great spirit has been born somewhere." To protect their own power, they began to scheme how to be rid of Manabush.

As Manabush grew up to be a young man, he thought about how he could prepare himself to assist his uncles, the people. He said to Nokomis, "Grandmother, make me two sticks, so that I can sing." Nokomis made the sticks, then Manabush left the wigwam and built a larger longhouse near the wigwam.


He began to sing, calling his uncles together, and told them that he would give them the Medicine Lodge and the Medicine Dance so they could cure diseases. He saw that they were hungry, so he gave them plants for food. He also gave them medicine bags made from the skins of mink, weasel, rattlesnakes, and the panther. Into each of these bags, he put samples of all the medicines, and taught the people how to use them. Manabush lived for many years after this and taught the Menominee many useful things.

(Adapted from W.J. Hoffman, 1890, "Mythology of the Menomini Indians," American Anthropologist 3[3]:243-58.)

Manabush and his Brother

When Manabush had accomplished the works which the Great Spirit had sent him to do, he moved far away and built his wigwam on the northeast shore of a large lake. Since he was alone, the spirits wanted to give him a companion in the form of his twin brother.


The spirits brought his brother to life. Manabush's brother looked like a human being but could also assume the shape of a Wolf, which he used when he hunted. Since Manabush had always been aware of the jealousy of the evil spirits from under the earth and the water, he warned his brother the Wolf never to return come home across the lake but rather to always go around it by shore.


One day, after the Wolf had been hunting all day, he found himself directly across the lake from his wigwam, and so he decided to cross directly over the frozen lake. When he was partly across the lake, the ice broke and he fell through. He was seized by the bad underwater spirits and destroyed.

Manabush immediately knew what had happened to his brother, and he mourned his brother for four days. Every time Manabush sighed it made the earth tremble, forming the hills and valleys.

The spirit of his brother, the Wolf, appeared before Manabush and Manabush realized that his brother would not return to him. He told the wolf's spirit to go to the west to become the chief of all the departed spirits. Sadly, Manabush gave up his home by the lake and hid himself inside a large rock near Mackinaw.

For many years, the people would visit Manabush there and hold the Medicine Dance which he had taught them. And when Manabush wanted to interact with the people but did not want to show himself in human form, he appeared to them in the shape of a little white rabbit with trembling ears, just as he had appeared to Nokomis when he was a baby.


(Adapted from W.J. Hoffman, 1890, "Mythology of the Menomini Indians," American Anthropologist 3[3]:243-58.)


The Origin of Fire and the Canoe

When Manabush was still young, he once said to his grandmother Nokomis, "Grandmother, we have no fire and it is cold in here. Let me go and get some fire." Nokomis tried to make him forget the idea of getting fire because it was dangerous, but Manabush insisted.


Manabush knew he had a long journey ahead, so he made a canoe made of bark-the very first canoe. He took on the shape of a rabbit so he wouldn't be recognized and started east across a large body of water. He knew that there was an old man living on an island who had fire.

As Manabush-in the form of a Rabbit-approached the island, it was still dark, and he pulled his canoe ashore and hopped along until he came to the wigwam of the old man. The old man had two daughters, who came out of the wigwam and saw the little Rabbit, all wet and cold. They picked him up and took him inside, setting him down next to the fire to get warm.


The girls went about their evening duties while the Rabbit sat by the fire. He hopped a little nearer to the fire to try to pick up a coal but as he moved, the earth shook and disturbed the old man, who was napping in the wigwam. "What was that?" said the old man. The daughters said it was nothing, and told him that they were only trying to warm up the poor little rabbit they had found.

When the girls went back to their work, the Rabbit grabbed a burning stick and ran out of the wigwam, going as fast as he could back to the place where he had left his canoe. The girls and the old man dashed out of the wigwam chasing the Rabbit who had stolen the fire.

The Rabbit reached his canoe safely and pushed off into the water, leaving the old man and his daughters on shore. He paddled as fast as he could toward his grandmother's home. The air rushing past the canoe made the stick burn fiercely, and by the time he reached home, Nokomis could see that his fur was badly burned in several places. She took the burning stick from him and made a fire with him, and then dressed his wounds so his fur would grow back.

(Adapted from W.J. Hoffman, 1890, "Mythology of the Menomini Indians," American Anthropologist 3[3]:243-58.)

Grasshopper and the Origin of Tobacco


One day Manabush was walking past a high mountain when he smelled a delightful fragrance which seemed to be coming from a crevice in the cliffs. He went closer and found that the mountain was home to a Giant who was known to be the keeper of tobacco. Manabush found a cavern in the side of the mountain and went inside, following a passage which led into the center of the mountain where the Giant lived.

The Giant asked Manabush very sternly what he wanted. Manabush answered that he had come for some tobacco, but the Giant told him that the spirits had just been there for their smoke. Since the ceremony only happened once a year, the Giant told Manabush to come back in a year. Manabush found this difficult to believe, because when he looked around the Giant's cavern, he saw bags and bags of tobacco all around it.

So he snatched one of the bags and dashed out of the mountain, closely pursued by the Giant. Manabush reached the top of the mountain and leaped from peak to peak. The Giant followed him closely, and when Manabush reached the edge of a cliff, he fell down flat and the Giant leaped over him and fell over the cliff and into the chasm.


The Giant was badly bruised, but managed to climb up the face of the cliff, where he hung at the top with all of his fingernails torn off. Then Manabush grabbed the giant by the back and threw him to the ground and said, "For your stinginess, you will become the Grasshopper, and everyone will know you by your stained mouth. You will become a pest and bother all those who raise tobacco."

Then Manabush took the tobacco home and divided it among the people and gave them the seed so they could grow it themselves and use it for offerings and blessings.


(Adapted from W.J. Hoffman, 1890, "Mythology of the Menomini Indians," American Anthropologist 3[3]:243-58.)

Thank you again for dropping by and taking a few minutes to read Some Menominee Myths and Legends. I would appreciate knowing what your thoughts are on it. Thank you and have a wonderful Saturday.

ڰۣIn Loving Light from the Fairy Ladyڰۣ

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