noun: myth; plural noun: myths
… a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
I found a wonderful website at Encyclopedia Mythica Online. I learned of many myths from Canada. So for today’s post, I would like to introduce you to a few of them.
* ANGUTA. Known as “His Father”, is responsible for conveying the dead to the underworld, called Adlivun (where his daughter rules), where they must sleep for a year. The supreme being of the Inuit.
* ADLIVUN. The Adlivun are in Eskimo myth (Canada and Arctic) “Those Beneath Us” or those in the underworld or the Underworld itself. It is the home of Sedna, goddess of the sea. This is where the dead are purified before continuing on to the “Land of the Moon”.
* SEDNA: The Inuit goddess of the sea and the creatures that inhabit it. She was greatly feared but sought out by Shamans for the release of the seals for hunting. According to one myth, Sedna lives now on the bottom of the sea (Adlivun) where she spends her days amidst whales and other creatures of the sea. (In Greenland she is called Arnakuagsak and in Alaska Nerrivik. More than one version of the Sedna legend exists. For instance, in one legend Sedna is a giant, with a great hunger that caused her to attack her parents. Angered, Anguta took her out to sea and threw her over the side of his kayak. As she clung to the sides, he chopped off her fingers and she sank to the underworld, becoming the ruler of the monsters of the deep. Her huge fingers become the seals, walruses, and whales hunted by the Inuit. In the many varying legends, each give different rationales for Sedna’s death. Yet, in each version, her father takes her to sea in his kayak, chopping off her fingers. In each version she sinks to the bottom of the sea, worshiped by hunters who depend on her goodwill to supply food. She is generally considered a vengeful goddess, and hunters must placate and pray to her to release the sea animals from the ocean depths for their hunt. The Discovery of a tenth planet (90377 Sedna), a trans-Neptunian object discovered by Micahel Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David Rabinowitz on November 14, 2003, is named for her.
* FEUX FOLLETS. Feux Follets are wee tricky spirits who live in bogs and ponds around Quebec. They look like little blue flames and they try to lure travellers into ponds to drown them. They are called St. Louis Light in Saskatchewan, Fireship of Baie des Chaleurs in New Brunswick, and Ghost Light around North America especially.
* SASQUATCH. Well, we’ve all heard the stories. They are the North American version of the Abominable Snowman and the Yeti in the Himalayas. The Americans will commonly refer to them as Bigfoot. The word Sasquatch closely resembles and is derived from several native names for the creature used by tribes in the coastal area of the Pacific north-west. It has long arms, an ape-like face with a flat nose, and thick hairy fur. Sasquatch lives in the caves and hidden valleys of Canada and North America.
It was first seen by white men in 1811 and since then there have been hundreds of reports on sightings and encounters. There are several photos and films of the creature, besides casts taken from its footprints, but many of these turned out to be forgeries. There are many people who claim they have either seen the creature itself or its tracks. Expeditions set out to search for Bigfoot have never found it, nor is there any scientific evidence for its existence.
Local legends were compiled by J. W. Burns in a series of Canadian newspaper articles in the 1920s. Each language had its own name for the local version. Many names meant something along the lines of “wild man” or “hairy man” although other names described common actions it was said to perform (e.g., eating clams). Burns coined the term Sasquatch, which is from the Halkomelem sásq’ets (IPA: [ˈsæsqʼəts]) and used it in his articles to describe a hypothetical single type of creature reflected in the stories. Burns’s articles popularized the legend and its new name, making it well known in western Canada before it gained popularity in the United States.
* OGOPOGO (or NAITKA). A legendary animal which lives in the depths of Loch Ness, a lake in the Highlands of northern Scotland. The size of this monster, Nessie as it is fondly called, is 12-15 m (40-50 ft) and it has a long, snake-like neck. It is popularly believed to be female. The sightings date back to 565 CE when the Irish Saint Columba claimed he saw the Niseag (the Celtic name for Nessie) when he attended a burial for a man who had been bitten to death by the monster.
While it has been sighted in the later centuries, it was not until the 19th century that the sightings become more frequent. The most famous encounter was perhaps in the summer of 1933. On that day Mr. and Mrs. Spicer, returning from a trip to London, saw a monster cross the road, with an animal in his jaws, and submerge in the lake. This incident drew the attention of the world press and Nessie became an international phenomena. There have been many expeditions since, but none were successful as to prove its existence. Another famous monster is that of Lake Okanagan, Canada. This creature, called Ogopogo or Naitaka, has been regularly sighted since 1854.
* WENDIGO. The Wendigo is a monster who comes from the coldest place. He is composed of mud and ice. A cannibal, he will devour anything in his path, including another Wendigo. His mouth is lined with jagged teeth and he is magic, able to change form at will. Wendigo is a demonic half-beast creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquian peoples along the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes Region of both the United States and Canada. It is particularly associated with cannibalism. The Algonquian believed those who indulged in eating human flesh were at particular risk; the legend appears to have reinforced the taboo of the practice of cannibalism. It is often described in Algonquian mythology as a balance of nature. Apparently, one warrior defeated a Wendigo by changing himself into a giant dog.
In the northern part of Canada missing persons have been considered victims of the Wendigo and have been reported so in newspapers. There is also a psychological condition peculiar to the Algonquin people called “Wendigo Psycholsis” where the victim begins to crave human flesh. This condition has been used in courts of law as part of the person’s defence.
* WISAGATCAK. The Cree Indians of Canada also knew this god as Wisakedjak or “Whiskey Jack.” He is the creator of the world. One of his adventures was trying to capture one of the giant beavers who lived at the beginning of the world. The attempt was unsuccessful and, in a rage, the beavers flooded the earth. Therefore, Wisagatcak created a raft, on which he and all the animals got on. This story continues much like that of “Noah’s Ark” and “Nanabush Creates the World.” However, only when Wisagatcak used his own magic (with the help of the wolf) did the world return. The wolf retrieved a piece of moss, which Wisagatcak expanded to create a whole new world.