An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions

by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Common Themes, East & West:

Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians,
Jesters & Fools

"Coyote Steals Fire"
© Susan Seddon Boulet
"Welcome to Fool's Paradise" is an exceptionally rich collection of links to anything on the web concerning tricksters, fools, jesters, clowns, demons, devils, magicians, jugglers, and all other playful beings.  The site includes links to essays, scholarly syllabi (Pacifica students note: one of David Miller's is here), bibliographies, film commentary (e.g., on Kubrick).  It's well organized and includes worldwide categories, which makes it very easy to focus on whatever country or tradition you wish.  [2/20/01 note: despite broken links, this remains a worthwhile site to explore.]
[Added 19 February 2001]:  From Bruce Johnson comes "Clown History and Tradition," a lengthy but general overview ranging from ancient times to the present.  It begins 4500 years ago in ancient Egypt:
     The art of clowning has existed for thousands of years. A pygmy clown performed as a jester in the court of Pharaoh Dadkeri-Assi during Egypt's Fifth Dynasty about 2500 B.C. Court jesters have performed in China since 1818 B.C....
[Added 19 February 2001]: This is "Lubok [i.e., a popular print] about Clowns, Jesters, and Fools."  The brief but richly illustrated site looks at:
...foreign prints made by Jacques Callot (c. 1592-1635), a celebrated French engraver who worked in France and Italy. His clowns and jesters were quickly transformed into... funny Russian characters...[one of whom]...can be regarded as the prototype of the later Petroushka of the folk theater....
[Added 20 February 2001]: Dr. D.L. Ashliman has a marvelous site full of his translations of folktales.  This page is "Trickster Wives and Maids: folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 1741."  There are three here (plus a bibliography of many more):   1.The Butcher's Tale (1001 Nights);  2.Clever Gretel (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm); and 3.The Good Husband and the Bad Wife (India).
[Added 20 February 2001]: Again from D.L. Ashliman is this page on the trickster-nature of "Breaking Wind: Legendary Farts -- folktales about flatulance."  He has chosen and edited seven here:   1.The Historic Fart (1001 Nights); 2.The Father of Farts (1001 Nights); 3.How Till Eulenspiegel Became a Furrier's Apprentice (Germany); 4.Till Eulenspiegel and the Innkeeper at Cologne (Germany); 5.Deceiving the Devil (Germany); 6.Timmermann's Fart (Germany); and 7.General Pumpkin (Korea).

