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.”