Depth Psychology List

Meeting the Trickster

25 May 2018 2:24 PM | Jennifer Sieck

The other weekend I read tarot cards at an open air festival. I agreed to the gig because a friend asked me. I didn’t even question it as my experiences with this friend had been so positive and heart-centered across the board. This in and of itself was uncharacteristic of me now. While I had done these types of festivals before in much larger venues, for me, there always seemed to be a distinct before and after tarot card reading experience when it came to these types of gigs.

Let me explain and tell you too that I am not going to share the experience that made me reconsider this type of venue. I am not because I don’t want to give another moment of energy to my backstory. Let’s just say, our needs change over time and something that fed us may not be adequate nutrition at another stage of our journey. In fact the same scenario may be experienced instead, as poison to our system. If we don’t recognize that we have outgrown something we can poison our own plot of ground. Let’s just say the story was dramatic and made it very clear that this type of venue no longer served me in the work I found myself growing toward.

The gig I was now asked to read in was a small newly established music festival harkening back to everything that was the psychedelic 60’s, while still tipping a hat to post- modern culture. It is the sort of venue that on some level is there to make fun of itself. Participants don’t take themselves too seriously, donning attire ranging from day-glow fishnets to platform shoes. At these events it is all about amping up the fun, feeling the vibe and embracing the moment.

The archetypal energy of the trickster can run rampant at this type of venue. Although at his core he just wants to play, if you’ve been burned by some of his more overt aspects in the past you may see the qualities he brings to the table as inherently malevolent instead of innocent. Trickster energies and situations embody qualities like spontaneity, neutrality and a penchant to let go and be in the here and now without regard for the outcome of a situation. His core archetypal energy can feel chaotic, overwhelming, dismissive, or just downright scary to anyone who has anticipated a softer, warmer or kinder experience of him.

No doubt each of you can think of a time in your own lives when you thought you were going to kick up your heels, have a wonderful time and be safely transported on a journey to previously unknown and magical realms. You may have imagined the direct result of this experience would be unconditional love, incredible success, unparalleled notoriety or a big leg up toward achieving a much sought after goal or experience. You went into the situation totally wide eyed, hopeful and ignoring the helpful and necessary reality testing and grounding that accompanies a more pragmatic perspective.

Know that It was your openness and hopefulness that helped you get this far. Know too that the emotional elevation which was a part of the experience made the fall from your lofty expectations into the reality of the situation seem much greater.

Know as well, that the road is made bumpier when trickster shows up because you can’t fall back on your experiences with his energy. He provides no soft landing. You see the trickster by his very definition, just doesn’t care. He may appear to care in the moment. In fact he’s incredibly interested in all the details that make your story compelling. He’s just not so interested in an attachment to any one story. And so he’s not attached to your story, beyond the entertainment or the momentary excitement it provides him.

Think of a one night stand, an unethical boss, an underhanded company, or a business deal that seems perfect but goes South just as quickly. It hurts to be misled. And still, as long as you try to label the trickster as bad, or wrong, or label your own actions as misguided well, you miss the trickster’s biggest gift. Say what you will of trickstery situations. They do help us grow.

If you can observe and anticipate the trickster’s behaviour instead of judging it or becoming seduced by it, you will recognize that at his core the trickster opens the door for change. The trickster enables us to change our perspective, increase our awareness, and alter our more habitual behaviours. The trickster wakes us up. If we can change our awareness and reflect on the shifts we see and feel in our self-concept, then the changes the trickster evokes in us are deep ones. You can learn to see yourself more clearly, and love yourself more deeply, precisely because trickster was at his very core, unreliable.

However, the bigger questions that often go unasked are why did we stop questioning our experience of the situation? When there were read flags, why did we ignore them? How did we become invested in a trickster being reliable, kind, aware, and above board? Surely, we could see that our agreement to go along with his scheme required us to incrementally abandon small parts of ourselves?

Think about little Red Riding Hood in the Children’s fairy tale. Surely she knew her grandma didn’t have such big teeth? It is her curiosity and desire for new information and experiences that enables her to slowly abandon herself and her definition of what she knows to be true. This said experience is a very necessary and sacred teacher.

