Tricksters

As someone who struggles with the generalizations made of her own deity, you’d think I wouldn’t fall trap to the sweeping statements made of other archetypal figures. Nope, I’m just as susceptible to them as everyone else.

In particular, I’m referring to the unfortunate generalization of trickster deities. Now, many of you know that my patron has a strong dislike for Loki, the Norse trickster. What some of you may not realize is that technically my patron is also a trickster.

Woah, wait, what? Lu, the level-headed (and sometimes emotionally detached) warlord is a trickster? That can’t be right. Tricksters are supposed to be mischievous pranksters, out to blow shit up for some laughs.

Those were my initial thoughts, at least.

But one has to realize that like any other type of deity, tricksters come in a variety of personalities. There are some who are light-hearted and playful, others like Lu whose trickster-like methods are a means to an end, and then there’s Loki…who…is kind of in between, I suppose.

Take, for example, the latest Lu/Loki incident (found here). Loki is well known for using pranks as a method of tearing down the ego, and presenting a realistic view of people/gods. On the one hand—I can see that his impersonation of Lu was an attempt at poking fun at Lu’s pride (not only of himself but also of his devotees), and so had a greater purpose than just annoying him, but…let’s be honest here, it was also probably just for his own amusement. And although Lu can have his occasional light-hearted moments, he is incredibly goal-oriented and practical—so yes, I can see why Loki’s antics would frustrate him.

I suppose in my comparison of Lu to other trickster gods, I got caught up in broad sweeping statements and fell prey to flawed logic like, “well, if trickster A acts like this, so must trickster B”. This resulted in my adamant denial of Lu as a trickster for quite some time when I was first getting to know him, despite other devotees’ insistence. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that someone as…businesslike (not quite the right word, but close enough) as Lu could also be considered a trickster.

Not only that, but some tricksters seem to be outcasts in their own pantheon from the get-go. They are looked down upon by the other gods because of the nuisances they create, and usually stand alone, without much support from anyone else for their unpopular opinions. Sometimes mythos will have them do a great deed, and the pantheon will welcome them back into the fold with newfound respect.

But Lu didn’t start off as an outcast. He was once the most beloved of his creator, and respected by his kin. Even during his rebellion and consequential fall, he was not alone—mythos says that others shared his beliefs wholeheartedly, or at least enough to risk everything in their rebellion.

Does this mean Lu isn’t really a trickster? Not necessarily. If we consider the story of how Prometheus cheated the gods of their preferred sacrificial share (found here, scroll down to Sacrificial Share), or even his better known tale of the theft of fire/Lu’s offering of the Fruit of Knowledge, we see obvious trickster mannerisms—the same sort of sly, cunning planning and scheming that other tricksters portray. But in all of these stories, the focus is not on the scheme itself, but rather the end goal. He doesn’t switch offerings, steal fire, or tempt Eve for his own personal amusement, but to set plans in motion. As a warlord, he has plans within plans and intricate, sometimes perplexing strategies.

And so by judging tricksters as one-dimensional, not only was I failing to understand my patron better, but also misrepresenting several other deities who fall under the same category. This type of generalization doesn’t just happen with tricksters–it happens with all other sorts of gods as well. This is the reason I have such a problem with archetype labels, because a lot of the time they try to fit deities to the standards set by the majority. However, I also realize that I hold a very hard-polytheistic view on the nature of deity, so clearly to those who identify as soft-polytheists, this whole issue may be a moot point.