Notes on Trying to Trap Trickster

Well, this past week Trickster has been laughing and whooping and generally congratulating himself on his wit — and I must admit, I’ve been chuckling & shaking my head, too. In last week’s post, I wanted to let Coyote’s tracks run free at the end of the post as a final comment on Wildness, but the WordPress format kept them in a box. Finally, a dear one hacked the code and, he said, got rid of the box. However, when I checked later on my computer, the confining box was still there. So I sighed, resigned myself to WP’s restriction, and added some comments about boxes & tracks. …. Then, folks began reporting that they hadn’t seen the box I’d mentioned. Well, I thought, it must have been that WordPress knows my computer & makes the box show up on it even when I bypass my personal link with them & reach my posts directly through the internet. So Friday afternoon, I tried viewing the post through my phone (number unknown to WP) — and the darn box was still there hedging in the tracks for me even on a different device! Hmmmm…. Maybe Trickster is trying to make a point, to deliver a personal message to me. Maybe I need to be less resigned to those in power, to get out of my own box & be wilder…?

To make things funnier for me, last week I began rummaging through a box of old papers & notes, dating from ca. 20 years ago. At that point in my life, Trickster had already set up a stubborn presence in my mind and my heart. I was doing a lot of reading about him — tales from around the world, anthropology, psychology. But, although I’d been an anthropology major in college, 35 years had elapsed since graduation and I needed someone to introduce me to newer anthropological sources & concepts, someone to help me focus, someone with whom to share discoveries and bounce around ideas. Dr. Claudia Chang, professor of Anthropology at Sweet Briar College, kindly agreed to take me on as a “non-matriculating, auditing student” for an Independent Study class. [Thank you, Claudia! I was and still am so grateful.] Apparently, the college required a topic/name for our work together and, according to the heading on the proposed bibliography I just unearthed, I chose “Trying to Trap the Trickster.” When I found that piece of paper, I just had to smile . One of the things I have learned (and am still learning) is that “trapping” Trickster is, at best, a mirage. Even back then, I should have recognized that I was the one being trapped!

So, trapped as I am in Trickster’s world, it seemed best to pay attention to his message this week & leap outside of my box and make some tracks of my own!

Over the years, I have thought & written a lot about Words as Tracks, but this week my wildest tracks fled the page and became fiber. The half-woven mask that had been waiting far too long on my loom, told me I must finish her, must let her stop being an idea & become real. Almost as soon as she was off the loom and she & I were beginning the sacred work of shifting her from flat to shaped, of exploring her depths, I knew her name was Thalassa. OK, I thought, I know that Thalassa means “sea” and this creation is woven of ocean colors. It makes sense.

Then I looked more deeply into the name.

I wasn’t able to find much firm information. [How fitting for a sea goddess, the watery essence, the ever-changing!] Wikipedia says “In Greek mythology, Thalassa (/θəˈlæsə/; Greek: Θάλασσα, translit. Thálassa, lit. “sea”) was the primeval spirit of the sea, whose name may be of Pre-Greek origin.” The Greeks gave her a human form and fit her into their pantheon, giving her parents, siblings, offspring — all of which vary from one source to the next, probably changing over time. She seems to have been of lasting interest. In the 5th century CE, a Roman mosaic depicts her wearing crab claws like horns, and holding an oar in one hand and a porpoise in the other — perhaps an intermediary between human and oceanic worlds?

But it is her earliest role as the actual embodiment of the waters, the sea itself — specifically the Mediterranean — that intrigues me. I wish I could know her earliest stories, but these were oral tales & though spoken words certainly leave tracks, they are often difficult to discern, well hidden, faded, lost to us. …. In any case, it is Thalassa’s primeval aspect that calls me & that has turned the making of this mask into an offering of gratitude for a particular gift I received from the Mediterranean Sea 50 years ago.

It has been fun to find that as Thalassa comes into being, long-forgotten yarns & fibers have started pouring out of boxes and drawers, offering themselves as part of the feast of colors & textures, part of the sea of being & becoming. I find myself immersed in a wild process of discovery & learning and am eager to experience what emerges!

Thalassa in process, becoming herself

T.S. Eliot, from “Dry Salvages” in Four Quartets:

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river 
Is a strong brown god--sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree...

  The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land's edge also, the granite
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale's backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many
Many gods and many voices.
                          The salt is on the briar rose,
The fog is in the fir trees.  ....

