If your resident class clown gets on your nerves, keep patient, for humanity has found itself plagued by tricksters since time immemorial.
No, we are not talking about tricksters that deal with magic; we are talking about tricksters in mythology who apparently had a higher degree of intellect that they have used to trick others.
In fact, you’re as likely to find a trickster in every mythology as you are to find one in every class.
Psychologist Carl Jung calls the trickster figure an archetype or a universal motif that spreads across various cultures.
William J. Hynes, in the book Mythical Trickster Figures (1997), classifies tricksters in mythology as one who manifests the traits of an ambiguous and eccentric personality, deceit, and shapeshifting, among others.
So here are four tricksters from mythologies across the world.
1. Hermes (Greek Mythology) – Tricksters in Mythology
As one of the twelve Olympian Gods, you might expect Hermes to behave responsibly— except he doesn’t. Hermes was rather unaware of the existence of responsibilities.
Hermes finds himself searching for constant amusement and is perhaps one of the most colorful gods in Greek mythology (which speaks volumes when you consider that the Olympians were a colorful lot).
At an age when humans are still learning to walk, Hermes stole his half-brother, Apollo’s sacred herd of cattle, while carefully reversing their hooves to cover his tracks.
Hermes has stolen Poseidon’s trident, Artemis’ arrows, and Aphrodite’s girdle. Perhaps the only thing that saved him was his skilled rhetoric and diplomacy. You might be surprised to know that this thief god is also regarded as the patron of the home.
2. Susanoo (Japanese Mythology) – Tricksters in Mythology
Do you think you have a terrible sibling? Think again.
This storm deity of the Shinto religion is famously known for plaguing his sister, Amaterasu, with the destruction of her kingdom in the High Celestial Plains. While he initially ruled with her, he was banished for destroying forests and killing the humans on earth.
According to a myth, Suzanoo flayed a celestial horse and threw it upon his sister’s roof. Angered, Amaterasu responded how several teenagers might and shut herself in a cave, refusing to emerge until the other gods had pacified her.
Quite obviously, Suzanoo was banished again. Despite his reputation, this deity is associated with culture and farming.
3. Loki (Norse Mythology) – Tricksters in Mythology
Before he became the Marvel Comics anti-hero, Loki was the resident trickster of the Nordic gods.
According to Norse myths, Loki is portrayed as a man full of evil schemes. He’s by turns playful, malicious, and helpful but has rather nihilistic tendencies.
Loki is quite selfish in his desires and only helps the gods and giants who can benefit him in return.
Loki’s genius might lie in the fact that not only does he defy society but also nature. Loki is the mother – no, that is not a typographical error– of Sleipnir, Odin’s horse, whom Loki gave birth to after shapeshifting into a mare and courting the stallion Svaðilfari, as is recounted in the tale of The Fortification of Asgard.
4. Cupid (Roman Mythology) – Tricksters in Mythology
The favorite god of anyone in love, Cupid’s image was originally that of a beautiful young man who played tricks on those in love. Being struck by Cupid’s golden arrows leads to uncontrollable desire, and being struck with the leaden one leads to aversion.
Apollo (who seems to be at the receiving end of one too many pranks) was struck by a golden arrow when he taunts Cupid for his poor archery skills, and the object of his love, Daphne, is struck by a leaden one. Cruel, cruel love!
There you go, if you thought that all Gods in our mythology were saints, think again!