UFO Conjecture(s)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Trickster: Ufology’s go-to concept for almost everything UFO-related

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.

Challenged by JR and Lawrence here for not really understanding The Trickster archetype, I’m presenting what I know, and they don’t, about the Trickster idea.

Jung considered The Trickster to be an archetype of the Unconscious, while Joseph Campbell, Mercea Eliade, and Roslyn Poignant found The Trickster to be a divine element from the mythology of ancient peoples, especially North American Indians, which is dealt with particularly by Paul Radin in his book, The Trickster [London 1955].

From the many examples and illustrations of The Trickster in Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Edited by Richard Cavendish [Orbis Publishing Limited, London, 1980] and the commentary by Jeffrey Burton Russell in his book, The Devil: Perceptions of Evil from Antiquity to Primitive Christianity [Cornell University Press, London, 1977] one can only conclude that The Trickster has to be equated with religions and theology, even the “religious beliefs” of AmerIndian cultures.

Elaine Pagels, in her book The Origin of Satan [Vintage books/Random House, NY, 1995] doesn’t refer to The Trickster as such, obeying the scholarly approach by placing the concept within the category of ancient religious writings dealing with angels or messengers of the divine (mal’ā k or benē’ elōhīm) in The Hebrew Bible.

While The Trickster is supported by theological references and antecedents, UFO buffs tend to eschew the exegetical references, out of ignorance or because they pretend to eschew anything that has a patina of a religious belief system.

That The Trickster is considered by academics to be a diluted aspect of Satan or the Devil is a given, and while UFO mavens choose to ignore that designation, we might conclude that the idea of Satan or the Devil (aka The Trickster) being the cause of UFO sightings or UFO encounters is utterly ludicrous.

That’s the reason I choose not to consider suggestions which bring The Trickster into the mix.

The Trickster idea is just one more idiotic explanation for flying saucer or UFO sightings.

The mythological machinations of various Trickster entities, from many cultures, are interesting from an anthropological standpoint, surely, but to insert them into the UFO topic, as an explanation for the phenomenon and its many attributes, goes against the intellectual grain.

JR and Lawrence would do well to read the material extant about The Trickster in order to escape the idea as a valid hypothesis for anything to do with UFOs.

If Loki, the half divine and half demonic foster-brother of Odin fascinates JR and Lawrence, so be it, but don’t try to insert Loki into the UFO subject.

If Legba, The Trickster of Dahomey, intrigues JR and Lawrence, let it be, but don’t try to bring it into the UFO lore; it doesn’t fit.

While the Indians west of the Rockies were concerned with animal beasts such as Coyote, the anti-hero and Trickster, analogous to the Great Hare or Nanabush of the Algonquins, the entities are deceitful, greedy, bestial with erotic mania, but not inclined to engage in the exotic machinations reported by UFO witnesses and exampled by the many accounts provided to us by Jose Antonio Caravaca.

The Raven of the Northwest Coast Indians, along with the Micronesian gods, such as Olofat (aka Yalafath, Iolofath, or Yelafaz) or Nareau the Younger, from the myths of the Gilbert Islands are known for their sexual mischievousness, not the kind of activity that makes up the reportage one finds in UFO accounts.

Some of The Tricksters noted here are just mischievous while others are evil or Evil and may be identified with The Watchers in the Book Of Enoch as Pagels notes [Page 38 ff.].

The Satanic association is palpable for the well-read.

When UFO hobbyists insert the Trickster inside the panoply of UFO tales, they (the hobbyists) show how little they know about Trickster myths, and how such myths, if they were versed in them, could not and should not be applied to UFO accounts, of any kind.

The qualitative differences between Trickster mythology and the UFO oeuvre is so striking that it amazes me how anyone could try to make a connection between the two.



  • I really don't have the time to argue about this endlessly, and nothing I say is going to change your mind. It's your blog as well, so I have to mind my Ps and Qs. In 2 posts though, because of length...

    Firstly you don't know what I know. You don't even know my professional background, nobody here does. You don't know what I studied at university and where. Really seem to have hit a nerve though, gotta say so. I really have to say that you have completely misunderstood my posting on the Trickster, then again to be expected as you willfully and stubbornly
    misunderstand the Trickster concept.

