Abenaki Legends

Abenaki Legends often feature Gluscabi (also spelled Glooscap or Gluscabe or Kluskap). He taught the Abenaki people how to live and protected them from danger.

Gichi Niwaskw (gih-chee-nih-wahsk) means Great Spirit in Abenaki, and is the Abenaki name for the Creator God, who is sometimes also referred to as Dabaldak. Gichi Niwaskw is a divine spirit who is never personified in Abenaki folklore.

Characters from Abenaki legends:

Azeban (ah-zuh-bahn) – Raccoon, a light-hearted Abenaki trickster figure.

Badogiak (puh-dawn-gee-yck) – The Thunderers, a group of seven supernatural warrior brothers who cause thunder and lightning.

Bemola (also spelled Pamola, Pomola, pronounced buh-moh-lah) A snow bird spirit that lived on Mt Katahdin and made cold weather.

Bootup (boo-dup) – A Whale, another animal spirit that serves Gluskabe by carrying him across the ocean.

First Mother – The first woman, created by Gichi Niwaskw and Gluskabe. Details about her life vary greatly from telling to telling, but the constant is that she ultimately sacrifices herself to bring corn to the people.

Gici Awas (gih-chee-ah-wahss)- A huge, monstrous creature resembling an enormous stiff-legged bear with an oversized head. Some folklorists believe Abenaki legends about this creature may have been inspired by mammoth fossils. Its name means “great beast.”

Ghost-Witch – A malevolent undead monster created by the death of an evil sorcerer, which returns to life by night to kill and devour humans.

Gluskabe (Glooscap, Kluskap, etc., pronounced glu-skaw-buh) – A benevolent culture hero of Abenaki mythology, who taught the people the arts of civilization and protected them from danger.

Gluskabe shares some similarities with other Algonquian heroes such as the Anishinabe Nanabosho, Blackfoot Old-Man, and Cree Wisakejak, and many of the same stories are told in different Algonquian tribes with only the identity of the protagonist changing.

Giwakwa (male, gee-wock-wah) or Giwakweskwa (female, gee-wock-ways-kwah) Evil man-eating ice giants of Abenaki Indian legends, similar to the Windigo of the Anishinabe and Cree tribes.

Malsum (mah-tuh-gwoss) – This name, which simply means “wolf” in Abenaki, is sometimes said to belong to an evil wolf who is Gluskabe’s twin brother.

However, some Abenaki elders have been adamant this is not a real Abenaki myth. It may be an Anglo corruption of Great Lakes Algonquian legends instead. Their culture hero does have a twin brother who is a wolf (though he is not evil.)

Manôgemasak (mah-nawn-guh-mah-sock) – Another race of legendary little people, manogemasak are river-elves who are usually good-natured but may sometimes capsize canoes, tear fishing nets, or cause other mischief.

Mateguas (mah-tuh-gwoss, meaning Rabbit): In other Abenaki legends, Glooskap’s brother is Rabbit, who died and became the ruler of the land of the dead. Like Glooskap, Mateguas is helpful and good, and gives his brother spiritual guidance from beyond the grave.

Medawisla (muh-dah-wee-lah) Loon, Gluskabe’s faithful companion, messenger, and tale-bringer.

Miko (mee-ko, meaning Squirrel) – An Abenaki troublemaker character.

Mskagwdemos (muh-skog-day-moose, meaning Swamp Woman) – A female ghost that lives in the swamps and makes mournful cries. Anyone who tries to follow the sound of her crying is lost in the swamp.

Nokemes Agaskw (noh-kuh-muss ah-gah-skw, meaning Grandmother

Woodchuck) – Gluskabe’s wise old grandmother, who raised him.

Ojihozo (or Odzihozo, pronounced ood-zee-hoh-zoh) – A mythological being, sometimes known as the Transformer, who created himself from nothing and formed Lake Champlain and its surrounding landscape. His name literally means “he makes himself from something unknown or unspecified.”

Pukwudgies (Bokwjimen): Little people of Abenaki mythology, resembling dwarves or fairies. They are generally benevolent forest spirits but can be dangerous if they are disrespected. Pronounced book-wuh-dzee-mun in Abenaki, usually Anglicized to puck-wudd-jee.

Tatoskok (also known as Gitaskog, Msaskog, or Pitaskog, pronounced tah-toh-skog or geetah-skog): An underwater horned serpent said to lurk in lakes and eat humans. All of its names are variants on the meaning “great serpent” or “big serpent.”

Tolba and Moskwas (Turtle and Muskrat) – These two animals team up in the Abenaki myth of the creation of the Earth, with Muskrat diving to retrieve mud from beneath the water and Turtle volunteering to carry the new land on his back. Their names are pronounced tawl-buh and mos-kwuss.

Wuchowsen (wuh-dzo-sen)- Another mountain bird spirit of Abenaki Indian myths, whose wings make the wind.

Abenaki Legends:


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How Glooskap Found the Summer

Long ago a mighty race of Indians lived near the sunrise, and they called themselves Wabanaki—Children of Light. Glooskap was their master. He was kind to his people and did many great deeds for them.

Once in Glooskap’s day it grew extremely cold. Snow and ice covered everything. Fires would not give enough warmth. The corn would not grow. His people were perishing from cold and famine.

Glooskap set forth for the far north where all was ice. Here in a wigwam he found the great giant Winter. It was Winter’s icy breath that had frozen the land.

Glooskap entered the wigwam and sat down. Winter gave him a pipe, and as they smoked the giant told tales of olden times when he reigned everywhere and all the land was silent, white, and beautiful.

His frost charm fell upon Glooskap and as the giant talked on, Glooskap fell asleep. For six months he slept like a bear, then the charm left him. He was too strong for it and awoke.