Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Legend of Tahquitz - Demon of the Cahuilla

What follows is a re-telling of a Native American legend told to me many years ago. Recently, I was asked by a historian to record the legend for a project on which he was working. The story below contains the best parts of the collected, printed (online and otherwise) versions, the story as it was told to me, and true to the spirit embellishments of my own. I'm not sure where my creativity starts or ends as the story has simmered within me for years. For certain, the story as it is written below is true to the overall concept and spirit of the legend and as any storyteller is allowed, embellishments are permitted as long as you keep the narrative on course.

The Legend of Tahquitz is a classic tale of courage, evil overcome, personal sacrifice all mixed together with a healthy serving of quest-legend elements. It has been fun for me to go back and remember how it was first related to me. Although I've edited this a few times, this current version is to my mind, the most complete. I consider it a final draft.

The Legend of Tahquitz

On clear, dark and star filled nights, one may hear deep rumbling coming from Tahquitz Peak. One may hear thunder where there are no clouds and even voices passing through tree tops though no one is near. Some will explain these strange sounds are merely natural occurrences, with scientific facts to back their claims. Others will tell you that these mysteries are deeply rooted in the ancient legends of a people who lived here before all others. They will tell you that what you hear is the voice and roars of the monster known as Tahquitz.

Many moons ago, when the bear walked among vanilla scented pines, deer drank from unspoiled creeks and eagles hunted above wide meadows, there lived a people of peace. The Cahuilla were brothers and sisters to the high country animals when the sun hung high in the sky until evening and were grateful inhabitants of the passes below when snow whitened the mountain tops and the desert’s bounty came into bloom.

The Cahuilla took only what they needed from the land and repaid it by honoring the ways of Brother Bear, Sister Fawn and Father Eagle. Nature provided and the Cahuilla thrived. Their songs and the laughter of children were lifted by the smoke from their camp across tree tops and into the sky where spirits dwelled, who would so often smile down upon these people and bestow good fortune.

It was believed that it was within this smoke that the true nature of a people could be realized and if one were wise enough to understand such things, could know much about a village. The scent of roasted game and simmering pots told of prosperity, the aroma of pungent sage meant chief and council were gathered to discuss the future of the tribe and the smell of heady herbs told of a shaman delivering his cures to the weak and ill. It was within smoke that the prayers to “Those Above” could be sent through the passing of the pipe and the lighting of ceremonial fires.

And it was in those days that the Cahuilla were lead by a strong, wise and brave chief, Algoot. Algoot would watch the signs given to him by his little brothers, the ants, as they covered their mounds on cloudy days to tell him that rain was approaching. He would listen to the changing chirping of crickets that would foretell the coming of cold or warm winds. He listened to his people and provided guidance when it was sought, his decisions always viewed to be just and fair. And as all wise leaders must do, he sought prudent counsel from others, including the tribal shaman, Tahquitz, who knew of cures that came from seemingly ordinary plants and who often spoke to invisible spirits, of both good and evil.

But as we know, where there is light there is also darkness. Where there is joy, there can be pain. And where there might be peace there can be discord close behind. As the years passed, the wise man Tahquitz began to change. Initially, he began to play tricks on small children, teasing them until they would turn away at his approach, fearful of his increasingly hurtful taunts. Tahquitz was often heard mumbling to himself, as if speaking to invisible beings, often going into rants that took on terrifying proportions. His madness increased as the level of his pranks and tricks rose to physical harm to those who encountered him.

Many would testify that he would take on disguises or somehow magically alter his appearance so that he was unrecognizable until he caused harm and only then reveal his true form. All the while he was seen smiling at his treacherous accomplishments. Hunters claimed that Tahquitz would scare away game when he appeared in the sky as a noisy crow, his maniacal laughter emanating from the beak of the fleeing black bird.

Algoot was presented this and much more evidence of the changes in his friend and confidant, and weighed it heavily. It was not until members of his tribe failed to return from gathering food or from a hunt and the possessions of the missing, stained with matted hair and blood, were found in Tahquitz’ medicine bag, that Algoot knew what he must do.

Algoot realized that Tahquitz was no longer the man he once called “friend.” The man had transformed into a walking demon. Saddened, but resolute, Algoot banished Tahquitz to a cave high in the San Jacinto Mountains, well away from the tribe where he could no longer harm his frightened people. Tahquitz, raged against this decision and cursed Algoot and the Cahuilla tribe, claiming that famine and illness would strike them all.

