Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tricksters - Ananse and Coyote - Chapter 1

Tricksters have been common in world myths throughout history. They often bedevil their more serious brethren and mankind. They also provide lessons on how not to take yourself so seriously. And in rare cases, are essential in creation and the survival of human kind. Below are just two of my favorites.

Ananze - The Spider Storyteller, Ananse is responsible for many of the stories that have been handed down from West African and eventually West Indian traditions. A few of these have been re-translated by american slave cultures into familiar tales, most notably the tales of Uncle Remus's Brer Rabbit. But first and foremost Ananse is a spider, and a cunning one. And like most tricksters he was eternally horny. He even seduced the Sky God's daughter. 

A few of Anase's tricks:

The Sky God's Challenge - When the Sky God (probably still pissed because Ananse seduced his daughter) insisted Ananse bring back something from Earth but wouldn't tell him what. Ananse tricked him into revealing it was the darkness, the moon,and the sun. Ananse brought darkness out of a gunny sack and no one could see anything. Then he brought out the moon and they could see a little. When he brought out the sun many of the animals were blinded by its glare. Thus Ananse invented blindness.

The Sticky Doll - Ananse tricked the High God Nyame (who never let any stories be told. He was a bit of a dick.) into letting Ananse be the the keeper and teller of all stories by capturing a fairy and bringing it to the High God. He painted a doll with sticky sap and set it in a meadow where fairies liked to dance.The doll had sitting in its lap some yam mash. A fairy came along and asked if he could have some of the mash. Ananse made the doll's head nod. When the fairy tasted the mash, he thanked the doll, who said nothing. The fairy was insulted and slapped the doll - his hand stuck. Thus Ananse brought the captured fairy to Nyame, who put Ananse in charge of stories. And thus stories were shared with the world. And yes this is the basis for the Brer Rabbit story, 'The Tar Baby'. 

Coyote - Inventor of Death. Because coyotes can be found throughout most of North America the Coyote Trickster is a staple of many of the plains and mountain tribes. Bored with the perfection of creation (people never got sick, never grew old, food was plentiful), Coyote tried his own hand at creating beings, who turned out only absurd and funny looking. This cracked up Coyote who laughed so loud he attracted the Attention of the Earth-Initiate, who had created the heavens and the Earth. When told that laughing at his poor wretches was rude, he denied doing it and thus invented lying. Then he approached the happy people of the world and convinced them that sickness, death, and competition were the best things ever (tricksters always have the gift of gab). Unfortunately, the first being to die was Coyote's own son. Thus weeping was invented.

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