The Cahuilla creation story was originally told in songs, accompanied by the meter of gourd rattles at nukil ceremonies. These ceremonies were usually held a year after a person’s death to help guide the deceased to telmikish, the place where the dead go. There are only a few singers that still know these creation songs. Traditionally, it took seven nights to complete the song cycles which told among other things, of um na’a, the power that created twin boys, Mukat and Temayawit.
Mukat and Temayawit created the earth, people, and animals. After quarreling, Temayawit took his creations to the underworld, and Mukat’s creations remained on earth. Mukat taught his people the laws for survival. But after he gave rattle snake poisonous fangs, tricked the people into killing each other, and acted inappropriately with his daughter, Menil (moon maiden), the people decided they had to kill their creator.
When Mukat became sick, and nothing helped him, he knew he had been “witched” by his people.
Even though the story is told differently by each storyteller, the instructions within are the same. Because of these stories being recorded, the knowledge may now be passed down to future generations.
To read three versions of the creation story and to learn about the people who wrote them, please click here.
*Some of our sources have chosen to italicize Cahuilla words and others have not; while one source italicizes both Cahuilla and Spanish words. For the sake of consistency, we have chosen to italicize only Cahuilla words. The serious reader is advised to consult the original texts for an exact presentation.
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