Savage Grace, Trickster Spirit

On Tuesday morning, I began to jot down thoughts for this week’s post. And then………. On Tuesday afternoon, I began to read Savage Grace by Jay Griffiths and was swept clear out of my chair and into the wild & wonderful Wind of Being.

The notes I’d made will have to wait. I must share with you some of Griffiths’ opening pages — words that are alive, a vision that conjures up a sense of Trickster Spirit:

Absolute Truancy. I felt its urgent demand in the blood. I could hear its call. Its whistling disturbed me by day and its howl woke me in the night. I heard the drum of the sun. Every path was a calling cadence, the flight of every bird a beckoning, the colour of ice an invitation: come. The forest was a fiddler, wickedly good, eyes intense and shining with a fast dance. Every leaf in every breeze was a toe, tapping out the same rhythm, and every mountain top lifting out of cloud intrigued my mind, for the wind at the peaks was the flautist, licking his lips, dangerously mesmerizing me with the inaudible melodies which I strained to hear, my ears yearning for the horizon of sound. This was the calling, the vehement, irresistible demand of the feral angel–take flight. All that is wild is winged –life, mind and language– and knows the feel of air in soaring flight. ….

I was looking for the will of the wild. I was looking for how that will expressed itself in elemental vitality, in savage grace. Wildness is resolute for life: it cannot be otherwise for it will die in captivity. It is elemental: pure freedom, pure passion, pure hunger. It is its own manifesto. ….

I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately –how resonantly– I belonged there. We are charged with this. All of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice. We may think we are domesticated, but we are not. …..

Jay Griffiths, Savage Grace (Berkeley CA: Counterpoint, 2015) pp. 1-2.

Although Jay Griffiths is here describing her personal longings, her words definitely conjure up the universal Trickster Spirit. The typical American use of the word “Trickster” — meaning some kind of con-man seeking money and power or a mere prankster — has not only missed the point but has attempted to limit that which by nature is limitless, to reduce Trickster into something comprehensible to our culture’s everyday sensibilities. Of course Trickster, in whatever culture he happens to be residing, will try to cheat others for personal gain & to pull pranks just for the hell of it. But that is only one of his many facets, not his total nature. Above all, Trickster Spirit is wildness, possibility, and creativity — the Life essence –personified.

Jay Griffiths grew up in Britain but her experience (poignantly described further in detail on p.5) is typical of many in the Western consumer-capitalist/Enlightenment cultures.

I know this chloroform world, she writes, where human nature is well-schooled, tamed from childhood on, where the radiators are permanently on mild and the windows are permanently closed…..

Trickster Spirit moves freely in the Larger-Than-Human World and, because (whether we acknowledge it or not) we dwell within & are an integral part of that larger world, Trickster even transgresses the oh-so-well-defended walls of our human cultures, our received ideas, our “chloroform world.” Trickster is Wild.

Lewis Hyde — in his delightful, must-read book Trickster Makes This Worldstates :

In short, trickster is a boundary-crosser. Every group has its edge, its sense of in and out, and trickster is always there, at the gates of the city and the gates of life, making sure there is commerce. He also attends the internal boundaries by which groups articulate their social life. We constantly distinguish — right and wrong, sacred and profane, clean and dirty, male and female, young and old, living and dead — and in every case trickster will cross the line and confuse the distinction. …. Trickster is the mythic embodiment of ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox. …. [T]he best way to describe trickster is to say simply that the boundary is where he will be found — sometimes drawing the line, sometimes crossing it, sometimes erasing or moving it, but always there, the god of the threshold in all its forms.

If you look at the bottom of this post, you will see coyote tracks meandering inside a frame, a box. Apparently, WordPress has decreed that every image must be so contained & I have not yet found a way to undermine this wall. But note that coyote (that old trickster) has left vibrant black marks, while the border, the boundary, the edge, the separating line is a pale ghostly gray. Which feels more real? Which is wilder? Which one enlivens you?


by Lucille Clifton

call it our craziness even,
call it anything.
it is the life thing in us
that will not let us die.
even in death’s hand
we fold the fingers up
and call them greens and
grow on them,
we hum them and make music.
call it our wildness then,
we are lost from the field
of flowers, we become
a field of flowers.
call it our craziness
our wildness
call it our roots,
it is the light in us
it is the light of us
it is the light, call it
whatever you have to,
call it anything.

~~ May Poem of the Month from : From How to Carry Water: Selected Poems

For the Earth


Today I am remembering a story that is widespread among the various tribe of North America’s plains and deserts. The details vary slightly from tribe to tribe and from telling to telling, but the story itself is remarkably consistent over a huge area. So, as many indigenous storytellers would say, “I don’t know if this is exactly how it happened, but I can promised it is true.”

