I made that a plural because I know of at least three traditional keepers of the South, depending on the area of North America where the tribe is or was located. The Coyote is best known, I suspect because Old Man Coyote is a well known trickster, and learning that he is a keeper and works with the Holy Spirit (Wakan Tanka)sort of messes with people whose backgrounds are of European teachings, where the Devil is evil and there is no place on the “map” where evil and holiness meet. The
Sacred Trickster” however, is a concept that is absolutely wonderful, as the trickster teaches you when you are too stubborn to learn by gentler and kinder methods.
The South of the wheel is all about the things you need to learn to keep your body and soul together. This is where you should ideally learn to stay well grounded, learning the skills that will help you survive and even prosper. It is a time of innocence and growth, a time of wonder and of learning, lots and lots of learning.
The Porcupine is also a south keeper, more for those in the North East, I believe, note that with the porcupine if you try to hurt it you will pull back a handful of quills, but if you are gentle and slow with your movements, you can pet it as long as you are mindful to go in the right direction. Innocence is the medicine of this creature, that ambles its way through life, not seeking to hurt others, but protected in such a way they can hurt themselves on it. They are a solitary creature, seldom seeking companionship, though they will accommodate when necessary. They not aggressive in any way, and their childlike curiosity is known by country folk.
The Mouse is also a keeper of the South Gate in some traditions, I believe mostly the Anishnabee tribes of the midwest. Mouse medicine is also quite curious, wanting to get up close to the things coming into it’s world, it wants to feel, taste, and touch to learn. It’s whiskers are it’s yardstick for telling it if a small space is safe to crawl into or not. There is, in mouse a child like curiosity about the world around it, which is key to it’s being a South Keeper, as it is that curiosity that helps us grow beyond our narrow boundaries. Nothing so injures the inner child so much as killing off that natural curiosity.
On most traditional medicine wheels, the South is the place of the child/young adult, a very important time in one’s life, as this is where we learn whether or not to trust those around us, and how to go about our “being”. All three of these “keepers” have a bit of the trickster in their make-up, either built in, as with porcupine’s quills or mouse’s size, or in being so smart they out smart themselves, like Grandfather Coyote. This is because growing into a strong and solid person grounded when we need to be and spiritual when we need to be, is a tricky business. Much depends on our parents and much depends on the medicine with which we were born.