As for my own story, I knew pretty early on in reflecting about this venue that it would be a game changer for me. I knew too that my experience of it was an inside job. I had figured out when preparing for this event that I might feel triggered based on some of my past experiences, and too,that that trigger was my opportunity to move forward and withdraw myself from all my preconceived notions about this event and those who chose to attend it. I knew this because I felt it. We also did a tarot card reading to see what the evening might hold. We got the hanged man as the significator, and the hierophant, as the cross card.

The hanged man reinforced what I already felt; that I had a wounded place around issues of feeling rejected, or other when it came to these types of events. I knew I would need to ask myself to reflect on experiences from my past. Last time I was required to tap into this energy I had unearthed a still sea of deep wounding. The hanged man meant I would need to accept some of these feelings and yet not identify with them. Only then, like the hanged man could I turn myself around and be able to join my tribe.

The thing about this loaded scenario is that while initially the experience may have been legitimately wounding due to a bully or someone who casts you in a bad light or disrespects the work you do; or perhaps like me because you stayed in a place too long that doesn’t fit anymore, either way the wounds are now self- inflicted. Now it is you that carries the projection within yourself.

Your judgement of yourself or others, expressed by the wounded place, ensures that the cast of characters that inhabit the story will be wrought with similarities that while only surface deep now seem to be the same at their core. This overall sameness is the clue as to the amount of healing work that you need to do. Because of this the energies you bring are now morphing spectral shadows. They are distorted, grow fiercer and take up more space. The cast of characters may appear to have less scrupulous motives. This is how you know this shadow energy is truly spilling over into your life. It represents your unacknowledged fear.

Back to the cards…the cross card in the spread was the hierophant. Think of him as shading the lessons the hanged man brings to the table. There are two different faces to this card. On the surface he is the pope. He is a highly revered and elevated figure, protected by orthodoxy and in some ways protected from more fallible hands on definitions of truth. He may be afforded this status if he wants it. However, this posture only gets him so far. It may mean he has elevated himself from the pain of his friend, the hanged man, being upside down. However, both the hanged man and the hierophant –are suspended between reason and the heart. Somewhere between these two conditions human vulnerability hangs in the balance.

The second way of viewing the hierophant, perhaps the deeper way, is as the wounded healer, Chiron. In some decks (the Guilded) Chiron, represents the areas in your life where you feel different, isolated, and unable to heal yourself because of something that you went through. However for Chiron his wounding is a great part of his strength and wisdom.

In the story of Chiron it his differences that make him strong, wounded yet a healer. He is unlike others in his tribe, not course and unfeeling but refined and aware. He uses his pain to refine his skills and gifts. In the story he is made king of the centaurs because of his wisdom. He also became, a unique healer using plants and herbs to heal others. It is true, Chiron was struck with a poison arrow, and he was unable to heal himself. It was said that because he was immortal he would live with his wound forever.

In many ways when we go into a trickster situation we are like a cross between these two cards. We can be the pope version of Chiron-unwilling and unable to heal. In this case we are caught up in assumptions about outsiders that keep us safe. But there is a price we pay for this emotional cloistering. We can’t share our gifts either. This makes it that much harder to heal.

While we may avoid the initial discomfort of new experiences we also avoid the ability to add new experiences to our repertoire, which enables us to chip away at old assumptions. To be sure, whenever we reinforce black and white assumptions about people and situations our first motivation is an attempt to avoid some kind of pain.

However, whitewashing our perceptions means we are still frozen in and by them. We are like that still sea of wounding. Yes, we may sit, unchallenged, but also unchanged. We find ourselves in a very lonely place indeed, the place just beyond our ability to grow.

Conversely, Chiron is able to grow precisely because he is able to take the things that wounded him, and heal others in his tribe. He is aware of the wounds that isolation and being different have triggered in him. But it is because of his awareness of himself as having moved through that place of pain and suffering that Chiron can tap into great empathy toward himself and others. He is a light and a channel for their healing and transformation.

How have you learned and transformed yourself? Are you like the first version of the Hierophant (The pope) around this situation or the second (Chiron)? While you may need to give up the painful details of telling your backstory and instead live your best story to grow through it; know that it is in embracing your whole story that you can experience love and forgiveness for yourself. It is through moving through the assumptions you have held about others and heart-to heart engagement that you will help others shine brightly.


  • 22 Jun 2018 2:12 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)
    Thanks for this interesting and thought-provoking piece, Jennifer. You have really captured the essence of Trickster, and how we can be in relationship with him.
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