The Trickster in Myth
Trickster myths, a significant part of most cultures if not all, have permeated the legends and folklore of peoples since the early days of civilized man. The ancient Greeks had Hermes, the Chinese the Monkey King, and the Native American Indians the coyote. These diverse tricksters found within cultures often have many commonalities with each other, and then, often they do not. But this illustrates the very nature of the trickster; ever changing, shifting, shaping, disguising, and tricking his or her way into the lives of the Gods as well as the mortal people. The trickster is often seen as a physical presentation of a God, or an anthropomorphic animal, that which can walk and talk; breath and die. However, as societies developed and cultures became more advanced, newer, more advanced ideologies of the trickster began to appear. No more are we, "of the time of millions of years ago to the magic moment of fist creation, that, dawn time, when first the world was born', and we, walked with the gods'."(Crystal, The Trickster) Today the evolution of the mind allows us to seek alternative explanations. Paul Radin, I believe, said it best when he asked the question, "Is this a speculum mentis, wherein is depicted man's struggle with himself and with a world into which he had been thrust without his volition and consent?"(Crystal, The Trickster) To find out we must fist understand the trickster at large; who is he, where does he come from, and what does he do. Then we must look at the trickster from behind the eyes of the people, the cultures that embraced him; that feared him. Over the next several pages we will do just that; it is my intent to understand and present the trickster through an analysis of the general trickster myth itself and then to explore the trickster within his habitat of three different and unique cultures: the Slavic Norsemen of the Scandinavian north and their trickster Loki, the Hopi Indian culture of Southwest America and their trickster Kokopelli, and the culture of Chinese and Buddhism and their trickster, The Monkey King. The trickster is a myth found in nearly all cultures. Bound by tradition and omnipresence, the trickster has infiltrated societies and culture with his duality and duplicity; his tendency to shape-shift and gender shift whenever necessary for the sake of the trick. In many cultures the trickster is the villain and the hero; stealing fire from the gods and bringing it to the people as Prometheus did in ancient Greek culture. (Wikipedia, Trickster) Within his duality he is a god and a mortal; a creator and a destructor; a male and a female. The trickster can be found to live as a god or goddess or simply as an anthropomorphic animal, which under the guise of a tree, an insect, an animal, or any face; will wreak mischief and chaos on nature and the gods. The trickster, again in his duality, can be seen to have gender variability; a two spirit nature that can choose a gender when the mischief deems it necessary. (Wikipedia, Trickster) While I introduce the trickster here as a physical being, a manifestation of a living animal or god, the trickster is in fact much more spiritual. The trickster is a deep seeded consciousness; an embedded archetype embodied within the oldest and most primordial part of our brain, existing to serve as the mediator of our conscious allowing us to test boundaries, formulate ideas, and assumptions toward, the duality and duplicity of life's daily chaotic discourse. Helen Locke, in a formative essay on the "Transformation of the Trickster", effectively employs the following quotes by Carl Jung and Lewis Hyde, to explicate the unconsciousness and ambiguity of the trickster. Jung, the definitive voice of the archetype, has this to say about the trickster. "Trickster is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose most alarming characteristic is his unconsciousness
He is so unconscious of himself that...
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