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Full Online Book HomeShort StoriesMuggahmaht'adem, The Dance Of Old Age, Or The Magic Of The Weewillmekq'
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Muggahmaht'adem, The Dance Of Old Age, Or The Magic Of The Weewillmekq' Post by :madblitzer Category :Short Stories Author :Charles G. Leland Date :July 2011 Read :3537

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Muggahmaht'adem, The Dance Of Old Age, Or The Magic Of The Weewillmekq'

Muggahmaht'adem, the Dance of Old Age, Or the Magic of the Weewillmekq'

(Footnote: This mysterious being is called _Wee-wil-li-ah-mek_ in Penobscot The correct pronounciation is very nearly _Wee-wil-'l-mekqu'_ for both Penobscot and Passamaquoddy, but this would be a difficult utterence for any one who has never listened to the Algonquin soft gutturals.

Mrs. W. Wallace Brown informs me that "the _Weewillmekqu'_ is a snail." This would account for its being thought to inhabit both land and water.)


Of old times. There lived in a village many Indians. Among them was a handsome young man, very brave, a great hunter. And there was a beautiful girl. What was her name? Mahli-hahn-sqwess, or Kaliwahdazi,-- I don't remember which. But she was proud and high-tempered, and, what was worse, a great witch, but nobody knew it. She wanted the young man to marry her, but he was very busy getting ready for the fall and winter hunt, and had no time to attend to such a thing; and told her so very plainly.

Yes, he must have been very plain with her, for she was very angry, and said to him, "You may go; but you will never return as you went." She meant that, he would be ill or changed. He gave no heed to her words; he did not care for her nor fear her. But far away in the woods, far in the north, in midwinter, he went raging mad. The witch had struck him, when far away, with her magic.

He had with him an elder brother, a great brave, a very fierce man. He, not being able to do aught else, did the most desperate thing a Wabanaki Indian can do. He went down to the river, and sang the song which calls the _Weewillmekq'_.

"We que moh wee will l'mick,
We que moh m'cha micso,
Som'awo wee will l'mick!
Cardup ke su m'so wo Sawo!"

I call on the Wee-will-l'mick!
I call on the Terrible One!
On the One with the Horns!
I dare him to appear!

It came to him in all its terrors. Its eyes were like fire; its horns rose. It asked him what he wanted. He said that he wished his brother to be in his right mind again.

"I will give you what you want," said the Weewillmekq', "if you are not afraid."

"I am not afraid of anything," said the Indian.

"Not of me?"

"Not of you nor of Mitche-hant, the devil himself."

"If you dare take me by my horns and scrape somewhat from one of them with your knife," said the monster, "you may have your wish."

Now this Indian was indeed as savage and brave as the devil; and he had need to be so to do this, for the Weewillmekq' looked his very worst. But the man drew his knife and scraped from the horn till he was told that he had enough.

"Go to your camp," said the Worm. "Put half the scrapings into a cup of water. Make your brother drink it."

"And the other half?" asked the Indian.

"Give it to the girl who made all this trouble. She needs medicine, too."

He returned to camp, and gave the drink to his brother, who recovered. When the hunt was at an end they went home.

They arrived at night. There was an immense lodge in the town, and a dance was going on. The younger brother had prepared a cool drink,-- sweet with maple-sugar, fragrant with herbs,--and in it was the powder of the horn of the Weewillmekq'. The witch, warm and very thirsty from dancing, came to the door. He offered her the cup. Without heeding who gave it, she drank it dry, and, turning to her partner, went on in the dance.

And then a strange thing happened. For at every turn of the dance she grew a year older. She began as a young girl; when at the end of the room she was fifty years of age; and when she got back to the door whence she started she fell dead on the floor, at the feet of him who gave her the drink, a little, wrinkled, wizened-up old squaw of a hundred years.

_Aha, yes? wood enit atokhahyen, muggoh mah't adem_. This is the story of the Dance of Old Age. But you may call it _Sektegah_, the Dance of Death, if you like it better. (Footnote: This extraordinary story was related to me by Noel Joseph, at Campobello, August 26, 1883. I am indebted to Mrs. W. Wallace Brown for the incantation song. The Weewillmekq' has, as it appears in several tales, an extraordinary resemblance to the Norse dragon. It cures mental diseases. It seems to be the same with the _Chepitchcalm_.)


