If we think of the Corona Virus as a mythic character in our current cultural story, we can see that it is clearly playing the role of Trickster. Unpredictable, cunning, slippery, shape-shifting, and bawdy, the Trickster is an archetype of disturbance and upset that is found in bodies of myth across time and place. Maybe you’ve heard some of their names - Iktomi, Anansi the Spider, Hare, Coyote, Loki, Hermes, Fox, Esu, Raven, Monkey, Papa Legba. Tricksters destroy and disrupt. Tricksters make space for creation. Tricksters love to play with paradox; they are both lovable AND spiteful, hated AND comedic, one
thing AND another. Tricksters get into all manner of trouble, and Tricksters sometimes come to the rescue. Tricksters cannot be pinned down; they are both/and/all-of-the-above, definitely not either/or. They do not play in binary shades. Tricksters challenge, hurt, anger, frustrate, and cause strife. They also make us laugh, encourage us not to take things seriously, teach the value of craftiness, and remind us to be humble. Tricksters can also serve as the messengers of the gods - they often have something sacred to tell us. Where Tricksters tread, uncertainty is sure to follow. What can we do but hang on for the ride?
How might it be useful to consider the current pandemic chaos in mythological terms, to approach
Covid-19 as a symbolic incarnation of the Trickster’s classic and uncomfortable personality? Doing so can help us define - mythologically, psychologically, symbolically - what we are facing. When the events and normal rules of the empirical world seem to twist, and nothing makes sense, it becomes helpful to look at things through the lens of mythos.
The Functions of Trickster:
to knock us out of our comfort zones by turning everything upside-down
to challenge our current paradigms by suggesting new possibilities and alternative paths
to destroy - beliefs, complacency, social structures, sometimes lives
to overturn or call into question existing power hierarchies
to make space out of which something new can emerge
to force us to let go
to make us very uncomfortable, reminding us that we are not immune to chaos
This is happening. So, what can myth teach us about how to behave in the presence of Trickster?
surrender to discomfort, let go of expectations, embrace uncertainty
question your guiding values, decisions, and current path
prepare to be surprised, delighted, shocked, shaken, and disappointed
walk away from binaries and explore and hold space for all shades of grey
tread very carefully and sharpen your wits
ABOVE ALL, condition and hone your imagination - you'll need it to be strong to make space for new and better worlds