Tomoka State Park, near Ormond Beach, Florida, sits atop the former Indian village of Nocorocco. In prehistoric times the tribe of Timucua Indians lived in this village. Their disappearance was due to disease and violence brought about by the arrival of Europeans.
But in the centuries since, visitors to the State Park, intrigued by the shell mounds and other remains of the once prospering fishing village, used their imaginations to explain the strange disappearance of these former people.
Park literature provides this legend, which is said to be over one hundred years old:
The Legend of Tomokie
The Timucua Indians regarded a certain spring as mystical. They believed that a messenger from the Great Spirit was sent every evening at dusk to drink of this Water of Life, and that dew, falling off this magnificent creature’s wings down into the spring, gave the waters its curative and restorative qualities.
Tomokie, giant chief of his warriors, did not share in this belief. One hot summer day, he seized the curiously wrought sacred cup (never before touched by human hands) and drank from the spring, defiling it. The other Indians were greatly offended – this act brought war!
Tomokie led his warriors into battle. Every arrow of the combined enemy tribes seemed to be aimed at him, yet the mighty chief remained unharmed.
Suddenly, Oleeta, a beautiful enemy maiden, sprang forward. She faced the great Tomokie and drew back her bow. The discharged arrow pierced his heart.
Oleeta rushed forward, snatched the cup from the dead Tomokie’s hand, only to be struck by another warrior’s poisoned arrow. She fell dead, still clasping the sacred relic.
This terribly enraged her tribe who did not rest until every member of Tomokie’s band was dead.
Oleeta’s body was buried with stately ceremony near the spring. The sacred cup is said to be in possession of Florida Indians at the present time.
Questions and a Mystery
For a story, it’s not too bad, although obviously an amalgamation of Northern European and Central Asian legends and myth, and not Native American in the least (in fact there never was a Chief Tomokie). But why should that bother us? People habitually create stories about the those who lived on the land before them, and the land itself has a strange effect on anyone who lives on it long enough. The remains of the earlier culture acquire a mythic and sacred character. People ask, “What became of the ones who were here before? What catastrophe caused their disappearance?” And the legends are born.
As it happens, the area around the town of Ormond is also a hotbed of present day paranormal activity, which may also be a reason why this particular tribe of prehistoric coastal Indians have a modern legend. According to local folklore, the area has been plagued by strange orbs of light and a pinkish ground fog. The reports of these phenomena began in the mid-1950’s, at the same time the Cheif Tomokie statue (pictured above) was made to decorate Tomoka State Park. The fog kills people, so they say. Only the bones of anyone caught in this fog are ever found. Hmmm.
A Legend Re-told
Well, I think the original story is a little half-baked and leaves a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions. So here’s my re-telling of the legend, and perhaps I’ve been inspired by the pink fog:
The powerful Chief Tomokie watched his village suffer from a terrible plague. The medicine man told him, he must acquire water from a sacred spring, which no one had ever touched, as it was guarded by a huge and magnificent bird. This spring belonged to a race of giants who lived in another village. The medicine man told Tomokie that every morning the bird alights at the sacred spring and spreads its wings. The dew which rolls from the wings of the bird falls into the spring, giving it healing power. But only a special vessel could harvest this water. Tomokie must successfully find his way into the village of the giants, and steal a golden pot. Then he must find a way around the guardian bird of the spring and fill this pot with the sacred water. Once back in the village of the Timucua, the sick people must step into the pot and be at once reduced to bones. But then they may step out again, made whole and well.
Tomokie embarked on this journey inland from the coastal lagoons of his people, into the oak hammock of the Florida interior. It was there he found the giants, who, however, captured him and planned to roast him for dinner. Fortunately for Tomokie, Oleeta, the daughter of the chief giant, became infatuated with him and stole her tribe’s golden pot and led Tomokie to the sacred spring. Oleeta played a sweet song on her enchanted flute, and the great guardian bird was lulled by the music and paid no attention as Tomokie dipped the pot into the healing water, and then dashed for home, forgetting Oleeta.
Enraged and facing punishment from her tribe, Oleeta led the giants to war against the Timucua; Chief Tomokie fought valiantly in this battle, as he had dipped himself in the pot with the sacred water and had emerged stronger than ever and invulnerable to all the arrows of the enemy. Only Oleeta could bring him down, using an enchanted arrow. The giants defeated the Timucua and all the tribe perished.
To this day the spirit of the great chief wanders the area, baptizing all he meets in the sacred waters he still carries within his golden pot. His spirit is enveloped in pink fog, that rolls out of the pot. But you see, since he is now only a spirit, anyone reduced to bones in the pot can never again emerge whole.
Are you ready to visit Tomoka State Park?