Mystic Spring – Cadboro Bay

A spot known as Mystic Spring in Cadboro Bay, is a place of strange power with many legends and stories connected to it. This land was held sacred by the native peoples who once lived here. Stories of the Spring’s influence on the lives of some of the residents in the area are pretty frightening.

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MANY, many years ago, when Victoria was called Camoosun and the first settlers built their dwellings and warehouses behind tall palisades and mounted guns on bastions; when the aboriginal tribes were turbulent and not always amenable to the soothing influence of ship’s bread and treacle; when painted savages, armed and fierce, swarmed in thousands in and about the dense forests and sweet meadowlands that surrounded the stockade; when Fort Street began in a swamp and goose pasture at Blanchard Street and ended abruptly at the fort gate, before which a big Indian-patrolled as sentry, and Yates and the other pretty streets that now add to the convenience of the people and the beauty of the town were but trails that wound through a thick forest; when you, gentle reader, had not as yet left the ethereal blue to take up your sphere of action on the earth’s surface–I say that many, many years ago there existed on the shores of Cadboro Bay a small but valiant tribe of Indians. It was at Cadboro that Sir James Douglas first landed on Vancouver Island from the brig Cadboro, a staunch Sunderland-built vessel of live oak, the property of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was well received by the natives, and having named the bay Cadboro (then spelt with its long termination, Cadborough) after the brig, he walked through a forest of oak, pine and spruce till he came in sight of Camoosun harbor. Here he planted the British flag, after naming the place Victoria, and reared dwellings and warehouses and palisades, and mounted guns for the protection of the infant settlement from a native foray. Victoria must have been an ideal place to live in at that time. There were no customs houses nor duties; neither taxes nor newspapers; no sidewalks and no streets; no policemen nor lawyers, nor trustees to vote away the civic revenue without check; and only one doctor; no mayor and aldermen, no politicians, no drainage, no water supply except from wells, and no typhoid; when everything that a fellow ate or drank or wore was not said to be infected with the germs of disease, and when the only obstacles to a long life were a too free use of Hudson’s Bay rum, or a sly bullet from a Siwash musket.

When the party landed at Cadboro they were struck with the beauty of the beach of white sand and the oval shape of the bay, which was as faultless in its lines as if it had been laid out by surveyors. Great trees raised their heads on every side and gigantic oaks almost brushed the clouds with their vernal crowns. A thousand years old if a day, alas! they have long since been converted into firewood at two or three dollars per cord, instead of having been allowed to stand as objects of majestic grandeur and forest pride forever. Sir James was a keen admirer and student of Nature, and when from the deck of his vessel he gazed on the picturesque scene before him his senses must have been captivated and charmed. As he stepped ashore and prepared to follow the Indian trail that led to Camoosun his attention was arrested by a huge maple tree, which, with spreading branches rich with bright green foliage, stood directly in his path. No historian has recorded the fact; but I feel sure Sir James questioned the chiefs as to this magnificent monarch of the forest, and applauded their forbearance in having preserved it from destruction, for it was very old, although it showed no signs of decay. At the foot of the tree, so near that some of the roots extended into the water, was a spring as clear as crystal. It was fed by a rill that trickled from the side of the hill which overlooks Cadboro Bay, and its waters possessed the rare characteristic of being as cold as ice in summer as well as in winter. No matter how warm the weather the waters of the spring that nestled by the great maple tree were as cool as if they had flowed from a glacier. The Indians were proud of the spring and used its water freely. They said it possessed medicinal properties. They also claimed that it was bewitched. Said one of the chiefs in Chinook jargon to the new arrivals:

“If a woman should look into the water when the moon is at its full she’ll see reflected in it the face of the man who loves her. If a man looks into the water he will see the woman who loves him and will marry him should he ask her. If a woman is childless this water will give her plenty. The tree is a god. It guards the spirit of the spring, and as long as the tree stands the water will creep to its foot for protection and shade; cut down the tree and the spring will be seen no more.”

Such was the Indian tradition which had clung to the maple and the spring through many ages of savage occupation. When I first visited the bay in 1860 I reached it by means of a narrow and tortuous trail that led down the side of the hill and terminated at the foot of the big maple. I had heard the legend about the Mystic Spring, and rode out to investigate. I drank of the waters, and they were sweet and cool, though the day was warm. My companions, who were young men and women from Victoria, knelt at the side of the water and tried, without success, to conjure up the faces of their future husbands or wives.

“The moon must be shining and at its full before you can see the spirit, and this is midday. You can’t expect to see anything now,” said one of the girls.