Another Version of the Dance of Old Age.


It was in the autumn, the time when Indians go up the rivers to their hunting-grounds, that two young men left home. They ascended the stream; they came to a branch, where they parted: one going alone, another with his married brother. This latter, with the brother, had left in the village a female friend, a witch, who had forbidden him to go hunting, but he had not obeyed her.

And she had cause to keep him at home, for, when he was afar in the woods, and alone, he met one day with a very beautiful girl, who fascinated him, and gave herself to him. And when he said that he did not know how to conceal her from his friends she told him that she was a fairy, and could make herself as small as a newly born squirrel, and that all he need do was to wrap her up in a handkerchief and carry her in his pocket. When alone, he could take her out, enjoy her company, and then reduce and fold her up and put her away again.

He did so, but from that hour, while he carried the fairy near his heart, he began to be wicked and strange. This was not caused by her, but by the girl at home. He was entirely changed; he grew devilish; he refused to eat, and never spoke. His sister-in-law began to fear him. When she offered him food he cried out, "Unless I can devour one of your children I will have nothing!"

When his brother returned and heard all this, he, too, offered him meat, but met with a refusal and the reply, "Give me one of your little children." To which he answered, "The child is so small that it will not satisfy you. Let me go and get a larger one." Then he ran to the village and informed his friends of what had come over the brother. And as they knew that he was about to become a _kewahqu'_ (_chenoo_) they resolved to kill him.

But there was a young man there, a friend of the sufferer, who said that he could save him. So all who were assembled bade him try.

And when night came he went apart, and began to sing his _m'teoulin_, or magic song. When it ended there was a loud sound as of some heavy body falling and striking the earth, which fairly shook. The next morning he called all his friends and the married brother, and showed them a human corpse. "Now leave me," he said. "Go to my friend and tell him that I have food for him." The Indians did so, and in horror left the two cannibals to devour their disgusting meal. When the insane youth was satisfied, his friend asked, "Have you had enough?" He replied that he had. (Footnote: The human body which supplied the meal was probably in reality a deer, or some such animal.) Then the magician said, "You are bewitched by the girl who forbade you to go hunting; she knew you would find a maid better than she is. Now come with me."

They went to a small lake; they sat down by its side; the sorcerer began his magic song. And as he sang the waters opened; from the disturbed waves rose a huge Weewillmekq', a creature like an alligator, with horns. And, as the terrible being came ashore, the magician said, "Go and scrape somewhat from his horn and bring it here!" The young man had become fearless; he went and did as he was bid: he scraped the horn, and brought the scraping.

"Now, my friend," said the magician, "let us try this on a tree." There was a large green beech growing by them. It was simply touched with the fragment from the horn when another color spread all over the bark as rapidly as the eye could follow it: in an instant it was dead, and in a few minutes more it fell to the ground, utterly rotten, as if it were a century old.

"Now," said the sorcerer, "we will experiment with this on the witch who wishes to destroy you." So as it was night they went to the village. A dance was being held, and the beautiful tall witch having paused to rest, the two men approached her. The young man placed his hand on her head; he held in it a scraping of the horn of the _weewillmekq'_. As he did so she grew older in an instant,--she became very old; a pale color rippled all over her; she fell, looking a hundred years, dead on the floor, shriveled, dried, and dropped to powder.

"She will not trouble you any more," said the sorcerer. "Her dance is over."

This is the same story as the preceding; but I give it to show now differently a tale may be told by neighbors. In one it is the _spretae injuria formae_, the wrath of rejected love, which inspires the witch to revenge; in the other it is jealousy. In one she inflicts madness; in the other she turns him into a cannibal demon, as Loki, when only half bad, was made utterly so by getting the "thought-stone" or heart of a witch. This legend was sent to me by Louis Mitchell. It is written not by him, but by some other Passamaquoddy, in Indian-English.

(The end)
Charles G. Leland's short story: Muggahmaht'adem, The Dance Of Old Age, Or The Magic Of The Weewillmekq'

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