04 April 2007
Well, I missed All Fool's Day but I'd still like to honor the tricksters who wreak havoc on our lives and in our universe. Tricksters are devious creatures; they pull sometimes destructive pranks and, occasionally, they get people killed. They are often, paradoxically, creators of humans, the heavens and agriculture. More than this, they are the origin of divine inspiration. Everyone has heard the phrase "Necessity is the mother of invention". That's the way I feel and think about tricksters. They incite strife, they stir up trouble and they cause problems; problems that need to be solved, thus forcing humanity to find ways around those problems through invention and innovation. In many cultures they are shape shifters, changing from human-like forms to animals and back again. This reflects their many abilities and dual natures. A somewhat "typical" trickster is Anansi of West Africa: a bringer of rain, creator of the sun, moon and stars and the first man. He is a rather vile trickster but also taught mankind to grow grain. Eris is the resident troublemaker of the Greek set. As the goddess of discord and chaos she uses her shiny golden apple to stir up trouble with gods and mortals alike. Her most famous instance of stirring up strife would be rolling her apple into a godly wedding party with the inscription 'For the Fairest' on it; the resultant disagreement led to the Trojan War. A uniquely evil trickster is Kumiho of Korean mythology. He is a fox, or otherwise fox-like human, who is truly and fully evil; he is never portrayed as a beneficent being. He is such an evil, unkind creature that he is not only unique to Korean myth but to world mythology as well. Of all the many tricksters and chaos workers in the world and the heavens two of my favorites are the coyote of American Indian lore and Loki of the Norse pantheon. Coyote usually appears in obvious form but other times he takes the shape of other animals. He is responsible for changing the courses of rivers, moving mountains and, with the help of the Spirit Chief, killed Thunderbird, killer of humans. Loki is a strangely similar figure to coyote. Loki manipulates events in such a way that, Balder, god of light and innocence, is killed. He in punished for this by being eternally tied down with poison dripping into his face. As he is the son of giants he will lead the giant army at Ragnorak.
Art by John Nieto.