I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. I view it as propaganda to cover up the genocide of the Native Americans and the theft of their land. But, as this Thanksgiving falls on Folklore Thursday I figured you’d all like some Halloween mixed with the mashed potatoes. A vanishing English colony, the mysterious Croatoan message on a tree, Shamans and shape shifting and curses. And the Ghost of the first English woman born on the continent.
The Lost Colony and it’s history
The Mystery of the Missing Colony at Roanoke is known far and wide. As is the legends of Virginia Dare. Roanoke was the first true English settlement in Turtle Island (America). It was Founded by Sir Walter Raleigh. The settlement was on an Island off the coast of North Carolina.
It wasn’t supposed to be there at all. It was supposed to be in Chesapeake Bay. But the Pirate who became their captain, a Portuguese Mercenary*, was in a rush to raid Spanish ships. So he left them stranded on Roanoke Island. Sir Walter Raleigh the man who founded this expedition had previously become friends with two Native Leaders : Manteo and Wanchese.
In fact, he took them all the way to England and they met the Queen. And Raleigh managed to get Manteo a Lord Title. The only Native who ever received an English title. The Colony was given to the command of Governor John White. There were 115 Colonists under White.
Among them was his daughter Eleanor and her husband, Ananias Dare. Virginia was the very first child of English blood born on Turtle Island. But little did they know the dangers they were in. Many of the local tribes despised them. You see years before, another mercenary captain had ordered the whole sale slaughter of many native tribes.
Their crime? That one of their chiefs had held the captain’s silver cup in his hand. Natives shared everything in a communal society. But Europeans embraced the capitalist life style. The Captain saw this as theft and decided he would murder as many natives as he saw fit. This left the natives scarred for many years.
And when Europeans had once again appeared in the form of the Roanoke colony, they decided to show the invaders they weren’t welcome. As things began to get dangerous, John White knew they needed help. So he left, presumably just for a few months, to get help and aid from England. He told the colonists that if they had to leave for any reason, to carve the name of their new location on a nearby tree. And if they were forced under pressure to leave, to carve a cross underneath the name.
When Govenor John White left for England, he had no idea that he would never see the people of Roanoke again. In 1787, the country was bracing for an Invasion from the Spanish armadas. Three years had passed before he and his new crew with their supplies made it to Roanoke. And when they got there, they were greeted with an eerie silence. The whole colony, all 115 of them had long gone.
And near the ruins of the settlement was the word “Croatoan” carved in a nearby tree. The disappearance of Virginia Dare and the Colony as well as the mysterious word has been the subject of fiction. From the Buffyverse where Virginia Dare was a past slayer, to “The Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series where she’s a villain. To her being a demon responsible for the disappearance of the colony in an old 80’s show. To the Croatoan virus which is a demonic virus that turns people into savage zombie like monsters.
And recently on the CW series Legacies, a Demonic Monster that hunts and devours those who keep secrets.
Well, it turns out fiction is a long standing tradition with (European) Americans. Because one of the apocryphal stories spread is how many colonists died. And that Virginia’s mother Eleanor bravely carved the word into a tree as a clue. While she had her dead husband at her feet and her baby in her arms. Except that not one of the Roanoke colonists were slaughtered.
Despite the English repeating stories of how the whole village was butchered, not one body was left behind. The village was abandoned with nothing left behind even for raiders. They just assumed local tribes had killed them all. John White rightly assumed that the word was a misspelling of the word Croatan. The name of Manteo’s tribe. And there was no cross underneath the word.
Which meant they left of their own volition. But even with the possibility that they survived, he choose to not look for them. He and his crew went off to raid ships. And this is where Colonial history falls silent. Many people have said he wanted to find his family but a storm was coming.
But other sources say he also wanted to engage in criminal activities and raid the Spanish ships. So it’s more likely that he was more motivated by greed at this point. And since three years had passed since the colony was abandoned, he probably believed they were dead. Although others claim it was the captain and not John White, who wanted to raid ships not him. Depends on who you talk to.
Native History, Legend, and Lore
But Native history picks up after and tells us what happened. Manteo discovered that some of the tribes were planning a raid on the settlement. So he not only warned them, but led them through a tunnel where canoes were waiting for them. He led them to his tribe the Croatan Nation. And once there, the Tribe adopted them.
~ White Doe ~
The settlers and the natives had become one people. This is how Virginia Dare grew up. Only her name stopped being Virginia Dare. Her Mother was renamed “White Doe”. And Virginia became “Little Fawn”. Little Fawn was beloved by the whole tribe and eventually embodied the principles of the First Nation.
Upon becoming a woman, she inherited the name White Doe from her mother. She also earned the title of “Beloved Woman” and “Prophet” from the Croatan. She was trained as a Shaman. She also grew up with Wanchese’s son who was also named Wanchese. The young Wanchase loved her, but had never confessed his feelings for her.
