Trickster Myths The Embodiment of Ambiguities

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1   TRICKSTER MYTHS:
    THE EMBODIMENT OF AMBIGUITIES
    Chapter 5
2   TRICKSTERS’ ROLE
    “Every culture needs what anthropologists call "the trickster," the person who is able
      to challenge the legitimacy of conventional wisdom and traditional pieties. He was
      called Hermes in Greece, Mercury in Rome; Native Americans called this mythic
      personage "coyote" and he appears as "Brer Rabbit" in African-American folk tales.
      The trickster, unlike a magician, cannot change physical reality, but he can change our
      perceptions of it. Often that’s more important.”
    John Denvir, 1998
3   TRICKSTERS AS ENIGMAS
    The Trickster openly questions and mocks authority, encourages impulse and
      enthusiasm, seeks out new ideas and experiences, destroys convention and
      complacency, promoting chaos and unrest.
    At the same time, the trickster brings new knowledge, wisdom and many new
      insights.
    Even when punished horribly for his effrontery, his indomitable spirit keeps him
      coming back for more.
4   TRICKSTER AS ARCHETYPE
    The trickster is a very important archetype in the history of man.
    He is a god, yet he is not.
    He is the wise-fool.
    It is he, through his creations that destroy, points out the flaws in carefully
      constructed societies of man.
    He rebels against authority, pokes fun at the overly serious, creates convoluted
      schemes - that may or may not work - plays with the Laws of the Universe and is
      sometimes his own worst enemy.
5   JUNGIAN ARCHETYPE
    Jung wrote that the Trickster Archetype “represents, on the one hand, the Self and on
      the other the individuation process and because of the limitless number of his names;
      also the collective unconscious.”
6   TRICKSTER AS CONTRADICTION
    He exists to question, to cause us to question & not accept things blindly.
    He appears when a way of thinking becomes outmoded needs to be torn down built
      anew.
    He is the Destroyer of Worlds at the same time the savior of us all.
7   AS PSYCHIC ENERGY
    An essential aspect of archetypal psychic energy, trickster figures appear in moments
      of passage, rupture, and transformation, helping us integrate apparently irreconcilable
      oppositions within ourselves and in life.
8   HELEN LOCK’S OBSERVATIONS
    Tricksters are reinvented from culture to culture
    Their ambiguity, ability to create and solve problems, constancy in pressing
      boundaries and irrepressible charm speak to human beings’ struggles and
      perseverance.
    
9   MULTIPLE IMAGES OF THE TRICKSTER
    In dreams and myth the trickster can be seen as
      The Fool
      The Magician



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          The Magician
          The Clown
          The Jester
          The Villain
          The Destroyer
10       SOME POPULAR TRICKSTERS
     1    Loki
         Coyote
         Raven
         Weesagechak
         Nanabush / Nanabozho
         Spider Woman
         Anaanu / Anansi / Anancy / Aunt Nancy
         Hermes
         Eshu
         Legbara
         Afrekete

         
     2   Br'er Rabbit
         Puck / Robin Goodfellow
         Robin Hood
         Reynard the Fox
         Tyl Eulenspiegel
         Hershel of Ostropol
         Kitsune (Fox)
         Tanuki (Raccoondog)
         Satan
         Dracula
11       COYOTE
         In Native American traditions, the trickster is often portrayed as a coyote or as part-
          coyote.
         
         He can be Old-Man Coyote among the Crow tribes, Raven in northwestern Indian lore,
          or, more generically, "The Tricky One" (such as Wakdjunkaga among the Winnebago or
          Manabozho among the Menomini), to mention just a few of his manifestations.
12       WHY WE TELL STORIES ABOUT SPIDER
         Ga (Ghana and West Africa)
13       THE GA PEOPLE
         The Ga people are one of six ethnic groups that live in present-day Ghana
         
         The language of Ga is one of at least seven languages spoken then; English is the
          primary language.
14       HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
         Endowed with gold and oil palms and situated between the trans- Saharan trade
          routes and the African coastline visited by successive European traders, the area
          known today as Ghana has been involved in all phases of Africa's economic
          development during the last thousand years.
15       HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
         As the economic fortunes of African societies have waxed and waned, so, too, have
          Ghana's, leaving that country in the early 1990s in a state of arrested development,


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      Ghana's, leaving that country in the early 1990s in a state of arrested development,
      unable to make the "leap" to Africa's next, as yet uncertain, phase of economic
      evolution.
16   RELIGION OF GHANA
     60% Christian, 25% traditional African religions, 15% Muslim

     Ghana has the highest percentage of Christians in West Africa, but the belief in
      traditional animist religions is still extremely common.
17   TYPICAL FOODS
     Soups are the primary component in Ghanaian cuisine and are eaten with fufu (either
      pounded plaintain and cassava or yam), kokonte (cassava meal cooked into a paste),
      banku (fermented corn dough), boiled yam, rice, bread, plantain, or cassava.