    I made it very clear that the Trickster like much of mythology is meant to be taken figuratively, metaphorically, not literally. The Devil archetype properly understood is meant to be taken figuratively (especially in its Judaic aspect). It is fundamentalists who take it literally to serve their own agenda, and like little children, seem incapable of mature thought, that is thinking symbolically, abstractly, allegorically. Hence their fundamentalism. Atheists likewise respond in kind. Oh how can there be a literal Devil, a literal Trickster? Impossible of course, therefore it's all rubbish and we can safely ignore these silly tales, these fictions. Frankly it's something of a disingenuous response, an equally immature one. But it reveals a common literal bloody mindedness from religious fundamentalists and atheists alike. Amusing I suppose, they are more alike than they know. This 'the Trickster is meant to be taken figuratively' is exactly what I wrote in my post. I made it very clear the Trickster, like Satan (at least originally) is meant to be taken METAPHORICALLY, FIGURATIVELY. I never denied the connection between the Trickster and Satan. I write it in capitals now, because Rich just didn't read or digest remotely what I am saying. I don't think it will make any difference this time around, but for others' benefit.

    Rich, do you think the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Knowledge and the Serpent is meant to be taken literally, and because it clearly cannot, the whole story is rubbish? Do you think the story of Jonah and the whale likewise, Achilles and his heel, his only weak point, which is where Paris' arrow happens to find its mark, and Theseus and the minotaur are meant to be taken literally? And since clearly they cannot, these tales and myths are just baloney? I deliberately mention the above tales/legends because they are very PROFOUND myths/stories relevant to the human condition, human fate and our relationship with the wider world and one another. When understood as they are intended to be - figuratively, not literally.

    By Blogger Lawrence, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • I have read Radin's The Trickster, I have my own copy (and I know things about Radin's bitter experiences as an anthropologist, and his professional mistreatment by colleagues that are little known one would expect by ufologists, if at all). I have also read Hansen in this regard and am familiar with African Bantu Trickster myths likewise. You going to tell me Hansen doesn't understand the Trickster? You know better Rich. Hansen doesn't gloss over or pretend irrelevant the Trickster's relevance to ufology. The exact opposite. I am also familiar with Chris O'Brien's work here. Now like a lot of people here I am critical of O'Brien as well, I think he has made some big mistakes as co-host with Gene Steinberg of the Paracast. I am not going into that here, a lot of you will know all about that, not going to dredge that up here. That is a whole other issue though and O'Brien's contributions to the Trickster and ufology are important, relevant and deserve wider exposure. He is knowledgeable of the literature here, and cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. But hey what did those Native Americans know likewise? Good thing the Europeans came along to civilize those devil worshiping heathens. Yes I'm being sarcastic.

    That reminds me, do you think Native Americans meant their trickster tales of Coyote and Raven to be taken literally? Do you think Aesop did with his own stories where animals are the characters?

    There is a helluva lot more I can say about the Trickster and its dual, even paradoxical aspect (dark and light, malevolent and benevolent, leading the way to truth and away from truth). I could go on about the Trickster's role in politics, where the Trickster is fundamental, but you know...

    As Rich is a Roswell believer, even now (even as he tries to downplay it, pretends to be removed from the dogmatic inflexible Roswell believer status and the Dream Team blather. That's a whole other thing...), I can understand why he doesn't want to admit being duped by the Trickster here. Roswell is all the evidence you need for the Trickster in ufology (and that's not all by a long shot, hardly!) and Rich can't admit that. Ever.

    Too bad, because frankly you are going to miss the meat in the sandwich. This is where it's at. But go ahead, keep nibbling at the crust and the crumbs. It's your life.

    This is all I have to say on the subject. Feel free to continue to misconstrue what the likes of myself and Hansen, O'Brien, Harpur, David Halperin and others are getting at. It's your blog after all.

    Boxed thinking is the bane of ufology, and not just ufology. As is literal mindedness.

    By Blogger Lawrence, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • I should have added that James Moseley and Keel got it likewise. But what did they know, hey Rich? Also Jenny Randles and Vallee to a large degree. But Vallee I think gets it from the wrong end of the stick, maybe Keel did too. But that's another thing, and misses the point really.

    Once upon a time, Jerome Clark got it, and Loren Coleman too (although they never spelled it out in black and white, they were more subtle). And then they went very much astray.

    By Blogger Lawrence, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • Lawrence,

    You know I luv ya, and my post was meant to be provocative; that is, I hoped to get something from you and JR -- and I did.

    I know you are Trickster erudite, but when you implied my initial view, where I said The Trickster "smacked of" the Devil or Satan, was erroneous, I had to take you on, sort of.

    You have the concept down and its misuse by UFO quidnuncs, so take it easy.