We also know that later in Jamestown, some of the other settlers in 1608, reported that they saw survivors from Roanoke.
“Seven English alive…who escaped the slaughter at Roanoke. Fower men, two boys, and one young mayde,”
Except nobody died. The massacre was stopped by Manteo. There was never any evidence of a slaughter either. They just assumed they were killed off. Regardless, many suspect the young woman was White Doe/Virginia Dare herself.
There were also tales of blue eyed natives or people with mixed features in those days. Going back to Croatan accounts, White Doe’s magic became so powerful, that she attracted the attention of a male Shaman named Chico. But Chico was greedy for her power. He believed that if he could marry her, he could gain her powers for himself. Maybe even have a child born of their union with greater powers still.
But White Doe politely said no. This angered Chico greatly. And he began to plot against her. For if he couldn’t have her power, nobody would. He led White Doe to her birth island.
What pretext he used to lead her there isn’t clear. What is said is that she became a real white doe the moment she stepped foot on the island. And trapped in this form, Chico abandoned her to her fate. When she disappeared, the whole village began to speculate that Chico was behind it somehow. But nothing could be proven.
The Magical Deer of Roanoke Island
When stories from native hunters along the coast spread of a lone white doe on Roanoke island, Wanchese was sure it was his White Doe. Part of the reason was that when tribal hunters shot arrows at the Doe, it went right through her. Taking no effect. And the animal was supernaturally fast as well. Virginia or White Doe had become a powerful Medicine Woman growing up.
It seems her magic remained even after she was cursed to animal form. He figured out that Chico must have cursed her himself. So he decided to save his love. Wanchese inherited a silver tipped arrow from his father. The arrow was a present that Wanchese Sr. was given by the Queen of England.
It was reputed in the tribe to have special powers to break any enchantment. This makes sense because silver is the metal of the fae. And it’s said to have powers over evil spirits. His plan was to give White Doe a harmless flesh wound. That way the curse would be broken with her life spared.
But sadly it wasn’t meant to be. The younger Wanchese chased her across the lands and finally cornered her in Kill Devil Hills. And there he fired his arrow. Only to realize he had pierced her heart. She slowly turned back into a human woman.
She locked eyes with him, breathed her last breath, and died. Then her spirit appeared out of her body in the form of a ghostly white deer which fled into the forrest. Now I have told you this version of the story first. And the reason is because out of all the stories I researched, this one seems to be the most accurate account. It came from one of my paranormal books which I will cite later.
And it is recited orally for generations by the tribe. But for some reason, everyone either scoffs at the story as a silly fairy tale, or they perverted the Croatan accounts for their own gain. As you’ll see soon by this next part.
Colonial Revisionism, Big Business, and all around Bullshit
As I have mentioned above, there are dozens of distortions to this story. The colonists and their later descendants were for the most part, unruly people. They had a sense of racial superiority about them. And in modern and former times, Virginia Dare was taken as a symbol of white womanhood and racism. She was used by racist white men in the South who didn’t want black women to get the vote.
And she’s also been used in more recent times by Neo Nazi organizations in the US to protest immigration by non whites. Colonials have taken her story and perverted it for their own agenda for 100’s of years. And one of those agendas was to sell wine during prohibition. In the revised stories, Wanchese was scared of English people. So he turned against the Roanoke colonists and plotted to kill them all.
In this version Manteo is still the one who saves them. But instead of Wanchese’s son, it’s a warrior named Okisko who is White Doe’s love. And rather than a silver tipped arrow, he uses an oyster tipped arrow with a mother-of-pearl lining. The silver arrow remains with Wanchese. The story says that Wanchese was also hunting her, they make him a stereotypical “evil Indian”.
The reason Wanchese has been vilified by Caucasian historians, is because he broke relations with the English. He began to understand that they were dangerous. And that they had ulterior motives for their “friendliness,”. Wanchese was a noble warrior and leader of his people. And while he was never a Chief, his words held a lot of water.
He specifically tried to warn Chief Manteo about the dangers of being too close to the British Empire. But sadly he didn’t listen. Wanchese broke his ties to the British. Which made Manteo their one ally. So they rewrote him in their history as a villain. Even going as far as to claim that he was the one who plotted with other Tribes to attack Roanoke.
It seems more likely this is a distortion of events from the colonists and England. This is the M.O. of Empires. Just like the fictitious “massacre” that never happened. And despite no one knowing in European accounts what took place, that still didn’t stop writers from claiming that Eleanor White carved the Croatoan message herself. And all with a dead husband at her feet with an arrow sticking out of him and her infant in her arms.
So before we continue with this bastardization of the narrative, you should be aware of what’s actually happening here. She was stalked by both her true love and supposedly Wanchese. I often wondered if Wanchese was purposely made her killer in this story as a form of slander. A way to hurt his son. To hurt their legacy.
