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First Memorial for Mo-Cot

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Now coyote, when he took his father’s heart, went toward the coast, and he came to a great brushy mountain that he could not pass. He said, “Oh! I have got to get through. I have done so much, and, my father, I know you are doing this.”

Then he passed through and came to a Great Dry Desert, all crossed by many tracks, and he said, “I have got to get across! You, my father, are doing this.”  But the heart was trying to frighten coyote insane, to get away from him.

Coyote said, “I will not let you go. I have to eat you.”

Whenever coyote became tired of carrying the heart, he laid it down to rest himself, and wherever he laid it, there the blood left red stains on the ground. These marks remain today. This ground is called good ground. It is used for medicine, for paint, it is used for many things.

After coyote got over to the end of the world, he ate the heart of his father, and as he ate it, some blood spilled on the ground. This became clear, red paint. The Indians paint their faces red in memory of the blood that was spilled from the heart of their father. And for this reason red is the Indians’ sacred color.

Since coyote had eaten the heart of his father he had much more power than he ever had before. He was thinking always about his father.

He was feeling sorry, missing his brothers and sisters and his father, and being so far away; he was thinking about what could be done now that Mo-Cot was dead. And then he began thinking about going back to his brothers and sisters.

Now it might have been one thousand years or five thousand years or more since he had been gone. The people were all very sorrowful and sad, and coyote was the same. His hair began falling off, he was poor and thin and weak, and half sick. And so he went back to his brothers and sisters. They remembered what he had done, and were very angry with him; but they were sorry for him, too, for he had done many things for them. And so they were glad to have him back again with them.

One day he called them all together and talked to them about decorating their grave and having a memorial fiesta for their father. They were all willing, but some told him that they had nothing, no food, no clothes, not anything to make a memorial with.

Coyote said not to mind about that, he would look for some things. He went to the coast, to the ocean, and found some pampas grass plumes and brought them home. He said, “My brothers and sisters, here we are. We are going to do it with this.”

But his brothers and sisters did not pay any attention to him, and in a day or two the pampas plumes dried and began falling off. So he went again and got more flowers—red ones and blue ones and other kinds, and made them into bunches and took them home. They looked very pretty, but the people knew that they would be pretty only while they were fresh.

Coyote said, “This is what we are to have for our father.” But the people paid no attention.

He talked very pleasantly and thought they were believing him, but they were not. They knew that flowers would have to be gathered every day, and would fade the next.

Now coyote he knew what was right and what was not, but he was doing this only for pastime. His brothers and sisters knew that coyote would get the right thing, and that he was intending to; but coyote had trouble in making himself always do what he knew he should do.

He went to the ocean again. The ocean was at high tide, so he waited there and lay down and went to sleep in the day time. When he awoke he did not know how long he had slept.  The light was going for the night, but coyote thought it was morning coming, so he held back the night to make it longer.

This can be seen sometimes at evening now—not often. The dark comes, and then it lightens again. It seems as if morning is coming instead of the night. This is a sign coyote made when he held back the night.

Then, when he made it light enough to see, he jumped into the ocean and got Panga me ya va, in English “water-apron.” And he go Panga ha quat, in English “watertail,” and Panga mic vat, a tall bunch of grass called tule.

He took all those things home, and he called all the brothers and sisters. They came, because they knew these things that coyote brought were good herbs instead of wilted flowers—herbs that were useful medicine. So they came together and talked it over—what they were going to do, and how they were going to do, and when they were going to do. For this was something they had never done before.

Who was to manage it, and who would attend to the ceremonials? Coyote said that he would attend to the ceremonials, and he did it.

He began a song, and started with all the people—from where Mo-Cot had come out of the ocean; then another, beginning from the ocean; then another, starting from the center of the earth, from which Mo-Cot and Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit were born.

Then there were nights set apart for the ceremonials. The first night was for Mo-Cot and Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit his brother; the second night for Mo-Cot’s sickness at the ocean, and the third night coyote getting the Panga we ya va, the Panga ha quish and the Panga mic vat, the memorial for Mo-Cot.

So they had the ceremonies for Mo-Cot, and they called some others, who lived in tribes separate from them, to visit the memorial of their father Mo-Cot.

This they agreed to do, and they sent a man to tell how they were coming. They were coming as Nu theem, which means blackbirds.

Then the people asked him how they were coming, and he answered and said, “Dancing in a bunch, and going into the ground, then flying into the air, and then dancing into the ground again, and flying, and so on.”

The words of the song they were dancing were: Ha we-Ha we-Ha we, and then Ha we ta-Ha we ta-Ha we ta, very quickly. This was repeated nine times by the head men, and all danced to it.

