Legendary Native American Figures: Pukjinskwes (Jug Woman)
Name: Pukjinskwes Tribal affiliation:Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, Abenaki Alternate spellings: Pohkecinskwehso, Pukedji'nskwes'u, Pukcinsqehs, Bokwjinskwaso, Pukdjinskwess,
Pukjinskwest, Pukdcinskwes, Poktcinskwes, Pookjinskeqwees, Pook-Jin-Skwess, Pook-jin-squess, Pook-jin-squis,
Pak-zin-skwa, Pokinsquss, Poktcinskwes, Pukadji'nkwes, Pukdji'nskwe'ssu Pronunciation: poke-dzeen-skwuss-oh (in Abenaki-Penobscot) or pook-cheen-skwass (in Maliseet-Passamaquoddy.) Also known as: Jug Woman, Pitcher Woman, Tree-Stump Woman, Squatty-Woman, Toad Woman Type:Antagonist, witch, fisher
Pukjinskwes is a notorious witch who appears in many Wabanaki legends and
folktales. Her name literally means "jug woman" or "pitcher woman."
Pukjinskwes appears most often in Wabanaki folklore as
a sort of bogey-woman who steals Indian babies
and raises them as her own. In a more mythic role, she is the adversary
of the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy hero Pogumk.
Sometimes she is portrayed as a black panther, but this is the result of a
mistranslation-- she and Pogumk were both members of the Fisher tribe,
which is often erroneously translated "black cat" in English. In reality, fishers
are a kind of large weasel, like
this. There are no black
panthers in New England.
Pukjinskwes is usually
depicted as a squat, ugly human woman in Wabanaki legends, although like most characters of the
mythic age, she is able to shape-shift (in particular, she is noted for
sometimes appearing as a man.) After being defeated by Pogumk, she turns
into a mosquito or other stinging insect.
In some legends, Pukjinskwes also features as an enemy of Gluskap (usually
trying to revenge herself on him for rejecting her attempts to flirt with him.) Indeed,
some folklorists believed that Gluskap and Pogumk were one and the same.
This is probably not the case, since there are many important differences between
the two heroes, but the confusion has caused some storytellers to conflate them
and tell the entire Pogumk epic with Gluskap as the hero instead.