Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coyote as Chupacabra

It turns out that the animal reported to be a chupacabra killed in Texas this week was really a coyote deformed by mites and parasites, not a mythical creature.

However, there is an interesting life lesson to this story.

For one, that animal must have gone through an extreme amount of agony before it was shot. Perhaps it was shunned by other coyotes. Without fur for protection, perhaps even walking around outside in sunlight would have been painful. Perhaps it had to struggle to even scavenge or digest what it ate. It must have had a distorted life as well as a distorted appearance.

If we think about coyotes in general, they are survivors. People in suburbs of Los Angeles and Las Vegas and other cities now routinely site them in their neighborhoods, and these are not animals you normally see in urban areas. But you see, once we extended our neighborhoods out into what had been their neighborhood for eons, they learned to adapt and scavenge.

That survival instinct led them to follow the path of highways east, until now they are thriving in eastern and southern parts of the U.S. where they had never been seen before. They have changed the geography and environment wherever they go. For example, the wolves are natural adversaries of coyotes, so when people have tried to kill all the wolves, what they got in return was more coyotes.

Native lore attributes a dual intensity to the coyote, as both a creator character, and a dangerous destructive character. In the tales he can be both funny and vicious, and in both aspects, an important player in the fabric of life.

I don't know if these are reasons why people who help people cross the border from Mexico are called coyotes, but it would make sense. They are resourceful and cunning, but can also have the reputation for being ruthless. No matter what others think of them, they perform a necessary role in society. They exist as long as there is a demand for their services.

The animal coyotes find a way to survive in the world at all costs. There are elements of this trait all around the world. For example, the character Loki in the Norse mythology contains many of the same elements. They are not exactly equal, but they contain that blend of humor and danger when pushed to the boundaries of the world, at which point the boundary is expanded. Then coyotes, and Loki, are no longer outside, but inside of the boundaries and part of our world that will always be part of our world.

You see, if we did not have these scary characters at the boundaries of our world, we would invent them. Have we invented the chupacabra or Bigfoot? Would the Norse stories be much more pallid without Loki? Can we have a world without something strange at the periphery? Consider this. In both the native coyote stories and the Norse Loki stories, we find humor. What would life be without humor?

If we perceive a sick coyote to be a supernatural monster, what does that say about the way our minds work? And for as much havoc as he wreaks in the stories, the only stories in the Norse myths that contain any humor are the ones where Loki is a central character. Perhaps the inseparable twins of danger and humor are part of the essence of survival strategies.

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