Petrification Myths: The Legend of the Creation of the Iguazú Falls

A Wonder of the World

The Iguazú Falls are a natural wonder of the world situated on the Iguazi River on the border of Argentina and Brazil.   In the Guarani/Tupi language, Iguazú, means big water and the Iguazú waterfall system is the largest in the world. People lived around the Iguazú Falls long before the arrival of the Spanish having their own long held beliefs and religion.  One of their most important rituals was the annual sacrifice of a virgin to M’Boi, the Serpent God who lived in the Iguazú River and was the son of Tupa, the Supreme God.

Naipi and Taruba

In a village on the banks of the Iguazú lived a very beautiful maiden named Naipi who was to be married to a great warrior named Taruba from a nearby tribe.  The two of them were deeply in love and looked forward to the blessed day with excitement and anticipation. One day before her wedding Napi went walking along the banks of the river and as M’Boi passed along the river he looked up and saw her.  Never had he seen a maiden of such grace and beauty before and he fell in love with her. He decided he must have her and went to the Guarani elders telling them of his desire and demanding they give her to him in the sacred ritual.

A Desperate Plan

The elders were frightened of M’Boi and rather than upset him they decided that Naipi would be sacrificed to him the day before her wedding.  Of course poor Naipi was frightened and upset and Taruba was furious and determined that she would not face such a terrible death. They knew that if the elders found out they would stop them and if M’Boi found out they would both die, but decided that death together would be better than death apart.  Therefore, they decided they would run away together and set a time and place of rendezvous to carry out their desperate plan. As Naipi and Taruba were setting off in a canoe to go down river the Serpent God saw them and chased after them furiously.

M’Boi’s Anger

Taruba rowed with all of his strength and managed to keep a few feet ahead of the angry god.  M’Boi became so angry that his serpent body expanded to the width of the river. As he twisted and turned he created new curves in the river making the canoe rock dangerously two and fro but this only increased the anger and determination of Taruba who rowed even harder refusing to give up.   Suddenly, M’Boi became so filled with rage he caused the very earth to split asunder causing the river to plummet wildly into the chasm he had created taking the vessel with it, causing it to spin uncontrollably around. The sheer force sent Taruba flying from the canoe to land onto the bank.  Trapped in the falling canoe Naipi watched helplessly as the bottom of the chasm opened up under her. As she was about to smash into the bottom M’Boi transformed her into massive rock to stop her escaping him.

Rainbow

On seeing his beloved turn to stone, Taruba attempted to climb down to her but M’Boi pulled his hands into the earth and as he stretched out his fingers to try and take hold they turned into roots and Taruba turned into a palm tree on the Brazilian side of the falls  that was forever rooted to the place above the newly formed waterfall. From this position Taruba could see Naipa on the Argentine side of the falls and she could see him but they could never ever touch, kiss or embrace. To make sure this never happens the jealous Serpent God watches them from a deep part of the river called the Devil’s Throat. Nevertheless, although Naipa and Taruba can never be reunited their love can be seen forming a rainbow from the palm tree on Brazilian side of the falls to the rock that is Naipa on the Argentine side.

© 29/08/2018 zteve t evans

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Copyright August 29th, 2018 zteve t evans

The Legend of Multnomah Falls, Oregon

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By InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA (Multnomah Falls) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Multnomah Falls

The Multnomah Falls is a waterfall situated not far from Portland in Oregon.  It is a local beauty spot which many people visit to see  torrents of cool, crystal clear, water cascade over the edge of a cliff to fall over 611 feet in a spectacular cascade.  A legend is associated with its creation that tells a story of love, devotion, faith and sacrifice.

Chief Multnomah

Many, many, years ago there was a Native American chief called Multnomah who had a beautiful daughter that he loved more than anything. Having lost his sons in wars he loved and cherished her even more and wanted to be sure when the time came she would have the best possible husband. To meet this goal he spent a lot of time looking over the young men of his own and neighbouring villages for the best possible match.  At last he decided that the best husband for his daughter would be a young chief from the Clatsop people who were neighbours.  It proved to be very good match and the two quickly developed a deep rapport and fell in love with one another.

Celebrations

Multnomah was pleased and planned to hold a great celebration in honour of the couple. He would invite people from miles around to wish the couple good luck, celebrate the match and take part in all kinds of activities that he would host.  There would be singing and dancing, and the young men would compete against each other in contests of archery, wrestling, swimming, canoe racing and naturally there would be feasting. It would be a spectacular and happy event but it did not go as planned.

The Plague

A terrible sickness came and laid many people low.  The children and the old died first but soon even the young and strong were also succumbing to this terrible plague.  The chief grew very worried.  He called a great council of his elders and sent off for eldest and wisest medicine man in the tribe who lived as a hermit on the mountain. The old medicine man rarely left his mountain home but when a message arrived from Multnomah begging him to come down he knew an important time long prophesized had come. The old medicine man told Chief Multnomah and the council that what he had to say was very grave and troubling but there was no other way to put the situation to right.

The Prophecy

He told Multnomah and the council of a prophecy that had been told to him when he was in his youth by his father just before he died at a very great age.  His father told him that a time would come when he had lived to a great age when a plague would fall upon the people. There would be no survivors unless an innocent daughter of a chief of the people willingly sacrificed her life to the Great Spirit. This and only this, was the only thing way the people could be saved.  The old medicine man then begged leave of the council saying that now the prophecy was revealed it was time for him to die and he went back to the mountain.

