Tricksters and Fools

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The Fool

2020 has been one hell of a year. 

It doesn’t matter who or where you are, I’m sure you’ve felt what I have. A weird, wild, pervasive energy we’ve been steeping in for what feels like forever. In a recent conversation, a friend referred to it as “Trickster Energy.” This immediately made me think of the tricksters of legend. The Indian Shakuni, the African Anansi, the American Coyote, the Japanese Kitsune, the Greek Hermes and Dionysus, but most of all the Norse Loki and Odin.

Loki is poorly understood by modern man. This is partly because of his depiction in modern fiction and partly because of how the myths have been passed down. The poetry was passed down in song — they were not written down until Christians put them to paper.

These Christian scholars saw Odin and Loki and, knowingly or not, characterized them with traits of their own God and his Satan. That’s just plain wrong. Loki and Odin are blood brothers. Loki is a trickster, but not a madman or a devil. Odin and Loki are both æsir and jötnar, meaning they are both beings of order and chaos and not of good and evil.

Myth & Story

To make sense out of this mess, to relate it to what we are living today, we have to look beyond the myth.

Jung called the archetypes of Loki and Odin “The Trickster” and “The Wise Old Man.” The Trickster is alternately called The Fool. The Wise Old Man has many other faces, not unlike Odin with his many names. To understand their relationship together, know this: The Trickster manipulates chaos from one form into another with his tricks. He does this to shift a situation from being less advantageous to more advantageous. The Old Man leverages his mastery to make use of the opportunity presented by that shift.

To grasp how this works, you must know The Trickster and The Old Man better. I will begin with The Trickster.

“The Trickster is a Comedy of Opposites.”

Every good trait of his is offset by its equal opposite. This makes him one his peers only tolerate — never fully celebrated or scorned — because he has his value. An uncomfortable value that only he can provide. His most valuable trait is that he shows us how no one is infallible, especially The Trickster himself. His tricks serve to teach a moral lesson, or to expose the foolishness of others. Because who knows a fool better than another fool?

Inversion

Through Inversion, The Trickster is a necessary agent of change. These inversions can be great or small, but they have one important thing in common: the deception induced by the inversion is powerful enough to affect the relationship with reality of the one who is deceived.

“Inversions are caused by Tricksters and resolved by Fools — and often, these two are the same person. To resolve inversion, the Trickster who created it must be revealed as a Fool by taking the trick so far it breaks.” In revealing the trick, the Trickster makes a fool of everyone. 

In revealing the trick, the Trickster makes a fool of everyone. 

The Fool is obviously a fool for being deceived, but The Trickster is equally a fool for tricking someone so lost they don’t need fooling. And whether they laugh or cry, everyone who witnesses the joke are fools themselves for entertaining the entire ridiculous spectacle. Sounding familiar? Now for The Old Man.

“The Wise Old Man shows us who we are and who we may become.”

Jung described this archetype as, “…the mighty man in the form of hero, chief, magician, medicine man, saint, ruler of men and spirits.” Further, he considered it an archetype every man would wrestle with at some point in their lives. That it were inescapable and that, “One can only alter one’s attitude and thus save oneself from naively falling into an archetype and being forced to act a part at the expense of one’s humanity.” And in doing so the man would, “…overcome a psychic splitting, so as to make possible an…acceptance of the way the father contains both Kings at once — The Twisted King and The Whole King.”

The Union

If The Trickster is a comedy of opposites, The Old Man is alchemy’s coniunctio oppositorum, a union of opposites.

This unity of opposites is the happy ending of The Trickster’s comedy. The reconciliation and unity of his dual nature. Odin, for example, is every bit the trickster Loki is.  We see this several times in The Poetic Edda, but you see it as well in The Fool’s Journey of the Tarot.  It is, after all, a journey undertaken by a Fool to become a Wise Old Man upon experiencing The World.

This alchemical coniunctio oppositorum is much the same as coincidentia oppositorum, the coincidence of opposites. As Jung said, “…as a totality, the self is a coincidentia oppositorum; it is therefore bright and dark and yet neither.”

Or, put another way, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but my making the darkness conscious.”

This coniunctio is the alchemical process of Conjunction, and the greatest conjunction possible is that of the whole man with the one world.

This weird, wild, pervasive “Trickster” energy is, then, a sincere gift. An opportunity to be taken hold of. It’s entirely up to you whether to go along with the joke with the rest of the fools or to use it as a springboard into your next journey.

Find Lloyd on Twitter.

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