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Trickster


The character of the trickster is prominent in Native American mythology even though it has a far reaching history in that it is considered to be a general god archetype. Joseph Campbell called the trickster "the chief mythological character of the Paleolithic world." Carl Jung referred to the trickster as the expression of a "preconscious" state. Antisocial and dangerous behavior of the trickster is often worked out in shamanistic rituals where they sever good tribal or communal purposes. Among the Pueblo people of Arizona, for example, the tricksters evolved ritualistically into clowns, Koshare, Koyemshi, and Newekwe, who display open sexuality and gluttony but are confined in ritual ceremony and made less dangerous.

Some suggest that both the trickster and shaman may be related to the mythic and ritual forms associated with the Animal Master, the powerful animal such as the bear, buffalo, dear, and even salmon, cast in the role of the protector and enabler of the hunter. The role of the shaman-Animal-Master-trickster has a prolonged history as indicated in the ancient cave drawings like the renowned The Sorcerer painting in the Trois Freres Cave in France, c.a. 14,000 BCE. In this particular depiction one has an apparent human form, dressed in an animal costume, displaying typical phallic aspect of the trickster. Also mythical representations of the trickster are known throughout northern Europe such as Hermes in Greece, and Reynard the Fox in European folklore. Another pertinent example is Kokopelli, the hunchbacked flute player who begs for food and sometimes displays ithyphallical tendencies.

The trickster's unbridled desires for food, sex, as well as his social inhibitions frequently made him a useful assistant to the world creator, and at times is the creator himself. Most tribes practicing shamanism have tricksters who are cultural heroes; those depending hunting, their tricksters usually take form of Animal Masters appearing in their prehuman forms though sometimes mistaken as humans. Since many tricksters assume their forms from Animal Masters it is obvious that various tribes associated with different animals (see Totem) would share similar mythologies. These myths can have both a religious and entertainment significance: the antisocial traits of the trickster can but use to teach children morality and in storytelling be entertaining to grownups as well. Sometimes the trickster receives the blunt of his own antics. Popular tricksters among the North American tribes are Manabozho, the Raven, Coyote, Hare, and Spider. A.G.H.


Sources:

Kokopelli. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokopelli>.
Leeming, David, Jake Page. The Mythology of Native North America. Norman. University of Oklahoma Press. 1998. pp. 46-48
Reyard the Fox. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynard>.
The Sorcerer. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorcerer_%28cave_art%29>.
Trois-Freres. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trois-Fr%C3%A8res>.

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