The Moccasins of Sa-Sha-na-e

Cypripedium parviflorum makasin

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Sa-Sha-na-e was, in aspect and in love,  the favored daughter of the wisest of the Ojibwe. She spent her toddling years wandering at the feet of her father as they gathered the cherished medicinal plants and herbs that the Great Spirit, Gitche Man’ito, placed in their paths.

Her father often said,

“At times, the Father, the Great Spirit Within and Without, asks that we diverge from the worn tendencies of time, to discover new treasures. But the paths of time are safe and we must be wary and wise in our wanderings, and ask for His guidance and protection from the unknown. And we must always open our eyes to the unexpected for the smallest of stones may cause the most discomfort when stepped upon or be the most precious of gems when polished by the knowledge of the tumbling  rivers of experience…  We must incessantly ask for his blessings and forgiveness, for where our feet may trod, we may crush what might seem an insignificant creature …or bruise the Spirit’s gifts with our clumsiness. The land and its offerings are for us to use, but we must show great respect and humble ourselves before them.”

Sa-Sha-na-e knew, by the time she had 7 turns of the seasons, how to stop the bleeding from a wound, how to devise a poultice to remove the color and sting from a bruise… the serum of extracts for easing the birth of a child. Many a squaw was so relieved by her presence and her presents that they would name their child in her honor, and the mid-wives would watch her every move to try to ascertain her secrets.

But it wasn’t simply the proportional mixture of herbs or the timely concoctions that she developed, it was the manner of spirit in which she performed her acts that brought peace and relief from pain…the individual attention that she bestowed upon each and every being.   As she grew in wisdom and experience, she also became adept at mending the more elusive pains…of love, and fear, and the inner hungers that had plagued man since the beginnings of time.

Through her knowledge and gentle nature, she came to be loved by all who came in contact with her…and secrets were confided in her until, by the age of womanhood, Sa-Sha-na-e had developed a vast understanding of not only the ways of nature but also of the natural ways of man… and the many fashions in which man strayed from his nature.

At the age of 16, Sa-Sha-na-e was smiled upon by not only her father and her tribesmen, but also apparently by the Giver of Life himself.

She was the perfect mixture and  quintessence of the Great Father and the Earth Mother,

and her beauty was matchless…

in countenance and in heart.

As the Winter began to close in on this great land, this sacred Turtle Island, a sense of unrest settled on Sa-Sha-na-e’s shoulders and heart. She was stirred by a restless calling from across the massive waters that she felt could only be stilled, fulfilled, and quieted by a solitary spirit journey to meet and mingle with the Great Spirit.

As she told her father of her longings he, with a mixture of pride and trepidation, said, “Yes, of course you must go!”

He himself had made that journey many years before and had returned to his native land a wiser, more spiritual man.

But he knew that Sa-Sha-na-e would not return.

Because of her unmatched beauty and grace, he felt in his heart that the Great Spirit would want her to stay by His side to watch over and bless His creations…and she would help Him to understand the physical frailties that He had created, but had not experienced firsthand.

Early one morning, before Giizis had risen from the East, while the tribe still rested from a celebration that the shaman had given, (though the cause for celebration had not been explained), Sa-Sha-na-e removed her doe-skin tunic… bathed her body in spring water scented with rose petals gathered over many Summers… slowly and reverently untied the thongs of her moccasins and placed them on the shore… and paddled the birch-bark canoe that her father had crafted for her with loving, prayerful hands towards the North, as the Spirit guided her.

When seven suns had passed in its diminishing arc, her absence brought great consternation and fear to the tribe. Where was their sunlight?…where was there joy?

At last, a young boy found her moccasins beside the water and leaving them where he found them, in case of her return, he ran to tell his people.

The tribe was disquieted and would have gathered many canoes to go in search of her had the shaman not spoken,

“She has gone on her Spirit quest. We will soon see a sign marking her journey.”

That night the cold winds from the North caused a sheet of ice to form across the water and in two days time the great lake was frozen so that no canoe could cross.

As the days became shorter and darker, all but her father worried for her safety.

One new moon after her departure,  the shaman led the tribe to the highest point on the island,  saying,

“Tonight, a message will come.”

As the confused and curious murmurings quieted, suddenly the Aurora Borealis broke its dance of ephemeral light into the darkness and across the face of the Northern sky.

“She is here!” her shaman father breathlessly whispered. “She has found favor with the Father who now covers the world with her beauty.  We must drink in her light for it will lift our souls to be gathered around her.”  It was a night like no other before or since…

Sa-Sha-na-e never returned as a fair maiden to the island, but her people gloried in her presence of light as the short days of Winter gradually became shorter still and then retreated from the darkness. Many wished for the short days to continue forever so that they could feel her closer always, and through the Northern lights her secrets were passed on to those who were prepared to accept them.

When Spring came, several maidens ventured down to the shore where Sa-Sha-na-e had left her moccasins. There they found that the entire shore was covered in her makasin flowers and they wept tears of joy for her journey and tears of sadness for their loss.

These flowers return every Spring and a sweet maiden’s tear-drop rests in the toe of each bloom…along with the faint scent of rose…

When the days grow shorter, and colder, Sa-Sha-na-e still performs her iridescent dance across the heavens to warm the souls of those that she touches with her light….those who know the Light…

and even those who only see it with their eyes.

~ by rkpowers on July 2, 2011.

3 Responses to “The Moccasins of Sa-Sha-na-e”

  1. Wow, how beautiful that legend is. I see a new beauty in that flower that I had missed before. Boop


  2. BTW…the drop of dew that rests in the bloom attracts “the seemingly insignificant” who come to drink and then as they leave the bloom the flower’s pollen is situated in such a way that they can’t help but pick some up, thereby spreading it elsewhere and doing their part in completing the circle….


  3. …and THAT part I didn’t make up!


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