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In Native American, African and other mythologies the trickster is a clever spirit responsible for, as the name suggests, trickery. In Amerindian myth and legend, the trickster is usually symbolized by the coyote or fox.

Often comic, deceptive or crude, the trickster motif has been studied by scholars as it appears throughout world myth, fairy tales and religion. Sometimes the trickster is also a culture hero, offering some kind of boon to society. More recently, the trickster has become a popular figure among bloggers and social media artists.

the desert trickster by darren logan
the desert trickster by darren logan via Flickr

The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung designated the trickster as an archetype and suggested that its quirky unconscious contents may erupt during social interaction.

When this happens the trickster’s various hoax’s and capers cut through the veneer of polite society with a compensatory edge of mischief and darkness.

For instance, if a person at a cocktail party makes a faux pas and unwittingly insults another through a slip of the tongue or naivete, the insult may play a positive role by compelling the insulted party to take stock of an unresolved issue in themselves or their life situation. For Jungians, if the trickster had not appeared, personal or larger issues might never have been brought to consciousness nor resolved.

Renart the fox, drawn by Ernest Griset, from a...
Renart the fox, drawn by Ernest Griset, from a children’s book published in 1869.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jung’s theory implies a meaningful connection among all created beings, a kind of connection where creation is always working itself out toward the better. To explain this worldview, Jung formulated the concept of the collective unconscious.

Because the collective unconscious deals with all of creation, the trickster is not only taken as a catalyst for personal growth but also for historical development.

Related Posts » Aesir, Balder, Evil, Hero, Loki, Parapraxis, “Parapraxes, Accidents and Necessary Mistakes,” Q (in Star Trek), Shadow, Shapeshifter, Siva, Unconscious

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