The Sickness of Mukat

The Sickness of Mukat


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Painting by Amil Pedro

To learn more about the Blue Frog, please visit our online exhibition Dream of the Blue Frog.

Some of his creatures now began to plan how they could stop their creator Mūkat from playing more evil tricks on them. They knew that he had told the rattlesnake to kill them that he had told them to kill one another with arrows, and lastly, that he had mistreated the moon and caused her to leave. So while they were all in the place where the moon had taught them to play they planned to get rid of Mūkat. Then the flicker310 cried, “pium,” which meant, “Don’t talk so much but go and poison him.” All agreed to this, so they planned to watch him at night time. They came into the house dancing, and told tataksil (a little lizard that hides in cracks in the wood) to watch the creator; for the lizard alone was not afraid to watch Mūkat at night. He hid in a crack in the center post311 while all the others were dancing around it. All night he stayed there, watching.

At midnight, all were asleep as Mūkat had commanded them, save the little lizard who kept watch. Mūkat got up, took his pipe,312 lit it and smoked, blowing clouds of smoke over all his creatures to make them sleep soundly. Three times he blew smoke over them. Then he set his pipe down, and taking his ceremonial staff stood up. All the floor of the ceremonial house was covered with his creatures. First he stepped at their feet,313 then between their legs,314 then next to their arms,315 then above their heads,316 and so walked out. All this time the lizard was watching.

Mūkat went at once to the ocean, where two logs crossed above the water, and here defecated.317 Lizard saw him do this, and heard the noise when this kwaimuitci317 hit the water. Three times Mūkat did this, and each time it was followed by a sound like thunder in the ocean. Then Mūkat returned into the house, stepping in the same places that he had coming out, but he did not see the lizard who was watching. In the dawn all the creatures awoke, danced around the center post, and the lizard joined them. They all went out to their sandy playground, dancing. There the lizard told them all that he had seen that night.

So they planned to poison Mūkat through his own excrement, and they told the water skipper318 to stay below the place where the creator sat at night when he came down to the ocean. He tried to do this, but the great waves washed him away. Then another small water creature319 attempted it, but failed. Finally, the blue frog320 tried it, and stayed in spite of the ocean’s attempt to drive him away. Here he stayed until midnight, when the creator came out as he always did. His first kwaimuitci hit the water and splashed but there was no sound like thunder in the ocean, for the frog had taken it before it hit bottom. Then Mūkat was very frightened, and with his ceremonial staff felt down in the water to see what was beneath him. He scratched the frog’s back leaving three white marks there. Half of the kwaimuitci was left in the water and all the water creatures scattered it over the great ocean. Half of it was brought to land, and all the land creatures one by one scattered it over the earth. Thus it could not be put together again and Mūkat could not be made well. Mūkat sang to himself, “I felt sick in that water. My body became cold, swollen and weak. Either this water or my house makes me sick.” All his creatures stayed in the ceremonial house watching him. Coyote was his nurse, and tended Mūkat. He dug a hole in the ground, made a fire in it, and then put the creator in, covering him up. Day and night he did this for Mūkat, and thus he learned all of Mūkat’s songs. The others slept all night so they did not learn Mūkat’s songs.

Mūkat grew sicker and sicker, and he called the horse fly321 to suck322 his blood. This was the first time this was ever done. It did him no good. Then he called the sow bugs323 and the dragon flies324 to doctor him. These two failed, so he tried the water snake,325 the gopher snake,326 the red racer,327 and the king snake,328 all of whom failed. All of these had only pretended to help him for they all wanted Mūkat to die.

The he told his creatures to tell the west wind,329 that belonged to him, to come and help him. The west wind came, like a hurricane, with a great dust storm. Mūkat was afraid, but the west wind went into his body, and for a while he was better; but it was too strong; he was being blown away. He told the white-throated swift,330 which he named “wind meeter,”331 to go meet the west wind and tell it to go away for he was afraid. This same thing happened with the north, south, and east winds in succession.

Then he said, “All my creatures332 have tried to cure me but I am no better. I know now that I am about to die. Perhaps I shall die in the dark of the moon,333 or in the faint light of the new moon,334 or during the young crescent moon,335 or during the older crescent moon,336 or in the first week of the new moon,337 or when the moon has a cloudy ring around it,338 or during the clear half-moon,339 or when the half-moon has its rim parallel to the earth,340 or during the full moon when its spots show clearly,341 or when the full moon comes from the east and is red,342 or when it begins to wane and one side is flattened,343 or when it has half disappeared,344 or during the last dying moon.345

All the time Mūkat was sick coyote tended him. When he spat coyote would pretend to take it away, but he would really swallow it, and thus make Mūkat sicker and sicker. Coyote helped Mūkat move from one side to another, from his face to his back, and helped him to sit up. When Mūkat was too weak to spit coyote would lick the saliva off with his tongue. When coyote was away Mūkat called all his creatures, and said, “My hands are growing cold, my heart is growing cold, I shall die soon. When I die coyote will try to eat me, for he is planning to do this while you sleep. Therefore, when I am dead tell coyote to go after the eastern fire346 which I drew from my heart to light my pipe. When he is gone have hunawit347 and tekwawit348 gather all kinds of wood, dig a hole, and prepare the burn my body. Take the palm349 and with a drill make fire.” When the palm, who was a woman, heard this she began to cry and complain that it was unfair to select her from among all the other creatures. But Mūkat continued, “The fly350 will bore for fire with a drill.351 Then you can burn  me with my creature the fire.” That night Mūkat made all his creatures sleep, even coyote, and then he died.


310 tavic.
311 paīinut.
312 ūlī.
313 hemiña.
314 pal kicnallalva.
315 hemkwalmuña.
316 hemulukna.
317 paamilyawi, kwaimuitci: “this tobacco, he eats and drops down.”
318 puñatcauatcau.
319 pañawawulwawul.
320 wahaatukicnikic.
321 pīpic.
322 nemaīīī: sucking disease from a patient’s body.
323 kumsewhitum.
324 wakaīullalvawit.
325 pasiwit.
326 pokawit.
327 tatahol.
328 wiulwakanawit.
329 yaikauinawhit.
330 sikukwinut.
331 yainamkiwuc.
332 nenukem, netavum.
333 sōūmenyil.
334 tēwi menyil.
335 sīva menyil.
336 tcaña menyil.
337 kaīvu menyil.
338 kava menyil.
339 liwi menyil.
340 tatca menyil.
341 yelamenyil.
342 tēvī menyil.
343 tese menyil.
344 kavī menyil.
345 tū menyil.
346 tamikut.
347 The large ancestor of the bear.
348 The large ancestor of the skunk.
349 ninmaīwit: one species of palm
350 pīpic.
351 kutmūīvawut: making fire with a drill.
352 nekwane: also means “eat.”