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four significant traits of the trickster

from “Why So Serious?” by F. Daniel Harbecke

There are four significant traits of the trickster:
1. They are “go-betweens.” Tricksters are able to move with relative ease among contrasting regions or levels of being. They have the power to escape order, crossing the threshold into another version of it. Hermes was the only god able to enter the underworld regularly and without difficulty.
2. They embody inconsistency. Rather than enforcing one view of reality, tricksters support the paradox of multiple views. They follow the guiding principle of improvisational theater: you never deny another person’s reality, you only build upon it. Sun Wukong, the Chinese monkey god, could change each hair on his body into a double of himself.
3. They have “smart luck.” Tricksters are always prepared for the unprepared because they hold their ideas lightly. There really are no accidents in the liminal perspective, only opportunities for discovery and insight: you simply play through. When Loki bet his head in a wager – and lost – he agreed to let the winners take his head as long as they don’t harm his neck.
4. They have no home. The trickster is closely associated with the road or constant motion. Hermes is the god of roads and escort of travelers. The Nigerian trickster god Edshu walked down the road in a hat colored blue on one side, red on the other. Half the farmers would say, “Did you see that god with the blue hat?” while the others argued it was red. Edshu would further complicate matters by walking the other way with his hat on backwards!

Categories: trickster
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