My telling here is adapted from the Cheyenne story as recorded in Barry Lopez’s book, Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter: Coyote Builds North America (NY: Avon Books, 1977).

When I was in high school, I was privileged to spend a summer on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. It was a time whose reverberations are still active in my life, so perhaps I’ll write more about it later. Although I did not learn this story while I was there, it is still within that particular landscape that I envision its events. Please picture it with me — some low pine-clad hills rising behind the village, but mostly flat plains stretched widely out to the horizon. It is summer. Hot, dry. Clear blue sky, relentless sun. Few trees , rare patches of shade. There is a strong scent of sagebrush, with the underlying smell of ancient windblown dust. A hawk circling overhead has an unobstructed view for miles and miles and miles.


So. Coyote was walking along and as he went, he saw someone doing the strangest thing. That person said “Eyes, go out!” & his eyes flew right out of his head and hung from the tallest tree. Then, after he had looked all around and seen everything, that person called “Eyes, come back!” & his eyes flew right back into his head.

“Oh,” said Coyote to himself. “I want to do that!” Coyote sidled up to that person and asked sweetly. “Mister, you are so smart. Please teach me how to do that thing with my eyes.” And that person shrugged and said, “It’s not hard. Just speak in a firm tone and say ‘Eyes, go out!’ When you have seen all that you need to see, call ‘Eyes, come back!’

“Yes, yes,” interrupted Coyote, bouncing up and down with excitement. “I can do that.”

“But,” said that person in a stern voice, “there is one thing you must remember. Never ever do it more than 4 times in one day.”

“Yes, yes,” muttered Coyote impatiently. “Never more than four.” And the strange person left and went on his way.

“Now,” said Coyote, with a big grin. “Eyes, go out!” & sure enough, his eyes flew right out of his head and hung from a branch way up in the tallest tree. Coyote could see everything! He looked and looked, but after awhile he got a little worried and he called “Eyes, come back!” Sure enough, his eyes flew right back into his head!

“Well, that was easy,” said Coyote. “Nothing to it!” And again he called, “Eyes, go out!” And up they went to the highest branch of the tree. He looked and looked. When he saw a rabbit nibbling on a clump of grass—way off in the distance—Coyote began to feel hungry. He called, “Eyes, come back!’ & back they flew & off Coyote ran to get his breakfast. After he had eaten, Coyote thought to himself, “I’m thirsty. But I’m afraid Old Man Mountain Lion might be resting by the creek.” He thought a bit and a 3rd time he called “Eyes, go out!” He looked and looked. There was nobody by the creek, so he called “Eyes, come back!” & ran off to drink the cool clear water.

It was so easy. Coyote was full without having spent the whole morning searching for food and water. He sat down. After awhile, he felt bored. Coyote began to wonder what Fox and his wife were up to. A 4th time he called “Eyes, go out!” Coyote looked and looked. He grinned, he chuckled, he began to laugh. “Ha!” Coyote said to himself. “I’ll have to tease Fox about that next time we meet.” Then “Eyes, come back!” & back they came.

Coyote sat. And he sat. He scratched his ear. He stretched. He was bored. It was too early for lunch but, all the same, he began to wonder whether the fat prairie dogs had come out of their burrows to enjoy the morning sun. “Eyes, go out!” Coyote called. Up they flew and hung from the tree. Coyote looked and looked. Sure enough, he could see a town of unsuspecting prairie dogs way off to the east. “Eyes, come back!” Coyote called.

Nothing happened. “Eyes, come back!” But those eyes just stayed up in the highest branch of the tree. Coyote demanded, Coyote pleaded, Coyote made promises. Still, his eyes just hung up there in that tree. The sun beat down and shriveled those eyes. The flies gathered and walked all over them. And Coyote couldn’t see a thing.

At last, Coyote lay down and dozed a bit. Suddenly he woke to a tickle, tickle, tickle on his cheek. It was Mouse, who had come to cut some hair from that dead Coyote to line his nest. Quick as could be, Coyote opened his jaws and caught Mouse’s tail between his teeth. “Help! Help!” Mouse cried. “Please let me go. I saw that you had lost your eyes & I thought you were dead. I’m sorry.” But Coyote kept his teeth clamped tight together.

“Can you see my eyes up in the tree?” he asked Mouse.
“Yes,” said Mouse. “They are all blackened and shriveled from the sun. Would you like me to climb up and bring them down to you?”