“You may banish me to a barren mountain, but you will hear my voice and curses in the wind throughout the day and night. I will visit you in your dreams, whispering words that bring nightmares, fevers and fearsome signs,” Tahquitz promised. “Berries will vanish from vines as you reach to pluck them and streams will run foul and dry up. My magic is strong and knows no boundary between desert, mountain and sky,” he continued. As he was bound and unwillingly escorted to a hidden cave, his dreadful laughter and frightful curses could be heard for miles as the sun set behind his mountaintop exile, soon shrouded in dark clouds.

As the sun always reveals itself after a storm, all things seemed to return to normal for many days thereafter. The sound of women singing their long remembered songs and the sight of children playing fanciful games filled the tribal camp. As the tribe’s bounty allowed, Algoot, would send young scouts and small parties of women to the base of the mountain with food and other provisions for Tahquitz so that he might live without want even in his separation from the rest of the tribe.

As the elders would relate many years later, the signs of the demon Tahquitz’ return were at first subtle and often explained away as bad luck or unfortunate circumstances. Bow strings would snap just as a hunter released an arrow. Abundant springs slowed to a trickle and then smelled of hellish sulfur. Women were repeatedly stung by wasps and bees as they reached for tender wild berries.

As the days continued, tribal stores of gathered food quickly spoiled or became infested with mice and insects. At night, the bravest men of the tribe would awake in screams at horrifying visions that came to them in their sleep. In a few short weeks, the tribe began to feel the first pangs of hunger that grew stronger with each setting sun.

And from the mountain of Tahquitz’ lair came deep rumblings as if the rocks themselves groaned in pain.

Algoot saw what was happening to his tribe, he heard the low roar of the mountain, but refused to believe that Tahquitz was responsible. “Surely, even a demon’s power has limitations,” he prayed silently. He did not believe of such things until unspeakable death befell his people.

Late one evening, a tribal elder told Algoot that the party delivering what was now a meager offering of food to Tahquitz, had not returned. The elder feared that a cougar that had been seen in the area might be responsible or perhaps, as it was whispered in the camp, Tahquitz had once again retuned to his murderous ways. Algoot called upon three of their strongest men, one of which was his handsome and dearly loved son, to walk to the mountain to discover what may have happened to them.

The three eager youths promised Algoot that they would not return until they found the missing women or their bones. He embraced his tall son and told them all to return in a week, even if they found nothing, for the tribe would be moving soon to perhaps safer ground, further away from the cursed mountain.

As his son and his two courageous companions trekked up the mountainside, dark and thunderous clouds began to gather around the high summits. Lightening glowed within the clouds and soul chilling winds started to blow. Algoot sent a prayer to Those Above to watch over them, give them strength and courage to face whatever awaited them in the darkening gloom.

Days turned into many and four weeks passed with no word from the scouting party. Algoot feared the worst and decided that he and he alone must discover the fate of the missing members of his tribe and in particular his dear son. He instructed his elders to lead the tribe to the lower mountain passes and to seek the hidden springs that might still provide fresh water and game to keep them alive in his absence.

“Do not follow me or send our men to seek me out if I do not return,” he instructed. “If Tahquitz is truly our destroyer, then he pays with his life. Send up your prayers to Those Above that I may find the enemy of my people and provide him with proper justice.”

His people cheered as he turned to ascend Mount San Jacinto to seek out the passage to Tahquitz Valley from where he would then climb Tahquitz Mountain and to the cave of the demon. As he continued his journey higher and higher, wild winds blew carrying the cries of Tahquitz’ victims and the whispers of evil spirits telling him to turn back. Thunder clapped all about and trees fell before him from a multitude of lightening strikes. Algoot was undeterred in his quest and he braced himself for whatever awaited him in the desperate forest.

Before the shadowed sun reached its zenith, he entered Tahquitz Valley. It was no longer the lush, verdant meadow remembered from his youth. Algoot, no matter how prepared he believed himself to be, could not have imagined the scene revealed to him in the valley. Gone were the ferns now shriveled and blackened from some unknown scourge. Gone were the tall pines that once surrounded the valley meadow, now bare of needle and bark and strewn about as so many twigs carried by a child.

A low, brown mist covered the valley floor like a malevolent fog, filled with the stench of decay. As the fog cleared with his steps he saw the bodies of wild animals, torn apart and strewn haphazardly wherever he looked. Some lay half-eaten yet still alive while lying on piles of bleached bones. It was among these bones that Algoot saw a bit of buckskin he knew to be the dress of a young woman in his tribe, a member of the missing party who had been given the charge to bring food to Tahquitz. Close by, the barren skull of the young woman lay crushed among the bones of bear and deer.