After that visit Cadboro Bay became a favorite resort. We put a rude table and a bench at the foot of the maple, which we christened “Father Time” because of a few sprays of “old man’s beard” that hung from a branch. We called the spring Undine, after Lafontaine’s famous water sprite, and nearly every fine Saturday afternoon we formed a small party and rode on Indian ponies to the spot. After luncheon we donned bathing suits and disported in the waters of the bay until the chill breeze and setting sun admonished us that the hour had arrived when we must seek our homes.

. . . . . .

The fame of “Father Time” and sweet Undine spread far and wide, and many were the trips made by the lovesick of both sexes to the spring. When the moon was at its full the visitors sought to conjure up their future partners. If they met with success I never heard of it. One lovely evening in August, 1862, I rode out to the spring. I wanted to test the truth of the pretty legend and did not expect to meet any other person there. As I descended the hill I heard voices, and to my surprise soon saw that two ladies and two gentlemen had reached the spot before me. They rallied me as to the object of my visit at that untimely hour, and I frankly confessed that I was in search of the woman who was to be my wife. They were frank, too, and we found that all had come on the same errand. At eight o’clock the harvest moon rose in all its splendor, and before nine it shone full upon the enchanted spot. Its rays seemed to force themselves through the foliage of the grand old maple, and lighted up the placid waters of Undine, which glistened like molten silver.

“Come on, girls,” cried one of the young fellows, “let’s take a peep.”

The girls advanced timidly and then fell back. They were afraid to look lest they should see something that would not be pleasant–the whole affair was so uncanny.

“Well,” continued the young man, “if you won’t, I will,” and he gazed long and earnestly into the water and then rising, said:

“I saw only the reflection of my own ugly face–I saw that plainly.”

I tried my luck next with a like result. The waters gave back only my own features. I squinted and the shadow squinted. I made a grimace and it grimaced. I raised my hand and the figure raised its hand.

“Pshaw!” I cried, “that Indian legend is a humbug–there’s no spirit here. Hurry up–try it and let’s go home.”

One of the young ladies who had gathered courage by this time advanced and knelt at the side of the pool. She was very nervous, but gazed long and earnestly into the depths. I had turned away to untie my horse, intending to mount him for home, in deep regret at the time lost on an errand so foolish.

“Thus,” said I, “is another colossal Indian legend bubble pricked.”

“I never did believe in the story,” said the young man who had not yet tried his luck, “and I never knew an Indian legend that was not false all the way through.”

I was about to make a remark in reply when my attention was arrested by a cry from the remaining young man.

“Look!–look at Annie!” he cried.

I looked. The girl had fallen forward and her face lay submerged in the ice-cold water. To leap forward and lift her from her position required but an instant. She was motionless. We laid her on the grass beneath “Father Time,” and chafed her hands and temples. We at first feared that she was dead. The other girl had a small flask of sal volatile and used it, and in a few minutes the patient came to her senses and rose to her feet with assistance.

“Take–oh! take me home!” she murmured, and then she went into a fit of hysterics. Her screams were fearful, and her peals of laughter were unearthly. It was a new experience for me. I had never before seen a woman in a state of hysteria, and all were at their wits’ ends to know what to do to restore the girl. At last she ceased to shriek and laugh, and cried softly.

“Annie,” asked the other girl, “what’s the matter with you? Why do you cry? What did you see? You silly little thing to frighten us all so.”

“Oh!” she moaned, “that face–that dreadful face–the face I saw in the spring.”

“What was it?–tell us,” we all cried.

“Oh!” the girl replied with a shudder and with symptoms of a relapse, “it was fearful–the most awful I ever saw. A low-browed, cunning face, deeply lined with wicked thoughts and evil designs, and such awful eyes. He raised his hand to clutch me and I fainted. And he’s to be my future husband! No, I’d sooner die than marry him.”

We rode as far as the farmhouse of Hon. John Tod, the nonogenarian, by which time the young lady had become so weak that she could not maintain her seat on the horse. Mr. Tod placed his horse and buggy at our service, and we reached town without further incident late in the evening. By common consent it was agreed that nothing should be said of the affair, but it leaked out–such things always do–and the fame of Undine spread far and near. For a long time the locality was a favorite resort for bathing and picnic parties and love-sick youths of both sexes. My visits after that night were not frequent, and the two young ladies who were present that evening could not be induced to go there at all. I never learned with any degree of certainty that that presence or any other presence ever again appeared at the spring; but the pretty Indian legend clung to it, and the girls and boys continued to direct their footsteps to the shrine for several years.

. . . . . .

