Dealing With Tricksters

It’s not always obvious to people that I work with Tricksters all that much. People who know me personally pick up on it, but other than that, it doesn’t occur to people immediately.

Yet the domains I relate to the most belong to Tricksters, whoever else they may belong to. Messengers, Sexuality, Life and Death, Dreaming, and to some degree, Mysticism itself. Why? Well, they’re the areas where we’re very stuck with the reality that Shit Happens and we’re really not in control of all that much.

Meanwhile I watch other people go half-crazy trying to cope with the Tricksters around them, and can’t help but think, “Dude, chill!” I admit, that’s not entirely fair of me – I’ve had my share of crazymaking Trickster lessons. ~cough~Coyote~cough~

Alas, nobody ever seems to ask for my sage advice on how to cope with Tricksters, but I’m going to give it to you anyway:

1: Pay Attention

The entire purpose of a Trickster, as far as I can tell, is to make you pay attention to the things you’d rather not look at too closely.

Railing against it is a way of not looking, and only serves to feed the Trickster more energy with which to insist on your attention.

Pointedly ignoring is obviously a way of not looking as well, and only provokes the Trickster to try even harder to make you see.

It’s kind of like babysitting a toddler – You don’t have to give them what they’re asking for directly, but until you acknowledge them, they’re not going to stop demanding your attention. Look at what the Trickster is doing. Calmly acknowledge it. Don’t look away until They calm down.

Yes, it’s also kind of like a game of chicken, but there’s not really much danger of a crash. If you race against the Trickster, sure. If you fight, sure. If you walk backwards singing “La La La I can’t hear you” sure, but if you pay attention, you shouldn’t be falling.

Another aspect of paying attention is to hear what They’re actually saying, not what you’re afraid (or hoping) to hear. Tricksters mislead, but many of Them only ever lie by telling the truth. Granted, telling it creatively. Telling you something you can easily misinterpret if you’re not careful. But that’s the point – forcing you to stop making assumptions, and pay attention.

Self-Control is the key here. Does that seem ironic? Tricksters are all about contrasting with our self-control, teaching us where we need it most, and how to let it go when it’s appropriate to do so.

2: Don’t obsess

Spending all your time obsessed with avoiding Tricksters is arguably worse than just dealing with Their shenanigans. Tricksters represent something the world has whether you’re comfortable with it or not – Disorder.

That missing puzzle piece, that hair that just won’t stay in place, that traffic jam just where you can’t avoid it, those belong to the Trickster.

Yes, to some degree, so does injury. Sometimes that traffic jam involves a grisly car accident. But so does laughter. Sometimes you spend many grumpy minutes waiting for a train to cross tracks, only to finally watch a tiny little push car go by. Either way, how does getting all worked up about it help?

The point of a Trickster isn’t to harm you, or even actually to amuse you. The point of a Trickster is to make space in the world for that which has no designated space, or can not fit into the space it is given. The more orderly your world, the more ways a Trickster can disrupt it. The more unnecessary lines you draw in the sand, the more lines you are inviting  Tricksters to cross.

Does this mean Tricksters have no respect for boundaries? Well, some of Them really don’t, especially if They also represent natural forces like hurricanes and landslides. Other Tricksters do care about human boundaries, but They draw sharp distinctions between boundaries of temporary offense and boundaries of long-term harm, often using obnoxious humor to point out the difference. Yet others care about boundaries quite a bit, and spend Their time as object lessons in why those boundaries matter so much by crossing them for us so we can learn the consequences without having to try it ourselves.

3: Give what is due

The fastest way to piss off and invite negative attention from a Trickster is to exclude Them from Their traditional place. If a Trickster represents that which does not fit inside the box it has, do you really think removing the box entirely is going to help?

The Thirteenth (or Eighth, or Fourth) Fairy, in Sleeping Beauty is a perfect example.

Some versions of the story have it that the last Fairy was left out because the King didn’t have enough golden plates to serve them all. A poor excuse – better to serve them all on ordinary wooden plates than to leave one out.

Other versions have it that the King didn’t like the Trickster reputation of that last Fairy as much as the others, and didn’t trust it with blessing his child. This is understandable, but since he lacks the ability to prevent the Trickster Fairy from paying attention to his child, the exclusion only draws attention to his fear – and gravely insults the Trickster. This is not only a rude excuse, it’s an impractical one.

4: Don’t blame Them

I’m not saying Tricksters aren’t responsible for what They do. They certainly are. But Tricksters are not the cause of every annoying thing in your life. To spend all your time counting the ways in which disorder is disruptive, and blaming the nearest Trickster for it all is just winding yourself up.