Algoot’s attention was immediately drawn to a soft moan, its speaker hidden in the putrid fog. Following the sound, he found the battered body of one of the young men led by his son to this valley so many weeks before. Algoot lifted the head of the young man, now close to death and did his best to comfort him in his pain.

“My good man, where is my son?” Algoot asked.

“Algoot, how can I tell you this and yet I live? Better had it been that Tahquitz had taken my life than to tell you this dreadful news. Your son, my friend and companion is dead,” the dying boy answered.

In mute anguish, Algoot listened how everything had been happy and almost a game until they reached Tahquitz Valley. Here, loud roars and echoing sounds were heard. The smell of death hung everywhere and though two of them wanted to leave, the son of Algoot declared that he had not come so far to only retreat at the first sound of danger. Undaunted, the son of Algoot continued his journey, ignoring the appeals of his friends until a deafening clap of thunder and unnaturally sustained lightening revealed the demon, the monster that was Tahquitz. With one fierce sweep of his hand, he struck down the three, causing them to collapse with many broken bones but remaining alive.

Tahquitz then picked up the body of the son of Algoot like a pine needle doll and tore an arm out of its socket. He slung the body of the screaming youth over his shoulder and marched back to his cave while eating the still warm flesh of the son of Algoot.

“Chief Algoot, we could not do anything except listen to the crunching of the bones as he ate. Our legs and arms were broken, useless to flee or fight,” the young man explained. “But our horror was not yet complete.”

Algoot continued to listen as the boy explained that as the sun rose two days later, Tahquitz came to gather up the next of the scouting party. His evil and hunger not yet sated, blood covering his hands and jaws, his next victim was torn apart as the son of Algoot had been, this time taking his feast in view of his next intended victim.

“When he had finished with the body, he threw it over the mountain and retreated to his cave, laughing at my cries of terror until I had not the strength but to breath. Tahquitz left me here for many days and nights, but I knew I would be next. Algoot, protect me and protect our people from this monster. Kill Tahquitz.”

With these final words, the young man shuddered in the arms of Algoot and died. He picked up the boy in his trembling arms and turned towards the cave of Tahquitz, his sorrow tempered by his rage.

In a fearsome whisper he said, “You will pay for this Tahquitz. You have killed my son whose eyes where as bright as the morning sun, arms as strong as the grizzly bear, mind as curious as the blue jay and whose stealth was that of a fox in hunt. You have killed my people who sought only peace with the land and lived with blessings from Those Above. You will die, Tahquitz and I will deliver that death to you.” Tahquitz turned away from the cave where glowing yellow-red eyes could be seen and the sound of subtle laughter could be heard.

As Tahquitz descended the mountain he took the time to place the lifeless form of the young tribesman upon a blazing funeral pyre. The burning wood was carefully chosen so that it was sure to cause much smoke, thereby allowing the spirit of the   rise and join the spirits of those gone before. He chanted the songs necessary at times such as these, all the while knowing that his own son’s spirit had not been allowed to unite with Those Above. And as the last of the embers cooled to grey black ash, Algoot vowed to sing no song and to utter no words until his mind, body and spirit were prepared to face Tahquitz again.

Silently, he departed his makeshift place of mourning and set about to carry out his vow. In the spring, to build his swiftness, he began to run, each day increasing in speed and endurance. He challenged the fastest buck to races over mountains and through flat valleys until there was no deer he could not beat in a foot race. He began to swim long distances in lakes and deep streams, until he could out swim the fleetest of mountain trout. He would leap up and scale the sheerest and slickest of all cliffs until he could reach the pinnacle before Father Eagle could fly there. For three months he trained until his lungs were doubled in size and he could hold his breath beneath the water longer than one could count.

In the summer, to build his strength, he sought out increasingly heavy boulders to lift until he could carry the largest above his head and throw hundreds of yards. He conferred with Brother Bear who agreed to wrestle with him in daily contests of might. He continued these matches until he could better the largest of all grizzlies in the forest. For three months he trained this way until his muscles were tougher than the fibers of the hardiest trees.