Flute-playing Jester
Courtesy of Russian Sunbirds
From the excellent Mythos Journal comes this essay, "Krishna's Flute, the Pied Piper and Divine Ecstasy" by James W. Maertens, Ph.D.  The thoughtful, well written and handsomely designed page is a pleasure.  Maertens looks at the Pied Piper, Pan, Krishna, and whirling dervishes in the larger context of a culture's need for those magical beings who can lure and trick us out of our obsession with power and control.
. . . Idries Shah, the scholar of Sufism, has suggested that our word jester is a corruption of chisti, the Afghan order of dervishes founded by Abu-Ishak Chishti in the tenth century. The Chishti dervishes "specialized in the use of music in their exercises. The wandering dervishes of the Order... would enter a town and play a rousing air with flute and drum to gather people round them before reciting a tale or legend of initiatory significance" (Shah 127). These Jesters or Wise Fools come to stir things up, to burst the bubble of adults who egotistically believe themselves to control the world. His sublime music points to a world beyond law, control, and words: a divine Otherness.
[Added 20 February 2001]: This is an engaging site promoting a CD, Court Jesters: Tudor Minstrel Music -- written and inspired by King Henry VIII's jesters and minstrels. The jesters, also known as fools, were among the personal servants of the King's retinue, with access to his Privy Chamber. Some, such as Will Somers, and the harpsichordist Mark Smeaton, were also his personal friends and confidants....
The page offers a good deal of intriguing historical data about these composers and their world -- one that would soon end:
...Unlike her Father, Queen Elizabeth was much more thrifty for most of her reign. She employed fewer musicians and minstrels, and she turned to the theatre for entertainment. So it was that the old tradition of Court Jesters was transplanted from the Court to public entertainment in the new playhouses that sprouted up all over London....
[Note: the page offers 8 music-samples that you can listen to on Real Player -- you can download this gizmo for free on the site.] [Link updated 1/23/00]
. . . Jung used to say, "Follow your Schlange, follow your snake."
[Added 25 September 1999]: Taking those words to heart, John Granrose, a professor of philosophy (and son of a magician), changed careers and entered upon a long period of study to become a Jungian analyst.  This is his illustrated 1996 Diploma Thesis for the C.G. Jung Institute, Zürich: The Archetype of the Magician.  It runs over 70 pages, including a lengthy bibliography and footnotes, but it's excellent and well worth exploring.  (Note: the style is fresh and engaging, so don't be put off by the fact that it's a thesis.)  Granrose looks at such issues as helpful & harmful magic; gender issues involved in magicians & witches; priests, shamans, tricksters, and fools; Hermes, Merlin, Houdini, and the Tarot Magician (with several lovely full-colored tarot cards); tools of the trade (also illustrated); and the relationship between magicians, magic, and Jungians. [NOTE: 11/27/99: Granrose's former host has left the web so this link is now dead.  When he finds a new host, I'll update this URL.  //////  NOTE: 23 January 2000: for the time being, MythingLinks will be the host for this paper -- it's simply too good not to have a "home"!  Unfortunately, illustrations are not yet available.]
[NOTE: 18 January 2006 -- an alert reader with a zipped file of this entire paper has now provided the illustrations, so the paper is complete.  My thanks to Avyorth.] [1 March 2010: now on Web Archive -- old link seems to be in new hands.]
[Added 20 February 2001]: This is Johannes Persson's "Loki in the Eddas," a fine scholarly essay conveniently divided into separate "chapters."  This footnoted material on the Norse trickster is both clear and accessible to non-scholars:
... I will show that Loki is not as evil and mischievous as is his reputation, and that when he is the instigator of conflict and trouble, it is mostly not of his own volition but of others. When analyzing his character, I have chosen to focus on three aspects: 1) Loki as the Instigator of Conflict, 2) as the Transgressor of Boundaries, and 3) as Provider....
Persson skillfully weaves through thickets of myth and lore as he makes his sympathetic case for this long-demonized trickster (whose name, it turns out, is etymologically related to Scandinavian names for "cobweb," which links him to worldwide spider-trickster myths -- see the Survey section on the literature).
[Added 20 February 2001]: From M.E.N. Magazine comes this 1994 piece, "Midlife and the Shaman/Trickster: An Interview with Allan Chinen."  The long interview initially focuses on many aspects of the men's movement, but between 1/2 to 2/3rds of the way down, the discussion finally turns to the trickster.  If you don't wish to read the whole interview, the last section is still worth reading on its own.  Here's an excerpt:
...I present the Trickster as an older, deeper archetype than the Hero, the Patriarch or the Warrior.  I like to emphasize not just the Trickster, but the Shaman/Trickster, because Trickster is pejorative in connotation, but the Shaman is more positive. So I link the two together. And certainly you can see that the Shaman/Trickster appears in the earliest Paleolithic cave paintings, about 18,000 or 20,000 years ago. Warriors don't appear until about 9,000 years ago. Kings appeared even later. It appears historically that the Shaman/Trickster came a lot earlier, perhaps even before the cave painters appeared. The Shaman/Trickster is closely tied to hunting, and hunting and gathering were the origin of human society, maybe 50,000 years ago. The Warrior and the King are possible only after the development of cities....
I enjoyed reading the interview.  My only complaint is that Chinen focuses exclusively on the male in Paleolithic, as if women weren't there.  He restricts women and goddess-worship to the rise of agriculture in the Neolithic.  This ignores the existence and implications of the many so-called "Venuses" in Paleolithic art.  Chinen, however, was being interviewed for a male audience, and with that in mind, I found his material generally excellent and wise.
[Added 19 February 2001; updated 21 November 2001]: This is Professor C. W. Spink's "Trickster: Lord of the Roads, Maker of Mischief, Enemy of Boundaries, etc."  Much is still under construction but there's a marvelous bibliography and information about an exciting new e-journal of trickster research, Trickster's Way, due to go online 2001-2002 (I'm one of many on the Board <smile> -- see link directly below).
[Added 3 October 2003]:This is Trickster's Way, a marvelous on-line, peer-reviewed journal done by scholars.  Check it frequently for updates.
[Added 19 February 2001]: This is an interesting promotional site for a collection of academic papers, Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art, and History: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, edited by Vicki K. Janik (Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1998. 576 pages).
...fools are also a part of social and religious history, and they frequently play key roles in the rituals that support and shape a society's system of beliefs. This reference book includes alphabetically arranged entries for approximately 60 fools and jesters from a wide range of cultures. Included are entries for performers from American popular culture, such as Woody Allen, Mae West, Charlie Chaplin, and the Marx Brothers; literary characters, such as Shakespeare's Falstaff, Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel, and Singer's Gimpel; and cultural and mythological figures, such as India's Birbal, the American circus clown, the Native American Coyote, Taishu Engeki of Japan, Hephaestus, Loki the Norse fool, schlimiels and schlimazels, and the drag queen....
The website includes the book's impressively thorough Table of Contents.[Link updated 11/27/99 and again 2/19/01]
This is a very brief excerpt, "Synchronicity and the Trickster," by Allan Combs and Mark Holland.   It's a quick look at Hermes -- too scant to be of much value but it points to their larger book, Synchronicity - Science, Myth, and the Trickster, which will be of interest to lovers of tricksters, myth, and archetypal psychology.  Another related site looks at synchronistic experiences with the Library Angel, a term coined by Arthur Koestler, whose work is cited throughout Combs and Holland's book.
[Added 19 February 2001]: This is another site on Combs and Holland's book, but it also offers glimpses into the work of other authors on synchronicity.  One quote especially struck me:
"As Jung has earlier pointed out, it is the nature of synchronicity to have meaning and, in particular, to be associated with a profound activation of energy deep in the psyche. It is as if the formation of patterns within the unconscious mind is accompanied by physical patterns in the outer world. In particular, as psychic patterns are on the point of reaching consciousness then synchronicities reach their peak; moreover, they generally disappear as the individual becomes consciously aware of a new alignment of forces within his or her personality.

