Tricksters: Dangerous Speakers


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…


4 responses to “Tricksters: Dangerous Speakers”

  1. Whoops.
    then: Pranks!

  2. erm… here’s a bible reinterpretation I did a while back… I think it would classify as Trickster-ish, or at least as tricksy as those pesky Hobbits’s:
    Before the Big Bang was the Big Idea and God.
    The Idea was an Individual,
    the Living Strategy and was also God.
    The Concept conceived everything,
    nothing manifested without the Manifesto.
    The Idea was a global revolution,
    but the World was too dizzy to notice,
    revolving around itself.
    God’s Opinion was expressed in person,
    in a person – a regular John Smith – Jesus Christ.
    A bastard born in a garage, a shopping trolley for a pram.
    The Guru from the Ghetto;
    Housed between Jack-the-Lad and Jack-the-Ripper.
    Jesus the Chippie, Jack-of-all-trades.
    Then he up and left.
    Wandering and homeless, he drew the crowds;
    Jesus the Magician, the Entertainer, the Shrink:
    Visionary, Realist, Rebel, Anarchist and
    Martyr – killed for crimes he didn’t commit;
    Shaman – gone to Hell to rescue the guilty;
    Hero – dealt a death-blow to Death.
    Jesus, alive and well and still at large.
    [JN. 1]
    Srry if it’s neither the time nor the place!!!?

  3. Art vs. Proposition

    He could have just said Things aren’t always what they seem, but instead he said this:And when I see you, I really see you upside downBut my brain knows betterIt picks you up and turns you aroundIf you feel discouraged when there’s a lack of color here…