Mixed Media Drawing and Story
by Jason K. Brown
Click on picture for large view.
Molly Molasses was a Wabanaki Indian from the Northern Woods of Maine. She was said to be a powerful medicine woman of her time and there have been many stories written about her. She was born in a Penobscot camp where the old water tower now stands in present day Bangor, Maine. She grew up in the 1800's, living the Wabanaki way and traveling up and down our river that shares our name. Molly Molasses was what the white people of the Bangor area called her because they said she was so sweet. Molasses was the sweetest thing the people could get at that time.
Much was written about her as an elder with the powers that she possessed. These gifts were handed down through her family and aren't anything that I can really describe properly in words. The white people of the area knew of her powers. Some respected her abilities but others mocked her. They soon found out that this old Indian woman was not fooling around. She was said to be able to hex a person who wronged her with a mere glance. She was also known as a great healer who helped many people in a time when there was no modern medicine. I like to believe that the powers she possessed would still stun the modern medical community.
This drawing is based on a historical black and white photograph of Molly Molasses. It is done in mixed media, utilizing colored pencils and chalk pastels. It represents Molly Molasses and the "Little People," known in the Penobscot language as Mikum-wasus (mee-kgum-waz-zus). I have been told by my elders that the Little People were all powerful medicine people or Medowlinu(meh-dow-len-oo). We learned a lot of what we know about medicine from these magic people and they helped us when we needed their power. As a medicine woman, Molly Molasses may have gone to the little people to help her and give her strength.
The Mikumwasus on Molly's knee is teaching her the sacred and ancient songs and dances that control the elements and her environment. This gift allows her to look inside a person and see their ailment and remove it, taking it into her own body. The Mikumwasus must also teach Molly the songs to get rid of the ailment from her own body for if she doesn't, she may be stuck with it for a long time and become ill herself. The Mikumwasus on Molly's shoulder is whispering things to her that you and I will never know or understand.
The birch bark medicine lodge at Molly's feet represents the strength and importance of the element fire as it warms and protects our homes. It lights our nights and cooks our foods and is always given the proper respect and treated as sacred.
The lake that Molly sits near is at the base of the Penobscot's sacred mountain. It is called Mt. Katahdin (ka-tah-dun) and is located in what is now Baxter State Park, just outside of Millinocket, Maine. This is the tallest mountain in Maine and has the honor of being the first thing the sun's rays hit in the morning when rising over the United States. This is the reason why the indigenous peoples of the Maine area are called "Children of the Dawn." We welcome the sun every morning and send it on its long journey to bring warmth and life to the other people of this country. If you look closely, you can see that the mountain merges through Molly's face, thus representing her connection to the earth. In our oral history, Mt. Katahdin is the place where Klouscap, the first man, built his lodge and where he has retired until we need him to help us again.
In the sky above Molly is the representation of an eagle with a salmon in it's clutches. This shows the life of the river we live on and our connection to it and to the Creator. We fished the waters for salmon just as the eagle did, and the eagle is considered the most sacred animal. By acting like the eagle, we, too, become sacred.
In the other part of the sky you will see a representation of the caribou which were once very abundant in Maine. With the introduction of Anglo people to the area, the caribou were all killed off in Maine and are now extinct. In the same way, my people have stood on the cliff of extinction, looking with fear in their eyes over the edge. We made the conscious choice to fight our way back from the edge of that cliff and to never look back at it again. The caribou represent a time gone by, just as many aspects of our culture have vanished. The only thing that is important to remember is that we still know who we are and we still exist. We live so that our children will not forget, and in that way, we will never die.
I thank you for taking the time to look at this picture and to hear my thoughts and feelings about it. We all become richer by sharing our cultures and knowledge with each other. I hope my image and thoughts have enriched you in some way.
Jason K. Brown, Penobscot Nation