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Cahuilla Calendar

Several informants stated that there were only three seasons

  1. Taspa budding of trees
  2. Talpa hot days
  3. Tamitva cold days

August Lomas of the Martinez reservation, my most reliable informant, named eight seasons, each one based upon the development of the mesquite bean, which used to be the main food. They were

  1. Taspa budding of trees
  2. Sevwa blossoming of trees
  3. Heva-wiva commencing to form beans
  4. Menukis-kwasva ripening time of beans
  5. Merukis-chaveva falling of beans
  6. Talpa midsummer
  7. Uche-wiva cool days
  8. Tamiva cold days

The old men used to study the stars very carefully and in this way could tell when each season began. They would meet in the ceremonial house and argue about the time certain stars would appear, and would often gamble about it. This was a very important matter, for upon the appearance of certain stars depended the season of the crops. After several nights of careful watching, when a certain star finally appeared, the old men would rush out, cry and shout, and often dance. In the spring, this gayety was especially pronounced, for it meant that they could now find certain plants in the mountains. This was a cause for great rejoicing, for food was often very scarce in those days. They never went to the mountains until they saw a certain star, for they knew they would not find food there previously.

The Cahuilla counted time by moons. Several times I was told that there were thirteen moons, but at no time was I able to get the names of more than six.1 These were

  1. To menyil.
  2. Tawe menyil.
  3. Seya menyil.
  4. Sa menyil.
  5. Menyil naa.
  6. Menyil.

The Cahuilla count has been published.2

The Stars

When Mukat was sick, many of his people left his house and went away without telling him. There were three sisters planning to do this, but they told him about it. Mukat was glad they told him. He said to them that they would know when he was dead by the frost around the house. These sisters then went to the sky and became stars. One morning, looking down from above, they saw frost around Mukat s house and knew that he was dead. They cried and could be heard far off. Whenever we have frost now, these three stars are seen in the sky.

Papinut is a star which comes up over the horizon just a little. This star twinkles more than the others and they call this jumping. It jumps all night. They say Mukat put it there to be funny; so it is spoken of as the funny star.

What we call the Milky Way is in reality dust kicked up by Isil and Tukut, Coyote and Wildcat, having a race.

In the constellation known as Orion, there are three stars in A row known as the Belt, which are mountain sheep. Below are three smaller stars in a row, pointing toward the first three the sword. These represent an arrow which has been shot at the mountain sheep by a hunter. The great bright star below, Rigel, is the hunter who has shot the arrow at the mountain sheep.

Chehaum, three girls, are the Pleiades, Tukwishhemish a star near them, and Isilihnup and Holinach each a pair of stars one brighter and one smaller on opposite sides of the Pleiades. Isilihnup and Holinach are also described as side by side in the sky. Their half-brother Kunvachmal is a bright star that rises only a little above the horizon like Papinut. Tukvachtahat, father of the three brothers, is also a star. These are all characters in the mythical tales that follow. It is clear that transformation into stars is a favorite device in Cahuilla traditional narrative.

Footnotes

  1. This suggests a bi-soltitial calendar such as is used by the Zuni and Hopi. by the Diegueno, and, in somewhat altered form, by the Luiseno and Juaneño. The moon names of one half year were repeated in the second half of the year by the first three of these tribes, and probably by the Cahuilla also. 

  2. Present series, iv, 71, 1907 viii, 237, 1909. 

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