Late in the afternoon of the 21st April, 1868, Benjamin Evans, for many years Usher of the Supreme Court, and who owned a small property facing on Cadboro Bay, was at work in his garden. The day was beautiful. The sun shone warmly, and the new grass and the young foliage of the trees gave promise of an early and bountiful season. As Evans delved with his spade he saw descending the road that led down the hill to the bay a handsome young lady. She was stylishly dressed in a brightly-colored gown with voluminous skirts, and wore a turban or toque, about which was loosely coiled a bright green veil. The young woman inquired if he was on the right road to the bay. Evans replied, “Yes.”

“And,” said she, after a moment’s hesitation, “where is the wonderful magic spring?”

Evans laughed good-naturedly as he said, “Ho! ho! Do you think you’ll find him?”

“Find who?” asked the girl, archly.

“Why, your future husband,” replied Evans. “Take care he doesn’t jump out of the spring and hug you to death!”

It was the girl’s turn to laugh, but she said nothing, and Evans directed her to the locality of the spring, and she continued on her way.

Some two hours later, and shortly before dark, an Indian lad who was walking along the trail saw a well-dressed young woman sitting on the rustic bench at the spring-side. Her face was buried in her hands, and her elbows rested on the table. The turban had fallen from her head and lay on the grass. The boy watched the woman for some time. She seemed in great distress and moaned and wept, sometimes rocking her body to and fro in her anguish. Nightfall was coming on and even to the mind of that untutored savage the impropriety of this young lady remaining in that lonely spot all night, exposed to the chill air or an attack from wild animals, with which the locality was infested at the time, was manifest, so he went and told his father and mother, who were encamped nearby. The old people watched the young stranger for some time, peeping through the underbrush. The lady seemed oblivious to her surroundings. Was she waiting for the moon to rise? If so, she had made an error, for there was no moon that night. Had she a tryst? There was no evidence of one, for no one had met her. She just seemed a young person to whom disappointment, sudden and keen, had come, and who had sought that lonesome spot to pour out her sorrows to the stars which sparkled brightly overhead. At last her head reclined on her arms, and she appeared to fall fast asleep. The watchers left her there.

. . . . . .

In the middle of the night the boy awoke with a start and leaped to his feet. He listened, and a wail like that of a woman in deep distress fell on his ear. He called to his father, “That King George klootchman (Englishwoman) is crying for help. Listen!”

The old man bent his ear and listened for a few moments. All was still. Save for the waving of the mighty pines in the night wind and the lapping of the waves on the beach, no sound disturbed the stillness. “Go to sleep,” he at last said, “you pilton (fool). It’s only a panther calling to its mate.” And the boy went back to his bed.

. . . . . .

In the morning, bright and early, the Indian lad was astir. He walked to where he could gain a view of the spring and its surroundings. The “klootchman” had disappeared. He drew nearer. There, lying on the ground where it had fallen, was the turban with the green veil tied about it. His practiced eye detected the marks of small footsteps on the sward. He traced them through a clump of bushes to the edge of the bank overlooking the bay. Lying on the bank he found a crinoline or hoop-skirt which had been unbuckled at the waist. He pressed forward to a spot where he commanded a better view of the water, and then he saw something that froze his young blood, accustomed though he was to gruesome sights. He hastened back to the camp, aroused his father and mother, and the three returned to the spot and drew from the water the body of the strange girl, which was floating face downward. She had divested herself of a part of her raiment and fallen or flung herself from the bluff. Death came from drowning, and there were no marks of violence. The body was brought to town and identified as that of a most respectable young lady, named Julia Booth, who lived with her parents near Victoria. Beneath “Father Time” and near the Mystic Spring were found torn bits of paper upon which there had been words written; but the bits were too minute to be pieced.

On the bench was a sheet of notepaper upon which were written the following words from a then popular song:

“Farewell, farewell, ’tis a solemn sound
And often brings a sigh,
But give to me that good old word
That comes from the heart–good-bye.”

Miss Booth was a light-hearted and sensible girl and as pure as the virgin snow. Had she, with only the stars to light up the pool, seen the presence that so affrighted the girl six years before, had the spirit tried to seize her, and had she fled to the water to escape a supposed impending fate? or was her case one of disappointed love and suicide?

. . . . . .

Nearly twenty years later the vandal hand of man seized upon “Father Time.” The hand held an axe within its grasp and before its sharp strokes the monarch was laid low. It fell with a great crash that shook the earth. An old Indian witnessed the desecration. His forefathers had worshipped that tree and he wanted it saved. Could he have expressed himself in verse he probably would have wailed:

“Woodman, spare that tree,
Touch not a single bough,
In youth it sheltered me
And I’ll protect it now.”

