Sunday, August 24, 2008

Coyote Story

Coyote Turns Himself Blue, Marries His Own Daughter, Becomes Ga'an, Steals Fire By Accident

A very long time ago, Bluebirds used to be white. Bluebird went to Yo'sn (God of the Mountains) and asked to be made into a different color. Yo'sn taught Bluebird a song, and gave him the instructions saying "Sing your song in the morning, then, just as the sun rises, dive into the lake and swim underneath the water from east to west. Next day sing your song and swim from south to north, then the next day swim from west to east, and lastly, swim from north to south. By the end of the last swim you will be as blue as the sky, as blue as deep water."

Coyote overheard all of this because he was up in the mountains practicing being sneaky. He watched Bluebird turning into the beautiful blue color and decided "I would be a pretty coyote if I were to be turned blue." So he did exactly as Bluebird had done and became just as pretty a shade of blue.

Coyote went all over showing off. He kept making up new names for himself, after all, something that bright blue and beautiful couldn't be named just plain old Coyote, that wouldn't do at all. He told people that his name was going to be "Sky Blue Beauty" or "Wonderful Blue Coat." He was very proud of his new color. He didn't notice anything at all that was happening to anybody else. One morning he was shown two children who had died during a very cold night, because this happened so long ago that none of the people in the world had any fire to keep them warm. Coyote didn't care about that a bit. He just said "Blue Coyotes are too beautiful to be bothered." He thought to himself "I should go visit my family and show them how beautiful I am." So he did.

Coyote's wife was not impressed in the slightest. She kept thinking up all the reasons that being a bright shade of blue would make life harder for everybody else. She said things that made Coyote angry and sad. Things like "How is somebody that bright a blue color going to be able to hunt? " or "Next you'll be telling me that bright blue colored coyotes are too beautiful to work at farming squash or corn."

Coyote was only a hit with his favorite daughter. She followed him everywhere, smiling and laughing. She would call out to her friends and say "See my father? See that beautiful blue?"

Coyote decided that he would trick everybody in the world and since his wife didn't appreciate him anymore, he would marry his own daughter.

The first thing he did was to take an old and rotten piece of liver and sew it up next to where his own liver would have been. He then came staggering into his lodge, moaning and groaning and making a big show of how badly he was hurt. He told his wife "Wife my dear, I've been hurt very bad." She asked "Who did this?" Coyote said "It really doesn't matter does it? I'm done for. I'm going to die."

He told his wife "I'm going to go and climb up into that tree over there. Don't climb up after me, just go and sweep under the tree every day. When the worms fall down on the ground underneath the tree you will know I am dead and gone."

Coyote's wife said she would do all those things for him. Coyote then said "Our daughter Dahti'ye (hummingbird), after I am dead and gone, you should have her marry the stranger who comes to our lodge bringing four fresh killed deer, one for each direction."

Coyote didn't die at all. Instead he stuck the rotten meat up in the branches of the tree where nobody could see it, then he went off and hid himself away. Each day Coyote's wife came and swept underneath the branches of the tree just as she had promised. One day, the meat was so very rotten that the worms had begun to fall upon the ground.

Now, even though Coyote was vain, a liar, a braggart, and always playing one trick or another, or working on yet another scheme to avoid his share of the work while getting more than his share of the food, Coyote's wife began to weep. She gathered all her children together and told them that their father was dead. That they would all have to go on as best that they could.

Coyote's children all did just that. They doubled their efforts at helping their mother. The older ones took good care of the younger ones, the boys all worked extra hard, doing chores and hunting for food. The girls all worked at their own tasks. Dahti'ye even began to hunt herself. She would go out with a sling, and a bow and bring in small game at first. But as she got stronger and smarter about hunting she began to bring in deer and antelope too.

One day, just like Coyote had told his wife would happen, a stranger came walking up to the lodge. He was hauling four fresh killed deer behind him. He called and said to Coyote's wife "See these deer? I want the family of the great Coyote to have them so that they will not be hungy. There is one deer for each direction. It makes a circle doesn't it?"

That wasn't a stranger at all, it was Coyote. He had gone out into the woods and smeared himself all over with pitch, then he rolled in the dirt so that he was not looking like he was a beautiful blue anymore. When he felt good and disguised he went to his own home, he was going to marry his own daughter.

