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Another Perspective

The Trickster

One of the little discussed features of the psyche is the trickster. My 1972 Funk and Wagnalls' Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend tells me: "Tricksters are found in the unwritten literature of peoples over all the world, and usually many tales or cycles are devoted to their exploits. ...The trickster is frequently a character in the sacred mythology of a people, and is often regarded as the cultural hero who has brought the arts of living to mankind." [p.1123] While those of us who live in the Southwestern portion of the United States are familiar with Coyote, those in the Pacific Northwest favor Raven, Mink or Bluejay. Bugs Bunny was the most popular 20th century American trickster.

Trickster tales are about what is going on inside the psyche. Psychologically, the trickster plays the role of trouble-maker. The trickster disrupts normal life forcing change to occur when the ego prefers the status quo. Undeveloped parts of ourselves (insufficiences) are projected on to creatures who go into the world and best larger, better developed adversaries (i.e., the ego.) While satisfaction is found by listeners to these tales as the weakling gets the better of the brute; for the individual experiencing the trickster personally, the defeat of the ego is not satisfying, at least not initially.

C.G. Jung noted that the trickster is an early form of the hero. His role is to stop the course we are presently on and force us to take another path, one we would not have selected if it had not been for the problems created by the trickster. He becomes the hero when we discover this new path is far better for us than the previous one our egoes were so intent on pursuing. This is one way the undeveloped parts of ourselves not only make themeselves known, but find integration into consciousness. In the long run the trickster makes life better.

One of my friends who has a strong trickster in him, asked me to pass along this poem. He had the Episcopal Church in mind when he wrote it. Like any good trickster, he acts anonymously and craves your reaction. So feel free to respond to this trickster's offering.

A Poem by Anon

I've known the Puer a number of ways, a number of times
in my life.
I've known Narcissus.
I've known Prometheus in his youth and Mars in his
And I'm gradually learning to know Gannymede in the
Greek Way.
Which will help me become complete as a person.
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