When the people heard of the prophecy many of the young maidens of the tribe presented themselves to Chief Multnomah, including his own beloved daughter, offering up themselves as sacrifices. Multnomah was appalled.  He could not come to terms with any of the maidens losing their lives and he thought long and hard about what he should do.  At last he made a decision and he called a general meeting of the people and explained the situation to them.  He told them he would not ask any of the maidens to sacrifice their lives.  Instead, he told the people they must be brave and prepare themselves as their forefathers would have done to meet with the inevitable end.

More and more people died and then Multnomah’s daughter again went to her father to ask his permission to sacrifice her life to save the people. Again, he refused and sadly she reluctantly obeyed her him.  When the plague struck down the man she loved she knew what she had to do.  After nursing and caring for him with all her love and tenderness she slipped out of the village and took the path to the highest cliff.

The Sacrifice

With her heart beating fast she walked resolutely to the cliff edge and stood looking down at the ragged rocks far, far below.   Closing her eyes she called upon the Great Spirit to give her a sign as proof that her sacrifice would bring a halt to the plague.   Then she cast her eyes to the skies looking all around for some kind of sign.   She saw the sun and she saw the clouds and then she saw the full moon rise in broad daylight on the distant horizon.   Accepting this as the sign she stepped off the cliff.

The following day in the village those who had been sick rose from their beds feeling hale, healthy and very happy to have fully recovered and great celebrations began.  Then the people started to think and wondered how their sudden, surprise cure had come about.

Multnomah called all the maidens to him and they were all present with the exception of one, his daughter.   Immediately the young Clatsop chief ran up the path to the cliff.  Peering over the edge he was devastated to see her broken body lying twisted among the rocks below.

The Great Spirit

The people were sad and wept long and loudly,  In gratitude they climbed to the bottom of the cliff and honored her in the tradition of their people and then raised a cairn over her body.  Her grieving father called upon the Great Spirit for a sign that he had welcomed her into his care.   Immediately they heard the sound of running water and a pure stream of crystal water cascaded over the cliff and has flowed continuously ever since.

Some say they have seen the spirit of the maiden all in white walking the path to the cliff top.  There she would stand by the waterfall now called Multnomah Falls that was sent by the Great Spirit to show the people that she, who had sacrificed all for love, was in his care.

© 19/07/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright July 19th, 2017 zteve t evans

The Legend of Lady Emma and Sir Eglamore of Aira Force

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Pam Brophy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Aira Force is a waterfall situated in the Lake District in Cumbria, an area of England renowned for the beauty and splendor of its landscape of lakes, mountains, and forests. The lakes have been a popular holiday and walking destination for many people for centuries.  Many of the most famous poets of the Romantic movement such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey found inspiration and solace amid its magnificent landscape.   Wordsworth, in particular, found the inspiration to write some of his most memorable lines while walking amid the sweeping landscape of Lakeland and one such place was Aira Force.  The waters come from a stream called the Aira Beck which has its source on Stybarrow Dodd.  Its path takes it through a ravine and falls about sixty-six feet creating the waterfall called Aira Force which then flows toward Ullswater.   Lakeland is steeped in history and folklore and Aira Force has a rather sad legend attached to it which also appears in a poem written by Wordsworth called, The Somnambulist.

The Legend of Lady Emma and Sir Eglamore

The legend tells how there was once a bold and noble knight named Sir Eglamore who was betrothed to the beautiful Lady Emma.  Being a lady of considerable beauty she had many suitors but had chosen Sir Eglamore in preference to all of the others.   Sir Eglamore, although he loved Lady Emma deeply, was very much the knight errant and often traveled to far off lands to fighting all sorts of foreign foes and having many different adventures.

Although the couple was truly in love Sir Eglamore increasingly spent more and more time away from his lady.   Poor Lady Emma came to miss him greatly and her health and sleep became affected.  She began to walk in her sleep even being found wandering in dreams in the gardens at times.  In her sleep, she began to roam further afield visiting places that were special to her and her sweetheart, Sir Eglamore.

One night she rose in her sleep and roamed beyond the gardens and up to the place of one of their favorite haunts, the waterfall of Aira Force where she stood on the very edge of the ravine.  We can only guess that in her sleep she dreamed of the being in the arms of her absent lover.

By coincidence, it happened that Sir Eglamore returned that night and eager to see his beloved had sought for her all over the house.   Not finding her he had sought for her outside eventually making his way up to Aira Force.

There, he saw her standing on the very edge of the waterfall.  Calling joyful greetings to her he ran up the path to her.  She showed no sign that she had heard him and he became concerned and confused.  Thinking it was either the sound of the waterfall that prevented her hearing him, or he had found her ghost, he gently touched her shoulder.  She shuddered and suddenly awoke from sleep in shock and stumbled forward plunging over the edge and down into the icy arms of the fast moving torrent.  William Wordsworth catches the moment in his poem, The Somnambulist,

 
Soul-shattered was the Knight, nor knew
            If Emma’s Ghost it were,
          Or boding Shade, or if the Maid
            Her very self stood there.                            
          He touched; what followed who shall tell?
            The soft touch snapped the thread
          Of slumber–shrieking back she fell,
          And the Stream whirled her down the dell
            Along its foaming bed.
 

Shocked, Sir Eglamore raced to the bottom of the ravine and plunging through the icy water downstream where he eventually caught up with her and carried her from the water.  There by the water’s edge, she briefly opened her eyes and a thin smile spread upon her lips but as she did so she gasped her last breath and passed away in her lover’s arms.  From that moment on Sir Eglamore in his grief took to living in a cave above the waterfall and became a hermit and to prevent another tragedy he built a bridge across the stream.

William Wordsworth told the story in his poem but there is debate among scholars whether it was the legend that inspired the poem or the poem that gave birth to the legend.  Personally, I think it appropriate for the reader to make up their own minds.

© 30/05/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright May 30th, 2017 zteve t evans