    Your credentials with me are intact and now should be intact with others.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • And Lawrence...

    Let me suggest Jung's "Answer to Job" which is essential reading, like Melville's Moby Dick.

    I bet you've read it, but your note about Satan in Job seems to indicate that the Jungian view didn't impress.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • Pt. 1

    There's little more to say regarding the mythology and folklore attributed to the trickster that Lawrence hasn't already said. But, before I go on, this is not really a subject to be covered in any depth in a comments section of a blog.

    That the trickster exists in culture as a thematic, meaning as Lawrence said a metaphor, is a given. There is no "entity" that is the trickster, as it applies to the parapsychological application - that is if you're going to discuss it seriously and with any rational discourse. It's an abstract. Clearly this undercurrent has been recognized in some form or another and integrated or expressed in myth and other cultural artistry as a character that encompasses the idea, or at the very least the abstract of it. (See Dr. Jeff Kripal's work for that tangent) That's not to downplay the myth, as Vallee and Keel both saw the overwhelming prevalence of the mythological thematics and motifs present in their studies of the paranormal - as well as this over-arching deceptive sub-theme.

    The trickster for my argument is an undercurrent of what follows, precedes, and encompasses paranormal events, and also the figures that exist in it. (Yes, even us.) George Hansen has boiled down in laborious fashion what the essence of the idea is and presents them in such a way that should influence practical application to investigations of sightings, abductions and close encounter scenarios in the UFO field, ghosts and psi...and on down the line (not that anyone would actually listen and try it out - the field seems content to run circles around itself with the same old nonsense that has gotten no one anywhere in 60+ years - which by the way, is very trickster-ish all on it's own).

    Hansen states "The phenomena are not to be tamed by mere logic and rationality, and attempts to do so are doomed to failure." I see no more fitting a line to describe the study of UFO's. This latest Roswell dust-up has the fingerprints of built in self-negation that is integral to the structure of the phenomenon itself - it's all very trickster-like. The loose lips, the betrayal of confidence, the sense of entitlement, suspicion, infighting, divisiveness, the marginal figures involved...I could go on and on here. We've seen it all before, time after time, yet refuse to see it past a sociological effect - ego/personality driven issues and intellectual posturing. But it has, like it or not, become a hallmark consistency with the same players in different skin suits - and therefore deserves very careful scrutiny and contemplation when stepping back to look at the subject and it's workings as a whole.


    By Blogger JR, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • Pt. 2

    In short (very short), the trickster to me embodies these elements that are consistent throughout the paranormal studies and their reports: anti-structure, liminal states, binary opposition and marginality (both people and places) and there's more, but these seem the mainstays to me. These ideas and themes fit not only the bigger aspects but go down to a granular level.

    Here's a for instance: for decades the UFO "field" has complained that the powers that be, have withheld and absconded with all relevant and smoking gun evidence of UFOs. The govt. or intelligence community is withholding the truth from us, and we want to know.

    But when one digs in the right places, you find the consistency in reports that no one wants to talk about in any depth, and one that UFOIogy really doesn't want to admit, is that the entire experience deliberately seems to cast doubt upon itself and render the entire event absurd. I believe Vallee said something along the lines that, you can talk about this stuff and your experiences with it, but to tell the unvarnished truth of the account is to be taken for a fool. More trickster, it could not be. So, while we're all regaled with the latest case of a close encounter, I've contended for decades we're not getting the whole story from either the witness, or the presenter/researcher. Deeper looks into that notion have proved true in what cases and people I've been able to study. It's either not a salable product as a book, or it doesn't fit the ideology of the researcher presenting - and it's relegated to outlier data. The outlier data is potentially where we'll get better questions for this thing - nevermind answers for the time being. But forget that, because it doesn't hold up and support UFOlogy's long-held notions. Can't go there.

    Transition, uncertainty, and deconstruction are all over the UFO and paranormal accounts if you actually put the event itself aside and look at the surrounding elements and frameworks of the situation.

    Hoaxes are also a big part in all this. Nothing used to aggravate me more as a visual data examiner. But now I've come to terms with the fact that such things are to be expected as part of this interaction with the paranormal. I'm not saying every hoax is tied integrally to the trickster (or staying with your theme RR "the devil made me do it") undercurrent directly, but stepping back and looking at the whole, and considering the other consistencies - it's to be expected in spades.

