Never Two Be Seen – Two Coyote Stories

I.

Coyote’s wife dies of an illness and he weeps for her. He is visited by the death spirit who offers to take him to the land of the dead if Coyote will follow his instructions. Coyote agrees. On their journey the spirit points out a herd of horses. Coyote cannot see the horses but he pretends that they are there. Neither can Coyote see the death spirit. He appears to be a shadow. When Coyote and the death spirit arrive at the land of the dead the spirit invites Coyote to eat some berries. Coyote cannot see them but pretends to eat them nevertheless.

The spirit leads Coyote to a lodge and tells him to enter through the doorway and sit down beside his wife and eat the food that she has prepared for him. Coyote cannot see the lodge, the food, or his wife, but he obeys the spirit. When night falls Coyote sees the lodge that he could not see during the day, and in it are fires, and people he knew when they were living and, of course, his wife. With the dawn, everything and everyone disappears, only to return on the following evening. It is like this for several days and nights.

Eventually the death spirit tells Coyote that he must leave. The spirit allows Coyote to take his wife with him but warns that he must not touch her until they have crossed the fifth mountain of the five mountains that lie between the lands of the living and the dead. Coyote agrees. Coyote and his wife begin their journey. At night they sit with a fire between them and Coyote notices that with every night his wife’s form becomes clearer. On the last night of the journey Coyote can wait no longer and reaches across the fire to embrace his wife. She disappears the moment he touches her.

The death spirit returns and tells Coyote that because of his foolishness the practice of returning from the dead will never be and that the dead must remain forever separate from the living. The spirit leaves. Coyote tries to return to the land of the dead, repeating everything he was instructed to do on the first journey: he pretends to see a herd of horses, to eat berries, to enter a lodge, to acknowledge his wife, and to eat the food she has prepared for him. When evening comes the lodge, the fires, the people, and Coyote’s wife do not appear, and they and the death spirit never appear to Coyote again.

II.

Two Coyotes were going upriver and came to a big bench. From there they saw people living below, near the river. Then the two friends said to each other, “you go ahead.” Then one says “No. You go,” and the other said “No.” And they argued and protested for a long time. Then one said, “You go first they will see you any moment and say `there is a coyote.’” They were going on the trail. [The other said] “I am not a coyote.” [The first said,] “But you are just the way I am. We are the same in every way. We are both coyotes.” [The other said,] “No, I am just `another one.’” In this way they argued.

Then the second one said to the first, “You go first.” There was a ridge on which people could see everything from below. When he [the first] started walking, went on, and went over a small ridge, the people below said, “There is a coyote going upstream.” Then they [people] came out and watched the coyote going. “See?” he said. “See what they said? You are a coyote.” “Come! You too.” he said. “They will say the same of you. You are a coyote.” “All right. I will go” [said the other], and he also slowly started walking on the trail from there. Then [people said], “Ah, another one again. There is another one.” Then he came to the first, saying, “See? I am not a coyote. I am `another one.’ See, the people said that I am `another one.’” That’s all.

source: paraphrase by :Larry Ellis, Trickster: Shaman of the Liminal, SAIL Studies in American Indian Literatures; Series 2; Volume 5, Number 4; Winter 1993

(republished from Transformative Tools blog)

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