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The Trickster Gods Around The World

By Chinelo Eze
17 April 2022   |   3:30 pm
  Remember Loki, the sneaky god among other gods in Asgard, who was made known from the famous staples of Marvel? Loki is entrenched in the tales of Norse mythology. In mythology and folklore, the story without the trickster in the form of a god, goddess, human or spirit is incomplete.  A trickster exhibits sheer…

 

Loki. Photo Sagnanet

Remember Loki, the sneaky god among other gods in Asgard, who was made known from the famous staples of Marvel? Loki is entrenched in the tales of Norse mythology.

In mythology and folklore, the story without the trickster in the form of a god, goddess, human or spirit is incomplete. 

A trickster exhibits sheer intellect and often knows the secrets that are used as a weapon to play tricks and flaunt orders.

Typically, Loki is a defiant god who objects to the customs in character and other forms of living. According to Norse mythology, for Loki, nothing goes for nothing.

Unfortunately, this cannot be said of Ekwensu, who is the trickster and bargaining god in Igbo cosmology. Contrary to popular opinion that stems from religious beliefs, Ekwensu is not the devil.

Apparently, with the invasion that brought Christianity to Nigeria, many of the cultures and customs were not understood by these strangers trying to navigate this new terrain. In a bid to juxtapose the culture and traditions of the people placed beside theirs (missionaries), the idealised concept of Ekwensu referred to as the devil began to take root. This misleading notion has thus festered, making Ekwensu lose its original identity.

Just like Norse mythology that has Loki as the contriver of fraud and who does not fall short of it, among the Igbo gods (Alusi) like Ani, Chukwu, and Igwe, Ekwensu is the god who plays such roles. 

In Igbo spirituality, the concept of the devil does not exist and so Ekwensu is the god that also brings victory to the people, winning wars and thus seen as the God of war.

Ekwensu is crafty when it comes to trade and negotiations and is often petitioned for guidance in difficult money-oriented situations. He is perceived as a spirit of violence that incites people to perform violent acts. But with Ekwensu and every other trickster embedded in the mythology of varying cultures around the world, there is no grey area.

Ekwensu. Photo pnortiz

In Chinese mythology, the monkey king(Sun Wukong) is the trickster that was born with magical powers. However, Sun Wukong was not born as a monkey but had a strange birth from a heavenly stone. The monkey assumed the godly status from numerous explorations earning immortality. On such expeditions, the monkey, through deceit, gets the book of life and death and then erases his name and eats the pills of immortality.

In the Yoruba pantheon of gods is Eshu, the trickster. He is the god of chance, chaos, and unpredictability. Eshu, also called Elegba, teaches men through unpleasant experiences with the sole intention of helping them to be better individuals. Eshu is the bridge between humans and the gods. Unlike other pantheon of gods that are worshipped in the myths of distinct culture, the trickster is not revered with such acknowledgement.

Gizo, who is summoned with the beginning of a folktale, does it for Hausa mythology. Gizo appears valiantly armed with deceit used to successfully slip away from precarious situations.

Iris is the goddess trickster that is keen on starting troubles simply for her own entertainment, just like she did with the Trojan war.

In Ghana folktale, Anansi the spider appears as a shape-shifting trickster that can take the form of a man. 

In India, Indra and Ahswhrat generally embody the traits of a trickster just the same way other tricksters from different cultures derive joy in trickery or sometimes use it as a survival mechanism.

For the Celtics in Ireland, Lugh is depicted as the trickster, having the power to take any form like a feeble old man to lure people into believing that he is weak

For the native Americans, Wisakedjak is the troublemaker that caused a flood that destroyed the entire world but used its power to restore the world again. The Wisakedjak is deceptive but is known to carry out mockeries that are beneficial to humankind and not harmful.