Native North American Mythologies

Native American Tricksters

What defines Native American tricksters?

There are many Native American tricksters, or many faces for the same archetypal figure. As we have seen, tricksters are all amoral, all possessed of great appetites for all kinds of pleasure. Carl Jung saw the trickster as the personification of our precivilized selves, the stage of our being which is full of imagination and desire but not yet controlled by the manners or restraints we associate with society. Thus, tricksters are shapeshifters and are often depicted in their animal rather than human form. All tricksters are creative, often assisting the creator but also bringing self-centered mischief to and, therefore, undermining creation. But tricksters can also be culture heroes, who teach the people survival techniques. The modern-day cognates of mythical Native American tricksters might be the shamans and medicine people who are said to have the power to descend to the spirit world, and the clowns and whipping boys in the Southwest pueblo dances, who are free to make taboo-defying jokes but who also punish members of the community who have strayed from the ceremonial path.


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