Berries of the Mountain Ash – A Legend

Winter has finally arrived to Northwest Montana. Snow has been falling all day and I am thrilled by its arrival.  

I love the crunch under my boots, the bright illuminations of a moonlit night, and the silence of a new blanket of  snow.

With the exception of a few souls shoveling walks, a woman scraping her windshield free of ice, and a barking dog or two, it was quiet as Eileen and I walked around the neighborhood.

It was in the early a.m. and cold, about 15 degrees. I brought my camera, and kept it tucked inside my coat to keep it warm. The combination of red berries and white snow was hard to resist, and I captured a  few shots of crab apples,


Crab Apples


and berries of the mountain ash.


Berries of the Mountain Ash


Upon returning home and doing some research on the berries, I found this Native American legend which I like and wanted to share with you.


An Ojibwa Legend

In late autumn or winter one will see an entirely different kind of tree dotted here and there among the green pines and spruce. These are Mountain Ash trees covered in a mass of brilliant red berries. The more berries on the tree, the more severe the winter will be. Why is this so? Legend relates that many years ago, even before Canada had a name, a severe and terrible winter set in. Snowdrifts formed in great heights and temperatures dropped to extraordinary degrees below zero.

While in search of food, the Indian hunters became terrified when they came upon hundreds of birds and small animals lying dead on the frozen snow banks. Immediately they banded together in great numbers and offered prayers’ to the Great Manitou, as they were frightened that the same evil spirits would destroy them also.

The Great-Spirit answered them by instructing them to take one drop of blood from every dead bird and small animal and smear it on the tree that meant life and death to their people. As the Mountain Ash was the tree whence they fashioned bows and arrows, their only means of survival, they chose it and set about as Manitou had made them do. The following morning every tree they had smeared bore thousands of berries. The birds and small animals that had survived were perched on the mountain Ash branches eating the life-giving food.

The happy Indians danced late into the night, giving thanks to Manitou, who in return gave his promise that whenever a cold winter was approaching again, he would cover these trees with food.


I hope you like this story. I’ve come to think of these Native American legends as not superstitions, but wise tales of a people that have observed and nurtured the earth.

Next fall I intend to take notice of the number of berries on the trees.

– I wish to express my thanks to the source – First People – The Legends for An Ojibwa Legend.




2 thoughts on “Berries of the Mountain Ash – A Legend

  1. Marlene,
    Your photographs are lovely as are your descriptions. I can just feel and hear that crunch of the snow. Great sound! I’m enjoying reading your blog about Montana, the wildlife, and seeing your great photos!
    Allison Reece/Artist
    Asheville, NC

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