Thursday, 14 February 2013

Oromocto Spring: A Waterloo Region Ghost Story for Valentine’s Day

It may seem strange to introduce a ghost story, albeit a local Waterloo Region legend, on St. Valentine’s Day. I would argue that it is actually quite fitting considering the history of St. Valentine’s Day, itself.  

As far as St. Valentine is concerned, he is recognized as a third century cleric (some sources say bishop) who was martyred by the Roman Emperor Claudius II on February 14, 278 A.D. for performing secret marriages For more information see:  

As for our story, it is an "aboriginal" legend about the origin of Oromocto Spring. The spring still exists, running through an area that has had its name changed many times over the years—originally it was known as Attiwandron Park and later Cressman’s Woods. Today, we know it as Homer Watson Park in Doon (part of Kitchener, ON).  For your viewing pleasure, I am including here a link to a video from a local photographer, Don Drews, whose work has consistently and beautifully captured the allure of the little known natural heritage beauty that surrounds our Region. This video is aptly entitled "Hiking Cressman's Woods."

Homer Watson Park is located in Doon, southeast of the city of Kitchener, along the banks of the Grand River.  Archaeologists and historians, alike, have catalogued countless accounts of early aboriginal activity in the Waterloo Region and today I would like to share one of the legends with you as a Waterloo Regional Valentine, of sorts...

It seems that a young Attiwandron girl, named Nashwaaksis, decided to warn another tribe (the Petuns) about the impending approach of their enemies, the warring Iroquois. In order to warn them, she had to travel on foot from the Doon area to  a site near Elmira— where the Petuns were currently/seasonally camped.  It so happened that Nashwaaksis was in love with a Petun warrior by the name of Oromocto, who was, because he was a member of the Petuns, in great danger from the Iroquois. As Nashwaaksis and Oromocto were from different tribes, they were not really able to meet openly with each other so their love affair was a secret one. Because she was going to warn the Petuns, she was able to meet with her lover--in person--on the pretence that she was on a reconnaissance mission from her tribe (which so happened that she was). The last time that the lovers met, and much to their misfortune, they stumbled upon the encroaching Iroquois near the site of Doon. Oromocto fought valiantly but was quickly slain in battle--Nashwaaksis was inconsolable and overcome by her grief, she died. The Attirwondron tribe members claimed both of the bodies in order to honour them  for their valiant deaths and as they did so, a spring burst forth from the earth--on the same spot where they had died.  To the Attirwondron, this was a great sign. Of the spring, they said that the water in it was “as clear as the character of beautiful Nashwaaksis...and cold as the heart of the Iroquois.”  

Since then, many visitors to the area have said that when you walk in the area of the spring you can still hear Nashwaaksis crying for her lost love, Oromocto. There have been sightings of a young aboriginal woman, wandering and crying as she walks along the banks of the Grand River as if she is searching for someone. Other accounts state that she is heard in the soft breezes of the blowing wind--when one barely catches the sound of a soft, mournful sob. And then there are those, it is said, who have heard her cries of grief in the water, itself, as it babbles over stones and rocks.

P.S. It is interesting to note the "power of the press." The legend first appeared locally, in print, in a 1917 newspaper article that was designed to promote the "new" park and to boost the WWI war effort locally. It should be noted that the names and details of the legend per se are not documented in aboriginal folklore--locally or otherwise. Also, it would not be the first time that a ghost story was "just made up" for one reason or another.....either way, I present it at face value and for an interesting twist for consideration on Valentine's Day. I kinda like this story, regardless....

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