In the fall, to build his mind, he consulted the wisdom of Cousin Owl, learned the ways of the trickster crow, studied the silent, cunning fox that hunted alone and followed the shrewd coyotes who hunted in packs. He taught himself the means to count all of the stars in the heavens and how to predict when the sun and moon passed before each other. Algoot learned of the secrets of the plants, which would cure and which were poisonous. He could study the knots created by the roots of trees and could untangle them in his mind’s eye. He blindfolded himself and learned to run through deep forest brush without sight by remembering each branch, each shrub and stone that might lie in his path. For three months, he trained his mind until he knew the answer to every puzzle in the natural world.

In the winter, to build his spirit, he built a smoke lodge where he could meditate and pray silently to Those Above and seek the purpose of his life and all life within the world. His spirit became calmed and his eyes took on the cast of one who comprehend his relationship between himself and the Great Spirit. He understood his place within the stars as well as the sand beneath his feet. He did this for three months until his spirit was a part of everything around him, seen and unseen.

For an entire year he trained until he felt ready to face the monster. He wished to see his people once again, only to find his tribe more hungry and dissolute as ever before.

At first, the Cahuilla ran in fear of him, thinking that the shape shifting Tahquitz had taken on a new form. No one recognized Algoot, for he had grown two hands taller and his shoulders were as wide as three men. His legs and arms and entire body were altered for he had transformed into a giant. It was not until a wise woman, bent with age looked past the long hair that partially covered his face and into his eyes. There, she could see the man she once knew as their chief, his kind and insightful spirit still recognizable despite his transformation.

She smiled, “Children, do not run away…it is our beloved chief, Algoot.” And with that she brushed back his hair and saw that indeed their chief had returned. Cries and cheers rose up and all wanted to touch and see their courageous chief, to hear of his adventures with Tahquitz and to learn what was to become of them.

Solemnly, he told them of Tahquitz’ corruption and the depth of his evil. He shared with them the story of the deaths of the missing tribal members and of the death of his son. Men and women alike cried in sorrow and horror, and expressed sympathy for the loss of the son of Algoot.

Algoot held up his hand and said, “This is not the time for tears, my people. Tahquitz is wicked, fierce and strong but I am stronger and wiser than he. This is not the time for tears for what I must do is clear and my path leads to his utter devastation. I must do so for the sake of our future and for the sake of those lives he has taken.”

“Those Above can no longer resist our pleas for aid. For certain, Tahquitz will die or I will die, that is the way this shall end. Send up your last prayers with mine that I may find the enemy of my people and slay him.”

Algoot then turned and leaped up the mountainside with inhuman ferocity and speed. His tribe desperately tried to follow him but he was soon beyond sight as he continued up into the high country. Within mere minutes, Algoot stood before the fetid cave of Tahquitz, now scattered with even more bones of indefinite origin.

Algoot paid no mind to the dreadful surroundings but focused on the cave’s opening and called forth, “Tahquitz, slayer of young children and women, come out and fight a man! I am Algoot, chief of the proud Cahuilla people and I have come to end your reign of foul terror.”

A low, wet voice issued from the cave, “What is it, Algoot that you have to say to me? Do you wish to be my next tasty meal? Perhaps your flesh will be as delightful as your son's?”

Undeterred at Tahquitz’ words, Algoot replied in disgust, “You are an abomination, Tahquitz. Today and in this place, one will stand and one will fall. Fight me, Tahquitz or are you also a coward who dares not battle a man such as I?”

“No, on second thought, your flesh will be sinewy and tough because you are so old, Algoot. I may just use your bones to pick my teeth after I dine on the rest of your tribe,” Tahquitz replied. “And I will fight a dozen more of your best and strongest if I so desire.”

The demon began to step forth, laughing as he entered daylight. As he rose to full height, Algoot knew that the friend and confidant he knew so many moons ago was no longer before him. Tahquitz was no longer a man, but a repulsive monster. His white, putrid skin hung from malformed bones and his hands were now filthy claws, tipped with talons from which dead flesh hung in strands. The mottled face of Tahquitz was that of a demon, his eyes changing from milky white to yellow then to fiery red. His fallow lips and cheeks hid ragged teeth and his matted hair blew wildly in the howling wind. When he rose to full height he was twice as large as even the giant Algoot stood, but the mighty chief felt no fear.

Tahquitz' voice roared as thunder, “Prepare to die, old man!” and with speed that was only matched by lightning, Tahquitz attacked Algoot.  Holding him aloft with one hand, he threw the chief into a lower valley as if he were tossing away a dry stick.

Algoot landed on the valley floor on both feet and smiled at the demon, “Tahquitz, is that the best you can do? I felt as if I were a bird, floating among the high branches and hilltops. I do not want to play with you, I want to kill you…now join me so that I may do so!”