Coyote thought. If they were blackened and shriveled, would his eyes be any good? And if he let go of Mouse, would Mouse just run away? “No,” Coyote answered. “I want you to give me one of your eyes.”

Mouse thought. He thought of his wife and children waiting at home. He thought about Coyote’s sharp teeth. Mouse took out one of his bright, beady little eyes and placed it in Coyote’s left eye socket. Coyote could see! Not much. Just a little. But it was better than being blind. Coyote opened his mouth in a big sigh of relief — and Mouse darted away.

Coyote got up and went along. But that eye was so tiny, he had to keep tilting his head so it didn’t fall out. Buffalo saw Coyote staggering past and called, “Coyote, what’s wrong?”

Coyote answered, “I’ve lost my eyes and this Mouse eye is too small. Please give me one of yours.”

And Buffalo, whose heart is great, took out one of his eyes and placed it in Coyote’s right eye socket. But that Buffalo eye was so big and heavy. It pulled Coyote’s head down—and then the Mouse eye began to roll out and Coyote had to tilt his nose back up to keep it in. And so… off Coyote lurched along wearily, off into the world.


Well, it may not be, for us, a very satisfying story.
It doesn’t have the neat “happily-ever-after” resolution that Disney and the advertising empires have taught us to expect. It sounds a bit too much like …. Life.

And there’s something else that troubles me about that story. A nagging itch, like a flea behind a coyote’s ear…. What is it? … I think it’s a sense of recognition — self-recognition — as if I were looking into a clear mirror and beholding myself and my Western Enlightenment culture.

“Eyes, go out!” I think first of the unmanned drones the U.S. seems to send so casually into the Middle East — peering into neighborhoods to see whether they will choose to rain down death. “Eyes, go out!” Spy satellites, radar, surveillance cameras, subsurface seismic prospecting to find needed ground water or locate yet more new oil fields. You can name more. For good or for ill. I admit to being very fond of the Hubble Space Telescope that has allowed us to look back almost to the beginnings of the universe.

And then, at the other end of the spectrum, electron microscopes, robotized photo-equipped miniature probes, the tracking of subatomic particles — laying bare the workings of things too small to imagine. No doubt there are positive results (I have personally benefited from the many ways of looking into the unopened or minimally opened human body) but these “eyes” have also allowed us — with great Coyote-like enthusiasm and impatience — to create and distribute new chemicals & to manipulate genes and nano-particles before we’ve even begun to consider the possible consequences.

“Eyes, go out!”

The feminist philosopher Marilyn Frye talks about the Arrogant Eye — the disembodied eye of the intellect that has forgotten its context and interconnections. The Arrogant Eye considers only itself to be real, to be worthy of respect. Everything else exists for its benefit. It believes the observer is completely separate from the observed.

In Western culture, the Arrogant Eye has become dominant. What can we find that will satisfy our needs, increase our bank accounts, give us the illusion of control? “Eyes, go out!”

Largely as a result of human actions, Earth is now in the midst of major climate disruption and mass extinction. Both human and other-than-human lives are threatened by our choices, but the Arrogant Eye — whether out in space, in a laboratory, or up in a tree — has forgotten that the eye is itself a part of the body.

Fortunately, we can change our visions, our actions, our hearts.

The antidote to the Arrogant Eye is the Loving Eye, the eye situated within — not apart from — the world it sees. The Loving Eye knows that Earth’s others have needs and purposes of their own, inextricably enmeshed with but distinct from ours and as worthy of respect. (For further details, ask the deer who has been eating your prized flowers. Ask the silt piling up behind the dam or the violet blooming out of a crack in the sidewalk. Ask a volcano.)

Let’s remember the second part of the instructions: “Eyes, come back!” Let our eyes remember and feel at home in our bodies, aware of all the intertwined bodies and forces of Earth. Taste, see, smell, touch, listen…. Only then, firmly in our bodies, will we retain and nourish the Loving Eye needed if we are to use our seeings — far and near — wisely, compassionately.

What would it be like if we could approach our Earth-kin in a multi-sensory and respectful way? What would it be like if we realized the limits of the Arrogant Eye and came back —literally— to our bodies, to our senses?

“Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real. Love…is the discovery of reality.”
— Iris Murdoch

(Photo by Eden Reforestation Projects)

“Gratitude is most powerful as a response to the Earth because it provides an opening to reciprocity, to the act of giving back, to living in a way that the Earth will be grateful for us.”
  —  Robin Wall Kimmerer

Trickster in the Skull

“There are ways in which stories create themselves, bring themselves into being, for their own inscrutable reasons, one of which is to laugh at humanity’s attempt to hide from its own clay. …[S]tories choose us to bring them into being for the profound needs of humankind. We do not choose them.

~~~ Ben Okri, A Way of Being Free

"May a good vision catch me
 May a benevolent vision take hold of me, and move me
 May a deep and full vision come over me, and burst open around me
 May a luminous vision inform me, enfold me.
 May I awaken into the story that surrounds,
 May I awaken into the beautiful story.
 May the wondrous story find me;
 May the wildness that make beauty arise between two lovers,
 between my flesh and the flesh of the this earth,
 here and now,
 on this day,
 May I taste something sacred."

                              David Abram,
I received this copy of Winter-Telling Stories on my 5th birthday, an early introduction to Trickster. In the lower right, you can see the Kiowa Trickster (Saynday) trapped in the buffalo skull.

~~~ The following is based on a Kiowa story collected by Alice Marriott (Winter-Telling Stories, William Sloane Associates, Inc, NY, 1947) & a Winnebago story collected by Paul Radin (The Trickster, Schocken Books, NY, 1956). ~~~

That one was coming along, and as he came, he heard a drumming sound. “My,” he said to himself, “I wonder where that drumming is coming from?” And as he walked, he looked around to see if there was a village nearby, but there was no village. And he looked up to see if it was thunder, but there was not a cloud in the sky. That drumming sound seemed to be coming from down near the earth. “What can that be?” he wondered. “Well, whatever it is, I’m going to find out.”

That one walked on and on, and the drumming became louder and louder. On the ground, he saw the scattered bones of some large animal, bleached white by years in the sun. “Oh,” he said, “That’s too bad. No meat at all left for me to gnaw.” And he stepped among the bones, crushing some the little ones under his feet. On he walked until, suddenly, he saw a skull lying on the ground. And the drumming was coming from inside the skull! In fact, the drumming was so loud it shook the skull until that skull seemed to bounce along the ground like a living thing.

“Well,” that one said to himself, “That’s some powerful medicine.” And he bent down and peered in through the eye socket.

Inside there were ants — a whole tribe of little red ants — and the drummers were drumming and the singers were singing, and he could see that they were having a sacred sun dance.

When the ants saw his big yellow eye peering in, two of the elders came over to that eye socket and asked, “What do you want?”

“Oh,” said that one, “You are doing such important things. You are thanking the Earth. You are making things better. I want to help, too. How can I come in?”

“Go in through the neck,” they replied. “That’s how we do it.”

And that one went around to the neck hole, but it was too small.

“Help! Help!” he cried. “The neck is too small for me to come in.”

The elders turned around. They spoke to that one. “Well,” they said, “Say to the neck-hole “Become large” and it will get big enough for you to enter. That is how we do it.”

And that’s exactly what that one did. “Become large!” he ordered. And the hole opened up, and he stuck in his head and looked around. And he heard the ants drumming their sacred songs and singing their sacred songs. And he saw the ants dancing their sacred dance. It was amazing. And he just sighed a big sigh of amazement.

And that sigh blew all the ants, and all their drums, and all their regalia and fragrant sage and sacred pole right out along the skull’s jaw where the tongue used to be, right out through the skull’s teeth where it used to gnash and chew, right out into the deepening dusk and gone.

And the neck-hole clamped back, tight around that one’s neck.
“Become large!” that one ordered. But the skull kept its grip.

“Let go! Let go!” he cried. But the skull stayed tight.

And that one’s eyes did not match the eye sockets of the skull. He could not see. And he stumbled about on the rough, rough ground — bumping into thorny bushes, twisting his ankle on loose stones — stumbling, tumbling here and there.

That skull stayed right on his head. The one inside couldn’t eat; he couldn’t drink. He promised this and he promised that, but still that old skull wouldn’t budge.

And so it was. I followed Trickster right into that empty skull. I stuck my head where it didn’t belong, into other people’s stories, into other people’s ways, into thoughts too big for words. And all my researching and cogitating and theorizing and long-winded explaining about Trickster got me nowhere. So here I am, like Trickster in the skull, heavy-headed, blind, lost, and weary.