Coyote knew that this was a violation of Sacred Law. That there are laws which apply to all humans and go beyond custom. To lie with a daughter or sister, to be with anyone you call family is a violation of Sacred Law. Coyote didn't care anymore. He thought that because he could make himself turn blue, and because he was so clever at figuring out ways to get around all the other laws that things like Sacred Law did not apply to him.

He brought his gifts of freshly killed deer. He had his daughter's relatives who thought he was dead build a new lodge. He made other gifts and took his own daughter's hand in marriage.

That night in their lodge when Dahti'ye went to touch her husband, her hand came away dirty. She recoiled from that. She told her husband to go and to wash himself before he came to her bed. Coyote thought real fast and told her "I come from people very far away, our customs say that we never wash our bodies. It would anger our gods."

Dahti'ye told him that he was living with her people now, that he needed to learn their customs, which include washing themselves when they are filthy. Coyote promised to try and learn. He asked for a kiss and was told to go wash himself first. Coyote got very angry and stomped outside to go sleep in the moonlight.

Dahti'ye waited until he was fast asleep and brought out a basin of water and some yucca root to begin washing her husband. She wanted to be a good wife. She carefully washed one foot clean, and she saw the bright blue fur and skin that was underneath the pitch and the dirt.

She ran fast to bring her mother and show her what had happened. She told her mother "Look! Look there at the blue fur and skin there. I have married my own father! What can I do for this?"

Coyote's wife hit him hard with a stone, right on top of his head. She didn't kill him though, she went and got the chief of the people and they decided that they should call upon Monster Slayer. Monster Slayer came right away. The people told him "Coyote has turned into a monster. He doesn't follow the right ways. You should take him back to the other gods and deal with him."

That's what Monster Slayer did. He brought Coyote to Yo'sn, who was up in his mountains with Monster Slayer's mother Spider Woman, and his brother Cornstalk. They had heard what Coyote had tried to do.

Spider Woman was very angry. She told Yo'sn "Coyote has gone beyond the laws of gods and men. It is time to kill him and put his soul in a bottle like the souls of the other monsters."

Cornstalk said "Coyote is a little crazy. Most of the time that is something that turns out good for everybody. He only wanted to break the Sacred Law, but he was caught before anything unredeemable could happen."

Monster Slayer said "Coyote is my cousin. If my cousin is a monster what would that make me?"

Yo'sn was thinking very deeply about all that he had heard and seen. Yo'sn's sister the Moon swung very low in the sky and began to sing a beautiful song. In her song she said "Coyote is a lot of trouble. He is also a lot of use for us. We have all used Coyote when it served our purpose. He can find purpose again. He has indeed broken Sacred Law and there must be payment made or balance can never be counted upon in our world. Without that balance we would all be lost, gods and human beings alike. Coyote, the breaker of Sacred Law, must die. His soul should become Ga'an (ghost). Let him wander as Ga'an and see the way that the things of the Sacred all work together and depend one upon the other. Don't put away his soul forever. He has gone far away from us, but he can come back if he is shown the beautiful way."

Coyote came awake about then. He sniveled and begged for another chance. He promised that he would be good and beautiful from now on. Yo'sn told him to be quiet for once. Yo'sn explained to Coyote what Moon had proposed. He said that his sister was very wise and that Coyote should be grateful to her for saving his miserable life, again.

Monster Slayer went ahead and killed Coyote. He didn't bottle up his soul like the souls of Big Bad Owl, or Cannibal Elk, or the Grizzley Bear Monster. Coyote's soul became Ga'an. He began to wander the earth looking at things and trying to learn.

He remembered the people who were dying and freezing at night in the cold and he went up to where Spider Woman was weaving time at her loom and asked her "Is there anything I can do to help the people who are dying from the cold?"

Spider Woman thought for a long time. Finally she said "I have heard that there are beings who dance with fire, they are very far away to the north. They have mountains that they tend which spit out fire and make the earth shake. You can go there and see if they might give you some fire. Don't think that just because you do one good thing everything will be alright again. You broke Sacred Law nephew. Once that has happened, everything changes. This is as it should be. You will need to understand a lot more before you are allowed to live again."

Coyote said "You never liked me much did you auntie?"

