How Piso Lake Began

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In the days of Long Ago there was a certain small watering hole where doves went to bathe, and the Vai people who lived near that place called it Piling See, or Doves’ Hole. More and more doves came to sing and splash, so that the pool became crowded and other holes were made. Every time the Big Rains came the holes would become larger, and at length they were all joined together as a lake. Through many generations the name Piling See has turned into Piso.

The lake has several islands. The smallest one is known as Poo, meaning Pigeon, for the colony of pigeons which lives there.

Kafatin Island is in the middle of the lake; a certain Vai source states that when canoes coming down to the sea reached this island the crews would rejoice, for half the trip was done; they would exclaim ‘Kafa’, meaning ‘Halfway’. However, the Bureau of Folkways points out that Kaifa in Vai means ‘over and above’, or ‘to cheat a person’, so this theory of name-origin is open to doubt.

The father of the islands is a sacred island named Boeba, ‘Owner of the World’. Boeba moves about the lake as it wishes, and if a canoe chances to be on the lake when the island moves, canoe and crew are lost forever in the waters. If anyone points a finger at this sacred island he dies at once. No canoes go to it, and anyone who defiles the waters near it disappears immediately. Boeba is feared and respected, and left very much alone.

Masatin Island is the largest of all and his name is from Masa, the first woman to farm on it.

In former times Piso Lake had a fine strong voice for singing songs; on peaceful evenings it would sing a soft and gentle song, but when the winds roared and lightning fired the sky the waves of Piso Lake boomed against the shore with rich bass overtones and lesser waves drummed mellow modulations.

There came a day when the Sea Goddess and the sea, which had no voice, begged the nearby lake to lend its song so that the Goddess might be properly mourned. The lake consented, and her song was transferred to the sea. But the song was so sweet and beautiful it revived the ailing Sea Goddess, and then the cunning sea refused to give it back, declaring she had borrowed it to mourn the death of the Goddess and would not give it back until the Goddess died.

So Piso Lake sings no more, but her song is heard throughout the breadth of oceans, causing men to wonder at the multitude of doves which swam and sang in the water-hole so long ago.

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