     The most common soups are light soup, palmnut soup, and groundnut (peanut) soup.
18   JOLOF RICE (RICE FOR YOUR SWEETHEART)
     Jolof rice is a great dish when entertaining.
     It can be prepared in advance, refrigerated, and simply reheated just before serving
      time.
     All you need to complete the meal is a tossed salad and a loaf of French bread.
      3/4 pound Beef-smoked Sausage
      2 ounce Pepperoni, thinly sliced
      1 Green Bell Pepper, coarsely chopped
      3 tablespoons of Corn or Vegetable Oil
      2 1/2 cups Water
      1 pound of cleaned Shrimp, fresh or frozen
      1 medium Tomato, chopped
      2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes
      1 1/2 cups uncooked Rice
      1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
      1 teaspoon Salt
      1/2 teaspoon thyme
      1/4 teaspoon Pepper
      1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder
     In a large pot, cook smoked sausage, pepperoni, green pepper, and onion in 3
      tablespoons of corn or vegetable oil until the green pepper and onion are slightly
      tender.
     Add shrimp. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add water, tomato, and bouillon cubes.
      Bring to a boil. Stir in remaining ingredients, then lower heat to low or simmer. Cover
      pot and cook 30 minutes. Serve hot.
     Yields 6 - 8 servings.
19   FESTIVALS
     Ghana is a country that celebrates festivals. There are several rites and rituals that are
      performed throughout the year in various parts of the country.
     
     They cover the right of passage child-birth, puberty, marriage and death.
     
     To the majority of people, these celebrations provide all that is satisfying to their
      communities and families.
20   PANAFEST
     This festival is held very summer. It is celebrates Ghanian roots. People from other
      African countries as well as the African-Americans with roots in Ghana visit the country

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      African countries as well as the African-Americans with roots in Ghana visit the country
      and celebrate their heritage.
21   HOMOWO FESTIVAL
     The Homowo Festival's ties lie with the Ga people and their migration to Ghana.
     The word "Homowo" actually means 'making fun of hunger.'
     During their migration, they experienced famine, but because they helped each other,
      they survived.
     Later, when their harvests were bountiful, they held a feast at which they mocked and
      jeered at hunger and the hard times that had plagued them.
     This was the first Homowo.
22   THE GA PEOPLE TODAY
      More than 75 percent of the Ga live in urban centers today.
     
     The presence of major industrial, commercial, and governmental institutions in the
      city, as well as increasing migration of other people into the area, had not prevented
      the Ga people from maintaining aspects of their traditional culture.
23   WHY WE TELL STORIES ABOUT SPIDER
     Anaanu / Anansi is a trickster of the Ga people (Ghana and West Africa)
     Most cultures which feature Anansi in folktales also tell the story concerning Anansi
      becoming the King of All Stories, not just his own.
     In the original Ashanti version of this story, Anansi approaches Nyame, the Sky God,
      with the request that he be named King of All Stories.
     Nyame then tells Anansi that if he can catch The Jaguar With Teeth Like Daggers, The
      Hornets Who Sting Like Fire, and The Fairy Whom Men Never See, he will be King of
      Stories.
24   SUMMARY OF OUR MYTH
     Covetous of God who was the sole subject of all stories, a clever spider named
      Anaanu proposed a wager.
     If he could present God with a swarm of bees, a python and a leopard, he would
      prove himself worthy of becoming a subject of stories as well.
     Craftily appealing to each creature's sense of self-importance, Anaanu not only
      succeeded in his task but became a kind of Prometheus of storytelling.
     Appropriately, Anaanu, also known as Ananse, emerges as the hero to be admired for
      his ingenuity.
25   AJAPA, AJA THE DOG, AND THE YAMS
     Yoruba (Nigeria and Benin)
26   YORUBA TRICKSTER TALES
     Yoruba trickster tales come out of the tradition of evening storytelling, a popular form
      of entertainment in traditional African societies.
     A favorite genre among these folktales is the trickster tale, variations of which are
      found in many cultures around the world.
     Among the Yoruba of West Africa (mostly in western Nigeria but also in neighboring
      Bénin), the trickster character is ÀjÀpá, the tortoise.
     The repertory of tales about him is seemingly inexhaustible.
27   YORUBA COSMOLOGY
     Distinctly hierarchical
     Ordered by orishas, or gods
      Olorun – supreme sky god with his assistants
      Lesser orishas whose areas of influence range from health to fertility to good crops
        to protection against enemies
      Minor orishas whose ranks are similar to human heroes



