Satan the Trickster – Embracing the Emerging Snake

trickster nick paton

Satan the Trickster – Embracing the Emerging Snake

Nic Paton from ( has this thing about being credited for his work, his thoughts, his beliefs.  He has been making comments on my blog telling me that he can’t find Jesus in me or my writings/blog because I just don’t want to agree with his lying, trickster personality.

After I wrote my article:  Born Again Christians are Now Compared to Inquisitors of the Inquisitions based on a post written by Steve ( who lovingly compared the teaching of the Word of God and those who preach the truth to Inquisitors of the Inquisition.  My blog was bombarded with very very very angry Emergents who lambasted me for disagreeing with Steve.  See Emergents are allowed to make the most horrendous comments about born again Christians and Jesus Christ the Son of God but we are not allowed to disagree.

Nic Paton said to me:

“The way you are dealing with my comments, the absolute willful misinterpretation of my freely offered thoughts, the stubborn refusal to converse, your gleeful burning down of your own straw man arguments, the ongoing infantile sarcasm, the complete lack of credit given to anyone who you disgree with, your deeply flawed misunderstanding of philosophy and theology, and your rote bible bashing, is to me, a travesty of Christian witness.

I’m trying, Deborah, to find the God in all this, I’m trying to believe the best, but at the moment, I’m just not seeing the Jesus you boast about being so in love with in these words.”    –  2009/06/26 at 3:06pm

Well Nic, besides the fact that we will never know when you are telling the truth.   You are right about one thing and that is I will never agree with anything you have to say.   But you are wrong on another because I sure will credit you for everything you have to say. 

The Holy Trickster by Nic Paton

Featuring The Jester-Fool, Coyote-Jackal, Br’er Rabbit, Homo Ludens, Hermes-Mercury, Prometheus, and the Serpent….

I first became aware of the Trickster when at some point in my 30’s, when in order to survive, I was forced to wear a Grey Suit. See, I had been a free spirited musician until that point, and “Suits” represented the Recording Industry and Accountants, who were everything we (the chosen ones) despised. So in the aftermath of the collapse of my artistic career, and with it my notions of God – so earnestly had I taken my vocation – I was joining THE ENEMY. I was succumbing to necessity, I was abandoning the “Keeping of the Faith” (To quote the Wayne’s World rendition of Jim Morrison, who was spared all this by his in/glorious early demise).

So I headed off tie and all, into the City of London, to sell my time to the world’s largest bank. And I thought to myself, “This is kind of cool”, because in my heart I knew I was not in fact becoming one of the enemy, but rather to quote Bruce Cockburn “Dancing in the Dragons Jaws”, more like a spy. I might have appeared to be another hi finance techno-drone, but I realise now, I was in fact an incarnation of the trickster.

To quote mythographer Joseph Campbell, in “The Masks of God Vol 1”:

“This ambiguous, curiously fascinating figure of the trickster appears to have been the chief mythological character of the paleolithic world of story. A fool, and a cruel, lecherous cheat, and epitome of the principle of disorder, he is nevertheless the culture-bringer also. And he appeared under many guises : Coyote, Great Hare, Br’er Rabbit, Raven, Jay, Reynard the Fox, but also, on a more serious plane, he appears as the devil.”

At that time I started having dreams. In one I was (to quote my notes directly) “being sucked down with all manner of dogs”, into a vortex of mud or sand, heading for the funnel and ultimately, the darkness of the earth. Towards the bottom, I saw a figure standing watch over the pit, with a Jackals head and a human body. I awoke just as I took in what I thought was my last breath.

In another dream, a crazed knife wielding gypsy near a pool with an incomplete flyover in its midst, threw a knife at my wife, and missed; I reacted with rage at this wild, act of irresponsibility.

With the help of some Jungian “divination”, I found out that the Jackal Headed figure was Anubis, Egyptian guardian of the dead. And via the gypsy, I came to appreciate the presence in my mythical life of Hermes, a primary source of this ethos in Greek mythology.

