What the Trickster Gods Have to Teach Us About Life

trickster gods

The mythology of any culture is jam-packed with a collection of archetypes. Archetypes are the quintessential image of an idea or an attitude represented through imagery or symbols.

Trickster gods, then, are the archetypes of mischief and deceit. They’re the rascals that trick you into misfortune, yet always manage to stay out of trouble. Either that or they conjure near-impossible ways to get themselves off the hook.

We’re going to explore some of these deceitful gods that have made their impact on modern culture. We’ll also take a look at why the meaning behind these archetypes isn’t completely negative.

These bad and mischievous characters have something to teach us; it turns out.

Important Trickster Gods and What They Can Teach Us

Let’s start by taking a look at some of the most influential tricksters out there. You may not be familiar with all of them, but a good sampling of different gods will help us gain a deeper appreciation for the archetypal “trickster” and his or her virtues.

1. Anansi

Anansi is an African god who is important in a lot of West African and Caribbean mythology. He appears as a spider in a lot of instances but can transform himself into a human being when necessary.

He’s known for getting himself into trouble of different kinds, usually faced with death as punishment, but managing to get himself free in a cunning way.

His primary story, though, starts with sky god, Nyame, who had hidden all stories and tales away. She wanted possession over all stories. Anansi, though, wanted some tales of his own, so he asked Nyame if he could have some.

She said yes, but on the condition that Anansi completed a set of impossible tasks. Naturally, he found a way to complete these tasks. Using his cunning wit or playing with the definitions of the terms of the agreement, he earned the right to tell stories and become the keeper of tales.

This established Anansi’s role as both an underdog that overcame and the dictator of storytelling in a dominantly oral culture.

2. Eris

Eris is a greek goddess known for churning up one of the greatest of mythological disasters.

The story goes that Eris was a goddess who loved to have fun at other god’s expenses. This led her to not be invited to the wedding of Thetis and Pelias. Naturally, she attended the party intending to cause a little trouble.

At a wedding where all of the Olympian gods were present, Eris threw a golden apple of discord into the crowd. She said that it was for the most beautiful goddess, which caused three goddesses to fight over who was the winner.

One of those goddesses was Aphrodite. Zeus tried to help the situation by requiring the young prince of Troy to choose the winner. Aphrodite bribed the prince with the offer of Helen, who was then the queen of Sparta.

Most people know her now as Helen of Troy, and the source of the Trojan War. The young prince selected Helen as a reward for the golden apple, causing the war to start.

The mastermind behind this whole destructive plot was Eris, who was retaliating because she was not invited to the wedding.

3. Loki

Many of you may know Loki from shows like Vikings or movies like The Avengers.

He’s the Norse god of mischief and embodies the spirit of a trickster. He’s constantly meddling with others, both human and superhuman. A large part of his desire to interfere comes from the enjoyment he gets from it.

Loki is like the person who tickles the back of your neck with a feather to no end, then explodes in laughter when you try to itch the spot with a hand full of shaving cream that he carefully placed upon you.

That said, he is a part of the Family of Odin and serves as the source of trouble. That means that while he is a royal nuisance, he remains royal. As a member of that family, it’s to be assumed that he serves an integral purpose.

The expressed purpose of Loki is to challenge people and gods alike so that they may change themselves.

What is the Value of Tricksters?

While we can appreciate these cultural images without digging too deeply into them, it’s important to scratch a little harder at the surface and reveal what’s beneath sometimes.

Let’s take Anansi, for example. He noticed that someone was holding onto the entirety of something special. Someone was holding stories, an essential vessel for humans to communicate meaning and history.

This is clearly an injustice. Additionally, the person holding all of the power tried to keep Anansi busy by hoping that he would fail miserably and most likely die. Counter to what Nyame hoped, Anansi overcame and used his intelligence to retrieve stories and provide them to human beings.

In this way, he used his trickery as a way to benefit all human beings.

Now let’s consider Eris. It may seem like causing two countries to go to war is an objectively bad thing. That may be true in real life, but for the sake of the story, there’s certainly a benefit to her toss of the apple.

Gods are supposed to be pure, eternal, and virtuous. Eris exposed the vanity of the gods and their ability to manipulate. The Goddesses couldn’t accept that they weren’t the most beautiful, thereby fighting and bribing their way toward the apple.

Eris essentially exposed the massive vanity of those Goddesses and provided a cautionary tale for anyone who can’t let go of their self-image.

Finally, Loki shows us something a little more fundamental. His role isn’t to pick apart any one person or thing, but all things. He embodies trickery and misfortune, but his presence as a god suggests that misfortune is essential to fortune.

Without one, we wouldn’t have the other.

Want to Dig a Little Deeper?

The trickster gods are just one subset of all the gods in mythology. There’s a whole lot of meaning to be found by exploring mythological ideas and applying them to your own life.

Explore our site for more insight into self-healing, aura cleansing, and all things spiritual.

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