The Thunder Charm

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

A man lived in a Hocąk village where there was a very powerful witch. Since he planned to take a long trek to the shores of Lake Superior, he decided to see the witch about obtaining a charm to give him a safe and pleasant journey. She explained to him that he must keep this charm with him at all times no matter what happened, for only then would he be truly secure.

The next day he set out on his journey, and that night camped in the forest. Before he could build a shelter for the night, it suddenly began to rain. The rain poured through the trees like they were not even there. Lightning bolts struck all around him, and soon he had to crawl into a hollow log to protect himself from the deluge. On the following morning, he set out on the second day of his journey. He traveled all day, and at sunset prepared to build himself a shelter for the night in a forest. Then, unexpectedly, it began to rain with great force. As bad as the night before had been, this night was even worse. Several times he had almost been struck with lightning, so once again he had to find a hollow log in which to take shelter. He began to think that he had somehow offended the Thunders who control rain. The next morning, he set out again. He traveled all day and found himself in a forest when the sun began to set. It began to rain yet again, and this time the man knew that surely he had run afoul of the Thunderbirds, so he took out his tobacco pouch and reverentially made offerings to them. Yet it was of no avail: the rain came down in torrents, and the wind nearly blew over the trees. Lightning struck all around him, and he was fortunate to find a log in which to take shelter. On the fourth day he finally reach the shores of Lake Superior.

As he sat by the shore in the twilight, suddenly it began to rain again. He thought to himself, "Instead of a safe journey, many times I have narrowly escaped being struck by lightning. What good is this charm?" As violent sheets of rain blew in his face and lightning nearly struck him, he cast it into the waters of the lake. No sooner had the charm fallen into the water and sunk, than the wind was stilled and the rain ceased to fall. It was only then that he knew that the witch had really tried to kill him.1

Commentary. It is interesting that the power of the rain charm even exceeded the power of the tobacco offerings to the Thunders. The charm seemed to make the Thunders angry. The fact that it is neutralized by being thrown into a lake, suggests that it has its origins in the usual source for the strongest medicine: Waterspirit bones. Waterspirits are the mortal enemies of the Thunderbirds, which would explain the anger that charm engendered.

Links: Thunderbirds, Waterspirits, Witches.

Stories: mentioning witches or warlocks: The Witch Men's Desert, The Wild Rose, The Seer, Turtle and the Witches, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Migistéga's Death, The Mesquaki Magician, The Tap the Head Medicine, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Magical Powers of Lincoln's Grandfather, The Hills of La Crosse, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara (v. 2), Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Potato Magic, Young Rogue's Magic; mentioning Thunderbirds: The Thunderbird, Waruǧábᵉra, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Thunderbird and White Horse, Bluehorn's Nephews, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (vv. 1, 2), The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, The Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, Brave Man, Ocean Duck, Turtle's Warparty, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Quail Hunter, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, The Stone that Became a Frog, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Origin of the Hocąk Chief, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Black Otter's Warpath, Aracgéga's Blessings, Kunu's Warpath, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Glory of the Morning, The Nightspirits Bless Ciwoit’éhiga, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Big Stone, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Song to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way.

Themes: an evil woman pretending to help a man is actually using a trick to kill him: Įcorúšika and His Brothers; someone takes shelter in a hollow log (in order to escape enemies): Brave Man, The Man with Two Heads, The Shaggy Man, Redhorn's Father, The Spirit of Maple Bluff, Trickster Loses Most of His Penis; powerful beings give a human a charm which they say will bring him benefits: Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, Witches.


1 Dorothy Moulding Brown, "Rain Legends and Beliefs," Wisconsin Archeologist 24, #2 (1943): 27-31 (29).