April 14, 2022
I made my way past the Bigfoot t-shirts and tote bags to a cashier. I remembered there was a legend associated with the magnificent Multnomah waterfalls and had found nothing on any visitor center signage. Surely there would be something at the gift shop. I was directed to the only place the legend appeared. On a coffee mug.
Seriously? There are an estimated two million people who visit the falls each year and the only legend they will likely discover is an elusive and dubious Sasquatch?
With more than a 500 foot drop, these falls on the Columbia River Gorge are a magnificent wonder of the natural world. The very kind of wonder that fosters human relationship and inspires stories and legends that come from those relationships. This legend of a Multnomah princess is no exception. It’s a legend of cosmic relationship, a legend of love and sacrifice. It’s a legend for this time and all time.
There was a terrible sickness that threatened lives of the Multnomah people. An old medicine man revealed that the sickness had been foretold but that it would pass if a maiden descendant of a tribal chief would throw herself from a high cliff above the big river and onto the rocks below. The chief was not willing to sacrifice any of the princesses, so he elected to allow the sickness to run its course.
When the Chief’s daughter saw that the sickness had affected her lover, she went up to the top of the cliff and threw herself to the rocks below. Upon her death, the sickness immediately began to leave the affected people.
Now, when the breeze blows through the water, a silvery stream separates from the upper falls. The misty stream fashions a form of the maiden, a token of the Great Spirit’s acceptance of her sacrifice.
I didn’t see her misty form. But I felt the energies of natural wonder and cosmic connection. I’m sure other visitors were also touched by the natural wonder. But what inspiration might have touched them had they known of the legend?