The latest skull I’ve cleaned myself from its original raw state (essentially, a severed head sans skin). This came from a large male black coyote from New York State. I pride myself on being able to keep the nasals relatively intact. I’ll take a full photo of him once he’s fully articulated and all his teeth and jawbones are glued back in place.
In various animistic traditions, the skull was considered the most powerful part of an animal (human or non), the seat of the spirit and consciousness.
This fellow here is going to a fellow “spirit worker” and psychopomp once I’m done with him.
Coyotes are very interesting critters, mainly for their transformative qualities. There are over thirteen different subspecies of coyote. Once confined to the midwest, the coyote has spread its range all the way to the eastern seaboard, and all the way north to Alaska. Environmental pressures put on in by humans only cause this animal to flourish. In a way, biologically it lives up to its mythological roots as trickster and shapeshifter. It can adapt to almost any situation, and it’s flexible breeding patterns allow it to take on many different sizes, shapes and colors depending on the environment. The coyote is an adaptable creature, and responds well under stress.
Many times I’ve heard of people who complain of missing the magic in their lives, of being out of touch with their gods, of not being able to work the magic they would like. Busy schedule, work, school, kids, what have you. They miss the rites, the rituals, the pomp and circumstance. There is no time. And by this point, dear reader, you are wondering what the fuck this has to do with the above paragraph. What I’m trying to say is–we need to live more like coyotes. Adaptation is the key. And really, to a certain extent the ritual, pomp and circumstance are simply just crutches, fancy dressing. The gods will still listen whether you chant the right verses or not. Magic can still be conducted without the use of elaborate gimmicks and rituals.
One can inject magic and meaning in every part of their life. To me, there is no border between the magical and the mundane. Magic runs like a current through every aspect of life. You have but to be like the coyote, and find opportunity in anything, even adversity. Grasp that current, and tap into it. Just as with polytheism–connections to the gods are found everywhere. Even in seemingly the most dead of places.
By exercising yourself and learning to adapt your practice to any situation, you become more flexible. You become more intuitive, too. Opportunity and magic (and opportunity FOR magic) make themselves more apparent the more you exercise that ability. Especially in this day and age, it benefits one to live and think more like a coyote.
If Coyote taught me anything in my life, it’s to never be a specialist. Being a jack-of-all trades has its benefits, and it’s much easier to avoid stagnation and being stuck in a rut. Coyotes themselves aren’t specialists, they are immensely flexible creatures both genetically as well as socially and intellectually. They can function in small packs or large, or completely solitary. They can scavenge, they can hunt. They can adapt to almost any environment. The pressures put on them by humans and the ever-changing environment around them only seem to aid in their transformation. They are indeed a very alchemical creature.
There are advantages to being a specialist, just as there are advantages to being a jack-of-all-trades. Just compare a hunting coyote to a hunting jaguar (which, the two do share overlapping territories in South America and formerly states like Arizona and New Mexico) and you can see which one is the more specialized hunter. However, there are also advantages to adapting oneself in multiple areas at once–of the two animals, which one happens to be endangered, and which one thrives despite the pressures put upon it? I’m going to throw the breaks on this metaphor for now though, because it dances dangerously close to lauding one totem over another, which is certainly not my intention nor my focus.
Steering back on track, my focus here is that, as a totem, teacher and even godform, Coyote has taught me that it doesn’t benefit me to stay in ruts. This is especially true of my magical and shamanic practice. Sticking to the tenets of my primary totem, I always make sure to keep myself constantly flexible, so that I’m able to evolve and adapt my practice, and my mind, as often as possible.