"Synchronicities are therefore often associated with periods of transformation; for example, births, deaths, falling in love, psychotherapy, intense creative work, and even a change of profession. It is as if this internal restructuring roduces external resonances or as if a burst of 'mental energy' is propagated outward into the physical world."
    [Except from F. David Peat, Synchronicity - The Bridge Between Matter and Mind, p. 27.]

[Added 19 February 2001]: Just for fun, this is a page of animated jesters, tricksters, and clowns.  There are links to three other pages of related graphics (not animated) at the bottom of the animated page.  [Note: unidentifed art on my page comes from this site.]
Mything Links Reference Pages:
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Cross-cultural, Multi-regional, Interdisciplinary Collections
General Reference Page  (online libraries, reference help, literary texts, world languages, word-lover sites, help on writing research papers, copyright information, film plots, themes, and/or films representing various historical periods)
Special Interest Sites for Pacifica Faculty, Students & Colleagues(includes Jung, Campbell, Freud, Eliade, Otto, Hillman, other depth psychologists, mysticism, anthropology, religious studies, archetypal perspectives, foundations for mythology & psychology, relevant journals, books, videos, etc.)
Teachers' Reference Page for Primary & Secondary School Education

Menu of Common Themes, East & West:

Animal Guides
Animal Deaths in Europe: Of Cows & Madness
Artists & Muses: The Creative Impulse
Creation Myths I
Creation Myths II
Crones & Sages
Dragons & Serpents
Food: Sacrality & Lore
Land: Sacrality & Lore  (mountains, caves, labyrinths, spiral mounds, crop & stone circles, FengShui)
Earth Day & Environmental Issues
Earth Goddesses & Gods
Air: Sacrality & Lore (air, wind, sky, storms, clouds, weather lore)
Sky Goddesses & Gods
Fire: Sacrality & Lore (fire, northern lights, green-flashes, Elmo's Fire)
Fire Goddesses & Gods
Water: Sacrality & Lore  (water, wells, springs, pools, lakes)
Floods & Rainbows: Mythologies & Science
Water Goddesses & Gods
Green Men
Nature Spirits of the World
Rituals of Birthing [forthcoming]
Rituals of Death & Dying [forthcoming]
Rituals of Puberty
Rituals of Weather-Working: An experimental, on-going ritual in cyberspace
Sacred Theatre, Dance & Ritual
Star Lore & Astrology
Symbols, Signs, & Runes
Time(Calendars, Clocks, Natural Temporal Cycles, Attitudes toward Time, & Millennium Issues)
Trees & Plant Lore
Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Wars, Weapns & Lies: The Dehumanizing Impulse
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)

Down to Geographical Regions: Africa

    If you have comments or suggestions,
my email address will be found at the bottom of my home page.
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Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Layout:
© Copyright 1998 - 2010 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
The "square" on the mini-console below will stop the sound; the "triangle" will start it again; the two lines will pause it; the slider controls the volume.
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Music: "Ríu, ríu, chíu," a Renaissance carol by Villancico.
Courtesy of Curtis Clark of the Renaissance Internet Band.

Latest updates (& music added): 31 August 1999;
25 September 1999; 27 November 1999; 23 January 2000;
19-21 February 2001 (also checked all links & Nedstated);
21 November 2001 (removed 10/01 symposium notice; updated menu).
3 October 2003: added NYC Halloween Parade info at top + TW journal link.
18 January 2006: removed NYC Halloween Parade info and added Granrose info.
No links have been checked since 2001.
3 August 2008: added sponsored link for a year; 11/14/08:xx-d due to scamming.

1 March 2010: a reader wrote me he was refused entry to the "Loki in the Eddas" site.  I checked, same thing happened to me.  I peeled back the URL -- looks like the domain name has a new owner.  Fortunately, the site is still on Web Archive so I updated it. No time to check other links on this page.