St. Anne's Retreat: Legends
The Fife Folklore Archives at Utah State University houses about fifty legend versions of St. Anne’s Retreat, and an additional twenty-six of the related Hecate legend version, collected by students through the years.
In local legend versions Hecate appears to represent the triple dimension of what Folklorist Jeannie Thomas, Utah State University, refers to as the "three faces of woman": "The legend versions depict woman as nun-a virginal maiden (Persephone); woman as a pregnant nun who becomes a mother (Demeter); a woman as a death threatening witch (Hecate) (Thomas, 22)." Hecate often appears as a dark and sinister crone part of this triple divinity in Logan Canyon legend types. These themes can be seen in the following legend versions:
- The image of nuns being raped as was the virginal maiden Persephone raped by Hades. "The nuns used to come up here in the wintertime and stay. One spring the nuns didn't come back. The townspeople went up to investigate, and they found the bodies of the nuns floating in the swimming pool, because they had been raped and murdered" (Fife Folklore Archives, Folk Coll 8 USU 84-050. Item 5).
- With origins in ancient belief is the ancient notion of nuns and priests secretly engaging in sexual encounters; and consequently depicted in some of these legends as pregnant and having babies. This image may represent Demeter-mother of Persephone evident by the following quote: "One of the nuns got pregnant by a young priest" (Fife Folklore Archives, Folk Coll 8a: Group 7: Box 8, Folder 9: L22.214.171.124.37). In case of the legend, the horror of disposing of these unwanted pregnancies follows.
- A depiction of Hecate-a woman as a witch or sometimes referred to as the devil's wife: "The story goes that an old woman lives somewhere up Logan Canyon. She is supposed to be a witch" (Fife Folklore Archives, Group 7: Box 11, Folder 2: L126.96.36.199.8). Another version similarly states: "If you go up Logan Canyon to 3rd dam ... you can summon the Devil's wife, her name is Heckada" (Fife Folklore Archives, Folk Coll 8a: Group 7: Box 11, Folder 2: L188.8.131.52.9).
- Witch Hecate, identified with the Mother Superior and her red eyed Dobermans symbolize the evil connotation that the locals have associated with the Catholic Church. The ancient belief of dogs as a symbol of evil further associates the nuns as evil.
The congruency between the dramatic images of the legends and local western and Mormon values suggests still another level of meaning for these narratives. Teenagers from a patriarchal society go away from town to experience the thrill of danger in a female-dominated place; teenagers who are dating but are exhorted to refrain from sex until after marriage go there to be thrilled by legends of women who are prohibited from having sex, and who don’t get married, but who allegedly have illegitimate babies anyway; espousing religion and abhorring murder, they visit places where religious people are said to have been murdered.
Additional examples of the legends follow below to further facilitate an understanding of the concepts and ideas involved in this oral legend tradition (stories in the next section are written verbatim).