Coyote Magic

February 8, 2013

Western Coyote. Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth
Western Coyote. Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth

There are many sounds of night that lend a sense of order to the world: a train whistle in the distance, a chorus of peepers, the music of coyotes. Some find coyote ruckus eerie, but for me it’s like traveling between the worlds. I’m convinced that these scraggly canines are making their obeisance in song to the Divine Mother.

Since coyotes are native to North America there is no specific Euro-shamanic belief about this animal. There is quite a bit of folklore about the wolf, of course, and coyotes are in many ways like little wolves, so wolf mythology could be transferred to the coyote. Native American mythology and folklore about the coyote could be absorbed, although there are challenges to this approach involving understanding and respecting the tribal culture in which they arise. Ideas about the coyote can differ significantly among tribes, so there is also the question of which attitude to adopt. Another possibility is to place the coyote in the context of Euro-shamanism by carefully studying the animal.

Coyotes like wolves often live and hunt cooperatively in extended family groups. This gives the coyote significance in divination, ritual and spellcasting involving family and community relationships. Like wolves they are shy, but coyotes are willing to hunt in more open areas, such as over ice. At the same time they are self protective, preferring to den in hilly areas with a view of approaching creatures. Coyotes, like wolves, are very smart, but unlike wolves they are inclined to hang around human habitations, albeit in low profile. Their ability to adapt and figure out new situations makes them a potential magical resource for problem solving. They are remarkably adept at learning how to prey on pets, chickens, and domestic rabbits, and I’ve seen them circumvent some complicated latch systems. For some reason they like to devour most of the animal but leave the face behind, a kind of calling card or a testament about the animal’s demise. (Oh, were you looking for Fluffy?) Coyotes cannot or will not be controlled, which is a factor to consider when calling on their magic. Are you secure about the absolute rightness of your actions, and are you prepared to have the spell turn out differently than intended?

Many have tried to eradicate both the wolf and the coyote without success, and the coyote population has actually increased in numbers and in territory since farmers and ranchers declared an all out war. The much-maligned coyote is a survivor and cannot be gotten rid of. It would be more productive to learn how to live with the animal, but doing this would require accepting that, despite best efforts, the thieving coyote is sometimes going to win a round. Learning to gracefully accept a loss – any loss – is a lesson that eludes many people, but the coyote keeps trying.

The coyote is a master at hiding. Chances are there are more coyotes in your town than you realize. At first glance coyote tracks look the same as dog’s, but with just a bit of study you can learn the difference. If you live in a suburban area where there is snowfall, check for coyote tracks and you will be surprised.

Eastern Coyote. Photo by Christopher Bruno.
Eastern Coyote. Photo by Christopher Bruno.
The Western Coyote is a scraggly-looking animal, no matter how healthy. She has that disheveled, half-starved look that skinny children can have no matter how well taken care of they are at home. Appearances can be deceiving. Animals associated with deception are used in the occult to unravel truth.

The Eastern Coyote is a more handsome and robust animal. The Eastern Coyote is believed to be a hybrid of coyote and wolf, and people disagree on how much of this animal is coyote and how much is wolf. This makes the Eastern Coyote “neither one thing nor the other,” a mark of transformative power in Celtic and Germanic belief.


Chapman, William K. with Dennis Aprill. Mammals of the Adirondacks: A Field Guide. Utica, NY: North Country Press, 1991.

Rezendes, Paul. Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign, 2nd ed. New York: Harper, 1999.