Wanchese here is portrayed as a savage macho man who wanted to kill the white doe to prove he was a skilled hunter. And Okisko wanted to save his love. They both found her drinking water at a pond and fired. Both hitting her in the heart. This contradicts the Croatan narrative that has been passed down for generations with attention to detail.
The Young Wanchese chased her all over the Island finally having her cornered in Kill Devil Hills. But here, she was passively drinking water from a pond between two hunters. We’re led to believe that a Supernaturally fast animal, was unaware of two human hunters and was easily slain. One arrow broke the spell and the other killed her. And “Wanchese” realizing what he did fled after seeing her turn back into a human again.
So here they paint the great leader as a shameless coward as well as a villain. Then Okisko buried her. He took her to the center of the Roanoke ruins and buried her there. And from her fallen body, the scuppernong, the first of the grapes grown in North Carolina was born. Grapes red as blood.
You can see where this is going right? Sallie Southall Cotten wrote this poem for a wine brand to sell the grapes. The Okisko version was made famous from the Poem, “The White Doe or the Legend of Virginia Dare,” it was a campaign to sell wine. And other versions of the story were further distorted to say that a hunter from Virginia shot the white doe with a silver bullet and caused her to turn back. It was a massive media campaign to sell wine. And many people seem to think it’s true.
But it’s BS. So was the version of the story where it’s farmer in Virginia who just happened to have a silver bullet to kill a doe with.
The Ghost Deer and Paranormal Legacy of White Doe/Virginia Dare
Returning to the realm of the Supernatural for this post, the ghostly white doe is still spotted to this day. Ever since then, even in modern times, she’s been seen. Hunters who go to Roanoke island have seen a pure white female deer. Supernaturally fast, because they all say the same thing. They can only ever get a glimpse of the deer.
As soon as they see it, it’s gone. Like the blink of an eye if even that. Many skeptics have tried debunking claims that this is her spirit roaming the island. Claiming it’s just a rare breed of albino deer. But that has never been proven.
Where are all the albino deers? It’s only ever one deer, a female deer who is spotted. And she only comes out at night. And it only gets weirder. In Manteo, North Carolina they have a play showing the founding and vanishing of the Roanoke Colony. The play has been going on since the 1930’s.
In every single play, the actors reported encounters with people dressed in period clothing roaming around backstage. Except these people are not from the cast. And many have claimed to have seen ghostly apparitions of a young blond woman they think is Virginia herself. So many believe that these people, are the ghosts of the colonists. Maybe when they merged with the Croatan Nation, they became local spirits protecting the land.
Even today there are people reporting the mystical white doe. The sightings are regarded as an “urban legend,”. But if that’s the case, then this is the longest running Urban Legend in US History. Or perhaps there is more fact than fiction here. A mystical blend of historical mystery and the Supernatural.
Much like White Doe herself, the Beloved Woman, who even today remains untamed, illusive, and perhaps unknowable.
*Some accounts claim it was a Spanish captain named Simon Fernando. But given the fact that there were serious tensions occuring between Spain and England I find that doubtful. And his name is often used in accounts that to me are less than trustworthy. The Southern author of the book who listened to the Croatan, says it was a Portuguese mercenary who captained the ship. And he had abandoned them on Roanoke to raid Spanish ships.
This account is more in line with the history. And as stated before, they weren’t supposed to be on Roanoke. A fact that is almost left out of every account. I didn’t even know that. The only thing they do agree on is that the name of the ship was Lion.
But even then, popular sources translate it as Lyon which is French for Lion. If it had been Spanish as they claim, it would have been Leon. The Portuguese name would have been Leão and to non speakers of the language it may have sounded like Lyon. What I discovered is that the author was right : the name of the Captain was Simão Fernandes. Usually translated as Simon Fernandes and eventually in apocryphal accounts as Simon Fernando.
Many historians from the West especially England, try to translate the names of other cultures in English. Juan becomes John and so forth. The English museums fo this all the time. So mistranslations are bound to occur. So the Pirate captain’s nationality was changed from Portuguese to Spanish.
Probably because the people doing the translating in future generations may not have been able to tell that his name was Portuguese. There are some minor similarities in both languages and the translators may have translated his name so many times that it no longer looked like his name.
1) “Dixie Spirits : Tales of the Strange and the Supernatural in the South,” by Christoper K. Coleman, Chapter 21 (pg 167-172)
2) North Carolina Ghosts
And on their well researched article on the history of the wine campaign
3) The New York Times (April 22, 1888)
4) Donald W. Patterson, “Time Hasn’t Diminished the Image of Virginia Dare”, News and Record (Piedmont Triad, N.C.) April 23, 2000
5) Anti-Immigration in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia by Kathleen R. Arnold
6) America’s First Mystery: What Happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke?
8) “The Lost Colony may now be found” by Erin James, The Virginian Pilot Nov 1st 2010