It’s also focusing on blame, when blame is one of the least useful concepts in the world. Responsibility, yes. Power, yes. Authority, yes. But blame is just a way of dodging all of those by handing our power and responsibility over to some scapegoat.

It lets us avoid looking at how we are ourselves responsible in some measure for what goes on in our environment. Sound familiar?

But it also lets us hold on to the idea that aside from our own individual and shared measures of control, the Universe itself is supposed to be an orderly, controlled place. It lets us hold onto the idea that “should be” is a rule somebody else is following on our behalf, that if the Universe continues to be chaotic and out of our control, we are being betrayed.

We’re not. The Universe is, by nature, only orderly enough to maintain its own existence, and otherwise outright chaotic. Social order is, especially, not the Universe’s problem beyond maintaining the basic rule of cause and effect.

Tricksters teach us both how to accept responsibility for what IS within our control, and how to accept our lack of power when control isn’t an option.

Arguably, all the gods teach us this, each in Their own ways. Unless you belong to one, the Trickster is the last line, when nothing else is getting the message through:

There are some things you really are responsible for, and there are many things beyond control. Look at them. See them. Accept them.

One way or another, Tricksters have a way of becoming central to the lives of the people who need Them most, whether it’s in a good way, or a bad way. For the people experiencing chaos all around, a Trickster can help them cope, to navigate, and to help them find the humor in the darkness. For the people trying desperately to avoid disruption, a Trickster tends to demand that they break out of their bubble. Either way, the Trickster is RIGHT THERE, being central, and will continue to do so until the need has passed.

I think the Last Unicorn has the best advice for dealing with Tricksters:

“Never run from anything immortal. It attracts their attention.”


About EmberVoices

Ember Cooke has been a member of Hrafnar and Seidhjallr for more than a decade, where she trained to be a Seidhkona, Galdrakona, and Gythia. She founded the Vanic Conspiracy and made ordination vows to the Vanir and her congregation in the summer of 2013. She has contributed to several publications on Heathen and Northern Pagan subjects and regularly presents rituals and workshops at festivals. Her personal practice is more diverse, as the Vanir have lead her into cross-training and service for the wider Pagan community. This has including medium and servitor training in American Umbanda, clergy training with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, and jail ministry for local counties. She holds a BA with honors in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University. Ember has lived all her life in the south San Francisco Bay Area, and is intimately bound to the valley of her birth.
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23 Responses to Dealing With Tricksters

  1. Phyllis says:

    Hi Ember,

    The advice in your blog re the trickster is the most helpful i have seen – and belive me i have looked long and hard.

    Although intellectually i grock what i need to do (or not do), but am not able to get past/through/transform the energy of frustration. The best i can manage is to vehemently tell this part of myself to eff right off and effing stop this nonsense right now.

    I can see the coyote energy/pattern in my spiritual journey, experiences, and i want to create a shift to utilizing the strengths of this part of myself. If i can just stop the head banging long enough to connect with the beneficial side of trickster.

    I would be greatful for any comments you might feel to send my way…💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • EmberVoices says:

      Honestly, I gave almost all of the advice I have in the above post, but the most important piece is, perhaps, this one:

      Look at what the Trickster is doing. Calmly acknowledge it. **Don’t look away until They calm down.**

      Admonishing a Trickster isn’t likely to help much, especially if you express irritation in the process, which feeds it. Depending on *what* Trickster you’re dealing with – a god, a peer, a small spirit, an aspect of self – you may not have any ability to command it at all, and presuming to is not useful.

      That said, laughing with a trickster often helps. Acknowledging when you realize what the joke is, and how it’s on you, and laughing, often makes the consequences of the joke fade. Exu, an Afro-Diasporic trickster, who was riding one of His mediums at the time, handed me His pepper rum when I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Usually He offered the ordinary humans regular rum and saved the pepper rum for fellow Spirits, but this time He was feeling tricksy. So I drank it, and my mouth exploded with burning pain.

      And I realized almost immediately that it was my own damned fault for not pausing long enough to check what I was drinking. He was watching me for my reaction, and having caught the joke on me, I busted up laughing. As I began to laugh, so did Exu, and the pain receded immediately. The burning faded to a dull background sting, and the servers brought me milk to drink to banish the rest of it. I told Exu that I got the joke, would be more careful in the future, and respectfully asked Him to please not do that again.

      When the Trickster is within yourself, it’s pretty well guaranteed to be trying to get you to pay attention to things you’d rather ignore. Zen style mindfulness meditation is very useful in that respect – how to handle the Monkey Mind. Let the things demanding attention receive attention – attention, but not reaction – and then let them continue on their way.

