Trickster is at one and the same time creator and destroyer, giver and negator, he who dupes others, and who is always duped himself … He knows neither good nor evil yet he is responsible for both. He possesses no values, moral or social, is at the mercy of his passions and appetites, yet through his actions all values come into being. ~ Paul Radin
When Trickster archetypes prance and prank their way into your life, it’s time to pay attention!
Tricksters defy duality: they are both light and dark, heroic and villainous, foolish and wise, benign and malicious. At the same time they’re lovable, they’re also hateful. At the same time they’re friendly, they’re also fearsome. If you feel drawn to, or repulsed by, the Trickster archetype, this is a clear sign that you need to explore the hidden parts of your nature more.
In mythology, Tricksters are portrayed as the jokers, pranksters, clowns, rule-breakers, alchemists, magicians, truth-tellers and wise-fools. In psychology, Tricksters are the mischievous archetypes of the collective unconscious that shatter old paradigms and gleefully poke sticks at our sanctimonious beliefs and stiff pretensions.
These days, Trickster archetypes still appear in our cultural myths and dialogues. Tricksters continue to incarnate as characters such as Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Beetlejuice (Tim Burton classic), The Mask, Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland), the Mad Hatter, Jack Sparrow, The Joker (from Batman) and Rumplestiltskin. And in our own lives, Tricksters are represented by the class clowns, the anarchists, the comedians and the rule-breaking harlequins that defy all worldly decrees and decorum.
In a sense, Tricksters are the ultimate pot-stirrers and “trolls” of life. As destroyers of duality, Trickster archetypes expose illusions, challenge worldly rules, and celebrate holy madness. For every likable trait within them, there is an equally disturbing trait. For every form of provocation, there is a hidden lesson.
We’ll explore these lessons today.
11 Trickster Archetypes and Their Crazy Wisdom
My first ever Shamanic encounter in the spirit world was with a Trickster. Tricksters, like any archetype in life, are powerful spirit guides and facilitators of conscious expansion.
In my case, the Trickster I encountered was the ancient goat-man God, Pan. Guiding my vision, Pan’s face changed drastically every few moments to happy-angry-sad-gleeful-suspicious-thoughtful-wizened-neutral-blissful-ferocious. As I focused on the ever-changing nature of his face, I was guided deeper and deeper into my own inner Underworld, my own hidden Shadow. Ever since then, Pan has remained my primary spirit guide, reminding me of the importance of embracing my own inner Trickster and multi-faceted nature.
Trickster archetypes aren’t just limited to Ancient Greek mythology, however. In fact, they entertain a place in almost every civilization known to man. Tricksters are both man and anthropomorphized animal, half-man-half-beast, worldly and spiritual, god and goddess. They bring with them the gifts of illumination, playfulness, revelation, truth and balance.
Eleven of the most common Trickster archetypes known to man include:
- Loki (In Norse Mythology, he was the shape-shifting god who is portrayed as playful, nihilistic and self-serving)
- Anansi (In African folklore, he was the sneaky, sly, but ultimately benign spider god of mayhem)
- Kitsune (In Japanese mythology these are trickster-spirits that often appear as intelligent and mischievous foxes)
- Eshu (In Nigerian tale, he is the sneaky god of uncertainty and change)
- Krishna (Hindu god portrayed as seductive, entertaining Supreme Being)
- Saci (In Brazilian folklore he is portrayed as a one-legged malevolent prankster dwarf)
- Hermes (In Greek myth he was the cunning and thieving messenger of the gods)
Trickster animals include:
- Coyote (As seen in Native American mythology)
- Rabbit (Like “Br’er Rabbit” who features in African-American folklore)
- Fox (Like “Kuma Lisa” in Bulgarian folklore)
- Raven (Famous among the Native Americans)
Coming across multiple Tricksters on your path through life is inevitable. But while the self-serving, deceptive shadow side of every Trickster is extremely apparent, it’s also important to be receptive to their lessons – to their crazy wisdom.
The truth is that we all have a hidden Trickster inside whether we are conscious of it or not. That is perhaps why we’re so enamored and intrigued by figures such as The Joker or Mad Hatter.
We’re all a little bonkers inside.
Deep down, our inner Trickster craves to break taboos, revel in the destruction of the known, and shatter decrepit ideologies. If there is anything Trickster archetypes teach us, it is to “lighten up” about life and to not take ourselves so seriously. However, when we deny the crazy wisdom of the Trickster both within and without ourselves, we find ourselves becoming rigid, bull-headed, narrow-minded and humorless. The cracks in our perfect facades begin to shine when we intentionally take a nasty kind of pleasure in others pain and failure.