Now Hermes is pretty multi-faceted. He is at once guardian of boundary stones (herms), communication, sport, music and ultimately a pretty shifty figure. From him we get hermeneutics (translation of ideas across cultural boundaries) and in his Roman guise Mercury, the postal insignia with the winged helmet.

The interesting thing for me was, having grown into adulthood characterised by charismatic evangelical piety and its worldview, how this trickster found a place alongside some very powerful “medicine”: the Evil Snake, and the overconfident, unambiguous “clarion call of truth”.

To be less obscure, I am referring to these 2 characteristics of my early belief system:

  • Monotheism’s dualism: christian theological orthodoxy sees Satan as the serpent in the garden having caused mans original sin via Eve’s temptation. The Jewish view of Satan is slightly less polarised, seeing him as an advocate / adversary to the law, rather than a semi-omnipotent being of dread and the father of all evil. And the third member of monotheism – Islam, doesn’t seem that different to the christian view regarding dualising good and evil.
  • Naive Sincerity:  The importance of being earnest – values such as “truth” and “integrity” were deemed absolutely crucial. In this Newtonian world – a predictable machine presided over by a God of Order –  ambiguity was eschewed and all sorts of logical hoops were jumped though to maintain “consistency”. This is not so much a problem with christianity per se as with Greek reductionist thinking. Is our Greek inheritance a good thing? – thoroughly dualistic, yet richly imbued in myth; and a tricky question.

So I rejoice at the presence of the Trickster in a barren land of closed thought, for quite apart from being the bringer of death and destruction, he in fact is a catalyst for life and salvation. I now look at Jesus as embodying (amongst all things divine) this trickster, as well.

  • “Be as wise/sly as serpents and as harmless a doves”. In this metaphor, the serpent is not an outlaw, but something to be actively embraced.
  • “Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”: Conjurers of the world, unite in Christ!
  • “Become as little children”: engage in play, awe, and the space opened up by ambiguity.
  • “I will make myself more foolish in their eyes” – David, shamanic worshipper and “apple of G-d’s eye”.
  • “I become a fool for Christ” – here Paul elevates the Jester role, acknowledging that it is not the highly evolved adult, but those without guile, who will experience G-d.

You may be saying, this is madness; this is exactly what we have come away from – deception and falsehood. I can sympathise with your confusion, because I share it. I too have looked askance at anyone delving into such shadowy arts.

But I am coming to see the Trickster no so much as a threat, but a gift. In fact, I see him as quite central to the core christian truth of incarnation, as well as central to all creativity.

As I now see it, the very call to incarnation involves the trickster. Incarnation can be described as “being in the world but not of it”. All people having undertaken a spiritual path, especially one involving reorienting oneself in the world, will know the difficulty of staying grounded and yet striving for transcendence. All manner of things get in the way, rationalism, craving, habit, apathy, materialism, fear. To live “in the spirit” can be a very difficult task.

The tendency in the search for “holiness” or “purity” is usually to separate our world into the secular/worldly/carnal and the sacred/heavenly/spiritual. We have immense difficulty being “in the world” when we refocus our inner life on the transcendent beyond.

I suggest that this is where the trickster comes to assist us. His realm includes ambiguity, irony, and play, incompleteness and chaos, holding in tension and suspending belief, generosity and cruelty, imagination, flexibility and cunning shifting of shape, the boundaries between life and death, and making connections where they are not supposed to be.

Clearly the trickster has the potential to destroy. Engaging him is to take a risk. It is the liminal area between right and wrong that is his playground. We should never say as an excuse “The trickster made me do it.” It is up to us to learn what we can from him but never to naively give him our heart.

There are totemic trickster figures in many of the more animistic cultures; additionally clowns and jesters, comedians and conjurers, and most if not all practitioners of art play this subversive role in society. Not to forget negotiators and peacemakers; even politicians, theirs being the “art of the possible”, despite their common failings.

Joseph Campbell notes

“They represent, from the point of view of the masters of decorum, the chaos principle, the principle of disorder, the force careless of taboos and shattering bounds. But from the point of view of the deeper realms of being from which the energies of life ultimately spring, this principle is not to be despised.”