With the tragic end of the old tree the Mystic Spring disappeared and was seen no more.

I almost forgot to say that the young lady who saw the spirit married a few months later, and that she got for a husband one of the best fellows on earth. She is still a resident of Victoria, and so are her children and her grandchildren.


6 thoughts on “Mystic Spring – Cadboro Bay

  1. My apologies, I have now seen that your story was not yours, but taken from an early, racist-friendly time.
    Once again, I apologize

  2. Actually, there is not, nor has there every been a Mystic Spring. If you set out to look for the location of the Mystic Spring, you might as well be looking for the Cadborosaurus as there is still a possibility or a probability the latter exists. The legend of the Mystic Spring is loosely based on fragments of true Aboriginal oral beliefs and practices but the legend in and of its self is a fictitious story which is imbued with misinformation. To understand this we need to look at the matter from the Aboriginal perspective and have an understanding of the ethnoecology of the Coast Salish nation and how its tribes, through Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), view, understand and interpret the environment. In the interest of avoiding bias, we also need to combine TEK with western/non indigenous science. To paint a clear picture of the cultural history of Mystic Vale, let us take a trip way back through the fogs of time.
    The formation of what we now refer to as Mystic Vale technically began in the late Pleistocene glaciations when sands and silts were being deposited. In the early Holocene, or 10,000 years ago, layers of hardpan soils, sands and fluvial marine deposits were laid down with the retreat of the last ice age. Up to about 4000 years ago, or the late Holocene, Garry Oak trees were abundant in the forest and were in competition with the Douglas-firs.
    This result of competition between the two tree species was to be decided by a process all forest eco systems go through: the panarchy cycle. According to panarchy, forest growth cannot continue forever. As the forest grows and becomes more dense, connectedness between different parts of the forest’s components become stronger and more rigid. From thereon, once a fire erupts, it spreads more quickly. The forest debris (in the form of fallen leaves for example) helps the spread of fire. After collapse, the forests goes through the release period and regenerates, that is unless the fire was so catastrophic, it completely burnt the forest to the point where the even the nutrients were burnt out. A catastrophic fire erupted in the Mystic Vale endowment lands in the late Holocene wiping out most the Garry Oaks. The fire-sensitive roots of the Douglas-fir saplings fed the fire even further. On the other hand, the Douglas-fir bark is fire-resistant which was the reason why the Douglas-firs out-competed the oaks and became the most dominant tree species in Mystic Vale. But this is not the only reason why Mystic Vale looks the way it does today.
    Following Mystic Vale’s regeneration into a second old growth forest, Coast Salish people, especially the ancestors of the Songhees and the Wsanic’ (Saanich) started applying land management practices which incredibly kept Mystic Vale’s ecology stable over the last 4000 years. Mystic Vale never collapsed since then. The traditional land management included prescribed burning which protected the precious Garry Oak systems from the encroachment of the Douglas-firs by creating open patches in the landscape. Another benefit from this practice was not allowring fires to spread quickly. This practice looks easy on the surface but it takes a great deal of skills and environmental knowledge.
    Here, I describe a reconstructed picture of Mystic Vale’s past hydrological processes from before alterations caused after European settlements in the mid 1800s in the Greater Victoria Area. Some of this description may or may not apply today. In a later section, I will describe the changes in the landscape that started from the mid 1800s. The ravine of Mystic Vale is much younger than the forest itself and it was carved out and shaped due to centuries of running water. Hobbs Creek was the main body of water that entered Mystic Vale. The source of the creek is precipitation which fell on the Hobbs watershed in the uplands. Most of the water that fell ran off as a creek (Hobbs Creek) and flowed through the ravine which extended all the way to Cadboro Bay’s beach where it entered the marine environment of Cadboro Bay. There used to be a connection between Hobbs Creek and Bowker Creek via a watershed. Hobbs creek flowed above ground all the way from start to finish all year around. On its course, some of its water leaked and went underground. On the creek course, especially in the areas where it turned, pools/ponds were created by the creek. The Saanich oral tradition speaks of only one secluded pond along Hobbs Creek. This pond got most of its water from the creek waters which went underground and emerged in that pond.
    Some of the water which fell on the uplands infiltrated the ground and ended up as springs in Mystic Vale. In the interest of avoiding confusion, it is of essence to explain and define what a spring is and what constitutes a spring. Not any underground water that emerges above ground is a spring water. The definition of a spring is: mineral water which naturally flows from the aquifer to the land surface. A spring receives its water from the water table which rises from the aquifer and not from other sources of water like underground creeks. When spring water flows, it goes through mineral rock layers. As the water table rises from the aquifer, it can fill up one of several spring pools at nearly the same time. The fall of the water table causes the spring(s) to disappear.
    The imperviousness of the Hobbs Water shed was 0. Therefore, up to 25 percent of the precipitation that fell on the Hobbs Watershed infiltrated the ground and fed aquifer 686 Gordon Head III which extends from just the south of the University of Victoria (UVic) campus, and all the way to Cordova Bay. The subterranean water movement entered Hobbs Creek at various points. In other words, Hobbs Creek was fed by several springs. When the springs entered the vale, they did not form pools but were instead engulfed by the creek. In other words, the springs were not visible to the naked eye as they were continuously mixed up with the creek.
    The waters of Mystic Vale were used by Coast Salish people, especially the Songhees and Saanich ancestors for rituals. They used the “prayer pools” created by the creek for fertility and puberty rituals and rites. A person would rub the body with surrounding plant materials such as tree boughs (Western Hemlock was very popular but I found no record of such a tree in Mystic Vale from old or current times) then would go inside the pool at the crack of dawn and sing songs. According to Coast Salish world view, springs and ponds in general, are sacred and have stories/legends attached to them. A still pool of water offers a mythic inversion whereby everything is opposite to what it is in the real world. Thus when someone looked into the still pool, s/he would see the opposite reflected. For example, sadness gets reflected into happiness. A still pool of water can also reflect the face of a future partner. Based on the Coast Salish belief system, isolated ponds are inhabited by a realm of a power spirit known as Stleluqum. This realm, which also inhabited other features in Mystic Vale such as unusually looking rocks and exceptionally old trees, could harm those who abused the resources of the environment. On the other hand, it could give power to those who requested it by doing a bathing ritual called Kwaythut in isolated ponds. Those who dared to encounter Stleluqum had to be spiritually cleansed and qualified or experienced. If they were not, then Stleluqum would harm them. In addition, once the natural isolation and seclusion of the pond was altered, it no longer had the ability to provide power. The secluded pond along Hobbs Creek mentioned in the local native oral tradition lost its natural seclusion due to development and this is a part of a larger story. Having said that, it is important to mention that in the case of Mystic Vale, the creek was also inhabited by Stleluqum because the creek was secluded, thus, all the ponds created by the creek were inhabited by the spirit being.

