Sometime in the near future, we’ll be announcing the release of a cd titled Turning Trickster, from the young, fresh cannibals at HysM?. The reading featured in the title track comes from The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology, by Paul Radin, an anthropologist whose works we have praised in this space several times before.
Trickster is a universal mythological figure appearing in various forms all over the world. To the big three monotheistic religions, Trickster is the Devil, the Archenemy, to be fought and resisted. Among other, less uptight peoples, Trickster represents the fuzzy line between Creation and Destruction, Chaos and Cosmos. The world that we live in, the physical, is a tiny island in a vast sea of unknowableness, the metaphysical – Trickster is an invader from that sea. Oddly enough, he was/is/will be sent here by the Creator to set things in place.
Trickster is an id, constantly seeking food, sex and ease. He is vain and easily offended, stupid and utterly without scruple. To satisfy his incessant urges, he won’t even pause before using deceit, murder and rape. Certainly, he is thwarted in his plans and punished for his crimes in many ways. He is humiliated, injured, even killed, though he springs back to life after every death, learning nothing from his experiences. Trickster tales abound with the basest of humor – fart and poop jokes, the mishaps of Tricksters enormous and self-acting penis, his ongoing arguments with his own anus. Nothing is too coarse or loathsome to factor in. And it must be remembered that this Trickster is a Deity, an emissary of the Great God, sent to Earth to establish the forms of the world, the ways that people should live.
There are many examples of Trickster making some physical feature of the landscape. His interactions with various animals end with the establishment of their particular characteristics, i.e. the skunk’s coloring or the turkey vulture’s bald head. The beaver’s flat tail, or the opossum’s hairless one, is certainly explained by stories of those animals’ encounters with Trickster. This aspect of the character, which this Shaman’s daughter finds so intriguing – “Is that really why the beaver has a flat tail? Is that really true?” – should not be overemphasized. Trickster is less about the length of the rabbit’s ears than the Nature of the Universe.
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is a question that no one who lives with Trickster would ever ask. Only in a monotheistic, merit-based philosophy, fundamentally corrupted by capitalism, could such a thought occur. In such a system, the world created by God must be just and good deeds must be rewarded, in the here and now. Calamity and ruin visited upon any individual or group must therefore be explained by their wickedness or by the choice of God to use disaster as a teaching or testing tool. It’s as if I were to fling my daughter into the Shenandoah during the heavy springtime flow to punish her for wiping a booger on the sofa or to test her faith in my ability to rescue her from the same. Every time there’s a hurricane or drought, some whackjob preacher steps up to proclaim that God is angry about gay marriage or abortion and is showing His displeasure by punishing the community afflicted, whether they deserve it or not.
Feh. Those who live with Trickster – and it should be obvious that The Big Drum In The Sky Religion soundly embraces him – have no need or desire to cast blame on victims of misfortune. We live by certain principles, the principles that were established in Trickster’s wake, but we know that the world we live in is governed by an anarchist. Disasters and destruction happen because it is the very nature of the world that they should. Obviously, crimes will be punished, but many misfortunes happen because that’s just the fuckin’ way it is and there’s little to be done about it. And that’s okay. In fact, looked at from a certain angle, it can be rather amusing.
Life is brutal and ugly at times. Horrible things happen to good people. Get used to it.
And life is astonishingly beautiful at other times. Right now, spring is springing in the beautiful Valley of the Shenandoah. The birds are raising quite a ruckus, the grass is greening and the animals are frisking about. We’ve survived another winter – most of us anyway, pour one out for R.R. and the other homies who ain’t with us anymore – and it is a fine time to be alive. Trickster is surely whistling as he walks on this day, looking for something to eat and someone to fuck. Methinks I’ll do the same, after another cup of coffee.
But actually, I won’t, because I am not Trickster. Today is a day for me to fast and my spiritual path no longer includes random sexual encounters. The thoughts and desires are surely still present, but I have the power to choose not to act on them, because I live just over the line from chaos, in the ordered and human zone. Chaos is a fun place to visit, but I don’t live there anymore.
The guy from HysM?, Stefano, contacted me about possible cover art for the cd. I was little help. It’s nigh impossible to accurately portray Trickster because he is of a time before the establishment of forms, neither human nor animal, or maybe both and a Spirit as well. Usually, he is shown as a man with a coyote’s head, but he can be a bird as well. Or anything else the story calls for. Stefano threw some images together which I heartily approved.
So that thing will come out. In the meantime, I think I’m gonna go out and fuck some shit up. It is certainly a day to fast, but I may have to reconsider that bit about finding someone to fuck. It is spring, after all.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.