    It's also interesting in what the fields attract as far as people - my friend Russ Estes (RIP) told me long ago "You'll find some very scuzzy people in UFOlogy - some you wouldn't expect". I take that a step further: the field is rife with people who cannot get arrested in any other field. Marginal figures abound in the study of this stuff as some of it's leading "authorities"...and we are all taken aback at their followers and ardent defenders - not seeing that a loss of critical thought when it comes to this subject is also a highly visible consistency.


    By Blogger JR, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • Pt. 3

    How many research figureheads have we seen really start out well who seem very critical, methodical and sharp - only to see them reduced to...well how to put this sympathetically...bat shit crazy within a short time? Keel and Vallee seem to recognize this as they both extricated themselves, or at the very least backed off intermittently. But moderation is hard in these subjects. That dangling carrot is always calling. The one we're tempted with but we'll never get. (Trickster)

    It also effects groups who set out to study the paranormal. None of these groups last very long - they systematically break down in fairly short order, or are completely restructured with new members. If something is surrounded by the anti-structural is engaged, one has to be anti-structural to engage it. That's not good for relationships (the study of UFOlogist's personal relationship success/failure is one I've wanted to study for a long time in conjunction with all this), groups or organizations. The Roswell Dream Team won't last, any more than the new Aerial Investigations Group will. If they do, it'll be with a constant influx of new members and constant dismissal of others. But that's a whole other topic.

    So, it's far more complex and involved than myth, and not really suited for limited discussion to realize the totality in a comments section. It's not about Loki, Legba, Coyote and Satan in the literal sense, but as Lawrence said, metaphor and figuratively - putting a face or a character to a recognized undercurrent present in the apparent breakdown in the normal, the routine, the mundane. To compare the abstract concept directly with such characters is like testing Lincoln's portrait for his DNA - one has nothing to do with the other beyond representation.

    Lastly, I'm not a "hobbyist", and I'm into this for admittedly selfish reasons: I want to know why I've experienced the things I have, why others see it in my presence, and to better understand the impact it's had on my life. This goes far beyond the stupidity of UFOlogy, the intellectual sparring for the sake of sparring and one-upmanship (seen so often here for instance), and the vehement refusal for some to admit error to the detriment of real teamwork and quality of inquiry. For me the trickster, or whatever label one wants to put on it, represents demonstrable consistencies that cannot and should not be ignored - despite the air of self negation and absurdity that it represents. It's a lot more than an odd literary device, and it's far more complex than I've described. But like Lawrence, I doubt any of this will change your mind on any front, and I've not got the time to argue it endlessly either. I can appreciate your opinion Rich, without the inference of idiocy upon Lawrence or myself, which has all the "smacks of" a Jerry Clark glowing, personable response. (But again, conflictual responses are to be expected when discussing the subject - trickster, disharmony, and so on)


    By Blogger JR, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • Thank you JR for your exegesis-like comment.

    For me, to insert The Trickster concept in any UFO discussion takes the topic into realms which do not pertain, even though there is the patina of mischief you note.

    Trickster commentary muddies the UFO waters and are self-destructive, here, to those who insist on placing the matter into the UFO arena.

    The Trickster myths intrigue, a little, but have nothing to do with Good or real Evil, and are considered by me to be prankish rather than morally or intellectually debilitating.

    While, I agree, that some UFO events have Trickster-like elements in them, that is fortuitous rather than inherent.

    Trickster inserts by UFO mavens come from an attempt to appear creatively intelligent, without the substantive knowledge to pull that off.

    You, JR, along with Lawrence know your stuff, so I was surprised to read your opprobrium about my stance disavowing Trickster commentary here.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • I see 'Satan' as a diluted and demonized Trickster. Ambiguity in a hierarchy is a bomb in the incense. Suck out the blood and you inflate the bogey. It's all rather amusing, actually.

    The Trickster? Do we ever have the information we need to carry out our machinations? The walls of the cave are well alive, no matter which way the ruse turns... "The only way in is out, and the only way out is up." Maybe.

    There is peripheral evidence that aspects and elements of our intelligence community have integrated this into their treatment of sources and methods. But that is a book and I'm on it...

    I am the Puppetburglar and I approve this message.

    By Blogger The Puppetburglar, at Friday, October 11, 2013  

  • Lawrence and JR have made my case much more eloquently, and with much better references, than i could have myself. Many thanks to you two!

