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Is Coyote Always the Trickster?



The word Coyote is the Mexican-Spanish variation of the Aztec (Nahuatl) word coyotl. The Nahua people lived in central Mexico. Coyote is renowned as the trickster. But why?


When we first slept in our log home on the mountain, I was awakened by the coyotes' yip-howling. If you've heard them it's eerie but also so familiar that you feel the urge to howl along with them! The song constitutes a distinct pattern of yips and howls which proclaim that their family owns this territory. It can also signal the beginning or end of a hunt.


Coyotes are considered to be the linchpin in the local ecosystem that needs to control small mammal populations and to strengthen the deer population. They do this by eliminating weak individuals from the gene pool.


Did you know that the Coyote was once naturally out and about during the day but was forced to become nocturnal after humans became its greatest enemy?


Did you also know that Coyote partners with the badger to catch ground squirrels? While the badger hunts below ground for squirrels, the Coyote nabs the ones that burst out of burrows. Coyote catches 30% more prey with badger's assistance.


Golden eagles and ravens also aid Coyote by guiding him to potential prey. They want Coyote to tear them open for them.


I admire Coyote because (s)he's the main character in many stories. As the trickster character in Native American stories, the Coyote teaches valuable lessons to adults and children. Coyote is also a wise benefactor who teaches us how to live well.


This story will make you admire Coyote. One day he was feasting on a turkey that he had just caught. Every so often he would look up to make sure no harm was approaching. Yet when he shifted his eyes to the left, he saw the shadow of a man with a raised club about to strike him. Coyote bolted off as fast as he could.


After some distance, Coyote checked to his left again. And yes, the man with the club was still by his side and ready to strike Coyote. This time Coyote ran farther and then stopped to check to his left again. Coyote saw the man with the club ready to strike. This happened several more times. Coyote even dodged back and forth but the man's shadow stayed right with him.


Coyote threw all his strength into his legs and ran until he collapsed. He rolled onto his back and covered his face with his paws begging the man not to kill him. When Coyote did this, something snapped by his left eye. He looked at his paw and there he held a big turkey feather stuck to the fur around his eye. The feather had looked like a menacing shadow.


Coyote was very embarrassed that he had been afraid of a feather. He slinked home. His mate asked him why he looked so terrible. Coyote lied and said he had been chasing down a cowardly mountain lion running away from him.


To this day, when Coyote sees a human coming toward him, he starts off in a trot because he knows he may have to run a long distance and will need to save his energy.


If you've ever watched Coyote trotting off, he crosses your path at a angle and then looks back over his shoulder. That's because he wants to make sure it's a person he's running away from and not another feather.


The lesson Coyote learned was valuable to him/her. I'm guessing the question posed is if we question our perception of reality will this help to see life more clearly and make us happier? Do you think Coyote is a good learner or still a trickster?


We hope you enjoyed reading this blog.


If you'd like to purchase the above original drawing, please click on Barbara Phelps Works on Paper: Originals or a framed print at a 20% Discount, Works on Paper: Prints.

Please consider that 5% of proceeds from the sale of artwork is donated to Center for Mindful Self-Compassion founded by Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer


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