In a rage, Tahquitz took a boulder the size of ten bears and heaved it towards Algoot. Algoot swiftly stepped aside as it rolled harmlessly down the mountain. Taking a boulder twice as large Algoot heaved it up the mountain, striking a stunned Tahquitz. Scores of such rock were thrown back and forth between monster and man. All along the mountains and valleys, these huge boulders landed, all of which may still be seen today on Mount San Jacinto, and the Moreno Valley below. In years to come, elders who gave witness to this battle claimed that the granite monoliths of Suicide and Lily Rocks are remnants of this fierce battle. But Algoot’s aim was truer, more deadly than that of the demon. Hour after hour the conflict waged, but little by little Algoot began to get the better of his foe.

Seeing that he was losing the battle, Tahquitz turned himself into a gigantic buck and began to run away in escape. Algoot quickly caught up with the fleeing mountain monster, took hold of his twisted rack and pulled him to the ground. Again, Tahquitz using the powers of a wizard changed again into a bear-like creature of enormous proportions and began to claw and squeeze Algoot in a mighty hold.

Algoot flexed his powerful chest and arms to break free of this death grip and turned on his foe. Tahquitz ran in fear to a wide lake, changing form once again into a fearsome serpent as he entered the water. As a serpent, he planned on luring Algoot into the lake’s depths, where he would attempt to drown the Cahuilla chief.

Algoot immediately understood Tahquitz’ wicked plan but pursued him regardless, for he knew the battle would soon be over. Bleeding and almost broken, the chief dived after the serpent-Tahquitz and overtook the rapidly swimming beast, grasping his scaly tail.

Tahquitz rose up above the lake’s surface to open his fanged maw in order to deliver a deadly bite into Algoot. As the snake’s head reared back to strike, Algoot released the tail and leaped up to grab the snake behind its head.

In desperation, the serpent-Tahquitz thrashed so violently that he cut away a portion of the shore line, causing the lake to drain into the foothills and flatlands below. Algoot maintained his forceful grip, all the while squeezing ever tighter until the snake’s eyes took on a filmy glaze and its slashing tail moved no longer. Tahquitz was dead, the lifeless snake coiled along the muddy lake bottom lying next to the still form of Algoot.

Many of the more courageous tribe members had witnessed the final act of the contest and came running to Algoot’s side. Near death himself, he instructed them to gather the driest of wood and build a funeral pyre to burn the body of Tahquitz. Although the physical form of the felled monster was dead, his body and evil spirit must be consumed by a smokeless fire.

The tribe did as instructed as they also rendered aid to their hero, giving him nutritive herbs and life giving broths. Algoot, in great pain now, watched from his bed as they prepared to dispatch Tahquitz forever by placing the giant snake onto the raging inferno, making sure that no smoke emanated from the flames.

As the snake’s skin began to sizzle and be devoured by fire, a near blind old woman, wishing to help her people placed a green Manzanita stick into the blaze. Immediately, a small wisp of smoke began to rise up and in horror, the tribe saw the visage of the monster also drift up, his malicious grinning face bearing down upon them all.

Algoot summoned his last remaining strength, left his sickbed and leaped into the air, taking hold of the smoke spirit of Tahquitz. With powers that no one understood, he threw the smoke spirit into a massive boulder near the fire ring. And though most of the vile spirit was cast into the stone, some curls of smoke escaped, drifting into the sky only to rest on the mountaintop that is known as Tahquitz Peak.

With this last act of bravery, Algoot fell to the ground and spoke, “My people, Tahquitz is ruined. Touch not this rock and travel not into his hidden mountain lair. Though he is at rest be careful not to stir him, for his malevolent power could be awakened.” And with those last words, the mighty Algoot, champion and chief to the Cahuilla, breathed his last.

The mourning of the death of Algoot was great and his memorial brought tribes from across the land. He was given a hero’s funeral and the smoke that rose from the pyre contained not only the body of the chief, but also the collected bones of the victims of Tahquitz, including Algoot’s most beloved son. Their spirit smoke drifted skyward, swirling together to join their ancestors, forgotten heroes and lost loved ones that would now dwell together with Those Above.

