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Covid, the Trickster

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:

  1. to knock us out of our comfort zones by turning everything upside-down

  2. to challenge our current paradigms by suggesting new possibilities and alternative paths

  3. to destroy - beliefs, complacency, social structures, sometimes lives

  4. to overturn or call into question existing power hierarchies

  5. to make space out of which something new can emerge

  6. to force us to let go

  7. 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

  • practice humility

  • ABOVE ALL, condition and hone your imagination - you'll need it to be strong to make space for new and better worlds

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