    Ever since the mid 1800s Mystic Vale has seen many modifications. Urban development in the uplands increased the imperviousness of the watershed, so most of the water which would have infiltrated the ground now runs off of a culvert beneath Cedar Hill X Road. Therefore, the springs in Mystic Vale are not as productive as they once were and have a much weaker flow compared to that of the past.
    Due to landfills and urbanization in Cadboro Bay, the ravine of Mystic Vale today terminates between Hobbs, Killarney, Cadboro Bay Road and Bermuda streets. In the, the ravine extended all the way to Cadboro Bay beach where the end of the vale was an estuary. Before the connection between Bowker and Hobbs was severed, salmon that spawned in the Bowke watershed reached Hobbs Creek and swam through it until it reached the beach thus making the northern end of Mystic Vale an estuary for bald eagles. When salmon swam back to its spawning ground, it did not and could not swim back through and against the Hobbs stream given the slope and the amount water discharge. Instead, salmon went to the Bowker stream. About 11 years ago, a ten cm ground slate spear point was found in the creek. Today, no more salmon reaches Mystic Vale.
    House and yard construction in Cadboro Bay and uplands, substantially altered the flow of Hobbs Creek. Today, at certain points, Hobbs Creek goes above and below ground until it hits the beach. There is a desire on the part of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association to restore Hobbs Creek to its previous status. Changes to Mystic Vale were not only physical.
    Coast Salish people have profound attachments through their land. They connect to it by many means, one of which is through oral tradition in the form of stories and legends. The legend of the Mystic Spring is attributed to native oral tradition but in fact was created by a white man named David William Higgins. He was a politician and a news paper editor whose writings were readily imbued with misinformation. Due to the amount of misinformation and the ethnocentric nature of the story, one can easily deduce that Higgins did not obtain his info on aboriginal oral tradition directly from qualified aboriginal informants but rather from general conversations within the Euro-Canadian community. In writing the story, he gathered pieces and fragments and aboriginal folklore and increase the spookiness of the story by adding two real events from the 1860s regarding two young women. One named Annie who fainted in the creek in 1862 and was later revived. The other was Martha Booth (Julia Booth) who committed suicide in the same location on April 21, 1868. Furthermore, he suggests that the spirit which tried to pull Annie into the creek was the same one that caused Martha Booth (Julia Booth) to commit suicide.
    Irrespective of the differences between different versions of the legend of the Mystic Spring, the legend follows this line:
    There used to be a spring pool in Cadboro Bay called the Mystic Spring. This spring which once existed inside Mystic Vale, was unique and special in the eyes of the native tribes of Cadboro Bay. The reason why it was unique was because it had special and unique powers and abilities. It healed the sick, it enhanced puberty and cured infertility. It reflected the images of future spouses if someone looked into the pond. It was inhabited by a spirit. The spring was located at the foot of an ancient and huge maple tree located inside the ravine, at the edge of the creek and on the side of the ravine hill. The tree ‘guarded’ the spring and according to native prophecy, if the tree was ever cut down, the spring would dry up and the spirit would leave the spring. Allegedly, that was what happened.
    There are several problems with the above story. One example is the account regarding the tree. A huge maple tree does not mean an old one because maples grow quickly. Except for maybe extremely rare cases I am not aware of, there is no such thing as an ancient maple tree because maples only live up to about 200 years. A 200 year old tree in Mystic Vale would not be exceptionally old (Mystic Vale has 500 year old trees) and therefore, would not be inhabited by Stleluqum. Higgins states that the tree was cut down in about 1888. Photography from long before that time shows Hobbs Creek flowing through the open fields of Cadboro Bay. No giant maple trees are apparent. Higgins also mentions how the waters of Mystic Spring were cold all year around. This applies to the whole creek and its pools and not just one pond. Historically, if all the springs of Mystic Vale stopped flowing to the surface, no pond would have dried up because of that because the ponds, included the aforementioned isolated pond, were more fed by the creek than any other source. Furthermore, when an isolated pond loses its natural seclusion, Stleluqum would still be there, but it would not just leave the pond.
    In spite of the serious problems with the legend, people even today treat it as truth. Over time, the confusion surrounding the legend increased to the point where prominent historians, academics and authors have fell for the legend and accepted that the Mystic Spring did once exist. The most confusing part is the exact location of the Mystic Spring.
    Before going any further, I must make clear that this section is not meant in any way to discredit the credibility of the authors I am about to mention. Given the level of confusion this legend of the Mystic Spring created for over 100 years, I am not surprised that even respectable authors are confused about the legend and made false claims regarding the native oral tradition, not due to deliberate intellectual dishonesty, but due to old historical inaccuracies that leaked into the trusted bodies of literature. Also, to tackle this legend, one needs to adopt a multidisciplinary approach. To only use history or natural science is not enough. In addition, one needs to combine science with Traditional Ecological Knowledge. A basic understanding of Coast Salish beliefs is an absolute must or nothing will make much sense.
