The Death of Mukat

The Death of Mukat


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Coyote Saves His Father's Heart by Andrew Gillespie

In the morning coyote woke up. He felt Mūkat’s heart and knew that he was dead. He said, “I think it is all over with our creator!” All the other creatures woke up, saying, “He is dead! Our father, your father, is dead!” Then they all cried that there was nothing with which to burn their father, and they asked coyote, because he ran fast, to go after the east light. Coyote went away to the east after the fire. When he was out of sight they prepared the pit, gathered all kinds of wood, and catching the palm tree they threw her down and held her although she tried to escape. The fly took a stick and started to make fire, twirling it between his hands. First came water, then blood, and then fire. With this they kindled the fire, dragged the body of Mūkat to the pile, and put it on the burning wood. It burned.

They all stood in a close circle around the fire. Meanwhile coyote went toward the eastern edge of the world and tried to catch the fire, but it always ran just ahead of him. Finally he looked back and saw the smoke of Mūkat’s body burning. “I thought that might be the way!” he said, and he came back running very fast. All the people saw him coming, and shouted, “Here comes coyote” Do not let him in to the fire where Mūkat is burning.” “Turn around my brothers and sisters,” said coyote, “I am full of tears. Let me in! Let me in! I too want to see my father.” But they would not let him through. All of Mūkat’s body save the heart was burned. Then coyote said, “I will fly over you,” and he jumped over their heads into the fire. All Mūkat’s creatures pressed the creator’s heart into the flames with their sticks, but coyote reached it and scattered blood and fire, so that the people were burnt and pushed back. Then coyote ran out with the heart.

To the east he ran, carrying the heart.354 All the good runners, mountain lion,355 wolf,356 gray fox,357 and kit fox,358 followed him, but could not catch him. Then he called each by name, and said, “Stay away! Why do you, my brothers, pursue me?” Then he talked to the heart of the creator, saying, “I am carrying you upon the earth, to the edge of the world, to the point of earth and sky, to the bottom of the sky, to the bottom of the world.” All things tried to frighten him as he ran, but he said, “I am not afraid of you!” Then he swallowed the heart.359 He at once became very sick; he became emaciated and his ribs showed.

Some of Mūkat’s creatures who had gone away in search of food for their sick creator returned too late, and found the body of their father in ashes. Among these were suuwit,360 elelelic,361 witctcuic,362 tuivonpic,363 the jaguar,364 and the marsh hawk.365 They all cried loudly, and rolled in the ashes. Last of all returned the buzzard, who was slow and returned late. He did not cry, he became dumb, took the skin off his head, and with a stick bore a hole through his beak. After that he was always quiet, he could only hiss.




354 There are many more songs about the flight of coyote, but only a clan of the coyote moiety may sing them. Alejo belonged to the kauisiktum clan of the wildcat moiety.
355 tūkwit.
356 iswit.
357 kauwisic.
358 wilyul.
359 The Desert Cahuilla say this occurred in the Painted canyon, near Mecca, which accounts for the red stained rocks there.
360 One of the stars. Also named pahahūwit.
361 Archaic.
362 Archaic.
363 Archaic.
364 tūkwut.
365 wesunauwit, the marsh hawk, is gray because he rolled in the ashes.