The Legend of Tahquitz and Algoot, a tale of sacrifice, bravery and vanquished evil has been passed from generation to generation for over 2,000 years. To this day, the boulder that rests near Strawberry Creek upon which the face of Tahquitz is emblazoned is the subject of much controversy. Algoot instructed his tribe to avoid touching the rock, for in doing so the trickster Tahquitz is awakened from his spirit slumber. Whispered stories are often shared that tell of those who have defiled the rock have come to bad fortune, injury or worse. There are tales of those who have sought and perhaps even have found the empty cave that Tahquitz once dwelled in have suffered similar fates. 

But for those with an understanding of the mysterious and ancient past, respect for these cursed places comes easily. They know to follow the wisdom of Algoot, heed his warning and honor his memory by allowing Tahquitz remain in his spirit sleep.


Anonymous said...

I have a few legends of Tahquitz and some of Taakwic and then of Takwish and Chief Algooat. But mine are research stories from many years ago, written in a dry bones style! Thanks for one that brings the whole legend to life and makes it real - as it may have been - maybe - possibly - and may I say - probably - in some form or other! Our minds can free us - our minds can imprison us. Creativity is the key to freedom and a way of expressing truth!

T2 said...

Thanks for the kind words. I've not found too many other versions though most of my searches have been internet-based.

I'd be interested in finding the name of Tahquitz' son. I've not found it anywhere.

The embellishments that I've added were made with respect to the source, not changing any aspect of the narrative as it was related to me. They were made to reflect the presence of the people, characters and community represented. It is my feeling that a storyteller, even contemporary to the age in which the events happened, would certainly add such details.

Again, kind stranger, thank you for your words.

Terry T

Lawrence Peterson said...

Excellently written. A magnificent rendition of the story. I wish you could get the film at the Tahquitz Canyon center redone. It is fine for the purpose made but I'd like to see more people aware of the story and how it reflects this look at the conflict which we all have within us, and which manifests in our outer world.

Thank you again.


T2 said...

Thanks for the commentary and appreciate your appreciation for the story. I had the opportunity to read a very early version of the story and the events described therein were remarkably similar to the version that was told to me. It would appear that the oral tradition is surprising reliable in some instances.

Please excuse my late response to your kind comments.

Anonymous said...

Written with the ability to provoke the minds eye to envision the very places depicted. Evoking the heart into emotion surely felt throughout the saga. Truly enjoyable...

Anonymous said...

T2, I am curious since you are very knowledgeable in this legend how you feel about or how you think the Cahuilla people would feel about representing the name Tahquitz or representing the picture of Tahquitz Rock around Riverside County. For example, calling the High School "Tahquitz" in Hemet or all the representation around Idyllwild of Tahquitz Rock. Thank you for your thoughts~

Krikor Krikor Krikorian said...

40 years ago my Chief, this writer, gave us the Legend of Tahquitz in the fire light below Tahquitz Rock. I passed my Ordeal that night and the following day, in Tahquitz Lodge 127. Thank you Chief. WWW, Wulit Memhallamund/Larry Krikorian

T2 said...

Anonymous: I cannot speak to how the Cahuilla people would or have reacted to the use of the name, "Tahquitz" in the various ways you mention. It would be my sincere hope that in each instance, the use of the name was seen as honorific and done so with respect. In other cultures, such namings are similarly viewed. But again, since I am not Cahuilla, it is impossible for me to say.

Certainly, my retelling of the story is done with the utmost respect. My entire purpose in posting the story was to record for others the legend as it was told to me but made more alive through the story-teller's gift.

Larry: Thank you for your kind words. You have taken me back to some very fond memories with your recollection of that evening. WWW, Bro.

Anonymous said...

Very nice story telling! I was a little distracted by grammatical errors and a few malapropisms, but that's the proofreader in me. Well done! This is probably one of the richest versions of the story I have heard.

T2 said...

I REALLY need to go back to that thing and clean it up. Fully aware of the typos, bad grammar and all the rest. Point well taken.

Jackie said...

That is an interesting version of the story- I was born & raised here and am familiar with several different versions of the legend- The one told to me by a friend of mine that is 100% Cahuilla does say that he was a evil shape shifting spirit, and after the aftermath of your story is that "legend" says that the area for Tahquitz is forbidden and that those who trespass (i.e. hike Tahquitz) awakens Tahquitz and he will shape shift into a tree, bush, etc. therefore confusing the trespasser resulting in them getting lost & having to get rescued or end up perishing.

Thank you for your story and letting me share- many blessings to you.

Jeanne Marie said...