    But the phrase that made me break my self-imposed commenting ban here was this: "The Raven of the Northwest Coast Indians, along with the Micronesian gods, such as Olofat (aka Yalafath, Iolofath, or Yelafaz) or Nareau the Younger, from the myths of the Gilbert Islands are known for their sexual mischievousness, not the kind of activity that makes up the reportage one finds in UFO accounts."

    yeah, right - none of that freaky sexy stuff in any flying saucer stories, no way! I cannot recall the last time i ran across such a pants-peeingly perfect self-negation of a person's supposed thesis.

    Thank you for the laughs! i've printed this out for ease of reference. And the lady coyotl we have hanging out back here says: "Nice pics!" steph

    By Blogger tinyjunco, at Monday, October 14, 2013  

  • If being called on the carpet for buffoonery, ignorance, sexual transgressions and blindness to the psychodynamic nature of particular ufo content (which someone or other doesn't really feel like addressing) for the purpose of educating the community at large as to proper behaviour and boundaries is good enough for Lady Coyotl Herself, it is good enough for little ole me.

    Thank you Mr. Reynolds for extending me the privilege. steph

    By Blogger tinyjunco, at Monday, October 14, 2013  

  • (drops a shaggy-limbed, backwards-bent knee curtsy)

    Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Reynolds :)

    Please forgive my brief response - i'd more time later, but i don't want to be rudely tardy. Like Mr. Ritzmann, due to personal involvement i haven't the luxury of being a dilettante. In my case this begins with an NDE at the age of 20, before i'd heard of a near death experience at all, followed by a number of medium to high strange experiences, including the most absurdly unbelievable instance of missing time - but never anything resembling a 'UFO'.

    I have no doubt that sexual 'hijinks' could and do find their way into UFO stories as part of various psychological motives (i know that makes no sense, sorry!).

    At the same time, i had the good fortune to study anthropology at UCSC and UCB right before that NDE - and as i'm sure you'll agree, sex, marriage, family, children and reproduction all figure widely and importantly in all types of myths - fer instance sex with an outsider (starman, god, sea monster) as the foundation of a dynasty. And many anthropologists have found that different societies can be grouped and studied by categorizing the rules for marriage, who takes care of children and how do you track their descent and clam membership, etc.

    So when these same themes and concerns find their way into UFO 'stories', i prick up my ears. I especially find the not-so-obvious instances of these 'genetic' 'generational/culture rules' themes interesting. For another example, if i recall correctly, when Jacques Vallee saw that ufo in the backyard whilst a youngun, it was his *mother* who called it to his attention.

    In a personal example, my husband and i had a strange encounter with a/or twin? grinning man/or men? while driving the Toll House Road in the Central Sierras of CA. This encounter was odd enough that even my husband would vouch for it's strangeness, and later we recounted the incident to my father. (This road is in an area steeped in my family's history on both sides.)

    I averred how gorgeous the road was, and how it was the first time i'd driven it - "No" my father interrupted. "You drove that road with your mother and i when your mom was pregnant with you."

    Thank you again, and i hope that your day is beautiful and fun! I appreciate the opportunity to paw over some of these ticklish matters - in hopes we may clear up a speck or two in our lifetimes, steph

    By Blogger tinyjunco, at Tuesday, October 15, 2013  

  • Tinyjunco/Steph...

    You've forced me to delete my comment(s) re: you.

    You're open, and fun, and full of personal mythology.

    I'm required to alter my views about some UFO people, you being one, of course.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, October 15, 2013  

  • (blushing)

    you are too kind. re:"...and full of personal mythology." i've found that most people are, once you get them talking. And when you get the knack of zooming out to see the big picture, and listening softly enough to hear the underlying stream.

    ah, i thought of one more 'dynastic couple' comprising one 'native' and one 'outsider': Lady Rebecca ('Pocahontas') and John Rolfe. They oversaw the breeding of a new milder form of tobacco which Europeans could tolerate smoking and which was also easier to grow. This happened after the outsiders abducted Lady Rebecca in their huge, technologically advanced ship. hmm.

    If anyone here is interested in more subtle thinkin' about the concept of the trickster and mythological themes as they relate to ufo's and the paranormal generally i cannot recommend Paula Gunn Allen's "Pocahontas: Medicine Woman - Spy - Entrepreneur - Diplomat" highly enough.

    The above example of a dynastic couple is taken from her book, which is told in the style of a narrative (as opposed to historical) tradition. Paula Gunn Allen tells a helluva tale, and her book provides excellent training for spotting the mythic wherever it may arise (& it arises in some pretty strange places).

    Happy Day All! steph

    By Blogger tinyjunco, at Wednesday, October 16, 2013  

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