Just west of Palm Springs, California, a malevolent spirit resides in the mountains, an ancient being who brings misfortune to those who do not respect his power.
Tahquitz is known for causing drought. Disease. Famine. Flash floods. Car accidents. Lost hikers. Train wrecks. Earthquakes.
If you're hiking in the San Jacinto range (which the Cahuilla call Tahquishhemki, "residence of Tahquitz"), and hear the sound of thunder on a clear day, or voices on the trail with no apparent source, or a low groaning (immediately followed by an earthquake), you're hearing Tahquitz, who lives either in a cave or inside a boulder on Mt. San Jacinto.
The Cahuilla say that Tahquitz was created by Mukat, the Creator, as the first shaman. As a nukatem (demigod), Tahquitz can take many shapes. He could appear as lightning, or a falling star. He may take the guise of an old man, or that of a young dandy. Or he may appear as a crow, a bear, a sea serpent, or a green ball of fire.
No matter what form he takes, you don't want to meet him. In both Cahuilla and Luiseño mythology, he is known to kill animals as well as human beings. He has an appetite for human flesh, and also devours human souls.
Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, "Crossroads and Intersections" Online Exhibition, http://www.accmuseum.org/Tahquitz-Canyon-Way-1 (accessed July 12, 2013)
Steven Cuevas, "Celebrating the Native American Legend of Tahquitz," The California Report, http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201202101630/e, February 10, 2012 (accessed July 12, 2013)
J. Tracy Herman, "Legends of the Cahuilla," Palm Springs Life, September 2007. http://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/September-2007/Legends-of-the-Cahuilla/ (accessed July 12, 2013)
Mark Thomas Hoyer, Dancing Ghosts: Native American and Christian Syncretism in Mary Austin's Work, Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1998
Francisco Patencio and Margaret Boynton, Stories and Legends of the Palm Springs Indians, Los Angeles, CA: Times-Mirror, 1943
Cecilia Rasmussen, "Legend of the Banished Shaman Captures Imaginations in Los Angeles," Los Angeles Times,
September 15, 2002, http://articles.latimes.com/2002/sep/15/local/me-then15 (accessed July 12, 2013)