    Over decades, different sources have provided different locations for the Mystic Spring. The creation of artificial ponds and springs in the 30s and 40s in Cadboro Bay, added to this confusion. Those artificial ponds include but are not limited to the ones above and below Mystic Lane; the one just east of Hibbens Close and Mystic Pond on Waring Road. When I was on a ghost walking tour with famous Victoria Historian and “Ghostorian” John Adams, I gave him a map and asked him to mark the exact spot of the Mystic Spring with a pen. The location was a pond just east of Hibbens Close. He also suggests that the water coming out that pond flows through a pond system which includes Mystic Pond. All the ponds along that system from Hibbens Close to Mystic Pond were artificially created from scratch and have nothing to do with what the Saanich oral tradition identifies as a secluded pond along Hobbs Creek. Some locals in Cadboro Bay think that Mystic Pond is the original Mystic Spring.
    From the 30s to the 50s, a sanitary and heating engineer named William Inglis mistakenly claimed that the original Mystic Spring existed on his property at 2555 Sinclair Road. He fixed his property as a tourist attraction by installing an ornamental wheel decorated by fake native masks and powered by an underground drainage. It was not spring. Yet, he managed to convince people of his claim and actually charged Victorians to drink from its ‘mystical’ waters for 20 years.
    The article Topomystica gave two contradicting locations within the same article. He says that the Mystic Spring is downstream from Mystic Vale and therefore, along the Creek. He also adds that it is roughly in the area where the Northern end of Mystic Vale is. Furthermore, he states that the Mystic Spring is located in the middle of an asphalt road. The 1922 article he quotes regarding this states that the Mystic Spring is in the middle of the asphalt road near the yacht club. The yacht club however, is no where near the creek or the northern end of Mystic Vale.
    Author Danda Humphreys, in her book On the Streets Where You Live Vol 3: Mystic Lane, took the confusion to a new level. She states:
    “The stream [Hobbs Creek] flowed down through a ravine [Mystic Vale] bordered by tall trees, shrubs, disappeared underground, and reappeared as if by magic as a spring at the roots of a huge maple tree, only to disappear again on its route through open fields to the bay.”
    There are two problems with her account. First, when a creek goes under then above ground, it does not become a spring. This goes against the definition of what a spring is. Second, she is describing the historical flow of Hobbs Creek before developments and European settlements in Cadboro Bay in the mid 1800s. The problem here is, historically, Hobbs Creek, as mentioned earlier, flowed above ground all the way all year around.
    Finally, my favorite book was not immune either. Planet U: Sustaining the World, Reinventing the University (2006). The book repeats the story by Higgins but adds that the spring on Michael Finnerty’s farm is the original Mystic Spring. In an email to the co-author, I asked him about the exact location and he answered that it is on the flat land behind the Cadboro Bay residences. Mystic Vale is anything but flat.
    Higgins not only made up the legend but he also made up the name Mystic Spring. He also made up the name Mystic Vale in 1904. He named Mystic Vale after the Mystic Spring. Other features named after the Mystic Spring which I am aware of, are Mystic Lane, Mystic Cottages, Mystic Pond and Mystic Creek. Before it was locally referred to as Mystic Vale, locals, especially in Cadboro Bay used to call it by several names such as ‘The Ravine’, ‘Mystic Spring Ravine’, ‘Mystic Springs’ etc. In the late 70s, the name Mystic Vale appeared in the printed press in light of the issue of development when former owner late John Byron Price (1917-sept 15 2010) and his brother attempted to develop the ravine. Aboriginals had no name for the vale or its creek. In fact, place naming Coast Salish tradition is a serious business and depends on strict criteria. Place naming for example can mean land claiming, property rights and ownership but that far beyond the scope of this comment. However, I will briefly address past ownerships of Mystic Vale in the next section.
    The concept of boundaries and land ownership is a complex matter and very different from the concepts adopted by non aboriginals. Historically, there was no one specific group or an individual which privately owned Mystic Vale. There were ‘stewards’ of the landscape, each of which looked after a specific feature of Mystic Vale. One group of stewards, called silwan was responsible for the water resources. There was the fishing administrator or siem.
    The Oak Bay part of Mystic Vale was first owned by the Hudson Bay Company. Later, the Island Broadcasting Company owned a 40 acre land parcel consisting of the CJVI land (one of the last remnants of the Upland farms) and the Oak Bay portion of Mystic Vale. Later, the Island Broadcasting Company sold the CJVI land to the University of Victoria in 1964. Today, the CJVI land is about 30 acres because the Mystic Vale part of it (used to be called the Upper Hobbs Creek Drainage System) is no longer a part of the CJVI land, even though the CJVI land is referred to as the Mystic Vale Farm Lands. In 1993, the Mystic Vale Ecological Protection Area was created on August 10, 93 when the Oak Bay portion was combined the Saanich portion of Mystic Vale which is another story.
    The Saanich portion of Mystic Vale was first owned by Joseph William Mackay in 1858. After he lost control, and over the years, the forested ravine was divided among private land owners who had properties adjacent to the ravine. Some of them included the late Mr Chard and Bowden and Frank Hobbs (after which the creek was named). Before UVic purchased the vale in 93, 4.7 Hectares of the Saanich portion (not all of the Saanich portion) was owned by the Price family, mainly John Byron Price.