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      Minor orishas whose ranks are similar to human heroes
      Common human beings
     All orishas and all ancestors (spirits of the dead) have power over and interest in the
      fortunes and behavior of the living.
28   AJAPA, THE TORTOISE-TRICKSTER
     Exists somewhere within the hierarchy of orishas
      Less than Olorun but sometimes moves between other levels
     A distinction of Ajapa is his musicianship
      In many stories, Ajapa’s singing carries his schemes forward, mesmerizing
        individuals, villages, and even beings from the Otherworld with rhythm of his songs.
29   AJA THE DOG
     Driven to theft of nearby farms, due to his hunger and his obligation to feed his
      family, Aja devised a plan to strike farms with minimal nuisance.
     His plan demanded two restraints:
      Allow a decent interval between visits
      Never give into greed when stealing yams from the farms
30   AJAPA THE TORTOISE
     Given to laziness to such a degree that the whole world saw his condition as a disease
      known as Oledarun.
31   SOME OF AJAPA’S “REASONINGS”
     “The reputation one gets from stealing one yam is no different from that for stealing
      ten, is it?”
     “There are other farms besides this.”
     “When a door closes, another opens.”
     “Whenever only a little comes one’s way, one should take only a little, and whenever
      abundance comes one’s way, one should enjoy the abundance.”
     “The way will show itself.”
32   QUESTIONS
     Who is the bigger trickster in this story?
     
     Who do you sympathize with more, Ajapa or Aja?

     What is the role of the wife in the story?
33   HOW COYOTE PLACED THE STARS
     Wasco (The Dalles, Oregon)
34   WASCO INDIAN HISTORY
     A Chinookan tribe formerly living on the south side of Columbia river, in the
      neighborhood of The Dalles, in Wasco County, Oregon.
     The Wasco were a sedentary people, depending for their subsistence mainly upon fish
      (especially salmon), to a less extent upon edible root berries, and, least important of
      all, game.
35   WASCO AND THEIR SALMON
     Salmon were caught in the spring and fall, partly with dip-nets, partly by spearing.
     Definitely located fishing stations were a well-recognized form of personal property.
     The capture of the first salmon of the season was accompanied with a ceremony
      intended to give that particular fishing station a good season's catch.
36   WASCO AND THEIR SALMON
     Pounded salmon flesh was often stored away for winter use.

     It also formed an important article of trade with neighboring tribes, the chief
      rendezvous for barter being the falls a few miles above The Dalles.
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      rendezvous for barter being the falls a few miles above The Dalles.
37   WASCO CUSTOMS
     In childhood the bead was flattened by pressure on the forehead, and the ears were
      punctured with five holes in each ear
     Adults whose heads were not flattened were derided as no better than slaves.
     Puberty ceremonies were observed in the case of both girls and boys; the former
      were subject to the usual taboos, after the fulfillment of which a menstrual dance was
      held, while the latter "trained" for the acquirement of strength and one or several
      guardian spirits.
38   WASCO BURIAL RITES
     Burial was on boards put away in “dead people's houses”

