by Melissa Kay Bishop
Late at night, in any suburb, windows are open to the crisp autumn air. While under the covers, reading in bed, a breeze blows in through the curtains along with something else; something that sounds like eerie, maniacal laughter. Not to be alarmed, it's just The Trickster.
Native American tribes of the plains and the South west, recognized one animal that embodied the world-wide myth of The Trickster. For all its skills, cunning, and adaptability, the Coyote has earned this title and reputation. It could also very well be because of the laughing sound they make.
The Trickster takes different forms in different cultures, but with every one, he possesses the ability to break patterns of culture to therefore define those patterns. He is seen as an outlaw. But the hallmark traits of The Trickster are to shape shift, adapt, and survive.
What better American animal could be the representation of all these characteristics? The Coyote has broken the cultural pattern of man separating itself from The Wild by infiltrating our separate domain. They lurk in alleyways, backyards, and city parks and streets. Long ago, coyotes remained on the prairies and deserts until we infiltrated their domain. So, they did what any trickster would do; instead of being defeated as cultural norms would have them do, they adapted.
In order to avoid crossing our path, the Coyote has changed his usual hunting times of dawn and dusk, to nighttime to work opposite of our schedule. They have traded rabbits for loose lidded garbage cans and rats. They have defined the spirit of The Trickster by laughing in the face of habitat destruction and surviving. Not only have they survived, but thrived. When the Gray Wolf population faded away at the hands of man, the coyote took its place. How did the Native Americans, long before the industrial revolution, know the Coyote would do this in response to population explosion? It must have been a true vision of the Coyote's trickster attributes.