Spider Woman said "You are silly. You talk too much. You lie when the truth would do just fine, and it's not because of anything to a purpose or anything but that you are a liar. You cheat when you gamble. You get married every place you stay for more than a month. You drink too much and you do stupid things. I think, deep inside you though, you have a goodness. You are my sister's boy. You're right, there are times when I don't like you at all. Then, I think of my beautiful and kind sister. Even when I don't like you I love you."

Coyote went to where the Fire Spirits were living. He hung around them for a while and watched what they were doing. He asked them if there was a way that he could take fire to the humans. They told him that fire was their own special creation, that it was something they tended which would keep the earth's body alive. They told him that it was something they would never give to humans. It was too powerful for puny creatures like humans.

Coyote just bided his time. He waited until the Fire Spirits weren't looking and he went to go and steal their fire. Since he was Ga'an though, he didn't have a body. Worst of all, even without a body, the fire still burned him.

He went back to Spider Woman and told her what he had seen. She asked him "Well, nephew, have you made a plan?" Coyote said "I can't think of anything I can do. I don't have a body and I can't steal anything from them."

Spider Woman had her own plan. She told Coyote to go back to the Fire Spirits and try to learn more things. She went behind him to watch a see if Coyote would do what she thought he would do.

Coyote did. He was Ga'an but he was Ma'atose Ga'an. Even when he tried really hard he couldn't be anything but what he was. He tried at first to be nice to the Fire Spirits. He told them about the suffering that was taking place because the humans had no fire. The Spirits told him that this was not their concern. They only cared about their fire. Coyote began to call them names. He pointed out all the times and all the places where the Spirits lost control of their fire. He told them of whole forests that would burn when they played their fire arrow games and how when that happened everything was destroyed until the Cloud Spirits could gather and put out the fires. He told them about the times when their fire mountain would blow up and ruin the whole region around them. How when that happened it took earth generations to heal itself. He kept at them. The Fire Spirits got madder and madder at him. They told him to go away and leave them alone. Coyote said "I am Ga'an, I go where I want and I do what I want. I think that I will spend a long time up here. Haunting stupid, silly Fire Spirits."

The Fire Spirits started taking big sticks out of their fire. Whenever Coyote said something mean they would throw them at him. Because he was Ga'an, the fire went right through him.

This was what Spider Woman was waiting for. She took out a special coat she had woven and threw it over Coyote. It settled over him and made it just like he had a body again. Coyote didn't notice anything, he just kept heckling the Fire Spirits who kept getting madder and madder. The next time they threw their burning sticks at him he caught fire all over.

Coyote saw that he was on fire, but he also saw that only Spider Woman's coat was burning. It was hot, but it wasn't going to hurt his Ga'an soul. He began to run away.

All the way to the mountains where the humans lived Coyote ran. He saw Squirrel and he shook out some sparks onto Squirrel's back He told her to take that fire to the people of the Canyons. It burned Squirrel badly to do so, but she did. Once she had given it to the people she put the fire out with her tail, and to this day Squirrel's tails all curl up like they did when she beat out the last of the fires.

Just before he got to the mountains Coyote saw Chipmunk. He shook off three coals of fire and told Chipmunk to take them to the Hopi people of the mesas. Chipmunk did that. When he got to the mesas he rolled around in some grass to shake off the coals. It made three stripes down his back that you can see on every Chipmunk still today.

Coyote was still burning when he got to the people. He tried to light fires for them directly from his coat, but the fires wouldn't catch.

Finally he understood. He took off the coat that Spider Woman had made and give it to the people. He was Ga'an again, but the people now had fire. He told them that he would go back to the Fire Spirits and he would learn how to make fire from nothing. He told the people to keep their fires burning until he got back to teach them how to make them.

As soon as fire was in their lives, the way people lived got a lot better. The Canyon people began to build cities where they would live and trade and be protected from their enemies. The Hopi began to build their pueblos on the mesas.

Coyote had more time to spend as Ga'an. He had a lot to learn. He never gave up and he never quit trying to learn and be better.

He tried to be good. He tried to do everything right and do his walk in beauty. He was still Coyote though. Through and through, he was always Coyote. When Spider Woman and Yo'sn finally gave him back a body, they made sure it wasn't blue.

Blue Coyote had caused way too much trouble.