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Totems: Coyote - Part 3

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

The Diné (Navahos) called coyotes “God’s Dog” or “Talking Dog.” Tricksters are transformers and fools at the same time. Coyote is often depicted as a smooth talker and a shapeshifter, taking many forms.  In some stories, coyote has supernatural or spectacular experiences, even dying and returning to life. Irreverence is the hallmark of true coyote stories. Whether, like the sacred clowns at ceremony parodying the participants, or unapologetically depicting bodily functions, eroticism, and even cannibalism, coyote not only breaks open cultural mores, but also reinforces them ever stronger once they withstand examination. Can your beliefs stand up to ridicule, scrutiny and challenge? Do they hold up under pressure or collapse like sand castles at high tide?

The quintessence or core of trickster energy is that, as a mirror, it makes you look at yourself. On the Hopi reservation, I saw their version of trickster energy: Koshares, Sacred Clowns with black and white striped bodies at the seasonal dances. Koshares do things backwards like a mirror, and also mimic the actions of the people in exaggerated, comic always, to dramatize human foolishness. Their lesson is clear: try to judge someone and suddenly you see yourself in their shoes. Hopefully, this produces compassion. Try to cheat or outsmart someone else, and suddenly you are either the recipient of your very own actions - except it’s being done to you, or you have a moment of clarity that shows you that you are really only cheating yourself. Why? Because we can’t do anything to anyone else without also making the same mark on our indelible report card, the Akashic record. The Akashic record is the invisible recording on the skein of time and space of all that has ever taken place. It is a record of our accountability – judged by our own soul. Trickster coyote helps us burn off the karma that results from previous actions (and thoughts, because thoughts are things).

Old Man Coyote is an imitator of others. This has advantages and disadvantages. Having no particular way of one’s own allows one to adopt the ways of others. How many things have been invented by imitating the ways of nature? When we want to divert a stream into a pool, beaver teaches us how to make a dam. Coyotes teach us how to camouflage and blend in through their Invisibility Medicine. If you are in a period of your life that is constantly changing and shifting, ask coyote for his/her ability to adjust to the ever-changing world. We learn to carry on even in the midst of chaos. Coyote is a survivor because he/she can adapt. Surely, adaptability is a component of happiness. In his book, Trickster Makes This World, Lewis Hyde says, “…in a civilization as complex and shifting as ours has become, a readiness to let the mind change as contingency demands may be one prerequisite of a happy life.”

Master souls reek of coyote energy. Speaking of which, master souls like Amma, the hugging saint (Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi) will always give you what you need, not necessarily what you think you want.

There is an Indian tradition that if you give a master a coconut, you are symbolically giving them your ego. (You can already see the coyote possibilities here, right?). After I gave one to Amma while on a week-long retreat, I had a vision in a meditation of adding a prefix to my soul name that was part of hers. When I went up to her at my next darshon, I gave her the little notebook where I had written it down and asked if that should be my spirit name from her. She looked at me shrewdly and snapped the book shut. I guess that answered that! Often when I want to feel close to her, she will put more opportunities before me to serve and help others.

As far as I’m concerned, the Tarot card, The Fool is a Christ-like figure. Not only does the Wise Fool approach life with a kind of purity and simplicity, but also with a depth of wisdom not always of this world. If you think about it, Jesus was a shaman, and there is always some coyote medicine in every shaman. Consider that he was always in an altered state; he spoke to and heard from Creator, expelled devils; transformed matter (the loaves & fishes); healed the sick; prophesied, and sacrificed himself for the people, even mastering death, and returning from the underworld.

On the other hand, it must be the tricksters of the world or people who have coyote as a totem, or those who are in an extended phase of its influence, who pull pranks and mischievous monkeyshines. At the least they are playful; at the other end of the spectrum, trickster energy gone bad can hurt someone, or be deceitful.

For a while now, I’ve wondered if ADHD is a form of coyote energy. There are two sides to it: Feeling scattered, being unable to concentrate, impulsive outbursts, and repetitious demands for the same thing are all part of coyote energy. If this is you, it’s best to chillax, and sort through one thing at a time. Then there’s the other side: intense focus on one thing – like a video game or in the case of coyotes, their intense attentiveness that will take in all of their surroundings, you included. A coyote is fully capable of being five feet away, and you might never notice.Who’s the aware one?

One can’t dismiss coyote, for in North American native myths, he/she has been around since the beginning of creation, and in fact, is considered to be a Creator. It was coyote that brought fire to the people so they could survive. Coyote got its black-tipped tail running away from the guardians of fire. He got away, except for being grabbed by the tail.Coyote also tricked the Frog People into letting him drink so much water that their dam burst, so all people got to share this sacred element equally. Coyote also made the law that deceased people had to stay in the land of the dead, instead of coming back to the land of the living every spring. The story is meant to express the taboo against dead spirits hanging around living humans instead of going toward the light.

Some myths make coyote out to be a fool. One such has coyote watching mountain lion roll stones down a mountain until the deer got habituated to it, then rolled himself into a ball, successfully catching a deer to eat. When coyote tried the same thing however, he was so dizzy when he landed, that the deer ran away.

It cannot be denied that there is a kind of oneliness to coyote energy. The haunting, eerie howl of a singular coyote on a moonlit night brings us back to our primordial roots. That howl is used to summon others and mark territory, but how do we know it doesn’t express emotions deep and primal? If there are others out there, they will howl back, which may catalyze more coyotes even farther away to respond resoundingly. It must be ultimately lonely being a trickster/wise fool/creator, but what would we do without them? Whistle blowers must have coyote medicine to be able to stand being outcasts.

In the traditional Okanogan (Washington state) account, Coyote Kills Owl Woman in the book, Spider Woman’s Granddaughters, an oral tradition transitions into writing. In this story, coyote saves all the children Owl Woman (similar to “bogeyman”) has put in her basket in order to eat them. (She is used as an archetype to make children go to sleep). After convincing her to partner with him, Coyote tricks Owl Woman into creating a big fire to roast the children she had trapped. Instead though, she falls into the pitch-filled fire, and is roasted. From her remains, a small owl flies out. Coyote tells the owl it will only be able to fly at night, as it can only see in the darkness because its eyes were burned with pitch.

Native people have the right idea. Navahos don’t even mess with coyote. They know that even when you notice him, you’re liable to find a trick or mischief there somewhere. Even coyote can’t escape the endless ups and downs of life’s rhythms. Life, death, birth, regeneration – over and over and over. It’s like being in an old-fashioned fun house with multiple mirrors reflecting back to us, the events and relationships of our lives. Multiple reflections of what our deepest, most dominant thoughts and feelings have been.

Coyote’s ultimate challenge/gift is that when we give up all of the hesitation, disappointment, heartbreak, pain and bitterness for what our souls truly hunger for – love – then true, straight-out liberation happens, for ourselves, our past, all beings, our planet, and our future self. We become immaculate once more, purified like the heart of a child, and we get to ride coyote bareback into the hills at sunset laughing and thrilling to the beat of life.

For over 40 years, Cie Simurro ~Thunderbird Starwoman has been bringing forward the healing arts and ancient universal wisdom through her writing, healing work, and teaching. For 13 years, she has been a contributing writer to Wisdom Magazine. For healing for you or your animal, spiritual training, to invite Cie to give her presentation: “Our Partnership With Nature” in your area, or purchase her book,Totems for Stewards of the Earth ($22 to PO 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370), call 413 625-0385 or email: cie@ciesimurro.com


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