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Coyote on Coyote

Copyright © 1997 by Richard "Coyote" Prosapio

This article appears in Vol. 1 #1 (Winter 1998) of Men's Voices journal.
 Men's Voices: So men can find their voices and speak their truths


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When Coyote is personified in an Indigenous tribe, he or she is, in practice, the most important figure in the tribe. The Coyote's job is to maintain the social order in the tribe through the use of a very powerful tool; parody. In the Pueblo culture, Coyote is called "Heyoehkah" and to this figure, nothing is sacred. This figure dances outside all the rules and regulations of the tribe, both bleeding off the urge to break all the rules that already exists in every tribal member and, at the same time, reinforcing the necessity of consciously keeping the rules in place for the very survival of the tribe as a unit.

The role of the Heyo. or Coyote in the tribal situation is an accepted and one, agreed upon in tribal lore and custom. In other words, Coyote energy is an integral part of the tribes structure. We have no such set up or expectation in our structure. Without this "agreement" if you will, an unannounced or unwelcomed Coyote suddenly dropped in our midst serves no teaching purpose and is only a self indulgence on the part of the individual playing the part.

A typical situation in which the Heyoehkah might be employed is when a member of the tribe is seen as becoming too self important. Heyoehkah's job may entail following that individual around the camp for a few days, using miming skills to parody the self important behavior. If the Heyoehkah were to use this power irresponsibly and without heart, this form of social control would be devastating to the person who is it's target. It is important that the person using this energy has his or her own agenda out of the way, because the ultimate purpose is the strengthening of the tribe, not the destruction of the individual.

Heyoehkah also parodies spiritual beliefs, as the "Mud Heads" do in Zuni culture, in order to act out the primal man, the "stupid" side of us, and thus further put in high relief the differences between the enlightened and unenlightened self

Other tribal cultures see this energy differently. Coyote is not only "trickster-teacher" but also an evil opportunist who cares nothing for convention and will dump on you and yours given the opportunity. And of course, we can learn from this kind of event. We often call this energy "Fate" in our culture. Fate has no interest in outcomes. No compassion for suffering undergone, no caring one way or another about how things happen or turn out. But "Fate" is an abstract concept.

Named "Coyote", we have an opportunity to give it attributes we can handle and then, on occasion, we can fanaticize that even Fate gets a payback. So, Coyote-falls-into-his-own-traps helps us feel we can expect that, as bad as Coyote Fate can be to us, we can at least count on some getting even, though we will not have a direct hand in the revenge and may never know how it is exacted.

Having taken on the name "Coyote", I have, as is always the case, learned to grow into this energy. And this is what I have determined it means to me. As a therapist my job is to help others across boundaries (with me along for the ride as well I must add). This often takes the form of trickery. For example, we recently did a talk at a New Age bookstore. Our topic was "Sexuality and Relationship, getting the genders reconciled!" We knew that this would not pull in the clients of that book store, so we called it "Sexual Spirituality." That got 'em in and then we did our job of sneaking them across their boundaries. Coyote medicine at work.

"Coyote" in the Mexican/US border states is one who smuggles people across the border. So we smuggle people across the borders of their belief systems which were, after all, "gifted" to them by parents, churches, peers, etc.

This is the extent of my "evil". Coyote energy trips me up when fate hands me a new lesson, or when, out of my own unconsciousness, I hurt someone. It is then incumbent upon me to not repeat this kind of error. Example: I yell at the kids about some trivial event or blame them for something they are not guilty of, and all of it comes from my own unresolved childhood stuff with my parents.

Coyote has tricked me! Now it's my job to set things straight, not just with the kids, though this is crucial, but within myself as well. My job is to become more aware, not to simply excuse my mistake by blaming Coyote energy. Most important here is to recognize that one of the energies associated with the Medicine Wheel direction the Coyote comes from; the South, is compassion. The dark side of this is a lack-of-compassion. Compassion comes from consciousness, lack of it from unconsciousness. If I am to be a teacher, my teaching must come first from compassion for my fellow beings. That, after all, is the nature of Sweet Medicine, God, Great Spirit, Higher Power. If our teaching comes from any other place, it is only serving Ego, and Ego is the dark side of Coyote energy. Ego serves only us and our own unexamined agenda. When we come from this place we only injure and do not serve ourselves or any of our relations. We only get conscious as we continually work on separating what is our Ego self and what is our God self. Our job is to come from more and more consciousness and thus get closer to being who and what we were sent here to be; God's presence here on Earth.

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