The origin of the Raccoon symbol derives from the ancient Mississippian culture of the Mound Builders of North America and were major elements in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of American prehistory (S.E.C.C.). Some of the Siouan Indian tribes still retain some elements of the Mississippi culture and the legend of Raccoon. Their sacred rites, myths and symbols and are presumed to descend from the Mississippians. According to Abenaki mythology, Azeban is a benign trickster Raccoon - refer to Tricksters. For additional information please refer to the Meanings of Animal Symbols.
The Meaning of the Raccoon Symbol to Native Americans
The Raccoon symbol was seen as a magical icon as it was perceived to be an expert at disguise and secrecy. It wears masks for a variety of purposes and is able to disguise and transform itself. The masked face and ringed tale are the most distinctive part of their appearance. Abenaki mythology tells of a foolish, but benign, trickster raccoon called Azeban who is always looking for food. In other tribes the raccoon symbolizes curiosity, adaptability and resourcefulness.
The Meaning of the Raccoon Symbol of the Mound Builders
The Raccoon symbol featured strongly in the Mississippian culture. The Mississippians believed that the universe consisted of three parts with good and bad spiritual forces. These three worlds were linked together and their connection was usually portrayed as a cedar tree or a striped pole. The Underworld was inhabited by spirit snakes, the Upper world was inhabited by spirit birds and the people of the earth who were influenced by these powerful spirits like the Raccoon. In the following picture the raccoon symbol is situated at the top of the striped pole indicating their residence in on earth (the Middle world). The Striped Pole Motif represent the central axis on which all the worlds rotated and were connected. It would have had alternating bands of red and white. The striped pole forms part of a cross symbolizing the earth's forces, their origin and the manner in which they work. In the following picture it was augmented with raccoon skins and tails. Our grasp of Mississippian symbolism is only rudimentary. The true meanings of their motifs can never really be known and the meanings of the symbols are based on best guesses. Our conclusion and best guess is that this Mississippian Raccoon symbol was deemed to be important because of the distinctive masked face of the raccoon. The Mississippians used dances, gestures and sounds as symbolic powers and wore masks as they were believed to hold spiritual powers that never left them and that the masks would identify them with the spirits and activate their power.