And maverick Bruce Cockburn, again, in his rambunctious “Maybe The Poet” observes

Male female slave or free
Peaceful or disorderly
Maybe you and he will not agree
But you need him to show you new ways to see

Don’t let the system fool you
All it wants to do is rule you
Pay attention to the poet
You need him and you know it

What I am concerned with here is the potential of the poet, the prophet, and the shaman, to usher in holiness. To “shatter bounds” and bring us new ways to see.

As we focus on the task of apprehending or worshiping the Divine, wrestle with the complexities or truth, or simply seek to live life more fully, we should imaginatively and openly engage the services of this mythical “holy trickster”.


Some comments from the bottom of the article:

liquidlight said  March 12, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

Nic, i really enjoyed this post. from the “trickster made me do it” title of a future classic something, to the concept of re-embracing the snake, to the dangerous twilight of trickster-space…

i found it interesting that you found elements of the trickster in both Christ and satan. there exists a strange and taboo area of mystery, namely the commonality between Christ and His supposed nemesis, DIE DUIWEL!. they are both described as the star of the morning/morning star and share the same numerological value in the kabbalistic system – which in their minds, suggests a deep connection.

i have my doubts that satan and lucifer are the same beings but that’s another story.

a wonderfully ranging & useful post.

Roger Saner said March 17, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

Wow – if there was a prize for brilliant blog entries, I’d give it to you for this one!

Andrew said March 12, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

I have never delved into the concept and myth of the trickster and must thank you for creating a fascination for this demigod charlatan. I will be dwelling on this and respond shortly. My mind is going in the direction of ” in a Fool’s Paradise, the trickster/ jester would be king” and the symbiotic relationship between Trickster and Trickstee.

Thanks for enriching my Imagination.

Anthony Paton said  June 27, 2008 @ 11:44 am

Hi Nic and Friends

Tying this one into an earlier subject- shamanism and KhoiSan culture, I thought it might be worth mentioning that in KhoiSan belief systems you are unable to access the Supreme Deity except through /Kaggen (The Trickster). /Kaggen is capable of assuming many forms, but one of the most widely transmitted was the form of Mantis. This resulted in the interpretation by whites (particularly Afrikaaners) that the ‘bushmen’ and ‘hotentots’ worshipped the Praying Mantis- and hence the poppular Afrikaans name for a Praying Mantis of ‘hotnotsgod’. I have a very ambivalent realtionship to this word as it is both very derisive and very witty.

With deeper understanding of the sources (such as Bleek, Orpen etc.) one can surmise that /Kaggen could in fact have the form of any creature, and not only a Mantis. In itself, this explains how the KhoiSan belief system is both animistic and pantheistic. These are two of the “theisms” with which I have the highest sympathy and identification, and may partially explain the attraction for me of KhoiSan history and culture. /Kaggen as the intercessor and proxy for the Ultimate Deity has messianic or “Christ-like” qualities, but as a deceiver has “Satan-like” qualities. As I understand it though, the purpose of the deception is to create an awareness that as any material being may be a proxy for the sacred and divine, that all sentient beings by extension should wisely be treated as though they are sacred and divine. It was thus that the eland was both the highest food source and the supreme spiritual creature.

Christians may find it bizarre that a group of people should desire to symbolically consume the body of God, but that of course is exactly what the act of communion represents as well.

Please share:

Deborah (Discerning the World)

Deborah Ellish is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

77 Responses

  1. Discerning The World says:

    lol, repeat: SIN

  2. Discerning The World says:

    >> So since the word of God has all the answers why should anyone listen to what you have to say?

    That’s why you should be listening to the Word of God because it has all the answers.

  3. Chad says:

    Do you believe God speaks through you, Deborah?

  4. Discerning The World says:

    Word of God the Bible has all the answers.

  5. Discerning The World says:

    All born again Christians have the Holy Spirit in them and He leads them into ALL truth of the Word of God, understanding and remembrance of Jesus Christ. Where is the Holy Spirit in your life that you do not know the answer to these questions you ask. If you were truly Christian you would never be asking me these questions.