I know the stories. In Marriott’s Kiowa story– rewritten for children — Trickster feels his way from tree to tree until he falls in the river and floats home to his village, where his neighbors pry off the skull and set him free. In Radin’s Winnebago tale, the trapped Trickster pretends to be Elk Spirit and convinces passers-by to bring him lavish offerings and then to look for good medicine inside the skull, setting him free in the process. And though Trickster kept their gifts, though he laughed uproariously, that one did at least keep his promise:

“‘For whatsoever be purpose for which you use this head, that purpose will be accomplished.’ So then they made themselves various medicinal instruments and afterwards found that they were efficacious. Then Trickster left and continued wandering.” [Radin, p.35]

And me? Neither family nor friends can seem to liberate me from the Trickster obsession that holds me as fast as any magic skull. And I doubt that I could, like the Winnabago Trickster, convince any hapless bystanders that I am an Elk Spirit to whom they should bring rich offerings –”red feathers, white deer skin, and red-yarn belts…in great quantities”. [Radin, p.34] Still, like Winnebago Trickster, I can promise that there is efficacious medicine available in here, just waiting to be shared. Maybe I can find another way through my dilemma. Maybe I can shape-shift the story’s ending just a little….


And after a long long time, after that one was black and blue from all his falling and faint with hunger and thirst, after he had begun to feel his life draining away, after he had begun to feel his own skull as worn out as that dried-up old one in which he was stuck, he panted to the skull that held him captive, “If you let me go, I’ll tell you a story.” And though –to start with– the skull stayed tight as ever around that one’s neck, slowly – as it listened – its jaws began relax. First, that one could see a little light between the teeth. Then, that one could smell fresh air. Then, that one could take in a little sip of water. And so the Story began……

What good story has been following you around lately — asking to be told, asking to be lived?

Raven Steals the Sun

Dear ones,

Thank you for your encouragement! As one who loves language, I can’t help but remember that the root of ‘encouragement’ is the Latin “cor,” meaning ‘heart.’ Also related to ‘core’ – the heart or essence of the matter. You all are helping to strengthen my heart, essence. Thank you. I hope I may also encourage you.

Several folks have asked about Subscriptions. l’d like to add that option for those who’d find it more convenient than checking out the website on Fridays, but it turns out that it’s less straight-forward than I (with my computer ignorance & naivety) realized. I’m working on it.

There’s also been an enquiry about a “Comment” button. Once again, it’s complex. Since this blog is in many ways a practice of discovering & sharing Voice, I would very much like to have it offer a place where the voice is not restricted to my own! In my dream, I would find a way to make it possible for folks not only to comment on or respond to my words but ultimately to respond to & converse with each other, encouraging & enlivening one another. But, as you all know, communication via internet is not the same as face-to-face sharing. There are many wrinkles. I’ll keep dreaming, as well as doing some more exploration of realistic possibilities.

I do hope to add links for further information and perhaps an ever-expanding list of some of my (our?) favorite resources. And….

…Sometimes I feel like Trickster, who is forever (literally or figuratively) biting off more than he can chew – – – – always with unexpected results!

But ….
….today, I promised you a Story.

These days many of us think of “stories” as escapes from life, or ways to lull ourselves, or others, into sleep. But Stories are wild & meant not only to comfort us but also to wake us up! Today’s Story and others like it have certainly led me — sometimes, jolted me — to new places, new understandings of myself and of the larger world …..

“The earliest storytellers were magi, seers, bards, griots, shamans. They were, it would seem, as old as time, and as terrifying to gaze upon as the mysteries with which they wrestled. They wrestled with mysteries and transformed them into myths which coded the world and helped the community to live through one more darkness, with eyes wide open and hearts set alight. …. And I think that now, in our age, in the mid-ocean of our days with certainties collapsing around us, and with no beliefs by which to steer our way through the dark descending nights ahead — I think that now we need those fictional old bards and fearless storytellers, those seers. We need their magic, their courage, their love, and their fire more than ever before. It is precisely in a fractured, broken age that we need mystery and a reawoken sense of wonder. We need them to be whole again.”

~Ben Okri, A Way of Being Free

Like Trickster himself, Stories are shape-shifters. Since the time they were first told, stories have been, again like Trickster, travelers – always “going along…” Like Trickster, they leap boundaries of geography, culture and ownership, and in the leaping they change to fit their new home. Often as they travel and transform, stories and their tellers begin to violate the original sacred practices and social norms — much as Trickster in many of his own Stories crosses forbidden boundaries and violates the rules of the storyteller’s culture. And still the Stories go about their work in the world. In fact, it can be said the Trick is in the Telling.



