Whether exchanging the sugar for salt, refilled Oreos with toothpaste (I found this one on Reader’s Digest), or plastic wrapping a toilet seat, we all enjoy a good prank. Pranks have been around before humans existed. In many cultures, the Gods themselves were tricksters.
He is tolerated by the gods, perhaps because his stratagems and plans save them as often as they get them into trouble.
Loki makes the world more interesting but less safe. He is the father of monsters, the author of woes, the sly god.Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology
April Fools Day may be the modern day version, but humanity and their Gods have been playing tricks for years.
Patricia Briggs reminded me of Coyote and his importance as a trickster god in West Coast Native American lore. He embodied the idea of chaos and pushed the limits of expectations and social rules. By flaunting the rules through his self-indulgence, Coyote reminds us to push boundaries. To see what rules are worth keeping and the others we need to change. It began with him playing with the stars and ends with him tricking Gods and humans alike. His stories are cheeky, full of amoral choices, but he usually learns a lesson, or we do through him. I own a few wonderful books with Coyote stories, but there is plenty to enjoy online as well. You can find a few of them here.
The Story of Coyote and the Monster
I chose this quote as it is a marvellous example of how Coyote and Raven have similar stories but different executions to their mischief.
Raven, another trickster for many tribes, held a similar role to Coyote, was a transformer. Whether on purpose or accident, his stories hold transformation at their centers. He was a creator and light bringer, his primary goal feeding his never-ending hunger, using deception and guiles to those around him. Intelligent and mischievous, ravens brought food to humans and taught them how to thrive. Sometimes, Raven decided life was too pleasant for the humans, so would put a little chaos in their way. In the end, though, it all turned out okay.
While Coyote moved the stars to create outlines of his friends, Raven stole the light and released it to the world. While mischievous, he usually helped the humans thrive.
While the Norse Gods appreciated the cunning and intelligence of ravens, the rest of Europe considered them a dark portent. Ravens were scavengers, and in Celtic mythology believed to be gods and goddesses transforming, bringing portents of death.
Odin had a pair of ravens, Thought and Memory, who brought Odin information from around the world. Odin also used them as messengers and connections to the supernatural. The intelligence of the ravens and their presence at battlefields led them to be considered as Odin’s ravens and accepting of the sacrifices of the dead to Valhalla. It is not the ravens that I am focusing on in Norse Mythology. It is Loki.
I have siblings and this quote reminds me of how my siblings were there for me when I needed them but bug me mercilessly the rest of the time
While there are many books, movies, television series, and comics based on Norse Mythology, it is Neil Gaiman’s book I will refer to today. I have featured the book previously, so it should be no surprise to you it is the one I am choosing. Loki was a known miscreant and used his whiles to reach his goals. Yet, despite that, Thor recognized his cunning.
There were things Thor did when something went wrong. The first thing he did was ask himself if what had happened was Loki’s fault. Thor pondered. He did not believe that even Loki would have dared to steal his hammer. So he did the next thing he did when something went wrong, and he went to ask Loki for advice.Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology
The perfect explanation for family. Supporting you when you need them, causing you trouble the rest of the time. Loki had many skills, but his fundamental skill was that of a trickster. The creation of Thor’s hammer is because of one of his tricks. Loki cuts off Sif’s hair. Thor, enraged, threatens to break every bone in Loki’s body, so Loki pleads he will fix it. He will provide hair even more beautiful.
Exploring the Trickster tales for several cultures was a lot of fun. If you have a favourite, I would love to hear it.