When we fail to embrace the lessons of the Trickster archetype, we deny ourselves frivolity and the capacity to experience our Shadows. When we get lost in superficial appearances, the Trickster holds a mirror to our faces. When we get stranded in the ignorance of egotism, the Trickster, through his antics, lays out our faults on a platter with a smile.
It was once said that Krishna secretly stole all the clothing from a few milk maidens that were bathing. When they realized what happened, they begged for their clothes back. Krishna reprimanded them for breaking the vow about bathing nude. Then, he made them ascend from the water nude to find their clothes. In this way when interpreted, the women were forced to abandon their sense of shame or ego (clothing), allowing them to realize their ultimate divine union with Krishna. This story, like many others, represents the powerful unpredictability of the Trickster.
The power of the Trickster is in his (or her) ability to help us question life, embrace uncertainty and become receptive to seeing everything just as it is.
It can be so easy to fall into dogmatic traps and small-minded ideologies on our paths of soulful expansion. When a Jester, Clown or Trickster comes into your life shaking up all the pretensions, lies and illusions that you cling to … pay attention! Your anger, sanctimony, and exasperation can be alchemized into humor, acceptance and even curiosity if you let it.
What is Your Flavor of Holy Madness?
Finally, I want you to take a few moments to think about your own inner Trickster. Has it been outlawed to your Shadow? Do you give it enough healthy expression in your life? What does it look like, sound like and feel like? You’re welcome to share below.
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Theia mania, divine madness, crazy wisdom…research into what the hell is happening with me pays off. After going through an infinite amount of phases during a spiritual awakening, I end up prancing around like a fairy like clown. I’m alien-like to everyone I know, and I think the spirit has magical qualities. It can sometimes feel like a ghost or demon, sometimes like a fairy. It has horns, it loves to dance, will stop at nothing for a barrier-shattering laugh. It’s favorite colors are purple and blue. Childish and playful like, taunting and of a stick-its-tongue-out nature. It lives in the moment, and ultimately doesn’t care.
Bugs Bunny was the ancient archetypal sage for many generations of Americans. Too bad they replaced him with what we have now…
This was life changing for me to discover trickster archetypes. It has pieced together many many visions and inner knowings for me aswell as explains why when I traumatic Ally awoke in 2017.. why the first words I heard were EMF and TRICKSTER. .. Therea no doubt in my mind the trickster is my primary archetype… This article has completed my puZzle of the last two years… I am incredibly grateful… Namaste
I had a deeply profound psychedelic experience where I met a trickster. He was taunting me, laughing at me, enjoying my discomfort immensely. I think ultimately what he was trying to show me was to loosen up and let go. Don’t be afraid of them, even when they are laughing at our human flaws. They are there to teach and to show us how to see the funny side to this strange, mystical experience on Earth.
About a year ago and for the first time in my life I met a trickster. This was at the time of my spiritual awakening. She taught me some of the most unpleasant and toughest lessons of my life, for which I am grateful for. She enjoyed watching people suffer, playing tricks and taking revenge, along with being amusing, entertaining and challenging the status quo (which I found attractive as I like to challenge this also). She also liked causing trouble, creating chaos and took much pleasure in disrupting and shocking others. Once I had figured out she was a trickster she was easy to deal with, in fact in the end I stopped caring at all about what she was doing or saying. She empowered me to step back into my own personal power though not fearing her, the damage she caused, the outcomes of her tricks and this forced me back into being courageous. She actually became scared of me, not that I actually did anything to cause this, but we both saw it one day through energy transfer. Much can be exchanged through a look with no words. This was a lesson that was a long time… Read more »
Females are the trickiest tricksters, you never see them coming
As a trickster, how can I contain the destructive components, or at least keep them to myself so they don’t cause harm outside?. Is it ever possible to put aside the aberrant behavior? Can the trickster outgrow its condition? Fortunately, I have a developed a relatively functioning understanding to identify the teeth of my shadow and its realms, is this awareness just simply enough? If the shadow is identified, can there be a choice not to act from the negative core? I know these questions are to be answered by myself, but it happens that I am slowly recovering from years of social isolation and I don’t want to burn things on my way out. Any thought is welcomed.
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I am bouncing around as a nutcase, but this article help me understand what I am.
I am a trickster, a nutcase and a ruelbreaker.
I will show you you’re dark side if you like it or not.
New that i have found out that this fits me like a glove, I am starting to calm down.
To know that I am NOT CRAZY, but this is just my way of life.
And to be honest, it will be a big time job fore me in a short while.
I am already on that path.