Deon Liebenberg: The Trickster as Personification of Primordial Chaos


The very widespread occurrence of the trickster figure in myth and folklore has prompted scholars to explain this fascinating character in terms of universal features of the human mind or the human condition. This, however, has the effect of obscuring the sophistication of the cosmological thought that generally underpins the character and behaviour of this character. This article argues that the trickster’s flagrant disregard for boundaries, categories, and social decorum, as well as his androgyny, his shape-shifting nature, his manifold other manifestations of ambivalence as well as his contradictory role of culture hero are expressions, in narrative form, of a cosmological concept that is also expressed in rites of inversion and in liminal states.

 [trickster, liminality, symbolic inversion, continuous and discrete, differentiation of primordial wholeness]