Coyote is the 4th and last of my trickster series. He is normally compared to both Loki and Prometheus, whenever mentioned.
The Coyote is the Trickster I was first introduced to and I have to admit that even though I love the Kitsune and Loki, I play favorites with Coyote because I’m Native.
He is anthropomorphic. A human. A coyote. Able to be both at the same time. Able to be only one at a time. Whichever he chooses. He is also able to take the shape of a human with a coyote’s head, but I find that theory creepy, strange, and kind of dorky/silly. So I’m going to continue on ignoring it and pretend I didn’t say it.
Coyote is one of the First People, one of the beings who existed before the human race.
There is not a race of coyote tricksters as there are with the Kitsune, for example. There is only one Coyote, as he is an immortal. And even though he may die in one tale, legend, or myth, he will always and forever return to life.
WORDS TO SUM HIM UP [even though that’s not really possible]
Cunning. Shapeshifter. Stealth. Creativity. White and Dark Magick. Opportunity. Illumination. Paradox. Contradiction. Power. Shadowy Coyote can be comedic or tragic or gruesome. Survival. Intellect. Adaptability. Teacher or “Lessons”. Lusty (libido on overdrive). Ego. Mischievous Playfulness. Resourcefulness.
Neutral in that he is neither evil nor good. He simply sees weakness and goes about showing it to you in the only way he knows how. He illuminates the right way of doing things via indirection. He is a trickster, but he is necessary. Consider how often we delude ourselves because we don’t want to deal with something. Or how often we are victim to something we cannot stop and need someone just as cunning, if not moreso, than our victimizer to level the playing field. The uses for Coyote are endless.
And that’s what we do, isn’t it? We use him. And yet we boast Coyote as the only immoral one.
I once read somewhere that Coyote does not purposefully trick us. But instead, he mirrors our own capacity for cleverness and stupidity so that he can teach us in a way we will understand. We see this negatively when we don’t want to see the lesson he’s come to teach us. And even though Coyote knows he’ll be hated for it, he teaches us anyway.
ORIGIN: NATIVE BELEIFS
Native American. Miwok, Pomo, Navajo, Ohlone, Maidu, and Crow Nation are some who believe the Coyote to be their trickster. There are many others. Different versions of Coyote are held in belief, even if only tweaked a bit. Some are more drastically differing, seeing Coyote as a secondary or minor being and seen in a different light altogether. Each Native American tribe has their own version and/or way of telling these stories and the following are in no way the ‘correct’ version. They’re simply the one I found repetitively and personally liked.
- Coyote the Messenger
In some traditions, Coyote is only a messenger of minor power. In this way he was treated cruelly and he was never permitted to rest.
- Coyote during Travel
The Navajos believe that if you are on your way and a coyote crosses your path, you should not continue and should turn back. If you keep traveling something horrible will most likely happen to you during your journey.
- Coyote as Creator
The Pomos believe that Coyote created the human race. They also believe he stole the sun for them, so they would be warm and maintain life.
COYOTES IN FACT
The coyote is a clever animal and is displayed in mythology as such for a reason. For example, they watch the sky for signs of birds. When they see carrion flying around in a circle over a continuous spot, they know there’s food near and rush to find it before the birds swoop down. They’re highly adaptable creatures and their numbers are thriving at present. They weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds and can run up to 40 mph.
Scavengers. Their predator is the wolf, and as humans have selfishly murdered many of the wolves’ species, the Coyote has been able to thrive without much worry. They are meat eaters but not always, sometimes eating wild plants. They will eat anything smaller than they and sometimes they’ll eat your dog if they feel threatened. They’re pretty fickle. They, like the wolf, do not search out or attack humans. If provoked or feeling threatened, they’ll protect themselves.
Some claim they’re a nuance and others a horrible plague on society because they’ll libel to eat their farm animals. I say, they’re animals. Guard yours better (and I’m not naive or ignorant to farm life).
Coyotes are known for their survival, intellect, playfulness, and adaptability. They like open space and are ever watchful of other animals and/or people in the area they inhabit. They travel often and only get aggressive with protecting their territory during mating season.
A FEW MYTHS
I’ll say the same thing here, too. Each Native American tribe has their own version and/or way of telling these stories and the following are in no way the ‘correct’ version. They’re simply the one I found repetitively and personally liked. There are TONS of Coyote legends; I’ve only given you a few. And I condensed them, as they’re normally detailed. They are after all, stories of intrigue and mystery. You wouldn’t want them short, sweet, and to the point if they’re for the purpose of teaching a lesson, now would you? Not all the time anyway.
- Coyote and Dragonfly
Dragonfly was originally a Dragon with shimmering, gorgeous scales like that of a dragonfly’s wings. He was said to be wise and flew through the night, breathing light into the night via fire. The breath of Dragon brought forth magick and the illusion of changing form. Coyote tricked Dragon into actually changing form and in his arrogance, Dragon believed he could shape back into his true form.
He was wrong. He now remains a dragonfly. By accepting the challenge to prove his power, he lost it.
- Coyote and the Buffalo
There was a powerful being named Humpback who owned all buffalo and shared no meat with any. He would not allow any buffalo to be released for the people of earth. Coyote did not like this and took the shape of a dog. Humpback’s son found the dog and brought him home. Humpback allowed him to keep the dog but only in the corral.
