Ancient Hurricane Legend Believed to Keep Hurricanes at Bay
Some people love them; some hate them. Whatever the cause may be, hurricanes are simply part of living in Florida.
Interestingly enough, Brevard County reportedly has never suffered (on record) a direct hit from a hurricane, though many have come close.
If you ask locals who have had family in the area for generations, you likely will learn of an old legend that has stuck around no matter what science has to say. According to a descendent of pioneer settler Sam Houston, Brevard’s tendency to escape direct hits from hurricanes is all thanks to ancient Florida natives.
Legend has it that the Ais Indians blessed the area to protect their burial grounds. According to nbbd.com, one of the larger mounds sits on Kennedy Space Center’s most northerly land.
Local historian Charlene Crandall, who moved to Ballard Park in Melbourne as a child in 1959 and whose house was built on one of those mounds, or middens, knew the family home was on near-sacred ground. She acknowledged several Ais influences, especially “protection from storm damage by the Ais’ ritual of blessing their settlements, burial grounds and other sites” along Brevard’s coast.
She recalls her father visualizing the details of the Ais’ life.
“My dad had a romantic streak,” she said. He would spin tales of the Ais canoes gliding to the base of the hill and the tribe unloading oysters and laughing as they were shucking them … the women gathering clay along the riverbank and making a fire pit to place pots on.
For Crandall, the legends of the Ais were part of growing up on a centuries-old midden. Because of the legend, in her childhood innocence, she believed their blessing offered some extra protection from severe storms.
Living on an Ais Indian midden brought blessing and certain responsibilities to Crandall. It began her lifelong interest in Florida history and the Ais.
Ais pottery pieces were plentiful in her yard whenever petunias and pansies were planted in spring, she said, and after heavy rains, more pottery washed out and appeared on the exposed flower beds.
Crandall notes that all the pottery pieces they collected were charred. “Today the hill may not be built on,” but back then there were no restrictions on the Ais Indian middens, she said.
According to the Indian River Anthropological Society, the Ais were wiped out before much of their history was recorded. By 1700, there were no Ais Indians left in East Central Florida.
Nonetheless, the mounds certainly held a key place within the Ais culture and were tied to kinship networks and served as facilities for clan ceremonies, although not much is known about particulars, according to Jerald Milanich’s book, Florida’s Indians from Ancient Times to the Present.
As nice as the legend sounds, however, science is actually the reason Brevard receives fewer direct hits that other Florida locations. According to satellitebeachselect.com, Brevard has not had a major category 4 or higher hurricane since 1850.
The site asserts that the county has a natural line of defense – the Gulf Stream – that usually weakens the storms in their march northward along the eastern coastline. Because the Gulf Stream is about 30 miles offshore, hurricanes have time to dwindle, making the county less susceptible to extreme damage and direct hits. Reportedly, this is one of the reasons that NASA and Port Canaveral built in Brevard.
Although it is fact that the Gulf Stream’s distance from Brevard’s coastline influences hurricanes movement, Crandall believes the Ais’s legend is more colorful and lends itself to rich local storytelling.