    According to Coast Salish oral tradition, isolated springs and secluded ponds similar to the Mystic Spring exist throughout the Coast Salish world but the Mystic Spring never existed. Yet the story is treated like an accurate historical record. To avoid such confusion in the future, I propose three recommendations. First, when researching a sacred First Nations site, a person should obtain permission from the nations or bands involved. Second, First Nations research protocol would be followed. And third, the researcher must respect aboriginal wishes as to how that info would be shared. Attributing false or falsified stories to Coast Salish oral tradition, not only distorts a vital component of a culture which heavily relies on its oral tradition for cultural transmission, but it has the potential to do more harm. It can affect ecological restoration efforts which might rely, to a certain degree, on landscape reconstructions which are themselves affected by historical accounts and oral tradition. When one does ecological restoration, there are several questions that come to mind. Restore it to what point in time and to what condition? Knowing this might require the combination of western scientific practices with those of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) or Traditional Indigenous Knowledge.
    O hear of a legend, stranger than OZ
    O see it, through eyes gone porous
    Over the legend of the Mystic Spring which never was
    Yet don’t cry another spring, there is always Cadborosaurus

    Direction to a 400 year old tree remains in Mystic Vale: When you go down the stair which lead to the pond, keep walking north going towards Hobbs Street. As you walk through the ravine, keep looking to your right and you will see a broken cone shaped hallow tree (core is gone) located on the side of the right ravine hill. This maple tree started growing about 400 years ago and was knocked down by the force of wind nearly 200 years ago. Just imagine the wind force that can knock down a tree like that! To see a photo of it, see my flickr photos. My flickr username is blastroidicon.