     Slaves were sometimes buried alive to accompany a chief to the next world.
39   WASCO SOCIAL STRUCTURE
     Three classes of society were recognized:
       chiefs (the chieftainship was hereditary)
       common folk
       and slaves (obtained by capture).
     There was no clan or totem organization, the guardian spirits referred to being strictly
       personal in character
     The village was the main social unit.
40   WASCO RELIGION
     Religious ideas centered in the acquirement and manifestation of supernatural power
       obtained from one or more guardian spirits.
     The main social dances were the menstrual dance, the guardian spirit dance, in which
       each participant sang the song revealed to him by his protector, and the scalp dance.
     The most striking fact in the mythology of the tribe is the great role that Coyote plays
       as culture-hero and transformer.
41    SUMMARY OF OUR MYTH
     Coyote helps the brother wolves climb into the sky to get a closer look at what
       appears to be two animals.
     Coyote shoots arrows into the sky that penetrate each other creating a bridge (ladder)
       upon which they all climb up.
     There are bears in the sky that the wolves get the courage to look at more closely.
     Coyote likes the image of the animals sitting near each other, wolves and bears; he
       decides to leave the image in place for all to see; he leaves and takes the ladder down
       behind him; he tells Meadowlark to report that it was Coyote who arranged all the
       stars in such a wonderful arrangement.
42   COYOTE MAN AND SAUCY DUCKFEATHER
     Peter Blue Cloud (Iroquois)
43   PETER BLUE CLOUD
      A poet of Iroquois origin
     He has written some of the best Coyoterotica, with plots taken from Western Indian
       traditions as well as from his own imagination.
44   IROQUOIS
     The Iroquois lived mostly in what is today North and Central New York State.
     During the 1600's, through conquest, they expanded north into present-day Canada,
       down as far south as Virginia, and out as far west as the Mississippi River.
45   IROQUOIS NATION
     The Iroquois were a powerful Native American Confederacy that was made up of 5,
       and later 6, tribes.



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      and later 6, tribes.
     The Confederacy existed until 1779, when the Confederacy finally split over the
      American Revolution.
     The Tribes of the confederacy were the Mohawk, the Onedia, the Seneca, the
      Onodaga, the Cayuga and later the Tuscarora.
46   IROQUOIS ARCHITECTURE
     The Iroquois lived in Longhouses, which was made up of bark and wood.
     The house was a long and narrow building that could be 50 to 150 feet long and from
      18 to 25 feet wide.
     The roof was arched.
     The walls, formed from curved poles, were covered with sheets of bark, but had no
      windows.
     Over the bark a layer of thatch, or dried grass, was added.
     A central hallway ran the length of the longhouse.
47   DAILY CUSTOMS
     Like most Native Americans of the East, the Iroquois depended upon corn as their
      main source of food.
     They usually ate one meal a day at mid-morning.
     Food was always on the fire and people ate when they were hungry.
48   HUNTING HABITS
     They were skilled hunters.
     On foot they stalked deer, moose and caribou.
     They only killed what they needed to survive.
     The Iroquois also fished.
49   NOMADIC AND STATIONERY
     They moved their encampments from one place to another in search of food, which
      came from hunting, trapping, fishing and the various plant roots, seeds, wild rice and
      berries.
     In the spring women tilled the soil and planted crops.
     Men hunted when the woman finished their harvest chores.
     Their most common prey were deer, bear, moose, beaver, and wild duck.
50   IROQUOIS BELIEFS
     In the Iroquois belief system was a formless Great Spirit or Creator, from which other
      spirits were formed.
     They believed spirits animated all of nature and controlled the changing of the
      seasons.
     After the arrival of the Europeans, many Iroquois became Christians.
     Traditional religion was revived in the second half of the 18th century by the teachings
      of the Iroquois prophet Handsome Lake.
51   IROQUOIS FESTIVALS
     Key festivals took place with the major events of the agricultural calendar, including a
      harvest festival of thanksgiving.
52   OUR MYTH
     The trickster plays the traditional role of the seducer who achieves his aims by
      pretending to give shamanistic treatment.
     Saucy Duckfeather is a flirtatious young married woman whose dream is to have pure
      white feathers; Coyote is the great doctor who promises to fulfill her wish. To this end
      he concocts a story about a “male tree” that can grant wishes if it can only find its
      mate.
53   QUESTIONS
     Who is Magpie Woman and what is her role in the story?



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     Who is Magpie Woman and what is her role in the story?
     
     What are the tricks Coyote uses to persuade Saucy Duckfeather to do his bidding?

