Explore the weird, winding, and wonderful ways in which we Pagan-types mark cyclic and special times, events, and celebrations in our everyday lives.
Meet the Fool
Dear readers…. I’ve been away for a couple of months following my mother’s death. It was the right time to just go quiet for a bit, and I needed time to begin dealing with the paperwork associated with her death and estate, the scope of which I could not have imagined. Work was ridiculously busy, too, and I simply had no time (or energy) left for such luxuries as blogging.
But the dark days are passing, and I’m ready to be present again on these pages. I hope there are a few of you out there who’ve hung around and are still interested in reading what I have to say. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
To start on an upswing, I thought I’d talk about “the fool,” for after all, tomorrow is April Fool’s Day here in the United States. A traditional celebration of tricks and pranks, it got me thinking about the nature of the fool as an archetypal character.
For those unfamiliar, an “archetype” is a widely recognized prototype for a character or entity that exhibits an expected set of characteristics, behaviors, and foibles. Archetypes have likely existed since humans first began sitting around the fire and telling stories, but their evidence begins in folklore’s oral traditions—myths, legends, and folktales—and continues into modern times via art, literature, film, and more. For example, the warrior is an archetype we’re all familiar with: a heroic character who fights for what is right, has a strong moral code, and is willing to sacrifice life and limb for a cause. We know the warrior—we know what to expect when he walks into the room.
The central feature common to all archetypes is their reappearance over and over (and over) throughout our stories. It’s that very repetition that grants them entry into the stable of archetypal characters. Many scholars have explored the ideas of archetypes. Psychiatrists equate them with behavioral types, while historians may recognize archetypal recurrences in war and siege, theologians examine their role in religious story, and philosophers discuss them as expressions of reality.
Carl Jung is a central figure in the discussion of archetypes. Jung viewed archetypes as a universal framework for interpreting the human experience and saw them as essential catalysts in the idea of personal transformation. His system recognizes five major categories (anima, animus, self, shadow, and persona) and a number of archetypal expressions or images: warrior, child, hero, sage, etc. An in-depth discussion of these ideas is way past the scope of this blog, but if you’re interested, do some research—fascinating ideas, they are. (That’s my Yoda-speak for the day.)
Let’s get back to the fool…. One of Jung’s most interesting archetypal images is “the trickster,” sometimes known as “the fool.” The trickster/fool is best known as a rule-breaker: one that flaunts rules of social order, convention, and even nature itself. The fool may be human, animal, or other-worldly, but it typically has a strong, rather vivacious personality and is consumed with living out its own wishes and desires, regarding nothing as sacred. A trickster’s actions are typically overt and may vary from harmless and annoying on one hand to threatening, chaotic, or even destructive on the other.
But it’s not all craziness for the fool. The universe is, after all, a place of balance, an angle of constant repose between matter and energy, action-reaction, and give and take. Thus, for all the chaos the fool’s actions bring, goodness may also result. Throughout our human story trove, the trickster is likewise credited with acts of creation and beneficence—as with Raven bringing light to the world, Hermes’s actions in Greek mythology, and the helps and hindrances of the Hogboons—Scottish faery-types who might either clean your kitchen or tear it apart, depending on their mood—from my grandmother’s old stories.
In the U.S., April Fool’s Day is a time to become the fool—in a way that’s fun and relatively harmless. When I was a child, I always short-sheeted my parents’ bed on April Fool’s Day. Yes, year after year. I thought I was being really clever, and they played along, bless their hearts. Later, when I became a parent, I had far too much fun tormenting my kids on April 1. Packing their school lunches became a game of substituting the Oreo’s creamy center with a blob of Crisco and slipping a thick layer of fruit leather into their PB&J sandwiches. One year, I sneaked to school midday and, with the help of her teachers, substituted my all-too-aware-of-my-hijinks oldest daughter’s sack lunch for one made entirely out of plastic food. I may have short-sheeted their beds a time or two as well, and it’s only fair to admit my kids dished the pranks right back at me, bless their evil little hearts.
Here’s the thing: at least in my family, these jokes never became mean—they were all in good fun. We broke the rules for the day, but doing so made us laugh and nod and brought us together, and this strengthened the order and bonds within our little family group. We upset the routine, but we gained something in the doing. Give and take: crazy and loving. Tricks and hugs….
Sometimes, a little chaos is a good thing. April Fool’s Day is also known as All Fool’s Day, so tomorrow, join the ranks. Have some fun. Keep the balance.
"Raven" image taken from the Creative Commons.
Please login first in order for you to submit comments