With gratitude to the Haida storytellers who shared their story and to all those of many cultures who have told & retold this and similar stories over the centuries.
This is my retelling for this day. Because there are so many versions, I cannot promise that this is exactly how it happened, but I can assure you that it holds truth.
~Margery Knott

Raven was going along and as he went he found himself stumbling and bumbling and bumping into unknown objects in the dark.

It was uncomfortable. It was undignified. “Ouch!” said the voice of Beaver. “Watch where you’re treading.” And “Ouch!” cried Raven himself as he tripped over Porcupine.

But there was no light— No light to be seen anywhere in the whole world, in the whole universe. All the light was hidden away where no one could find it.

Raven was tired of stumbling and bumbling and bumping in the dark. He said to the Wind, “O Wind, you go all around the world. Tell me — where is the Light hidden?” But Wind just flapped her many hands and ran away laughing. Even Raven could not fly fast enough to catch her.

Raven went down to the shore where Sea splashed and spilled against the rocks. “Sea,” croaked Raven in his sweetest voice. “O Sea, you are mighty indeed. You cover the world from edge to edge. Surely, you can tell me. Where is the Light hidden?” But Sea just laughed and pulled back its tide.

Now Raven was angry. He was tired of the dark. He wanted the Light. He wanted to gather it up and keep it for himself. “Sea!” he cried. “If you don’t tell me, I will begin to drink. I will drink and drink and drink you dry!”

Sea thought and thought. Sea knew that Raven was angry. Sea knew that Raven was powerful. Sea sent his tides back to tickle Raven’s toes and whisper, “Deep deep below my waves lives Old Man Under Sea. I have seen the faintest gleam seeping from his house. Look within.”

Raven thought. Raven planned. Raven dove deep deep deep and swam to the house where Old Man Under Sea lived with his daughter. He looked in the window. It was too dark to see Old Man. It was too dark to see his daughter. But Raven thought he could see just the faintest gleam of light in a far corner.

Raven knocked politely at the door. Old Man did not unfasten the lock. Old Man did not open the door. “Go away,” said Old Man. “There is nothing here.”

“Old Man, Old Man,” replied the Raven in his most humble voice. “I come to ask you to share your wisdom.”

Old Man Under Sea had just woken from a nap. He was sleepy; his head was not clear. “No!” he shouted. “You have come for my daughter, who may be as beautiful as the first fallen snow or as ugly as an octopus. But who can know — not even I —as long as the Light stays safe in my box. In any case, you cannot have her.”
And Raven could hear him turning away and stomping back to the fireside.

Raven stayed still. He stayed still for a long while. And after a day and a night and a day and a week, a shadowy figure emerged from the house, and though there was no Light, Raven could tell by the rhythm of her steps and how her hips set the world to humming that this was Old Man Under Sea’s daughter.

Raven followed her to the freshwater spring. He heard the splash as her tightly-woven basket hit the surface and the slurp of water as it sank down. That Raven turned himself into a fir needle. That fir needle floated on the water. That fir needle was gathered into the basket. And when the Daughter took a drink of the beautiful fresh water, that fir needle slid down her throat!

Old Man Under Sea’s daughter was pregnant. Inside her belly, Raven was growing and growing into a beautiful baby boy.

When the baby was born, Old Man Under Sea cradled him in his arms and said, “I cannot see you. You may be as beautiful as the first snow or as ugly as an octopus but you are my grandson and I love you.”

That baby grew and grew. He saw a tiny hint of Light gleaming from a carved cedar box half-hidden under a pile of otter pelts in the corner. He crawled over and tried to open it. He began to cry. “Want, want!” he cried in his tiny baby voice. “Want, want!” And louder and louder!

“No,” said Old Man. “No. That is not for you.”
“Want, want!” screamed the baby.
And after hours and hours of this crying, the grandfather opened the box and gave his grandson the box within.

Raven tried to open the box. He tried and tried. “Want! Want!” he cried and cried. And after hours and hours, his grandfather opened the box for him and gave to the baby the next box within. And each time, the gleam of Light from under the lid got a little stronger.

And so it went. And so it went. Down to the 7th carved cedar box. “Oh,” said Grandfather Old Man Under Sea, “oh, how loudly my wonderful grandson does cry. But still the Light is safe in its box. It won’t hurt to let this baby touch the box.”

But there in the dark where no one could see, Raven changed. Raven’s beak was strong. Raven pecked and pecked at the beautiful little carved cedar box. The lid sprang open! And Raven scooped the ball of Light into his beak and flew up and up and out through the smoke hole. He flew and he flew up through the sea. And as he flew up into the sky, rays from the Light struck the eye of Eagle and roused him from his slumber.

