Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • David A. LeemingEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_245

The trickster is a common character in mythology and in certain religious traditions, especially but not exclusively the animistic – spirit based – religions of Africa and Native North America. Typically male, the trickster usually has extreme appetites for food and sex. He is immoral, or, at least, amoral, and he is, more often than not, a thief. Yet he often uses his inventiveness to help human beings and is sometimes, in effect, a culture hero. Often his inventiveness interferes with creation, however, and causes such realities as pain and death. The trickster is a shape shifter. He can change shapes at will and, in that sense, is perhaps a mythological relative of the shaman.

In the ancient Greek religion, Hermes, as a child, has trickster aspects, as, for instance, when he steals Apollo’s cattle. In India, the great man-god Krishna, the most important of the avatars of the god Vishnu, constantly plays tricks – some of a sexual nature – as when he steals the clothes of his bathing...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.Blanton-Peale InstituteNew YorkUSA