Legends of the Choctaw Nation remembered
In stories collected by Henry S. Halbert in the 19th century regarding
the beliefs of the Choctaws, supernatural beings are mentioned, such
as Kashehotapalo, a combination of man and deer who delights in frightening
hunters, Okwa Nahola (or Oka Nahullo), "white people of the water,"
who dwell in deep pools and have light skins like the skins of trout
and sometimes capture human beings whom they convert into beings like
themselves; Hoklonote' she, a bad spirit who can assume any shape
he desires and is able to read man's thoughts; Nalusa Falaya, "the
Long Black Being,: which resembles a man, but has small eyes and long,
pointed ears and sometimes frightens hunters or even communicates
its own power of doing harm; and Hashok Okwa Hui'ga, "grass water
drop," which seems to have some connection with the will-o'-the-wisp.
Its heart only is visible and that only at night, and if one looks
at it he is led astray. Ishkitini, the horned owl, was believed to
prowl about at night killing men and animals. This sinister character
was undoubtedly due to the association of the bird with witchcraft.
One Choctaw named Simpson Tubby claimed that the jack-o'-lantern was
called "nightmare" by the Indians (and) was believed to
plait up the tails of horses during the night and to ride them about
until they could hardly be used next day and many died from the effects.
They also upset a horse's stomach so that an Indian doctor had to
be called in to treat him.
The sapsucker (biskinik) is the "newsbird". He brings news
both bad and good. If he lights on a tree in your lot early in the
morning, some "hasty" news will come before noon. If he
does this late at night, the news will come before morning.
They believed that the chicken had been put into their yards to give
them a friendly warning of danger. If a chicken crows outside of its
usual time, it is because it foresees bad weather. If one comes up
to the doorstep or into the gallery and crows, it means hasty news.
If a chicken files up on the roost and crows after reaching it, there
will be trouble in the family. If a hen crows, that means that the
women of the neighborhood are going to fall out.
The old Choctaw claimed that the male eel acted also as the male of
catfish and fish of other kinds. If one had intercourse with a female
eel, the offspring would naturally be eels; if with a mud catfish,
the offspring would be blue catfish; if with any scale fish, the young
would be channel catfish. It was claimed the different species of
fish were made by intermarriages.
They claimed that though the blacksnake would not harm anyone, it
would try to scare a person. The coachwhip snake would wrap itself
around a person and whip him with its tail, and if a hawk tried to
carry one of these serpents off, it would whip him until the feathers
flew and make him let it go.
The world "Nahullo" (something supernatural or sacred),
which appears above, was probably a generic term applied to spirits
that had never existed as human beings, although Cushman speaks of
them as a race of gigantic hunters who lived in western Tennessee
and the northern parts of Alabama and Mississippi at the period of
the Choctaw immigration. Later the term was applied to the white people,
probably on account of the lightness of their skin.