  6. Chad says:

    I just love how you refuse to actually engage the Word of God. You can say that all you like but it means nothing without our being confronted by the Word and being formed and remade by it. This requires interpretation. So the task for us christians is to learn to listen to the Word and to one another as the Holy Spirit speaks through both, so that we might come to know the Truth (a person) even more and be conformed to his Image.

  7. Chad says:

    [DELETED – I have warned you Chad. Go comment on your own blog with your own emergent one world religion friends. You’ve pasted all your comments and mine, etc., elsewhere – should keep you busy for a longgggggg time – hopefully.]

  8. Discerning The World says:

    Hi Francois! Long time no see or blog should I say.

    Indeed mind boggling, I’m still recovering. As you say, Nic’s article is so obvious, but yet… they are not interested.

    Your comment is actually very similar on to an article I am going to publish within the next 30 min. Let me know if it hits the right spot.


    [Edited: Make that 2 hours, not 30 minutes]

  9. Francois says:

    Hi Deborah,

    I feel abit exhausted just reading all this.

    Don’t really want to get involved in this discussion but a few thoughts came up.

    The ’emergent’ movement is really getting momentum in all of it’s many branches(tentacles rather). The bizare is getting just more bizarre. What is in: Spiritual ‘portals’, shamanistic principles and manifestions, angel feathers, gold dust, liberalism, etc. etc. etc. On one extreme you have the ‘craziness’ of the charismatic movement and on the other you have the reformed intellectuals who are enjoying new found ‘freedom’ of thought and expression.

    I see at first that you were patronised and later on kind of asked to engage in nice and civil debate.

    I wonder if a nice debate would have any of them leave their stance? The answer is obviously no. One thing is certain- they will not offend anybody with their gospel and that is to be expected. They will grow rapidly in numbers as the end draw near because it was prophesied. They will eventually form part of a global tolerant religion and will gladly accept the coming ‘shaman’ who will be a wonderful and adorable person. Even more adorable than Obama.

    Of course they all believe in Jesus. And that means they are all ‘saved’. They can prove it theologically. They are decent, courteous and even poetic, just like Jesus. It’s going to happen. It’s all been prophesied. Eventually, the elimination of the poor fundamentalist souls(who stubbornly stick to the Bible, shame) will seem so logical. It will be for world peace after all.

    It’s just amazing that christians can defend Nic after they clearly saw what he wrote. And they still ask you to point out his errors. Wow. Shocking! Bizare… expected.

    blessings sister

  10. Discerning The World says:

    Here it is:

    Love Casts Out All Hell:

  11. NOTW67 says:

    Did anyone catch that Ryan comment about demons not believing in Jesus? Do emergents have their own version of the Bible? What about Mark 5? “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”

  12. Discerning The World says:

    Yip I did. In fact the entire Emergent gang who comes and comments here read another book. I think it’s Gulliver’s Travels.

    Ryan said: Actually, the scripture you’re probably thinking of is James 2:19:
    You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear.”
    The Scripture doesn’t say demons believe in Jesus. What it says is not the same as “believing in Jesus” which means you put your trust in and you wholly rely on Jesus.
    The demons don’t “believe in Jesus”. They believe that God is one. In fact, I could perhaps say that they believe the FACTS of Jesus but don’t believe in the PERSON, which was my point.
    Demons don’t pick up their cross and follow Jesus because they don’t follow Jesus or believe in Him.”

    Comment here: 2009/06/30 at 9:53pm

    And Ryan, they do believe Jesus exists, they believe He is the Son of God, they believe that He can torment them night and day, they believe.They believe He can destroy them in an instance. They don’t however following him, they follow Satan, hence Satan has been trying to destroy the line of Jesus since the beginning of time. Kinda just like this article that Nic wrote.


    Philip. 2:9-11

    9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
    10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
    11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    By saying what you have said you have pulled down the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

    Acts 19:15
    15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (These other were Jewish exorcists)

    Matthew 8:29
    29 And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

    Mark 1:24
    24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”

    Mark 5:7
    7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!”

