To further describe the trickster, one need only look at how the Oxford Dictionary defines him. That credible dictionary defines him as a person who cheats and deceives people. Down through history, the trickster was a crook, a dishonest person, a criminal against his own political or religious followers . A wayward soul, he is someone difficult to control or predict. This is largely due to his unusual or perverse behavior or emotions.
You can understand a trickster from different perspectives. Either from a historical perspective, or from a mythological one; or from folklore, or a religious point of view. The trickster has been studied in and out; very powerful laws have been set in place so to stop a trickster from rising to power against entire nations and Peoples. Sadly, the world remains relatively powerless against a trickster spirit.
One perspective from which few people ever look at the trickster, is from the psychological perspective. We need to understand his mind, his thinking. No matter from what angle you look at the trickster from, it needs to be profiled correctly.
Why do we need to psychologically profile the trickster? Because, the trickster is extremely dangerous to the common of mortals and to their families, tribes, communities, countries, and to humanity at large. Although they bless mankind with their help, they also tend to commit genocide upon their own people when taking the form of man. One flagrant example of a trickster – was Hitler; you will see further on why Hitler and tricksters alike made the grade as a ‘trickster spirit’.
The trickster, is usually a man (sometimes a women) who stands above the common of humans as a god (or goddess even); as clown or as spirit, or as an anthropomorphic animal or object that are human). No matter from what point of view you study the trickster from, he “always plays tricks on people” by disobeying normal rules or conventional behaviors expected of him. He is not a sheep, nor is he cattle in independent maturity; he did not make his own luck in society; which is why, he is also represented as a clown – in tarot cards of the Middle Ages.
Studying the trickster in mythology, he is a deity (an Elemental spirit that does not place himself under any one’s control or power; in fact, the trickster is rather a principality under his own administration; he just plays the game right – biting his time to surface among the gods and men to dethrone them all. A deity who breaks the rules set by the other gods and by nature. Some of the mythological tricksters are ‘prankster spirits’ who are sometimes cruel or malicious towards other gods, nature, and humans as well. However, after everything has been said and done, the trickster (the prankster) has a final positive effect; and this, no matter if the intent was positive or negative towards them.
Here is why a trickster is called a trickster. Tricksters bend rules by ‘trickery’. They are cunning and/or foolish. They are often funny or playful. However, they are sacred anyways. Sacred from a mythological perspective, that is. From a mythological perspective, tricksters are those in mythology that do ‘cultural tasks’, as opposed to the roles and responsibilities of other mythical creatures and gods and their various representations.
In some folktales and lore of the Greek – as well as of other cultures – the trickster and the cultural hero are one; the same. For example, Prometheus defies the gods by stealing fire, and champions humans by giving it to them; a criminal behavior in itself, that enables man’s progress and his civilization.
Taken from Native or First Nations mythologies, as well as from other Shamanic cultures and belief systems, a trickster animal or bird stole fire either from the stars, moon, and/or sun as a joke. In Greek mythology, the trickster stole fire from the gods with the intent of doing his job as a ‘social benefactor’. Whereas, in Native mythologies, the trickster’s intent when stealing fire, was to pull a prank on the gods.
Further study of the Native or First Nations mythologies, show that the trickster is of two-spirits. Two spirits – in the sense that his gender and his form vary. He can interchange between gender roles, and occasionally engages in same-sex practices. The ‘two natures’ of the trickster is also mentioned in other mythologies around the world. Although a trickster can change between gender roles, he rarely becomes pregnant. One trickster in Norse mythology became pregnant; but only after having changed into a mare. When coming back as a human, he returned with a child he had given birth to. His child was an eight-legged horse.
Looking at the trickster in a different light, the trickster/clown is found within the Jungian archetype (a psychiatric analysis of the trickster); Which is found throughout the modern world, and namely in our modern literature. The trickster (the prankster) is a ‘character archetype’. Such characters are, more often than not, ‘supernatural or divine’.
In these modern stories, the trickster’s behaviors are the cause of anxious embarrassment in other characters. For example, “the cigar-puffing puppet” representing a frog. The frog induces adults around him to engage in ridiculous and self-destructive hijinks”. Or the character of the trickster can seem as a magician who fills the evening with magical adventure.
