Death of Mukat
Contribute to the art in this exhibit by submitting a digital photo, painting, or graphic about the Cahuilla Creation Story to firstname.lastname@example.org
Now Mukat lived right in the middle of his big house and was never seen to leave there. They were anxious to find out what he did at night. For this purpose, they appointed the white lizard, that runs up mesquite trees, to get on top of the house and watch from above at night. Nobody saw Lizard go up. This is what he saw. Mukat smoked until the smoke was very thick and all the people were asleep; he then went outside to defecate. Lizard heard the excrement drop three times. Mukat then returned to the house.
Next day, Lizard told the people what he had seen. They then decided how they would kill Mukat. They put small animals under the log to catch his droppings, but they were unable to do so. Frog said he would try. That night, when Mukat went outside as usual to defecate, Frog caught the droppings in his mouth. Mukat did not hear anything drop as he usually did, so he put his cane down, to find out what was the matter. In feeling around, he struck frog on the back, the marks can still be seen on Frog’s back.
Right away, Mukat knew that something was wrong, for he felt very ill and weak; he felt as though his soul had left him. However, he pretended that he did [not] know what caused his illness and asked many questions concerning it.
Shamans pretended to help him but they did not really try, for they wanted him to die. He asked his people to get North Wind to come and cure him. They sent Swallow to tell North Wind that his Creator wanted his help. North Wind said he would come in the afternoon and for them to turn the Creator around with his head to the north. When the wind came, he blew dust all over Mukat. It seemed to help drive away the fever for awhile, but Mukat could not endure the dust in his eyes and ears. He wanted something to eat, so he sent Crow to get piyatem (something like snails). Crow found plenty, but just stayed there and would not bring them to Mukat. Mukat next sent Dove to the mountains for pine nuts and Dove really brought some back. He wanted meat and sent Hawk after it, but Hawk never returned. Mukat said his people had forsaken him and he was very sad. He asked his people, the Locusts, to sing to him and cheer him up. This helped him for a time, but soon he tired and asked them to stop. He was anxious to die now; he said death was so slow in coming.
All the time Mukat was ill, Coyote stayed right by his side. He watched him every minute and ate all of his expectorations and excretions. Mukat was afraid of Coyote; he was afraid Coyote would eat his body when he died. Because of this, he asked his people to send Coyote far away to get fire to light his pyre, for he felt that death was very near. Coyote did not want to go, but they told him it was his duty to do so, since he was the fastest runner.
Mukat kept wondering in what moon he would die, and repeated then names of the moons over and over. He sang all the time, knowing he was dying. This was to send his spirit to Telmekish. This is the reason people sing now when one of their number is dying.
Soon he could not move, and then he died. The people dug a hole in the ground and placed his body in it. Animals with big claws dug this hole. The Quail carried the wood for the fire, on their heads, to the pit. Fly then made fire by rubbing small pieces of wood between his feet; he has been rubbing his feet together in this manner ever since. When the fire was lighted, the people gathered round it.
During this time, Coyote was on his way for the fire, but kept looking back constantly. Soon he saw the smoke and knew that they were burning Mukat. He ran back as fast as he could. As he drew near, he pushed his way through the crowd, and jumped over several. All of the body had burned, except a small piece of the heart, which is always the last to burn. Coyote jumped for it, and as he landed on it, it splashed blood. He then ran to the mountains. The blood stains can still be seen there.
The people all wanted to kill Coyote when he ran off with Mukat’s heart, but they could not run fast enough to catch him.