Better Late than Never- They’re Blooming
I was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to bloom. I’ve checked for them off and on for a month and finally they are blooming. About a month later than last year but better late than never. I love our moccasin flowers and the legend that goes along with them. Read it below.
Many winters ago, on the shores of the Great Lake, lived a young Ojibway maiden who adored her older brother.
He was the best at everything young braves should know. He tracked forest creatures and mimicked their calls. He was swift and silent in the woods and swam like an otter. The tribe gave him the task of messenger for the village. He taught his sister his skills, but never took her with him when he raced to other villages to relay news.
One winter day, an old woman in the girl’s village became sick. The next day, several others fell ill with fevers and weakness. Soon every wigwam was struck. The elders worried, but no one knew what to do. In the village across the bay, there lived a woman skilled in healing with herbs, but the snow was deep and fierce winds were raging. The head of the village hesitated to send the maiden’s brother to the medicine woman. When more and more villagers sickened, the chief had no choice. The young brave would cross the lake the next morning.
Late that night, the young man became ill. The young maiden was frantic. With her grandmother, father and mother, many of her friends and now her beloved brother failing, she decided to take his place and make the dangerous journey across the bay to the medicine woman’s village.
The dark of the winter dawn made the frigid air seem harsher. The young girl slipped out of her family’s wigwam dressed in her warmest parka, leggings and the fur-lined moccasins that her mother and grandmother had sewn. Head down so the fur of her parka protected her face from the stinging cold and wind, she walked quickly through the deepening snow to the lakeshore.
Through the blowing snow she could see the faint lights of campfires in the medicine woman’s village across the ice-covered bay. Scrambling over the slippery pack ice, the maiden lightly danced across the frozen lake, trying not to listen to the cracking and sighing of the ice beneath her feet.
The villagers welcomed her hours later when she reached the other side of the bay. Wrapped in warm, beaver robes and fed, the maiden told her story. The medicine woman gathered her herbs. Nearly asleep, the maiden insisted that she begin the return journey immediately. But the medicine woman assured her that several braves would accompany her back across the lake in the morning, once the storm broke.
When the wind stopped, the girl awoke. It was dark and still. Worrying about her family, she decided not to wait for the braves. Dressing quietly in her warm, dry clothes, she put the pouch of medicine around her neck and slipped down to the lake shore. She tried again to dance lightly again across the drifted snow. It was too deep. She sank deeply with each step. Exhausted, she lay back in the snow panting for breath. Then she remembered her brother’s lessons and the otter playing in the snow as if it were water. Slowly, letting the snow support her, she began to swim through the deep snow.
When the maiden reached the opposite shore, she was free of the deepest snow, but her moccasins were missing. Her feet were bare and cold. Soon her feet were red and raw and her footprints marked by blood. The sharp crystals of wind blown snow cut her feet at every step.
The eastern sky was beginning to lighten by the time the girl saw the shadowy outline of her village. Calling out for help, the worn-out girl stumbled on. The villagers heard and ran to her. They carried the brave maiden home, wrapped her in warm robes and massaged her torn and bleeding feet with healing ointments. The medicine she brought saved her village.
One day early the next spring, the maiden and her brother searched the woods and the lakeshore for her moccasins. Instead they found beautiful pink and white flowers shaped just like moccasins. There was one for every drop of blood that had fallen from the maiden’s feet on her journey to bring medicine home from the other side of the lake.
The Ojibway people named the flower ma-ki-sin-waa-big-waan. We call it Lady’s Slipper.