Reflecting on my hopes of hearing ‘dangerous speech’ last Sunday morning to counter the terrible things going on in London, I began to wonder who our modern-day Tricksters are.
For those who haven’t read the book, Trickster figures are slippery characters that turn up in every mythology; boundary crossers who tend to get involved in dirty subversion. As Lewis Hyde writes in his fabulous book Trickster Makes this World: Mischief, Myth and Art:
"As a rule, Trickster takes a god who lives on high and debases him or her with earthly dirt – or appears to debase, for in fact the usual consequence of this dirtying is the god’s eventual renewal."
As the subtitle of the book suggests, Hyde’s hypothesis is that these Trickster figures are archetypal creatives. They conduct energy between heaven and earth, and thus catalyse newness by forcing both to alter their perspectives.
Preaching ought to be a Trickster activity, with the preacher standing between earth and heaven, conducting and catalysing, transforming perspectives and mischievously subverting our purified views of God and challenging our boundaries.
Unfortunately this doesn’t happen often enough, even within the emerging church. I know Vaux was accused of courting controversy, but actually we were simply trying to do Trickster work – to challenge people’s comforts, rather than pander to them.
I’m off to Italy for a week on Wednesday, so I’m going to do like Jonny and queue up some posts to publish automatically… Each one a modern-day Trickster: someone who plays with dirt and boundaries and catalyses newness. It would be great to come back to a list of others people suggest.
A word of warning: everyone on my favourite Trickster list is male. I say this openly and honestly, because I want to find some female equivalents! Lewis Hyde had the same problems, and wrote an appendix to ‘Trickster…’ with some thoughts on why this characters do tend to be male. He suggests that the stories may have a special function in the psychology of males separating from their mothers, or that they are the product of patriarchal religions that have suppressed female equivalents. Either way, it would be great to hear people’s ideas…