Ah, thank you for the excellent and engaging retelling! My daughter and I were hiking in the area (though not near the rock itself) just yesterday, and I realized I did not even know the story. I looked it up and lucked upon your Halowe'en-worthy version just in time! This will be part of our bedtime tales tonight.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of this legend before. I slways wondered why they woukd call the top of the pesk 'devil's peak.'

In 2005, a friend encouraged me to hike with him. I was unprepared and even had flip-flops on. I only intended to walk with him forabout 10 minutes. Somehow, I ended up at the top.

I turned around snd went back fown all alone. Before I knew it, it was dark. As time wrnt on, I raced down the mountain as quickly as I coukd, however, the darkness became pitch black. I lost sight of the trail.

I began to get scared because I coukd not seem to reach the bottom. It felt endless...

I begsn to pray to Jesus becsuse I could no longer see the trees or the ground, yet I had a ways to go.

I continued to pray as my fesr increased and my swift run had slowed because I rid not want to have a head-on collision with a tree.

My prayers became more intense, then suddenly, without realizing it, my feet hit the pavement.

I have never experienced anything like that in my life. It was a very dark experience.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typos. This tablet is difficult to writr on. I hope that you csn follow my story, despite these excessive typos.

Tim Martinez said...

I truly enjoyed your version of this story. It is the best I have encountered. I am curious, who first told it to you?

I have one suggestion, however. I noticed you refer to Indian men in this story as “braves.” You likely do not know this, but the term is considered offensive. Changing that one detail would be wonderful. Thank you.

T2 said...

Thank you for your kind comments. And thank you for pointing out my naiveté and ignorance when it came to the word "brave". Hopefully you understand the word was used without malice but now that I have a better understanding of the negative connotations that the word can carry, I will edit the story accordingly.

I do not recall fully who told me the first version, but I believe it was hearing it told by Kim Wilkenson or Frank Sydow, two senior scouts who presented a version of it. Since then I have heard and read other versions that have been incorporated into the story as you see it now. It was truly cobbling together several bits and pieces into the whole tale.

Cheers and thank you once again.

Unknown said...

Absolutely riveting! Thank you!

T2 said...

Thank you, Lin. I hope only to do the legend justice in this re-telling. Be well.

Bert said...

Terry - also, "My Chief" and friend for so many years from long ago...

I don't know how my brother ended-up finding this and you, but I must say, you have done a great job with your rendition of THE Legend. While I never told the story myself, I too remember Kim, Frank, you, my Dad, and others telling the story many times over the years -- arms outstretched, standing to the side of the smoky crackling fire, stars in the sky, tall pines all around -- with a bunch of Scouts and visitors glued to every word in Tahquitz Bowl at Camp Emerson with big 'ol Tahquitz Rock to our side.

Those were the days -- some of my best. I hope the years have been good to such a great guy and friend -- and continue to always be in the future. Bert Jr.

T2 said...

Wonderful to hear from you and I'm so happy that you liked the story. As I've said to a few folks, all of the story elements of the Legend as told to me as well as one published version (brief narrative) and a few online resources (even more brief) were collected, sorted and collated into the version you see here. A quick stop at Emerson last weekend resulted in a serendipitous meeting with Trey. It was nice to reconnect, even for a short while. Cheers, brother.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story. So many things in coachella valley named after a démon. Very interesting

Unknown said...

I too have sat beside the rock and watched the fire and listened to the legends. They don't do that anymore and I hope to reinstate the practice. I know Kim and Frank and Larry. I need to be able to use the story to inspire the youth of today and give CE the flavor that is being lost. Any advice would be appreciated and permission to modify this version would be great. Attention spans don't seem to be as long as they once were. Any assistance on my goal would be appreciated from anybody. WWW, Judy Graeber AKA Wulakenlan

T2 said...

So sorry to be responding so late. Feel free to use the story as you wish. This version is merely a retelling and compilation of the various written (there are a few) and oral versions. All my best to you. WWW - Terry Tyson AKA Winkhatènamu

Anonymous said...

I heard that Taquitz would travel from the San juacinto.and San bernardlno Mnt's by fireball

T2 said...

That's a new wrinkle to the legend, but not entirely surprised that it exists. Tahquitz was/is notorious for many things.

Anonymous said...

I found your story quite interesting. I'm in the middle of reading "The Lonesome Gods" by Louis L'amour,which really piqued my interest in Tahquitz and the Cahuilla...

Anonymous said...

Hi, I teach a Cahuilla Language class and I was wondering if I could use your version of the story in our curriculum? We have a young age group and I think they would really appreciate the imagery in your story.

T2 said...

