Trickster

The trickster figure Reynard the Fox as depicted in an 1869 children’s book by Michel Rodange.

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The trickster is a feared character in Celtic Breton mythology. Back in the 1100’s or there about, he took on the form of a red fox (le rheynard, le renard, le goupil) in children stories. But throughout history, the trickster also appeared as different historical characters.

In the Bible, the trickster is took by some to be Satan (or the devil, or the serpent) who tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit. As Jacob (one of the twins fathered by Isaac). In Greece, he was Prometheus who stole fire. After the Iron Age, he was a man born of the nobility, and who was taken by force and presented before Court – so to undergo a trial; and who’s punishment was to serve the king as a Court Jester (a clown; the joker in cabala or tarot cards).

Whether he is identified as such in a Biblical context, or in Greek philosophy, or in the noblemen Courts of the Middle Ages and in their tarot cards, or as a World War Two evil leader (as it is said of Hitler), the trickster is always readily identified as a predominant charismatic leader of men. He always, always appears as a political figure of some kind, as a key figure in history; as a king or an emperor of a country. However, he is also a charismatic political/cult leader.

Generally, the trickster is a male figure. Taken in his historical context, some of these male figures have been reputed to get pregnant and to give birth. Although the stories about a political/religious male leader who got pregnant and gave birth, are mostly chalked-off as mere scandals, defamous accounts.

One flagrant example of a such defamous account befalling upon the Catholic Church, was that of some of the stories about Pope John VIII, of English extraction. Apparently, and according to vulgarly told stories, Pope John VIII is said “to have arrived at Popedom by evil art”. “A women disguising herself like a learned man”, is said “to have been on her way to the Lateran Church between the Colossean Theatre (so called from Nero’s Colossus) and St. Clement’s. When her travail came upon her, and she died upon the place; having sat two years, one month, and four days, and was buried there without any pomp”. This story apparently was general talk about this Pope. Perhaps is she the untitled Popess on the Rosenwald Sheet of uncut Tarot woodcuts, of the Early 16th-century; now in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Thing is, this Pope, Pope John VIII was not the first, nor was the the last of he Popes of whom it was said to have been a trickster. Another such Pope, Joan. As well as other female popes.

As the legal figure head of a country or a religion, the trickster/the red fox often leads his people to war. Wise in the ways of the world, he claims that war is for their own good and salvation of some type; and he entices them by telling them he is a god. A god who proves himself, by laying down before them, a false sense of financial and religious security. As well, the trickster god-like leader also promises them an even greater abundance in an after life; if he can only find them worthy of his continuing benevolence.

Once bettered and enlightened, the followers of the trickster are then able and willing to follow their newly found leader to their deaths. These deserving followers, have in this way been ‘tricked’ into going into battle and fighting their benevolent leader’s war for him. Of course, what benefits to be gotten here in this world, is no longer for them; since the followers of the trickster are dead…

As a charismatic cult leader, the trickster attracts the down-heartened of this world. He first draws them to him by the proven advantages obtained only in his presence. Then, he blesses them with an insider’s knowledge. This insider’s knowledge is: of is being ‘the only person in this world’ to be in direct communication with God. Later, he then re-situates both the world and his followers as well – into thinking of him – as actually being ‘the son of God’. More so, As ‘the son of god’ who can take good care of them and protect them from the evils of this world, that is.

This is when the trickster then becomes dangerous, to his own followers just as much as to others. Because, at it is then when he introduces himself as ‘the one and only god before all humanity’. Once he reveals himself as a newly said god figure, then only the trickster can promise mere humans that extra abundance found in the after-life.

His followers, those who have not already left his cult, are then even further challenged by the trickster into becoming ‘the devoted’ amongst his followers. These loyal souls must first prove themselves as ‘worthy’ of receiving exclusive blessings so to get further insiders knowledge of how to follow him even better. Such blessings that are beyond those who are not in his exclusive ‘elite membership club’.

It is by a cunning trial-like casting of lots, that any of the trickster’s unworthy followers unquestionably fail the god-like cult leader’s multiple worthiness tests of them. Since these are hard tests for most humans to pass, ‘most humans would inevitably fail him’. The failure of such divine testing causes the discouraged people to get automatically dropped from the trickster’s membership list. He excommunicates them. This excommunication is a shunning from their newly acquired religious family, and from the presence of their ‘closer-to-god-than-thow’ like leader; and from any further donations of clothing and food, and monies.

Subsequently, the trickster asks the survivors of his ‘extra-ordinary worthiness trials'(or in other words, those found worthy of his extra-ordinary blessings upon them), to further more prove themselves. To really see just how much more loyal they are to the trickster, in comparison to those who are not truly his children; by following him to their deaths by committing a mass suicide to a better world – with him.

Thing is, and most often than not, it is discovered that the cult leader/god has survived the mass suicide of his cult members; hence ‘the trickster’! It was by ‘trickery’ he survives those who died. And the charismatic cult leader, does yet again an even further casting of lots (if an even further casting-out could be possible). By outing any other survivor of his cult’s mass suicide.

Sadly, those other survivor are most always found unworthy, traitors to their still alive god. So they never are finally found deserving of the promised after-life. And of course, those loyal and worthy followers who have died in that mass suicide can no longer reap the religious/social blessings promised to them through his divine person. At least not in this low world…

In both cases, the red fox trickster reigns supreme over his devote followers. He is hard with them, and acts and talks as if a hardened god over them. He always comes under a rain of hard blows, from hard weapons, in a hard physical/spiritual battle. The red fox trickster always posses greater wisdom in the ways of the world than any one else of his followers. And so the trickster then takes on a ‘victim’s persona’. He then claims: it is his ‘hard fight’ against the ‘hard weapons’ formed against him in this world, that has made him sly and cunning and hardened over others. And then, the red fox’s best argument is that those very harden weapons he must employ against those of his enemies, are the justification of his trickery.

Which is why, the Bretons, just as much as others of the Celtic culture, would fear to even mention the name of the trickster; in fear of accidentally calling him up to them. The trickster is, an anthropomorphic character of a red fox. Because, he always plays the role of a wise and cunning god who seduces and tricks his followers to their death.

It is also said of the trickster, he survives beyond his human years, as an animal or object in human form or nature. The trickster then goes-on down through history, in children stories, in lore and mythology, an in the pictures of the tarot cards; by taking-on different appearances and names.

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