Good Thursday, dear readers! And welcome to the final installment of Trickster Gods. Last post, we discussed the narcissistic Norse trickster, Loki. And we began the installment with (I’ll call him odd) the odd Greek prankster, Hermes. I’ll be wrapping up trickster gods with the cunning Caddo trickster, Coyote.
The Caddo tribe is an indigenous tribe that originally occupied the lower Red River area. What is now Louisiana and Arkansas. The tribe was forced to move when the US purchased Louisiana from the French, causing many settlers to encroach on their space. They traveled further south to Texas, until an anti-indian group forced them to move again, this time to east-central Oklahoma. You can discover more about the Caddo people here.
When I was a kid, I was told the story of Coyote and Death. This story, I am about to tell you, comes from the Caddo tribe.
In the beginning, Death did not exist.
Because of this, the world grew crowded and food became scarce. The chiefs held a meeting to discuss this issue. Someone suggested that people be allowed to die, but when they died the medicine men would be asked to sing over them, thereby bringing them back to life. The people applauded this idea. They were afraid for the dead, and would be sad if their loved ones were lost forever. This solution allowed for everyone to be happy. But Coyote saw a problem with this plan. “If people keep coming back, there still won’t be enough food. We should let them stay dead,” he suggested, jumping on a table to catch everyone’s attention. Naturally, no one liked this idea. If their loved ones stayed dead, they argued, all the happiness would be gone from the world.
It was settled. The medicine men built a grass house facing the direction of the rising sun. They gathered the members of the tribe and told them that when someone died, they could be brought to the medicine house and be restored! The chief medicine man said he would put a large eagle feather on top of the house that would become bloody and fall off to announce when someone had died.
One day, the eagle feather grew bloody and fell from its post. A man had been killed by another tribe. His body was brought to the medicine house where the medicine men sang over his body for ten days. On the tenth day, a whirlwind blew from the west and circled the house before entering the east-facing door. The young man who had been killed walked out of the house. He had been revived! All but Coyote rejoiced. Coyote didn’t like that his wishes hadn’t been granted.
Time passed and the feather fell from its post again. Coyote raced to the house and sat with the medicine men while they sang. They sang for days and still Coyote sat. Again, on the tenth day the whirlwind came. The whirlwind approached the house and Coyote leapt from his spot and slammed the door. The whirlwind left. No one appeared. And so Death stayed.
Coyote ran away, always looking over his shoulder, afraid of what he did. Due to his actions, no one feeds him. And when a howling wind sweeps itself across the land, people whisper to each other, “There is someone wandering around.”
That Coyote. He’s a stinker.
While he didn’t “trick” anyone in this tale, he used his cunning to get what it was he wanted. It was a trick of a different kind; manipulating others to get his own needs met. In this tale, it’s not Death who is the villain. But the coyote.
I hope you all enjoyed my series on Trickster Gods. I think they’re so fun to learn about as they’re all so interesting and it allows for many perspectives on what is considered a “trick” or “tricky.” If you’d like me to write on anything else related to fairytales, myths, or children’s literature, leave a suggestion in the comments section below!
To read more tales on Life and Death, click here: Yin Yang Myths Part Three: Life and Death
To read more myths by indigenous peoples, click here: Yin Yang Myths Part Two: Sun and Moon
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Thank you for reading!