How The Coyotes Tried To Steal The Children Of The Sacred Dance
The Kâkâ, or Sacred Drama Dance, is represented by a great variety of masks and costumes worn by Zuñi dancers during the performance of this remarkable dramatic ceremony. Undoubtedly many of the traditional characters of the Sacred Drama thus represented are conventionalizations of the mythic conceptions or personifications of animal attributes. Therefore many of these characters partake at once of the characteristics, in appearance as well as in other ways, of animals and men. The example in point is a good illustration of this.
The K'yámakwe are supposed to have been a most wonderful and powerful tribe of demi-gods, inhabiting a great valley and range of mesas some forty miles south of Zuñi. Their powers over the atmospheric phenomena of nature and over all the herbivorous animals are supposed to have been absolute. Their attitude toward man was at times inimical, at times friendly or beneficent. Such a relationship, controlled simply by either laudatory or propitiatory worship, was supposed to hold spiritually, still, between these and other beings represented in the Sacred Drama and men.
It is believed that through the power of breath communicated by these ancient gods to men, from one man to another man, and thus from generation to generation, an actual connection has been kept up between initiated members of the Kâkâ drama and these original demigod characters which it represents; so that when a member is properly dressed in the costume of any one of these characters, a ceremony description of which is too long for insertion here) accompanying the putting on of the mask is supposed not only to place him en rapport spiritually with the character he represents, but even to possess him with the spirit of that character or demi-god. He is, therefore, so long as he remains disguised as one of these demi-gods, treated as if he were actually that being which be personates.
One of the K'yámakwe is represented by means of a mask, round and smooth-headed, with little black eyes turned up at the corners so as to represent a segment of a diminishing spiral; the color of the face is green, and it is separated from the rest of the head by a line composed of alternate blocks of black and yellow; the crown and back of the head are snow-white; and the ears are pendent and conical in shape, being composed of husks or other paper-like material; the mouth is round, and furnished with a four-pointed beak of husks, which extends two or three inches outward and spreads at the end like the petals of a half-closed lily; round the neck is a collar of fox fur, and covering the body are flowing robes of sacred embroidered mantles, which (notwithstanding the gay ornaments and other appurtenances of the costume) have, in connection with the expression of the mask, a spectral effect; the feet are encased in brilliantly painted moccasins, of archaic form, and the wrists laden with shell bracelets and bow-guards. When the long file of these strange figures making up the K'yámakwe Drama Dance comes in from the southward to the dance plazas of the pueblo, each member of it bears on his back freshly slain deer, antelope, rabbits, and other game animals or portions of them in abundance, made up in packages, highly decorated with tufts of evergreen, and painted toys for presentation to the children. In one band are carried bows and arrows, and in the other a peculiar rattle or clanger made of the shoulder-blades of deer. The wonder expressed by the coyote as the story goes on, and his excessive admiration of the children of the K'yámakwe may therefore be understood.]
One day the old Coyote of Cedar Cañon went out hunting, and as he was prowling around among the sage-bushes below Thunder Mountain, he heard the clang and rattle and the shrill cries of the K'yámakwe. He pricked up his ears, stuck his nose into the air, sniffed about and looked all around, and presently discovered the K'yámakwe children running rapidly back and forth on the very edge of the mountain.
"Delight of my senses, what pretty creatures they are! Good for me!" he piped, in a jovial voice. "I am the finder of children. I must capture the little fellows tomorrow, and bring them up as Coyotes ought to be brought up. Aren't they handsome, though?"
All this he said to himself, in a fit of conceit, with his nose in the air (presumptuous cur!), planning to steal the children of a god! He hunted no more that day, but ran home as fast as he could, and, arriving there, he said: "Wife! Wife! O wife! I have discovered a number of the prettiest waifs one ever saw. They are children of the Kâkâ, but what matters that? They are there, running back and forth and clanging their rattles along the very edge of Thunder Mountain. I mean to steal them tomorrow, every one of them, and bring them here!"
"Mercy on us!" exclaimed the old Coyote's wife. "There are children enough and to spare already. What in the world can we do with all of them, you fool?"
"But they are pretty," said the Coyote. "Immensely fine! Every Coyote in the country would envy us the possession of them!"
"But you say they are many," continued the wife.
"Well, yes, a good many," said the Coyote.
"Well, why not divide them among our associated clans?" suggested the old woman. "You never can capture them alone; it is rare enough that you capture anything, alone, leave out the children of the K'yámakwe. Get your relatives to help you, and divide the children amongst them."
"Well, now, come to think of it, it is a good plan," said the Coyote, with his nose on his neck. "If I get up this expedition I'll be a big chief, won't I? Hurrah! Here's for it!" he shouted; and, switching his tail in the face of his wife, he shot out of the hole and ran away to a high rock, where, squatting down with a most important air and his nose lifted high, he cried out:
Au hii lâ-â-â-â!
Listen ye all!
Coyotes of the Cedar-cañon tribe
Coyotes of the Sun flower-stalk-plain tribe
Coyotes of the Lifted-stone-mountain tribe
Coyotes of the Place-of-rock-gullies tribe!]
Coyotes of the Sunflower-stalk-plain tribe!
Coyotes of the Lifted-stone-mountain tribe!
Coyotes of the Place-of-rock-gullies tribe!"
It was growing dark, and immediately from all quarters, in dark places under the cañons andarroyos, issued answering howls and howls. You should have seen that crowd of Coyotes the next morning, large and small, old and young,--all four tribes gathered together in the plain below Thunder Mountain!
So the Coyotes all at once began to curve their necks and swell themselves up and strain and wriggle and belch wind as much as possible. Then all fell into a line and grabbed each other's tails, and thus they extended themselves in a long string up the very face of Thunder Mountain. A ridiculous little pup was at one end and a good, strong, grizzled old fellow--no other than the chief of the party--at the other.
"Souls of my ancestors! Hang tight, my friends! Hang tight! Hang tight!" said he, when, suddenly, one near the top, in the agitation of the moment, began to sneeze, lost his hold, and down the whole string, hundreds of them, fell, and were completely flattened out among the rocks.
The warrior of the Kâkâ--he of the Long Horn, with frightful, staring eyes, and visage blue with rage,--bow and war-club in hand, was hastening from the sacred lake in the west to rescue the children of the K'yámakwe. When he arrived they had been rescued already, so, after storming around a little and mauling such of the Coyotes as were not quite dead, he set to skin them all.
And ever since then you will observe that the dancers of the Long Horn have blue faces, and whenever they arrive in our pueblo wear collars of coyote-skin about their necks. That is the way they got them. Before that they had no collars. It is presumable that that is the reason why they bellow so and have such hoarse voices, having previously taken cold, every one of them, for the want of fur collars.
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