Ohio History Journal

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The Great Horned Serpent of our American tribes was usu-

ally considered a god of waters, lakes, and streams.  His anger

was manifested through storms, thunder, and lightning. Forked

lightning was the darting of his tongue.   The Algonquians of

the Great Lakes believed that a monster serpent, Gitche-Kenebig,

dwelt in these waters, who, unless appeased with offerings, raised

a tempest, or broke the ice beneath the feet of those trespassing

in his domain and swallowed them. When the rivers or coastal

waters of Virginia were rough, the priests went to the water side,

and after many outcries and invocations, cast tobacco, copper, or

other offerings into the water to pacify the god whom they

thought to be very angry.1

It is said that Michabo, the Algonquian culture hero, de-

stroyed, by means of a dart, the serpent who lived in a lake and

flooded the earth with its waters. Michabo then clothed himself

in the skin of this foe and drove the other serpents to the south.2

The Hidatsa made offerings to the Great Serpent living in

the Missouri by placing poles in the river to which robes and

blankets were attached.

The Chickasaw believed in a horned snake, Sint-holo,3 who

lived along big creeks or in caves. These serpents often moved

from one stream to another, and the Indians believed that they

could cause rain in order to raise the rivers, so as to leave their

hiding places with greater facility.  The Sint-holo is said to

have made a noise like thunder. According to the Alabama In-

dians living in Texas, there were four varieties of horned serpents,

distinguished by the color of their horns. In one variety the


1 Edward Arber, ed., Works of Captain John Smith (Edinburgh, 1910), 1, 373.

2 Daniel Garrison Brinton, Myths of the New world, 2d ed. (New York, 1876),


3 John Reed Swanton, "Social and Religious Beliefs and Usages of the Chicka-

saw Indians," in Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Report (Washington, D. C.,

1881--), XLIV (1926), 251.