Native American Legends
The Raven Mocker
A Cherokee Legend
Of all the Cherokee wizards or witches the most dreaded is the
Raven Mocker (Kâ'lanû Ahkyeli'skï), the
one that robs the dying man of life. They are of either sex and
there is no sure way to know one, though they usually look withered
and old, because they have added so many lives to their own.
At night, when some one is sick or dying in the settlement, the
Raven Mocker goes to the place to take the life. He flies through
the air in fiery shape, with arms outstretched like wings, and sparks
trailing behind, and a rushing sound like the noise of a strong
wind. Every little while as he flies he makes a cry like the cry
of a raven when it "dives" in the air--not like the common raven
cry--and those who hear are afraid, because they know that some
man's life will soon go out. When the Raven Mocker comes to the
house he finds others of his kind waiting there, and unless there
is a doctor on guard who knows bow to drive them away they go inside,
all invisible, and frighten and torment the sick man until they
kill him. Sometimes to do this they even lift him from the bed and
throw him on the floor, but his friends who are with him think he
is only struggling for breath.
After the witches kill him they take out his heart and eat it,
and so add to their own lives as many days or years as they have
taken from his. No one in the room can see them, and there is no
sear where they take out the heart, but yet there is no heart left
in the body. Only one who has the right medicine can recognize a
Raven Mocker, and if such a man stays in the room with the sick
person these witches are afraid to come in, and retreat as soon
as they see him, because when one of them is recognized in his right
shape he must die within seven days. There was once a man named
Gûñskäli'skï, who had this medicine and used
to hunt for Raven Mockers, and killed several. When the friends
of a dying person know that there is no more hope they always try
to have one of these medicine men stay in the house and watch the
body until it is buried, because after burial the witches do not
steal the heart.
The other witches are jealous of the Raven Mockers and afraid to
come into the same house with one. Once a man who had the witch
medicine was watching by a sick man and saw these other witches
outside trying to get in. All at once they heard a Raven Mocker
cry overhead and the others scattered "like a flock of pigeons when
the hawk swoops." When at last a Raven Mocker dies these other witches
sometimes take revenge by digging up the body and abusing it.
The following is told on the reservation as an actual happening:
A young man had been out on a hunting trip and was on his way home
when night came on while he was still a long distance from the settlement.
He knew of a house not far off the trail where an old man and his
wife lived, so he turned in that direction to look for a place to
sleep until morning. When he got to the house there was nobody in
it. He looked into the âsï and found no one there either.
He thought maybe they had gone after water, and so stretched himself
out in the farther corner to sleep. Very soon he heard a raven cry
outside, and in a little while afterwards the old man came into
the Ôs´ and sat down by the fire without noticing the young man,
who kept still in the dark corner. Soon there was another raven
cry outside, and the old man said to himself, "Now my wife is coming,"
and sure enough in a little while the old woman came in and sat
down by her husband. Then the young man knew they were Raven Mockers
and he was frightened and kept very quiet.
Said the old man to his wife, "Well, what luck did you have?" "None,"
said the old woman, "there were too many doctors watching. What
luck did you have?" "I got what I went for," said the old man, "there
is no reason to fail, but you never have luck. Take this and cook
it and lees have something to eat." She fixed the fire and then
the young man smelled meat roasting and thought it smelled sweeter
than any meat he had ever tasted. He peeped out from one eye, and
it looked like a man's heart roasting on a stick.
Suddenly the old woman said to her husband, "Who is over in the
corner?" "Nobody," said the old man. "Yes, there is," said the old
woman, "I hear him snoring," and she stirred the fire until it blazed
and lighted up the whole place, and there was the young man lying
in the corner. He kept quiet and pretended to be asleep. The old
man made a noise at the fire to wake him, but still he pretended
to sleep. Then the old man came over and shook him, and he sat up
and rubbed his eyes as if he had been asleep all the time.
Now it was near daylight and the old woman was out in the other
house getting breakfast ready, but the hunter could hear her crying
to herself. "Why is your wife crying?" he asked the old man. "Oh,
she has lost some of her friends lately and feels lonesome," said
her husband; but the young man knew that she was crying because
he had heard them talking.
When they came out to breakfast the old man put a bowl of corn
mush before him and said, "This is all we have--we have had no meat
for a long time." After breakfast the young man started on again,
but when he had gone a little way the old man ran after him with
a fine piece of beadwork and gave it to him, saying, "Take this,
and don't tell anybody what you heard last, night, because my wife
and I are always quarreling that way." The young man took the piece,
but when he came to the first creek he threw it into the water and
then went on to the settlement. There he told the whole story, and
a party of warriors started back with him to kill the Raven Mockers.
When they reached the place it was seven days after the first night.
They found the old man and his wife lying dead in the house, so
they set fire to it and burned it and the witches together.
Native American Legends
Back to Top
Other Native American Legends