Updated: Aug 2, 2021
Legend of the Underwater Panther
Is one of the most important of several mythological water beings among many indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands and Great Lakes region, particularly among the Anishinaabe. Mishipeshu translates into "the Great Lynx". Sometimes they are considered helpful and beneficial, but more often they are depicted as unpredictable and deadly guardians of their underwater kingdoms.
Underwater Panthers are primal creatures, so they do not have an origin story per se; they always ruled the murky depths of the Great Lakes, ever since the dawn of time.
It is said that the home of the Underwater Panthers is Michipicoten Island in northern Lake Superior masters of all water creatures, including snakes. Underwater panthers are described as water monsters that live in opposition to the Thunderbirds, masters of the powers of the air. Underwater Panthers are seen as an opposing yet complementary force to the Thunderbirds, and they are engaged in eternal conflict.
The underwater panther was an amalgamation of parts from many animals: the body of a wild feline, often a cougar or lynx; the horns of deer or bison; upright scales on its back; occasionally feathers; and parts from other animals as well, depending on the particular myth. Underwater panthers are represented with exceptionally long tails, occasionally with serpentine properties. The creatures are thought to roar or hiss in the sounds of storms or rushing rapids.
It is sometimes said that the horns and scales of Mishipeshu are made of pure copper, and most Indigenous populations in the Great Lakes see those aquatic monsters as the guardians of this metal. The Horned Snakes and the underwater Lynx were particularly dangerous, but they also secured successful hunts and an abundance of food. It was also possible to call upon their power to secure a good fish catch, although their help was most precious for some healings.
is a creature of chaos, the underworld counterpart to the “thunderers” or “thunder beings” who represent order and live in the sky.
Mishipizheu were said to live in the deepest parts of lakes and rivers, where they can cause storm Some traditions believed the underwater panthers to be helpful, protective creatures, but more often they were viewed as malevolent beasts that brought death and misfortune. They often need to be placated for safe passage across a lake.