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Native American Horned Serpents of Myth and Legend

Horned serpents are a type of mythological freshwater serpent common to many tribes of the eastern United States and Canada. Horned serpent legends vary somewhat from tribe to tribe, but they are usually described as huge, scaly, dragon-like serpents with horns and long teeth. Sometimes they move about on the land, but are more often found in lakes and rivers. The ubiquity of horned serpent stories in this region has led some people to speculate that they are based on a real animal (such as some sort of now-extinct giant crocodile.) However, in Native American myths and legends, horned serpents are usually very supernatural in character-- possessing magical abilities such as shape-shifting, invisibility, or hypnotic powers; bestowing powerful medicine upon humans who defeat them or help them; controlling storms and weather, and so on-- and were venerated as gods or spirit beings in some tribes. And unlike other animals such as crocodiles and snakes, horned serpents are not included in common Woodland Indian folktales about the animal kingdom. So it is likely that horned serpents have always been viewed as mythological spirits, not as animals, and that belief in them was simply very widespread in the eastern part of the country. Indeed, horned serpent mythology may trace back to ancestors of Eastern Native American tribes such as the Hopewell, Mississippian, and other mound-builder civilizations, as stylized serpent motifs have been found in their earthworks and artifacts which bear some resemblance to the horned serpents of historical Native American tribes.

Native American Horned Serpents from Various Tribes

Big Water Snake (Blackfoot)
Gitaskog (Abenaki)
Hiintcabiit (Arapaho)
Jipijka'm (Micmac)
Kci-Athussos (Maliseet-Passamaquoddy)
Maneto (Fox)
Mehne (Cheyenne)
Mxaxkuk (Lenape)
Misiginebig (Anishinabe)
Oniare (Iroquois)
Sint-holo (Choctaw)
*Uktena (Cherokee)
*Unhcegila (Lakota)
Weewillmekq (Maliseet-Passamaquoddy)

Horned Serpent Stories

Horned Serpent:
    Encyclopedia article about horned serpents in the folklore of various Native American tribes.
*Champy, the Canadian Lake Monster * Champ and Other Local Legends * Champ History From Ancient Times:
    Articles about the Abenaki Indian horned serpent Tatoskog and its connection to the modern folk monster Champ.
*Jipijka'm and Weewillmekq':
    Stories about Mi'kmaq and Maliseet Indian horned serpents.
Iyash and the Horned Serpent:
    Severn Ojibwe legend about the Horned Serpent and the Thunderbirds.
*Thunder Mountain:
    Potawatomi legend about a battle between a thunderbird and a horned serpent.
*Shawnee Mythology:
    Overview of Shawnee oral traditions, including two tales of the Great Horned Serpent.
*Thunder Son:
    Shawnee story about a woman who unwittingly married a Great Horned Serpent.
*The Deserted Children:
    Gros Ventre legend about a horned serpent who helped two children escape from an ghost-witch.
*The Warrior That Ate The Horned Snake:
    Blackfoot legend about a man who offended the Horned Snakes and was turned into one as punishment.

Recommended Books Including Stories About Horned Serpents

Lake Monster Mysteries:
    Interesting book considering the origin of lake-monster stories in Native American and other world mythology.
Encyclopedia of Lake and River Monsters:
    A thorough reference book on horned serpents and other water-serpent monsters in all corners of the world.

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