Wednesday 1 April 2009

The Trickster, the Magician and hard times

April Fools Day needs both its fools and its tricksters and its usually more fun to be the trickster than the fool.

The trickster is also an important figure in folklore, mythology, magic and divination. Tricksters appear in cultural traditions all over the world, as gods, characters, spirits and animals. They include Norse god Loki, Greek goddess Eris, Native American Coyote and Raven, and Reynard the Fox from European folklore.

Tricksters break the rules, play practical jokes and use cunning to gain the upper hand. They can be serious troublemakers or humorous pranksters - the bad guys of legend or nature's clowns - but they are always worth heeding because they can teach valuable lessons.

In his book Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art, author Lewis Hyde says that the Trickster is one of the oldest mythological archetypes and dates back to the time of hunter gatherers, when trickery was often needed simply to catch food. Lewis Hyde says:
"The trickster myth derives creative intelligence from appetite. It begins with a being whose main concern is being fed and ends with the same being grown mentally swift, adept at creating and unmasking deceit, proficient at masking his tracks and seeing through the devices used by others to mask theirs."
In tarot decks, The Magician, the first trump of the major arcana, follows The Fool, which is the zero card. The card is also known as The Juggler, The Mountebank, or in some decks such as the The Elemental Tarot by Caroline Smith, The Trickster. He plays the crowd using sleight of hand, he juggles the elements with confidence and makes a little knowledge go a long way - though he is still far from mastering his craft.

Essentially, the trickster is a god, guide or archetype for hard times, who teaches us to turn adversity to our advantage, to learn not only how to get out of trouble but also how to take advantage of it. Of course, the trickster doesn't always win, but he certainly gives himself the best chance of doing so.

The lovely picture of the fox and the raven at the top left of the page is by Stephanie Law. To see more of her artwork, visit

The Trickster tarot card shown top right is from the The Elemental Tarot by Caroline Smith, which is available through Amazon

Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art by Lewis Hyde is available through Amazon.

The Elemental Tarot [With Tarot Card Set]
Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art

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