  3. Oh, and two more things. First, I am sorry about the grammar mistakes for I did not proofread my comment. And second, whenever you are in Mystic Vale, please respect this First Nations sacred site by not harming the environment: keep your dogs on leashes; try to avoid stepping on plants; and don’t throw garbage in the vale or pollute the creek. Remember the creek empties into the sea. Nature is interconnected. Enjoy your forest adventures!

  4. Actually, this story needs editing anyways. I have posted a rebuttal to it but it was deleted! Maybe because it was too long. Idk.
    There is not, nor has there even been a Mystic Spring. The legend of the Mystic Spring is PARTIALLY AND LOOSELY based on FRAGMENTS of true Coast Salish practices and oral tradition, in addition to two instances in the 1860s regarding two young women. However, the legend of the Mystic Spring in and of itself is fiction.
    Historically, Mystic Vale (sacred Coast Salish site) did have ponds similar in characteristics to those associated with the Mystic Spring. However, the Mystic Spring itself is just a fantasy product of the mind of an ingenious fiction writer named David Higgins. In fact, he was the one who made up the names Mystic Spring and Mystic Vale (the latter is named after the former). Aboriginals did not have a name for the vale or its creek.
    Finally, the spirit which inhabited the waters of Mystic Vale is classified, in Coast Salish folklore, as Stleluqum. This spirit caused harm to those who abused the landscape or those who tried to contact the spirit yet they were not qualified. On the other hand, it had the ability to provide powers to ritual bathers but only as long as the body of water was secluded. Mystic Vale, being a deep ravine and heavily forested, provided the needed seclusion. Once the natural seclusion is altered, the spirit would not longer provide powers.
    Yaser Mohammed
    University of Victoria Sustainability Project (UVSP)

  5. I posted a comment which disproves the myth of the Mystic Spring but the comment got removed for obvious reasons.
    This story of the Mystic Spring needs editing anyways.
    There is not, nor has there ever been a Mystic Spring.
    The legend of the Mystic Spring was made up by David Higgins in 1904. He loosely based his story on fragments of true aboriginal folklore and beliefs. He also added to his story two incidences in the 1860s concerning two young women. Given the ethnocentric nature of the story and the amount of misinformation in it, it is easily to deduce that Higgins did not obtain his information on aboriginal beliefs from Coast Salish informants but rather from conversations inside the white community.
    The characteristics and special powers Higgins attributes to the Mystic Spring are actually associated with so many ponds and springs throughout the Coast Salish world. For example, there was a natural pond in Summit Park where Coast Salish women would go to see reflections of future husbands. Those qualities are not attributed to just one spring. Even if that springs existed, there would have been nothing special about it.
    The Wsanic’ and Songhees oral tradition speaks of only one secluded pond along Hobbs Creek which drains Mystic Vale. However, that pond had nothing to do with the Mystic Spring that Higgins speaks of. It was not fed by water coming from the side of the hill and it was not guarded by a huge and ancient maple tree. Higgins states it was cut down in about 1888. Photography of Cadboro Bay from way before this time shows Hobbs Creek flowing through Cadboro Bay. No huge maples are visible in that or in other photos taken from before that time. In addition, a maple tree does not mean a huge one because maples only live up to about 200 years which makes it almost impossible for a maple to be considered an ‘ancient’ tree.
    Historically, the “prayer pools” of Mystic Vale were formed by the creek. They were fed by aquifer water (springs) from aquifer 686 Gordon Head III. However, the pools got most of their water from the creek. In other words, once the springs entered the creek, they got engulfed by it. Those prayer pools were associated with spirits beings.
    The name Mystic Spring was made up by Higgins. Mystic features in Cadboro Bay such as Mystic Creek, Mystic Pond and Mystic Vale are named after the Mystic Spring.
    The Mystic Spring is not attributable to Coast Salish tradition.
    Even though the story is fiction, it stil made its way into the realm of credible and valid sources and literature. One question that a lot of people ask to day is, where is the Mystic Spring? Different sources give different locations. The creation of artificial ponds and springs in the 30s and 40s even added to this confusion.
    Yaser Mohammed
    University of Victoria Sustainability Project (UVSP)

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