Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tricksters 2

At the crossways, there hangs around a trickster and he can determine things by his divination.  But you need to pay him sacrifices.  This guy is Eshu.  So we learn in "The Trickster Makes the World".

Strange, this part about divination.  In Chesterton we hear a lot about the crossways and doorways, too.  Eshu keeps alive the commerce between the worlds, heaven and earth, and this is, as we just said, via chance, divination and sacrifices. -- I have spent some time in Japan.  And it seems to me that Shinto shrines serve a similar function.  You can buy amulets and things, that are supposed to aid you in matters of love, money and exams or good fortune in general.  It seems very strange to the modern mind that the small sacrifices asked for at the temple will help you with your lucky stars.  Very strange, but customary there.  Easy way out, it seems like.

Chesterton says that Buddhism and other religions leave you stranded at the crossroads.  They do not help you make good and right choices.  This divination and amulet buying really seems to be symptomatic of the problem.  You would think that the student should study, and the love seeker might try and make himself an attractive mate and look in the right places.  The one who wants money, should work.  But, yes, all of that with prayer, we would also say, because even with all our efforts everything can still fail. Nevertheless, at the crossing and choosing of paths, there are better and worse options.  This is a matter of values, discipline, training and seeking learned opinions, NOT of chance and divination.  There is still enough chance left in the matter to make people seek out novel solutions.  Nothing is fool-proof or smart-proof, even.  Keep your eyes open.

So much sermonizing.  Here is a relevant quote from Hyde's book.

"In a polytheistic cosmos, such friendship of opposites allows for contradictory belief.  The Yoruba, at least, believe simultaneously that fate is binding and that fate may be altered.  They say that the day of one's death cannot be changed, for example, but mothers nevertheless pray to Eshu to extend their babies' lives.  One diviner told Bascom, 'An individual cannot basically change his own destiny,' except to spoil it;  yet others say that 'destiny is not fixed and unalterable,' that 'destiny... can be modified by human acts and by superhuman beings and forces.'  (p. 116)  At stake in Eshu's interventions is the somewhat larger question of how change might come to any orderly, self-regulating, and self-protecting world.  Most enduring structures (in nature, society, the human psyche) are resistant to fundamental change, by which I mean change that alters the givens of those structures themselves.  It's almost a matter of logic:  no self-contained world can induce its own fundamental change, because self-containment means it knows nothing beyond its own givens.  In such cases, accidents are useful indeed." (p. 118)

"All tricksters like to hang around the doorway, that being one of the places where deep-change accidents occur.  Eshu is no exception.  He like especially the doorway between heaven and earth, which is why his face appears on the divination board.  The art of divination makes heaven and earth briefly coincident.  Eshu is a sort of slippery joint at the point of their contingency, revealing fate or reversing it depending on the disposition of things.  It may well be that fate is set in heaven, but it must be played out here on earth, and between heaven and earth there is a gap inhabited by this shifty mediator.

Eshu's desire to keep the commerce across that gap lively means there is one key exception to his love of chance.  Humankind must sacrifice to the gods;  that is the single rule that cannot be left to chance.  It's an apt exception to Eshu's otherwise constant uncertainty, for sacrifice maintains the commerce between the worlds and give the mediator his job.  Once there is sacrifice, however, once the commerce is established, Eshu can begin to play, and neither gods nor humans should assume his meditations are sure, trustworthy, and unambiguous.  If people refuse to sacrifice, Eshu will certainly bring them suffering, but if people do sacrifie, he will mix luck into fate's designs."  (p. 124,125)

Here is a picture of Eshu:

Ya.  The other Google pictures  look just like it.

If that is not phallic, I don't know what is.  It has always seemed to me that almost everything with pagan religion, and not as pagan, has to do with sex and fertility.  Or as Hyde says, the trickster has a big appetite in a number of ways.  The belly matters.  Surely, it makes some sense.  Food is often a scarce commodity and with out reproduction and agriculture we won't live. Yet, at crossroads, and to do with choices and moral values, we might be looking for something more or higher for making decisions.

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