      If you absolutely can not afford to be distracted in that moment, and are positive the distraction isn’t relevant, then, as you might with a child, say “I will pay attention to this later” and then give a *specific* promise as to when that will be.

      And you had better keep that promise!



  2. Amber Drake says:

    Reblogged this on Fire and Ink and commented:
    A very good blog post on Tricksters.


  3. This article makes me feel naked.


    • EmberVoices says:

      That’s what hot tubs are for?




      • I thoroughly loved the article, it was very well put, insightful and it made me feel disarmed a bit. I was thinking: “Stop revealing secrets!”

        I have had difficulties living with the fact that I have a strong, undisciplined, trickster fragment. I appreciate it now. If had learned to deal with it for myself, I had never really thought of other people’s feelings towards it. Your article taught me a lot about the perceptions of others and how I can help them help me. (:


        • EmberVoices says:

          Ahh, yeah.

          Well this article is a lot more about how to deal with Trickster *deities* and other major spirits.

          Humans have very different responsibilities towards each other. Humans *are* ethically obliged to respect each other’s boundaries. We don’t get to claim we represent landslides as an excuse to ignore that someone doesn’t want to be touched, for example. Similarly, humans will receive different consequences for failing to respect each other’s boundaries than we can necessarily expect, much less impose, on Trickster Gods.



          • I see! this is interesting. I’ve been working for several years with Coyote, but on very indigenous, intuitive basis… I’ve been dreaming with Loke only for two years, this is completely different than from the type of work I’ve been doing, I’m new to the deities world. So yeah, I wasn’t reading it right, I guess I might have read up more before commenting. Nevertheless, you share a ton of helpful information


          • EmberVoices says:

            No worries. I wasn’t meaning that your read was wrong, so much as that what I wrote may need some translation to apply to human embodied tricksters. There’s still plenty of overlap, as I’m sure you know from experience. 🙂



  4. Niamh says:

    This is excellent advice, and helpful. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    “For the people trying desperately to avoid disruption, a Trickster tends to demand that they break out of their bubble.”

    I think one of the most painful lessons I’ve learned from a Trickster revolved around this exact area — and it didn’t matter that I felt adrift in a sea of blissfulness at the time. He decided I needed to find some awareness about the truth behind what I felt, so He made sure I understood what I couldn’t see, whether I wanted it or not.

    Me: Stop. You’re interrupting my peace.
    Trickster: Your peace needs to be interrupted. It isn’t going to last.


    • EmberVoices says:

      Yep. It’s one of the ways Tricksters are very helpful for social justice, actually. Not that this is the only area where we often need to break out of our bubbles, but it’s an obvious one lately. -E-


  5. Miaërowyn says:

    Reblogged this on The Forest Witch and commented:
    What a fantastic post about Tricksters! Just the role of Trickster has always fascinated me, whether it is actual people in our human history, or the Gods. I have a profound respect for what they /They do, the blows they land in interesting ways that let us know what is really what.
    Have a read if you are wary of Tricksters, or if you are fond of them/Them already.


  6. “but They draw sharp distinctions between boundaries of temporary offense and boundaries of long-term harm, ”

    I am someone who was not able to deal very well with tricksters, either spirits or people, but I also have not been very bothered by them. Once I gained enough self esteem to be able to bounce back from having my ego re-examined I found I could understand them a lot more.

    I have found that the best tricksters will not kick you when you’re down and will pick on someone their own size. If I have the backbone to assert that I really need to be left alone right now, they tend to respond to sincerity with sincerity because they know if someone can’t roll with the punches, harassing them isn’t necessarily the best way to teach.


    • EmberVoices says:

      Yup. Y’know, I think you actually nailed something I failed to in my post:

      Sincerity. Tricksters respond to honesty and self-awareness very well, because that’s exactly what They’re teaching us to cultivate.



  7. Yes to all of the above. At least from what I can tell so far.
    The Sleeping Beauty reference is the one I use the most when trying to defend various tricksters (who, in my case, is almost always Loki.)


  8. ladyimbrium says:

    Reblogged this on Lady Imbrium's Holocron and commented:
    This. A thousand times this.


  9. Ki says:

    “Never run from anything immortal. It attracts their attention.” Oh, hindsight. LoL


  10. Reblogged this on Loki's Bruid and commented:
    “The fastest way to piss off and invite negative attention from a Trickster is to exclude Them from Their traditional place. If a Trickster represents that which does not fit inside the box it has, do you really think removing the box entirely is going to help?”


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