Most examples describing this type of trickster, always depict him – as a clever, mischievous man or creäture. He uses trickery and deceit as a defense, and entertains people as a clown does. In older or more recent fairy tales, the clown character provides humans with trials that need wit and cleverness, and unorthodox manners. This goes to show that the trickster is an enduring archetype that crosses many cultures; and appears throughout the popular media.
The Jungian archetype is composed of universal, archaic patterns and images that come out of our personal unconscious. These are the psychic counterpart of instincts. In other words, they are autonomous, and hidden until they enter our consciousness. Only when they have entered our consciousness, do people and culture give them particular expression.
Inherited archetypes are part of our genetic baggage. They get passed down to us from our ancestors and their cultures. The archetypes become manifested in our behavior, when we interact with the world outside of ourselves.
A Jungian archetype, is made-up of images and motifs that emerge during a clairvoyant reading. History, culture and personal context “shape these manifested representations; giving them their specific content”. This is why it is highly recommended, that the reader does not learn how to interpret her tarot cards from another person, nor from a ‘how to book’. Instead, she should study them by looking at them for a long time. The purpose of studying tarot images for a long time, is so to get a good reading from them. It is only through the good old fashion trial and error method, that the Tarot Reader will learn how to better interpret them. Each individual reader gets a different message from the cards. The next time you get images when using clairvoyant power, and that you are trying to find a trickster spirit with their help, know that the interpretation of the ‘archetypical images’ will come to you via your genetic and cultural pasts.
Archetypes have also found their way into today’s popular culture; and they abound! They are abundant in our entertainment media, as well as in the instructional one. These show the mysteries and wonders of our existence.
Through the eyes of the media, we see the trickster. In the media, the trickster plays the ‘hero’ to those limited by their own humanity. This trickster is the one who “saves the day and is young and naïve, or older and cynical”. As an example of the young and naïve hero trickster, is Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.
The older and cynical representation of the trickster, is Luke’s mentor, Yoda. The mentor can appear and disappear as needed; usually helping the hero trickster “in the beginning” – and then lets him do the hard parts on his own”. The mentor “helps train, prepare, encourage and guide the hero along”.
Whereas, The shadow (or shape-shifter), “is a person who misleads the naïve hero”. A shape-shifter “changes often”. As an example of a shape-shifter who changes often, the T-1000 robot in the movie Terminator II. In this example, the trickster is disruptive, perhaps childlike. He is the one who reveals to us “the absurd and comic relief”. When presenting himself to us, he may seem as if an innocent child-like character; but then becomes “imbued” with special powers.
When the trickster is a ‘bad father’, he is a dictator – or evil and cruel. As a bad mother, he is never alone. He is then, almost always, an evil step-mother or a wicked witch accompanied by ugly sisters or daughters. The trickster can also be ‘a bad child. For example, a bad seed, as in the movie The Omen.
It should then come as no surprise to most, ‘The New Age movements’ also use the Jungian archetype images – up to a certain extent. Our movements have “heavily influenced popular culture. The Jungian archetype is more ‘nebulous’ now, where as The New Age Movement’s archetype ‘is now more prominent in today’s culture. And this even though, Carl Jung, the modern-day father of Neuro-Linguistic Programing (NLP), had already “mapped its psycho-spiritual territory”.
Borrowing from the Jungian archetype model, the image of the trickster is an opposite and contrary religious image emerging from within our genetic memory and religious culture. He is an image of a warring man who plays tricks on us; an image that emerges from our memory. We need to ‘integrate’ this, and to use it so to unify, according to Jung. Whereas, The New Age movements embraces this contradicting, warring trickster/clown as an anthropomorphic animal or object with human nature, and a person or spirit that have their own powers. Archetypes in The New Age movements tend to meld spiritual ideas. They create ‘lifestyles’ that are found in nature and in the spiritual realm. These ideas and lifestyles are from mythology and polytheism.
Obviously, the trickster is a well documented character today – as well as in the past. He is readily recognizable in today’s culture. He has made his way into our learned dictionaries. The media actively depict him daily; and the memories of his existence are well mapped within our inner visual memory – deep within our genetic baggage. He has found his way into our children’s fairy tales and into our historical or mythical recounting of him. The characteristics of the trickster have stayed consistent and have endured.
To read more about The Trickster in Tarot Cards please click on the link to my Tarot Readings by Evergreen Blog.