Why Lightning sometimes Strikes
by Mabel Powers
An old man of the Iroquois nation once wished to make a beautiful Indian
maiden his wife. The old man had many rare furs and valued strings of
wampum. These he brought and laid at the door of the wigwam where the
The father and mother were pleased with the old man's gifts. They told
him that when the Planting Moon should come, the maiden should go to his
Now the maiden did not love the old man. She did not wish him to make
her his wife. "I will never sit at his wigwam door," she said.
It was midwinter, when the old man brought the gifts, the time of the
pale, cold moon. From that time, the maiden watched, with a heavy heart,
the moons wax and wane.
At last the snows disappeared. No more was the North Wind heard
shrieking about the lodge. The gentle South Wind had come, bringing with
him the singing birds.
The little brooks awoke and sang. They were happy that spring had come,
and all the earth children were glad,—except the maiden. Her heart grew
more heavy and sad, as the face of the sun grew brighter.
Then the Planting Moon came. The maiden watched the moon hang her horn
in the sky. Then she ran swiftly to the great river that flowed not far
from the lodge. Lightly she sprang into her canoe. A few quick strokes,
and the canoe was in midstream.
The current ran swift and strong. The little craft was carried swiftly
down the river toward the great falls known as Niagara Falls. As the
canoe neared the falls, the maiden was seen to rise and stretch out her
arms, as though about to leap. A smile was on her face, and a song was
on her lips, as the canoe shot into the mist that overhung the water.
Then, from the caverns below a dark blanket floated upward, as though
spread to catch the maiden. It was Heno, the Thunder Spirit, who dwelt
behind the falls. He had caught her in the folds of his blanket, and
had saved her from the great rocks below.
Heno took the maiden to live with him, in his lodge behind the falls.
There she was very happy, so happy that her smile shone through the
mist, and the Indians cried, "See! A rainbow!"
In her new home the maiden learned many wonderful things. She found she
possessed strange powers, not known to her before. She could float on a
cloud at will, and she seemed filled with a strange fire.
One day, the young woman was given a son. Heno and she were very happy.
Many moons the mother and child played together. When Heno was away on
one of his journeys through the sky, they would ride the great bubbles
of foam that went dashing through the rocks. Sometimes they would catch
sunbeams in a net, as they sat on the edge of a cloud and fished.
One day, Heno asked the young woman if she would like to visit her
"If you wish," he said, "you shall return for a time, taking our son
with you. But remember, both of you possess powers unknown to the earth
children. Be careful how you use them. Never let another child strike
the boy, for that child would at once wither and die. Never strike the
boy yourself, for he would fall stunned to earth."
The woman listened to Heno's words. Soon they were wrapped in his great
cloud blanket, and were floating over the river. When they came to the
home of her people, Heno left the woman and the boy by the river, and
went on further to the east.
The people were glad to see the woman, whom they had mourned as dead.
She told them of the wonderful things she had learned in her new home.
She told them also how Heno was freeing their land of a monster serpent,
that trailed underneath the earth, poisoning their springs and causing
sickness. Always, she said, Heno carried a basket of great rocks on his
back, which he hurled at the monster whenever he saw him. Soon he would
kill the serpent, and they would be sick no more.
During many days, the mother and the little boy stayed with the earth
people. Sometimes, when the child was playing by the river, he would see
a dark cloud approaching. Then he would clap his hands with joy and cry,
"There comes my father!"
The black cloud would float earthward, and Heno would stop and have a
word with the mother and the boy. As he left them he always said, "Do
not let anyone strike the boy."
But one day, the mother did not watch the boy, and he fell to playing
with some earth children. They grew angry as they played, and struck the
boy. Instantly these earth children fell dead to the ground. Then the
mother laid hands on the boy, to punish him, and he fell to earth.
At this, there came a great rumbling and roaring through the sky, and
Heno appeared. He took the lifeless child in his arms, crying, "You have
disobeyed. No longer shall you have this great power I gave you. You
shall remain on earth and be simply an earth woman. I will take the boy
to my abode. Henceforth, our lodge shall be in the sky. There he will
return to life, and ever after he will go with me on my journeys through
Then the sky shook and trembled. The door of the sky lodge opened, and
Heno and the boy were seen no more.
Now, when a rumbling and rolling through the sky is heard, the Indians
say, "'Tis the voice of Heno! He is coming from his lodge in the sky!"
But when a flash of fire is seen, and a loud crash is heard, they say,
"That is the boy! He is trying to hit the earth children with a fire
stone. He remembers how they struck him, a long time ago."