Once in the corral, Coyote barked loudly and nipped at the heels of the buffalo. They were frightened and stampeded out of the corral, through the front doors of Humpback’s house, out into the earth where people could share them.
- Coyote and the Origin of Death
There was no such thing as death when the world began. People lived forever and began to overcrowd it until there was not enough room for everyone.
The chiefs held a council, wondering what to do. One suggested that people die and then come back. But Coyote thought this was foolish. If they came back, the problem would not be solved. But the people did not want to stay dead and did not head his advice. They decided that those who died would come back to life inside the medicine house.
So, people died. A few days later, a whirlwind blew from the West. Coyote saw it and closed the door to the medicine house. The whirlwind, not being able to get inside the medicine house, blew by and kept going.
In this way Coyote made physical death eternal. From that day forward, your spirit (the whirlwind) continues to blow through until it finds the spirit realm – the door to enter the living realm closed to it forever.
- Coyote Brings Fire to the Humans
In the winter, humans mourned. Their babies and elders, who carried the wisdoms and tales of the tribe, could not make it through the cold and often died.
Coyote passed by a tribe one day and heard the women crying for the loss of their infants. Others cried for the loss of their wise elders. Coyote felt great sorrow for the men and women of the tribe and knew there was something he could do.
The Fire Beings lived atop a mountain, far away and guarded fire maniacally, fearing that the humans would steal fire and become as powerful as they. Coyote knew of their abode. He crept to the edges of their hiding spot and watched them for some time.
They jealously stamped out flames that crept towards the edges of the mountain, ensuring known but themselves could have its warmth. They always guarded it. Only at one point, early in the morning when the winds blew and they shivered, running to have another guard take their place, did they leave the fire unattended.
Coyote took that time to lunge forward into their camp and snatch a portion of their fire, then ran down the mountainside. But the Fire People were maddened and chased him. One was able to grab at Coyote’s tail, forever singing it and turning it white. In pain, Coyote yelled and flung the fire away from himself.
Others of the First People had waited at the foot of the mountain in case they were needed. Squirrel saw the fire Coyote had stolen and flung in pain and caught it on her back, then fled into the trees. The fire burned her so painfully that forever afterwards all squirrels’ tails curl up and back. Once the Fire People chased after Squirrel, she threw the fire to Chipmunk. One Fire Being clawed at Chipmunk’s back, leaving three stripes forever after on her back. Chipmunk threw the fire to Frog and one of the Fire Beings grabbed Frog’s tail but he leapt away, leaving his tail behind.
Frog threw the fire at Wood and Wood swallowed the fire.
The Fire People begged Wood, enticed Wood with promises of great gifts, they carved into Wood, struck it, and shouted. But to no avail. They could not entice Wood into giving them back their fire. So they left, fleeing back to their mountain top.
Coyote knew how to get fire out of Wood. He went to the humans and showed them to rub the sticks together, releasing the fire within. Humankind was then kept warm throughout the winter, keeping their elders and their young safe.
- Coyote and the Stars
Coyote sees the Creator placing the stars in the sky. Coyote asks the Creator if he can help and Creator says yes, but he must remember to put them in the sky in an orderly fashion. Coyote does as he is instructed, placing stars here and there but, as is in his nature, he becomes impatient and flings them about. Creator scolds him for his carelessness. Coyote leaves and forever after howls at night when he sees the mess he made of the stars.
- Coyote and the Milky Way [variation of above mentioned legend – remember each tribe has different beliefs]
The Black God was positioning the stars into their correct places, now known as our constellations. He put each in a precise place and named it. Coyote become bored and impatient, and emptied the remaining crystals from the Black God’s pouch and threw them across the sky, creating the Milky Way.
- Coyote and the Moon
The moon was stolen and Coyote offered to stand in. The others agreed and he did so. But from his vantage point, he could see everyone and everything they did. Naturally, he gossiped and told of others’ misgivings and secrets. This eventually irked the others enough that they revoked his status as stand in for the moon.
Though, being the show off that Coyote is, especially when there is a female to impress, he liked to juggle his eyes, dropping them back in and awing all. But one day he threw them too high and one of his eyes remained in the sky, becoming the star Arcturus. And in that way, Coyote has his eye on us all still.
- I don’t know if it’s the Pomo way of the Creation of the World via Coyote or not, but I love the Creation story by Sean Miner in this link.
In more contemporary myths and what not, Coyote become more of a buffoon, ever playing the fool. As his original self rarely did. I don’t like this. It seems to me that everything from the past is forever perverted in some form or another. But the past still remains, handed down from generation to generation and entrusted with the elders of that time. And Coyote will always find the hidden trap, he isn’t going anywhere.
He’s quite the contradiction, Coyote. He stole fire for humans but he can cause floods as well.
If Coyote has come into your life, you most likely need to look at something you’ve been denying or avoiding. We often fool ourselves and Coyote will purposefully deny you that idiocy any longer.
- Also, when you say the word “Coyote”, referring to the Native American Trickster, it is said differently then when saying ‘coyotes’, as in the animal today.
You don’t pronounce the “eee” sound at the end. Instead, its “kahy-oht”.
So what do you think? Do you like Coyote? Ever heard of any Coyote myths that you want to add, or have any favorites that I didn’t list?