Then they held their hands up and yelled, and went into the earth, and coming up they repeated it. They were all going into the earth and coming up into the fiesta house, because they did not want to go in by the door. But the head man pressed hard on the earth and held it back.

The Blackbird people tried hard to go into the ground, but they could not, because of the power of the head men; so they were forced to walk into the fiesta house through the door.

Now when they were all gathered together in the fiesta house, the head men of both tribes stood close together and lighted the tobacco and smoked in the tubes of cane which were fixed for that purpose. The joint was cut and put into the fire in the ground and swelled up by the heat. The outside bark was shaved off and filled with tobacco.

After the head man of the tribe smoked he handed the pipe to the head man of the other people, apologizing for the poor quality of the tobacco (although it was very strong), and as he handed it to the other head man he said, “I don’t know what made me send for all of you people to come here through all the bad weather and without food and shelter.”

Then the other head man took the pipe in both hands and put it to his lips as if it tasted very good, and said, “I am here in this your biggest house, Kesh um now wit, and I don’t know what makes me feel this way, but I am coming to your Kesh um now wit always.”

(The word now used is fiesta house, meaning a place of dancing or entertainment, but the Indian word Kesh um now wit was used by the first created people for the first time at the memorial of Mo-Cot. The dances of the Indians were always serious, sacred ceremonials in which they told in their songs the history of their people. These times were celebrated together, and in all tribes there was a meeting place which was named Kesh um now wit, meaning the big house or place of assembly.)

At the fiesta house the head man of the Nu theem people spoke all night about Mo-Cot and Mo-Cot-tem-ma-ya-wit, their birth and their creations, the animals, and the people. They made this into a song for one night, but if the song lasted more than one night they finished it in the next daylight.

The second night they made a song for the Moon Maiden and all she had taught them. They began by playing a game that she had taught, played with pebbles, throwing one up and placing the others, like white children’s jack stones today.

They took a piece of cane and split it into six parts at the joint, then they struck it on a rock and counted the sections that fell underneath.

They took a flat stick with marks marked on one side XXXX, and throwing it up on the flat of the hand, counted the marks. This game was named by the moon maiden con wel ah. These were games for the women and children.

For the men’s and boys’ games they made a mark on the ground, then, taking a short bone in the hand they thrust it into one of the points of the mark,  and the other guessed which point it was, and if he guessed right it was his turn to play. When the game was being played they sang a little song about the star that was to hide the bone and slip it into the ground.

The third night a song was made of Mo-Cot—his sickness and death, and his spirit. The fourth night they sang about coyote going after Sunfire and Rockfire, and how he stole his father’s heart and took it away toward the east.

The memorial service for Mo-Cot lasted a week. The head men decided that the first day should be a day of prayer, and all of the people agreed. It was a day of prayer for the people, their friends, their homes—for all of the people, both living and dead. Before entering the fiesta house they made a prayer to purify themselves.

Now the fiesta is managed by three heads. One head man has charge of everything pertaining to the fiesta service, and gives permits to the other head man who has charge of distributing the food to the people, and to the other head man who smokes the sacred pipe and blows the smoke to the north three times the first day, three times to the west and south the second day, nine times the third day.

The fourth day is set apart for a day of rest, and on the fifth day they make the dolls. The second head man who manages everything outside of the fiesta, except distributing the food, is called Pa ha, he who attends to blowing the sacred smoke. At this, the first fiesta, Pa ha was the coyote.

On the fifth day he called all the people to be quiet. Then he blew the sacred smoke and called prayer, and all of the very old people who belonged here (not any of the young people) went into the fiesta house.

Now to the Indian people the tule Panga mic vat represents what to other people would be a flag. The tules grew so very tall that no one could find the end of them, so the head man of the fiesta cut a portion, and in it he put the feather of an eagle, some Indian money made of strung shells, a pipe and some tobacco, and a certain rock which is sometimes red, yellow, blue or black.

This tule was one of the good gifts that coyote brought the people, and of the piece which was filled with these things by the head man, a doll was made to represent their father Mo-Cot. On the sixth day the people burned the doll and scattered seed from the first plants which grew from the ground where Mo-Cot was buried, in memory of their father.

These head men were great men, men of much power, and if anything should be done that was not done right or was not done well, they knew it at once. And this is all of the first fiesta in memory of Mo-Cot.

Now the descendants of these first people are living here among us yet: the Chief Francisco Patencio who looks over everything and gives permits to others; Ramon Manuel who has charge of distributing the foods to the fiesta guests, and Willie Marcus who blows the sacred smoke along with other ceremonials. These men have charge of the fiestas even today.

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