In the study of mythology and religion, a trickster is a god, goddess, spirit or human who breaks the rules of the gods or nature, sometimes maliciously (for example, Loki) but usually with ultimately positive effects. Often, the rule-breaking takes the form of tricks (eg. Eris) or thievery. Tricksters can be cunning or foolish or both; they are often very funny even when they are considered sacred and are performing important cultural tasks. Animals associated with tricksters include coyotes and ravens.

In many cultures, particularly American Indian, the trickster and the culture hero are combined. To illustrate, Prometheus, in Greek mythology, stole fire from the gods to give it to humans. He is more of a culture hero than a trickster. In many North American Indian mythologies, the coyote spirit stole fire from the gods (or stars or sun) and is more of a trickster than a culture hero. This is primarily because of other stories involving the coyote spirit; Prometheus was an intellectual Titan, whereas coyote is usually seen as a jokester and prankster.


copyright 2004