Central to the spiritual world view of many First Nations is the figure of the Trickster. As the Canadian playwright Tomson Highway explains, in his introduction to his play Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, the Trickster is a “pivotal and important figure,” as important to First Nations as “Christ is in Christian mythology” (1377).
Usually represented by an animal, such as a crow, raven or coyote, the Trickster is an elusive and mysterious figure, one who “goes by many names and many guises” (Highway, 1377). “Essentially comic, clownish sort of character, his role is to teach us about the nature and meaning of existence on the planet Earth; he straddles the consciousness of man and that of God, the Great Spirit” (Highway, 1377).
Although I don’t presume to have as profound an understanding as I should of this character, many of the stories I have read and heard about the Trickster portray him/her (s/he is capable of profound transformations, including transforming gender) as a mischievous, subversive figure. S/he revels in playing pranks on others, upsetting expectations. Often, s/he is punished by the Gods for her cosmic cheekiness.
For me, the Trickster is a delightful figure. S/he represents for me so much of the underlying nature of the world as I have experienced. For instance, the sheer unpredictability of our lives. No matter how mightily we strive to control the people, situations and events that surround us, things so seldom go according to plan (at last, they rarely do for me!). Very often, like the Trickster, I find myself falling flat on my face at those times when my ego becomes too inflated, or I am overconfident, or I take myself too seriously. Like the Trickster, I am constantly discovering how uncertain and chaotic life can be.
One of the many gifts of becoming a bit older is that I have come to the realization that the uncertainties and surprises of life – the underlying Trickster element – are things to be relished and embraced. It is these things that keep us from the excruciating boredom of knowing what will happen to us next. They keep life fresh and interesting.
So, the next time things don’t go according to plan, try to imagine that the Trickster is at work in your life, teaching you a valuable lesson. Instead of getting flustered and freaked out by the unforeseen, try sitting back and contemplating it all as a part of the adventure of life.
Reference: Highway, Tomson. Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing. The Harcourt Brace Anthology of Drama Ed. W.B. Worthen. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers, 2000.