Blue Mounds Cave
retold by Richard L. Dieterle
Blue Mounds Cave, now known as "the Cave of the Mounds," is located 25 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin. It is cut into Galena limestone, and runs about 250 feet in length, with an average width of 5.5 feet, and an average height of about 5 feet. The path of the cave is winding and contains a number of chambers.
It was said to have been discovered in 1939 during blasting at an ajacent quarry.1 Either what follows is an "instant legend" (a thing of interest in its own right), or the Hočągara knew of another way into this cave.
Cave of the Mounds at the foot of Blue Mounds was once occupied by a very powerful spirit, it is said. This spirit used to create stone implements from the rock that lined the cave. With these he would bless vision seekers. He had a giant hammer with which he would break off rocks inside the cave, and when he slammed it down the earth would quake and the thunderous sound would reverberate throughout the countryside.2
Commentary. "Blue Mounds" — called Weehaukaja [Wihakaja] in Hočąk, said to mean, "Beautiful View."3 In fact, it is almost certainly Wihągaja (< Wihą́-ga-eja), "the Place of the Second Born Daughter." This may be because there are actually two peaks to this mound, perhaps one of them being thought of as the second daughter (Wihą́).
"a very powerful spirit" — said by D. M. Brown to be Earthmaker himself. There is some confusion about Earthmaker on the part of her and her husband C. E. Brown, who have sometimes even confused him with Trickster, and have even given him the Ioway-Oto name of Wakanda. Earthmaker is a high and nearly otiose god who is not likely to set up shop in a cave. Most spirits that dwell in caves, especially those of limestone, are thought to be Waterspirits.
"stone implements" — actually it is only at the very top of the tree covered mound that a bed of chert can be found.4 Chert is suitable stone for the fashioning of stone implements such as arrow and spear points. However, D. M. Brown says, "Part way down the slope was Wakanda's [sic] spring, and near it were outcropppings of flinty rock from which Indian arrows and axes were shaped."5
Links: Blue Mounds.
Stories: mentioning caves: Big Eagle Cave Mystery, Silver Mound Cave, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Woman Who Married a Snake, Little Human Head, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds, Hare Establishes Bear Hunting, Hare Recruits Game Animals for Humans, A Giant Visits His Daughter, Kunu's Warpath, Soft Shelled Turtle Weds, The Story of the Medicine Rite.
Themes: a powerful spirit lives in a cave: Big Eagle Cave Mystery, Silver Mound Cave, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Woman Who Married a Snake, Little Human Head, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds.
1 Cave of the Mounds Website, http://www.caveofthemounds.com
2 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Indian Fireside Tales: Ka Gwe Do Say ... Sunrise Walker, Wisconsin Folklore Society Booklets (Madison: 1947) 45.
3 Wildernet Website: Wildernet > Wisconsin > Blue Mounds State Park — http://areas.wildernet.com/pages/area.cfm?areaID=WISPBM&CU_ID=1
4 Wildernet > Wisconsin > Blue Mounds State Park.
5 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Indian Legends of Historic and Scenic Wisconsin, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 1947) 62.