As a trickster and on occasion, reluctant hero, the coyote is found in the mythology of almost all the different tribes found throughout the Americas. Rude, interfering, and restless, he is a nevertheless a powerful totem, and the symbol of survival, adaptability and health.
In storytelling tradition, the coyote emerges as one of the first Proto-People, whose existence preceded the arrival of humans. These entities were endowed with great powers and were the creators of everything on the earth. In creation myth he symbolized original knowledge. He brought order to the creative process, introduced death into the scheme of things and named the Sun and Moon, not to mention the crops.
Countless legends tell of coyote’s scandalous behaviour, his trickery, greed, sexual excesses, lying, cheating, and propensity for making blunders wherever he went. Yet he learns as he goes, shape-shifting and experimenting with every situation he encounters along the way. Lessons through mistakes cannot be ignored. Humour is an integral part of the lesson, and those who look to the coyote as a symbol of toughness and resilience learn how to pick themselves up and start all over again. Failure is often a better teacher than success, and reveals much about strength of character. In Coyote, we see ourselves.
For all his outrageous behavior, Coyote remains a favourite character of Native American story tellers. Accounts of his mischief and the drastic consequences thereof are still told to children, and though often amusing, each story includes profound moral lessons. Humour is often associated with the coyote tales. Learning to laugh when things are tough is a powerful lesson taught through the example of the coyote. He is a unique being — through whose limitations and powers — he gets to experience the gamut of experience.
By testing the order of things, and often bringing chaos, he proves the validity of the natural order of the universe.
For the Native American, the coyote is an animal spirit guide, and as such is seen as a guardian through whom the individual is guided in ways that lead to a healthier life; spiritually, physically and emotionally. The coyote spirit can trick one into learning essential life lessons. Coyote’s many traits, though often negative – gluttony, greed, squandering and cheating to name a few, are symbolic of the obstacles that humans have to face. As a canny survivor, adaptor, philosopher and realist, the coyote is the symbol of the ability to transform through learning the hard way. Coyote is a pragmatist, hardened and toughened through trial and tribulation. Coyote’s independence and his adventurous spirit are reflected in the many stories still told about this unique and paradoxical being. There is a little Coyote in all of us.
Get inspired by some really great images and tattoos in our Coyote Tattoo Gallery