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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 20, No. 3
September, 1942
THE LEGEND OF ABUSKA1

BY H. R. ANTLE

Page 255

Many times now the dogwood has blossomed in front of his cabin since Tom told me the legend of the drink which we held in our hands.2 Abuska means to the Seminole what coffee is to the white American or tea is to the English. His story follows:

Ages ago my people lived near a great forest in our homeland. They hunted and fished and gathered berries when there was game and fruit to be had or starved when the animals had left the forest and the fish the waters and the berries no longer grew. Among my people was a boy unlike the other children. He would rather listen to the singing of birds than kill them for meat. He would gaze into the waters or idle among the flowers and trees. Only when the cold winds blew would he stay by the camp-fires. When he was hungry this boy went into the forest to the lodge of a witch. This witch was ugly and repulsive. She loved the forest children and was congenial only with the one who also loved them. Each time he came to her lodge the witch would give him a bowl of golden drink. Upon this drink the boy grew into a tall and handsome man and wisdom showed in his countenance.
Not until he was grown did the young man become curious about the drink which gave him strength and wisdom. So one day he asked the witch to tell him whence it came. 'My son,' she replied, 'long years I have given you the golden drink. Do not ask me to tell you for if I do I shall die. Drink when you wish but do not seek my secret.'
The young man wandered into the forest. He thought of his people and how poor they were and how hungry they became when the land was barren. He thought of the golden drink and how it nourished the body. So thinking, he stole back into the forest depth and came again to the witch's lodge. He could hear her chanting a medicine song as he drew near. With great stealth he crept to her lodge and looked in. As he looked the witch sang and bathed her feet in the bowl from which he drank. Suddenly the witch spied him and cried out that now she must die for he had learned her secret. The young man felt sorry and turned away but as he started to go she called him back. She told him that she must die but that he was destined to carry the secret of the drink back to his people and they would never lack for want of food.




Page 256

'Return to the forest,' she said, 'You will hear me scream. Do not come back to see what is the matter or it will break the medicine. When I scream my lodge will burn. When there is nothing but ashes, return to your people. Stay away until the forest is newly green and the birds have their fledglings and the animals their new-born young. Then you shall have the secret.'
He did as he was told but could hardly restrain himself when his ears caught the witch's scream. His heart was torn and he was sad for she was his only friend. He watched and when nothing was left save ashes, he returned to his people. Many moons passed and the time came for him to go again to the deep forest. Eagerly he set out for the scene of the witch's death. As he approached the place he beheld a tall green plant growing amidst the ashes. Among the broad leaves, which were turned to the sun, were the plump milky fruits of the plant. He rejoiced for he knew them as the source of the golden drink. No longer now would his people have to depend solely upon the forest and streams for food. Each spring the plant grew plentifully and as the grains filled with milk they were dried and parched and ground into meal from which the abuska was made.

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