Published on December 21, 2012 by Casey
A Passamaquoddy Legend
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The Indians believe in a great bird called by them Wochowsen or Wuchowsen, meaning Wind-Blow or the Wind-Blower, who lives far to the North, and sits upon a great rock at the end of the sky. And it is because whenever he moves his wings the wind blows they of old times called him that.
When Glooskap was among men he often went out in his canoe with bow and arrows to kill sea-fowl. At one time it was every day very windy; it grew worse; at last it blew a tempest, and he could not go out at all. Then he said, “Wuchowsen, the Great Bird, has done this!”
He went to find him; it was long ere he reached his abode. He found sitting on a high rock a large white Bird.
“Grandfather,” said Glooskap, “you take no compassion on your Koosesek, your grandchildren. You have caused this wind and storm; it is too much. Be easier with your wings!”
The Giant Bird replied, “I have been here since ancient times; in the earliest days, ere aught else spoke, I first moved my wings; mine was the first voice,–and I will ever move my wings as I will.”
Then Glooskap rose in his might; he rose to the clouds; he took the Great Bird-giant Wuchowsen as though He were a duck, and tied both his wings, and threw him down into a chasm between deep rocks, and left him lying there.
The Indians could now go out in their canoes all day long, for there was a dead calm for many weeks and months. And with that all the waters became stagnant. They were so thick that Glooskap could not paddle his canoe. Then he thought of the Great Bird, and went to see him.
As he had left him he found him, for Wuchowsen is immortal. So, raising him, he put him on his rock again, and untied one of his wings. Since then the winds have never been so terrible as in the old time.
The reader will find the main incident of this story repeated in “Tumilkoontaoo, the Broken Wing,” from the Micmac, in which there is no mention of Glooskap. This of Wuchowsen is from the Passamaquoddy manuscript collection by Louis Mitchell. It is unquestionably the original. Glooskap, as the greatest magician, most appropriately subdues the giant eagle of the North, the terrible god of the storm.
No one who knows the Edda will deny that Wuchowsen, or the Wind-blower, as he appears in the Passamaquoddy tale, is far more like the same bird of the Norsemen than the grotesque Thunder Bird of the Western tribes. He is distinctly spoken of by the Indians of Maine as a giant and a bird in one, sitting on a high cliff at the end of the sky, the wind – not thunder – coming from his pinions:-
“Tell me ninthly,
Since thou art called wise,
Whence the wind comes,
That over ocean passes,
Itself invisible to man.
“Hraesvelg he is called
Who at the end of heaven sits,
A Jötun (giant) in eagle’s plumage:
From his wings comes,
It is said, the wind
That over all men passes.”
(The Lay of Vafthrudnir. The Edda, trans. by B. Thorpe.)