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Reply To: Why Not Dance?” with mythologist Catherine Svehla, Ph.D.”


Hi Stephen,

it’s a pleasure to be part of COHO again, and thanks for your question.

You provide a good catalog of known instances of female tricksters in the mythological canon. There are very few.

I think patriarchy and male bias impacts our view of the trickster: a lack of willingness to see female figures as tricksters (male and female sexuality and sexual misconduct are treated quite differently, for example), and the history of revising, repressing, and erasing narratives of female power and creativity.

In addition, the study of tricksters, including the creation of the term “trickster,” is a minefield of cultural bias. It’s reasonable to wonder about the effect of bias (male, European, white, Christian, scientific, etc) on the understanding of different gender constructions and the roles played by men and women in cultures where outsiders found “the trickster.” I don’t know anything definitive but think these are questions to have in mind.

On that note, the question “where are the female tricksters?” reflects awareness of the unequal and deeply unsatisfying treatment of women in the dominate culture. The question could be meaningless in a culture in which male and female had different and also equally valued roles to play!

Despite our need to create dualisms and categories, there is something in life that confounds them, and reminds us that life is more than our definitions and perspectives. There is synchronicity. There is good and bad luck. And no matter of view of ourselves and our intentions, we get tripped up, are fooled, play the fool. Cosmos and life are dynamic, and the trickster somehow embodies this. Ultimately, I dropped a “she” into my description of the trickster as a nod to the ambiguity and fluidity inherent in this figure/concept and the dynamism of myth.