     Who is White Crane Man and what is his role in the story?
54   THE TROUBLE WITH ROSE HIPS
     Lipan Apache (American Southwest)
55   LIPAN APACHE PEOPLE
     Lipan Apache are native to present-day Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and the northern
       Mexican states of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas prior to the 17th
       century.
     Present-day Lipans mostly live throughout the U.S. Southwest, in Texas, New Mexico
       and Arizona
     Some also live in urban and rural areas throughout North America (Mexico, United
       States and Canada).
56   APACHE CAMP BY GEORGE NELSON
57   LIPAN APACHE HISTORY
     As with the other Apache groups, the Lipan were engaged in a protracted struggle
       over land use and settlement patterns with the Spanish, Mexican, and U.S.
       governments from the first mention of them in the early 1700s to their virtual
       extinction in 1905.
     For the most part, the Lipan were at war with the invaders until there were no longer
       enough of them left to fight.
58   SOCIAL STRUCTURE
     Lipan were matrilineal and maintained close associations with their matrilaterally
       extended relatives.
     A household unit was usually composed of a woman and her husband or consort and
       her children
     Often unmarried sisters and brothers of the woman or her matrilineal relatives in the
       ascending generation were also present.
     While women ruled in the family, men were in charge of the larger band.
59   SETTLEMENT PRACTICES
     The Lipan were the most sedentary of the Apachean groups, for they planted crops,
       especially maize.
     The Spanish described them as living in rancherías, but also as living off bison.
     It appears that there were semi-permanent dwellings of wickiups near fields during
       sowing and harvesting, and portable tipi dwellings used when following bison herds.
60   OUR MYTH
     Coyote, enticed by edible rose hips, eats too many even after the rose hips told him
       not to. The result of the feast was terrible flatulence.
     He spies two birds cleaning a buffalo carcass and he challenges them to a game of
       defecating on it.
     After he wins the game, he claims the meat and leaves the birds to berate themselves
       for having been tricked by coyote.
     What is the moral of the story?
61   OLD MAN COYOTE MEETS COYOTE WOMAN
     Blackfoot (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming)
62   BLACKFOOT PEOPLES
     Before the Blackfoot were placed on reservations and reserves in the latter half of the
       nineteenth century, they occupied a large territory that stretched from the North
       Saskatchewan River in Canada to the Missouri River in Montana, to the base of the



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      Saskatchewan River in Canada to the Missouri River in Montana, to the base of the
      Rocky Mountains.

     In 1790 there were approximately 9,000 Blackfoot.

     During the 19th c, starvation and repeated epidemics of smallpox and measles so
      decimated the population that by 1909 the Blackfoot numbered only 4,635.
63   SETTLEMENT PRACTICES
     The conical bison-hide tipi supported by poles was the traditional dwelling.
     During the summer, the Blackfoot lived in large tribal camps.
     It was during this season that they hunted bison and engaged in ceremonial activities
      such as the Sun Dance.
     During the winter they separated into bands of some ten to twenty households.
64   BLACKFOOT ECONOMY
     The Blackfoot were the typical, perhaps even the classic example of the Plains Indians
      in many respects.
     They were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in tipis.
     The bison was the mainstay of their economy, if not the focus of their entire culture.
65   RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
     Aboriginally, the religious life of the Blackfoot centered upon medicine bundles
     The most important bundles to the group as a whole were
       the beaver bundles
       the medicine pipe bundles
       and the Sun Dance bundle
66   CEREMONIES
     By the middle of the 19th c, the Sun Dance had become an important ceremony.
     It was performed once each year during the summer.
     The Sun Dance among the Blackfoot was similar to the ceremony that was performed
      in other Plains cultures, though there were some differences: a woman played the
      leading role among the Blackfoot, and the symbolism and paraphernalia used were
      derived from beaver bundle ceremonialism.
67   THE SUN DANCE
     The Blackfoot Sun Dance included the following:
      (1) moving the camp on four successive days;
      (2) on the fifth day, building the medicine lodge, transferring bundles to the medicine
        woman, and offering of gifts by children and adults in ill health
      (3) on the sixth day, dancing toward the sun, blowing eagle-bone whistles, and self-
        torture
      (4) on the remaining four days, performing various ceremonies of the men's
        societies.
68   OUR MYTH
     Old Man Coyote and Coyote Woman discover each other in the primeval world
     They each have trinkets in their respective bags that are deeply cherished; when they
      share their “bag contents” they deem it very good
     More beings are created by their sharing.
     Coyote Woman ends the story with a request that they share their bag contents
      again…
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