26 July 2010


Christopher O'Brien. Stalking the Tricksters: Shapeshifters, Skinwalkers, Dark Adepts and 2012. Adventures Unlimited, 2009.

Just before reading this book, I was out walking in one of the tiny patches of wilderness left in my suburb, thinking of the story of the urban fox attacking two children as reported HERE. I was wondering about using it as a Northern Echoes piece, noting that this was a classic example of how the wilderness is, literally in this case, biting back, and it reminds us that nothing is really truly known, nothing is really tame and nowhere is really safe.

So I get home and open this book, to find in the preface by David Perkins a story of his encounters with an urban fox with a taste for quiche! That's synchronicity, that's the trickster for you.

What exactly is the trickster? Well the answer seems to be ill defined. In many traditional societies the trickster is the uncultured culture hero, a sort of overgrown baby, full of uncontrolled animal passions, but who almost by accident generates culture in his stumbling around. More generally they are seen as liminal beings which break through and down the structures of the world. More generally they are the reason why things fall apart: personifications of entropy. In the human world the trickster is represented by the clown, the satirist, and by the creative charlatan. Gurdjieff or Crowley would be good examples, as would contactees like Adamski. The human trickster is an edgy artist

George Hansen used the term to describe a variety of liminal experiences/phenomena, which challenge the structures of the dominant world view, in his book The Trickster and the Paranormal reviewed by David Perkins in Magonia HERE.
Christopher O'Brien, who had written three excellent books on the truly weird events in the San Luis Valley summarises the various cultural manifestations of the trickster figure, and its relation to the a number of anomalous personal experiences, several of which clearly fall into the spaces between the recognised Fortean disciplines, which is where one might expect creative chaos to reside. Ghosts, American leprechauns and much else beside.

Where I would part company with O'Brien, perhaps, is in his tendency to skate towards what one might call paranormal euhemism, in talking of the tricksters as though they were additional spooky 'things' out there. Better to see them as metaphors for the irreducible wildness and trickiness of everything.

In the final chapter O'Brien examines the trickiness at the heart of his political leaders, especially when trying to commune with their inner child at Bohemian Grove. Before we Brits laugh at this, we should note that according to rumour at least one well-known British political leader (who for the obvious legal reasons will be nameless, partyless and of uncertain gender) found an even stranger way of communicating with the inner child. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson

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