Feel free to use this version of the story as you wish. Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

Terry L. Tyson

Unknown said...

Your story captivated me. You delivered it with articulated passion that engulfed me into this legend. Thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

It is quite unfortunate as I heard news of two young brothers who fell victim trying to climb Tahquitz this week

Unknown said...

Thank you for your kind comment. It has been a pleasure to share this with many people.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your telling of a story that was so familiar to me even though I'd never heard it told.However, I did live in the Anza Valley for 20 years with the back of my property* adjacent to the land allowed to the Ramona Band of Cahuilla's Rez. And I better understand the reason the story was not really told to people new to the area.But maybe now is the time for it to be told. Like I said earlier,even though I'd never heard particulars,I do see the truth in the story. Tahquitz has been disturbed by the encroachment on his prison and the calling of his name after 2,000 years or more of slumber.Now all that have lived there and knew of the shamans imprisonment and understand that there is power in a name and unless you want to see who or what was named not to speak that name aloud,are paying the price.
You see in the newcomers ignorance more and more Native Brothers and Sisters are meeting their ancestors at a rate that far exceeds the birthrate of this small band of Native Americans.Their Sacred Ground is Sacred for a reason so please stop trespassing on areas that the tribe themselves managed to leave unmolested for 2,000 years.
Though I haven't lived in the area for a Decade my family and friends still do.I know people will continue to come into the area but my hope is that through education ,Reverence and Respect will be given and perhaps regulation as to numbers of intruders in the area.
Whether or not people believe in curses or shaman they are things the indigenous people have had in their culture for thousands of years.Power or energy is neither good nor evil it just is. The positive or negative,reality or fantasy like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
I apologize for not being more concise in my comment and please know that at the times I spoke in the singular it wasn't directed to you personally but to any that may read this.
I apologize to any of my family or friends if they feel I spoke out of turn,no disrespect or ill intentions were meant only love and concern for how the ignorance of others effects the welfare and well being of people as close to my heart as any blood born relative!

No longer the Fool

*even though the deed to the property was ours it belonged to my Ramona Family and I will forever be grateful for our acceptance and the responsibility bestowed upon us.

Unknown said...

By complete chance and pure luck I stumbled in to this site . Of all the sites to choose regarding San Jacinto Mt Range I click this one . Allow me to explain, The Tahquitz legend has intrigued and remained with me over 30 years . I am thankful it came to me . I believe it to be a great story that deserves the honor of continuing .

The re-telling of this legend shared with me reflects when the Chief was hurled from the mountain to the valley floor he was exhausted and as the dust settled the Chief came to rest on a giant ledge where he had sat many times before studying the Pass for the great battle . The great Chief sat on his ledge and sipped cool clear water that flowed from the roost a magnificent bird that considered Algoot a loyal and worthy friend .

With every hearing, reading, telling or memory of the great battle I am reminded to allow myself a humble moment from within to give thanks to those who have upheld such proud faith and strong beliefs long before us . It has touched many people, many ways, for many decades as a good spirited light of loyalty and wisdom . The version I stated above is the first to find its way to me and has remained with decades since the 1980's . The legend is not mine and I in no way have right to alter it nor would I ever attempt to do so .

I have only knowledge from outside of a tribe, However, the area town residents of the 1980's who were born or brought here a in the early 1900's were told from their parents that the naming of: The Bench. (above,Banning)and:Birds Roost.(spring above E. Branch Morongo) originated from the Legend Tahquitz .

Today (weather permitting) when traveling off the mountain down the Pass side there is a full and stunning view of the entire Pass . There are days the view from the Badlands to the desert floor is a great sight to behold . Just above (North) the city of Banning there rises a giant ledge . It is in conflict with the rock, soil, and natural color of the entire area giving it the appearance of being placed there .

Certain days and weather patterns illuminate the formation distinct and bold . Local history refers to it as "The Bench" To me at times it gives the appearance of a huge chair,Regardless, it is undoubtedly present. I also have stood before the cool spring atop a peak N.E. of Res, known as "Birds Roost" that still flows today .

I am grateful the legend came to me and I only share the statistics above as local history I have learned . The fact I had no knowledge of this posting and just found myself here I felt I should share a comment .

ps. As there is more then a good chance that eyes of a Anza Cahuilla member will view this I would like to say , Frank Lubo is my friend . I am proud to have known him and this world is a little worse for his passing R.I.P. Frank You are not forgoten

be well, be free, God bless

a Friend

Terry Tyson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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