Coyote and the Burrowing Owls
(from the Zuni tradition)
Coyote was out walking one day
when he came across a hidden clearing in the forest. In the clearing were
a bunch of Burrowing Owls dancing around in a circle with a gourd of foam on
their heads. The owls were careful not to spill any of the foam as they
danced. Finally the Owls saw Coyote and stopped their dancing.
Coyote realizing his cover had been blown, stepped into the circle and asked the owls what they were doing. They replied that they were doing a sacred dance and that Coyote couldn't join them. In response Coyote begged and pleaded that the little owls let him dance.
After a while the Burrowing Owls relented and said that coyote could join them if he followed their instructions. He agreed and the Owls told him what he needed to do.
"Okay Coyote, we are dancing with the heads of our grandmothers balanced on our head. We have a sacred ceremony that allows us to sever the head and then re-attach it afterwards. So if you want to dance you have to go home and chop off your grandmother's head and bring it back."
Coyote didn't like the sound of it but decided that it would be worth it if they would allow him to dance. He ran all the way home and chopped off his grandmother's head and brought it back to the circle. The owls were surprised to see him back but carried on with their speech.
"Okay Coyote, now you have to break your legs so they will bend the way ours do."
Coyote found a rock and broke his legs. As he sat there with broken legs and holding the head of his now dead grandmother he watched as the Burrowing Owls started to laugh so hard that they spilled the foam in their gourds all over their brown feathers. This is how Burrowing Owls got their white fleck spots on their feathers.