    Luke 4:34
    34 “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”

  13. Chad says:

    DELETED – Chad when you learn to be nice I’ll think about letting you comment here again. Not sure when that is going to be…

  14. Chad says:

    Ha! DTW, do you not notice that every time you get cornered and asked a question that exposes the truth about your loveless religion you delete me? If it weren’t so sad it would be hilarious.

  15. Discerning The World says:


    >> “….the truth about your loveless religion ”

    Ryan do you agree with that, what Chad said that we preach a LOVELESS religion?

    Chad, I am sure you are copying and pasting all your comments else where as you have told me so many times. Go to Nics blog and comment there. Take some coffee with you and a picnic basket…

    Run along now…

  16. cecilia says:

    Chad reply to Amanda1 July, 2009
    “Love the Lord your God…and your neighbor as yourself.” “Who is my neighbor?” The answer comes back: “Even your most hated enemy” And how does one show love to such people? Not by beating them over the head with your own perceptions of truth but by being a friend, by being in community with others, by lending a helping hand, by caring for the sick, by giving a drink of water, a plate of food, a shelter. That is love.
    > Matthew 5: 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (NIV, NASB, Amplified, NLT, ESV, NKJV, ASV, TNIV)
    44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (KJV)
    44But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who mistreats you. (CEV)
    44 But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. (NCV)
    44But I tell you, love your enemies. Ask God to do good to those who trouble you. (Worldwide English)
    NOT ONE OF THESE mention “your most hated enemy”. As a matter of fact, even Bibles in other Languages don’t have those words in.
    This is where (I feel) one of the main roots of distortion lies – in the “extra’s”. Put in an extra word or phrase, so people will understand it. Says who? Your enemy is your enemy. No. differentiation between two of those. In this scripture it doesn’t say that your neighbour is “even your most hated enemy”. Chad, you are putting Mtt. 22:37-39 (Luk. 10:27) in the same sentence as Mtt. 5:44. You should know as a pastor not to do that? In fact, in Luk. 10, an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus with the question “who is my neighbor?”, Jesus went on and replied with a story about “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho” (NOT mentioning of what nationality the man was), and “robbers” stripped him (not mentioning the nationality of the robbers); these 2 people (ya, maybe representing these 2 nationalities) avoid the scène (didn’t want to get involved, whether by law or other reasons) – priest , levite; then the Samaritan helped him. Jesus asked 36″Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man . . . they answered “The one who had mercy on him.” Then Jesus told this law-expert to go do the same. I often ask WHY DO people tend to “add extra’s” to the Word of God? because in doing so, you distort the original and the meaning thereof.

    Chad said on July 2nd, 2009 at 13:37
    “Please, feel free to show where anything I have said or any of my friends stands in direct contradiction to Scripture. This is your chance to show me, a lowly pastor, the error of my ways and perhaps you can save an entire congregation from the pits of hell.” Chad, the “adding to the Scripture” above, is one example to answer your question here. And please don’t belittle yourself by calling yourself names (I highlighted your words). YOU are saying it Chad, not others. Go and talk things out with the LORD God, all by yourself; wait on Him and HE will show you the error(s) of your way(s); and Chad, YOU are the pastor / shepherd of that flock! They are YOUR responsibility, God will ask them of YOUR hand. DTW has got NOTHING to do with saving your congregation from the pits of hell (pheeewww, I can’t believe such language and thoughts can come from a pastor ….) cecilia

  17. Discerning the World says:

    C, don’t get too worked up over ‘Pastor’ Chad. He was the one who made the replica of my blog. He has a mind of filth. Unfortuantely for him and his 1/10 working braincell – he forgets some of his congregation has access to internet and have seen what he has done and the things he has said across the internet. They emailed me. Ooopsss for Chad. I think some of them even contacted Duke Divinity School and the Methodist whatever board he belongs too.

    All I had to do was sit back and watch how one of his emergent friends betrayed him and how one person from his congregation found him commenting on my website and that let them to reading Nics website and Iggy’s stuff. Well…they didn’t take it well.

    So leave Chad to his own devices. He burnt his toast a while ago already and does not even know it…probably never will.

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