Eagle looked. Eagle saw a fat juicy bird flying through the sky illuminated by something in his beak.

Eagle had not been able to hunt in the dark. Eagle was hungry. Eagle flew. Eagle flew faster.

Raven could see Eagle behind him, getting closer and closer. Raven flew as fast as he could but it was not fast enough. Raven opened his beak wide to gulp in more air.

And out fell the Light!

Eagle veered away from the sudden brightness. Raven tried to catch the Light but it shattered and scattered into a great ball of flame in the east and a pale ball of silver in the west and a million million points of light in-between.
Old Man Under Sea rose up to look. Behind him, his daughter came to look , and sure enough, she was as beautiful as new fallen snow. And all the beings — the rooted ones and rock ones and the ones with scales and the ones with fur and the ones with feathers — opened their eyes to a colorful world and gave thanks.

And the Light shone.

And Raven continued on his way, going about his business in this shining world.

Ilya Shalkov


And –before I begin– a memo to myself for courage:

“ In out-of-the-way places of the heart
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”

~ John O’ Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us ~

I am a 77 year old woman. For the last 15 years or more I’ve been haunted by the Trickster Spirit as he appears in cultures around the world. I’ve studied him diligently in anthropology texts and read volume upon volume analyzing his tales. But Trickster doesn’t live in categories or theories. He doesn’t dwell on the printed page. Trickster — like Life itself — is present only in movement, relationship, and change. If, in a story, he is cut into pieces, he puts himself back together and goes on his way. No one can truly capture his essence, but storytellers, poets, and artists do invite you to glimpse and participate in his many facets. Trickster is Change & he changes the world.

When I attempted to analyze or describe Trickster in approved academic fashion, to pin him down like a specimen in a museum, he just slipped off the page and, laughing, danced off to other adventures. Finally I realized that all the time I’d been trying to “understand” him, he’d been trying to invite me to play, to explore my own transformation, to engage with the world in all its guises.

Trickster Spirit is a paradox. Whatever you can say about him, the opposite is also true. For example, among the Akan-Ashanti of West Africa, the Trickster (Anansi, the Spider) not only scattered the world’s Wisdom among the people but also, in other stories, brought the people Disease and Death. Among the Diné of the American Southwest, Trickster (Ma’i, Coyote) is a source of both healing and witchcraft.

So, is he a culture hero? Yes. Or the source of trouble? Yes. Or a character in instructive morality tales? Yes. On & on… The only things I might dare say about Trickster are that he is insatiably hungry, insatiably curious, and an inveterate boundary-crosser and transformer. In many of his stories, Trickster brings things out of hiding or tricks others into giving them to him. Then, most often (as in next week’s story), Trickster inadvertently spills his cherished hoard out into the world.

Hence, this blog. For far too long, I’ve kept my weavings of words, fiber, and ideas safely hidden in closed boxes. Now, in response to Trickster’s prodding , I’ll open some of those boxes, spill out the contents, and see what happens.

It is my hope that we will all enjoy this attempt to join the Trickster’s dance — though it is certain to include stubbed toes and awkward tumbles as I learn along the way. Trickster is a Transformer — and who knows? Maybe as we dance, we will — like Trickster — stumble onto new thresholds, thin places through which Enlivenment enters the world. Maybe we too shall be transformed.

With best wishes and lots of curiosity about where this journey might go,

P.S. I’ll start by posting once a week on Fridays. Then we’ll see whether Trickster has something else in mind.

“It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing…. It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”
— Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

              for Claude Levi-Strauss

 The old myths have been collected and catalogued by those whose way
 was to catch recalcitrant words and pen them flat in dense packed tomes
 or pin the slippery story lines onto sterilized dissecting trays
 that students might strip contingent flesh and study scientific bones.

 So tellings of Raven's derring-do dim beneath dust
 of dissertation, grow flaccid and disparate with misuse.
 Unhinged from tribe and firelight, they slowly compost
 into academic argument or curiosities that merely amuse.

 Yet That One with hair iridescent black gathers up his severed limbs 
 from dusty pages, from display case plucks desiccated skin.
 Preening his feathers he chuckles, remembers how once just for fun
 he slipped into the womb of Old Man’s daughter and stole away the Sun.
 He always returns, That One.  Splattering ink he leaps from our cage,
 riding tenuous rhymes to the end of the page 

                      and out
                           into this