Monday, August 17, 2009

Who, or what, is Mesingw?

In the lore and legend of the Lenape (Delaware) people, Mesingw is the "living solid face", the master of all the animals. He always wore the mask of a face making a hooting sound, painted red and black. Some places make him the Lenape version of Bigfoot, but there's no evidence he was thought of as anything but a spirit. Some people also mention the stories of Mesingw, or Mesinghalikun as he was also known, as relevant to the Jersey Devil. M.R. Harrington records that tribesman dressed as Mesingw during certain ceremonies. In The Indians of New Jersey: Dikon Among the Lenape, he writes:

Ku-les-ta! Listen! One time long ago there were three boys about your age who weren't treated very well; in fact their parents did not seem to care whether they lived or died. They were out in the forest one day thinking about their troubles when they saw a strange-looking hairy person with a big face half red and half black. This person said: "I am Mee-sing haw lee kun; I have taken pity on you and I will give you strength so that nothing can ever hurt you again. Come with me and I will show you my country!

He took one boy up in the air to the place where he came from; it was a great range of mountains up in the sky reaching from north to south. While he was showing the boy his country, he promised he should become stout and strong and should gain the power to get anything he wished. Then he brought the boy back to earth again.

Afterwards when the boy grew up and went hunting he used to see Mee-sing-haw-lee-kun riding on a buck, herding the deer together and giving his peculiar call 'Ho-ho-ho.'

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