TEMPLE OF MONKEYS, ARTISTS & TRICKSTERS (CHUEN)
CHUEN KEYWORDS: Mask, clans, humor, theatre, disguise, reversal, artistry, amusement, disruption, spontaneity, Hanged Man (tarot), transparency, ethnic groups, entertainment, apprenticeship, tribal meetings.
On Being a Monkey, Artist and Trickster
If I had a choice, this would have been the last category I would have picked. Give me something spiritual, something dignified. I have spent most of my life trying to disassociate with these traits. Even being an artist, which was an interest at one time, has not surfaced since my preteens. So getting labeled a "Monkey, Artist, Trickster" was hardly what I would have looked at as a compliment.
I find a certain discomfort around being someone who chooses to create a certain amount of havoc and chaos. When I was asked by Ann of my experience of the above my instinctive response was, "I have tried to be a good person". It came out as a comic response but spoke a heartfelt intent throughout most of my life. Being a "good boy" seemed to be what was required to make a smooth transition through life. There were other members in my family who were overt trouble-makers and I witnessed at many levels the pain and disruption that this brought.
As I entered more fully into my teen years I became increasingly concerned about my slide into regular teen culture (sex, drugs, rock and roll). My close friends were serious drug users or pushers. I made a decision to do a fast exit and became a devotee Christian in order to keep myself out of trouble. All the while there remained an inner sense that there was something wrong with me. So I turned up the heat. I went to every crusade, responded to every altar call, memorized half the New Testament and eventually became a minister.
What happened was that I found new opportunities to get into trouble. There remained an instinctual urge to stir things up. In the parish I created havoc by intentionally pushing buttons and siding with the "wrong people". Eventually I was kicked out. As if that wasn't enough, I began teaching courses on spiritual and religious abuse which further inflamed my notoriety.
This exodus from the church began a process of coming to terms with what was at the root of my personality. Some of that insight came from being introduced by Dwayne to the teachings of the Feathered Serpent. I realized that a certain amount of trouble-making was instinctual to my being. This needed to be owned but could also be differentiated from some of the major disruption and pure badness that I grow up with. In my aversion to some of the abuse I experienced in my childhood I had attempted to repress any natural, normal and healthy expression of my trouble-making tendencies. The result was that in the end I caused far more disruption than necessary and it hurt myself and others around in very painful ways.
Being an artist, monkey or trickster does not mean being a social derelict or reprobate. In fact, in most cultures these identities hold very esteemed positions. They are the root of social change and transformation. The artist through his/her portrayals allows us to see into the deeper reality and transforms what is into images of what might be. It is the fool in medieval times who alone is allowed to critique the King. Old Man Coyote in some Native traditions and the Raven in others is the wise man as well as the trickster. He teaches his lessons through creating entrapments or destroying illusions. The Monkey is the playful mischief-maker whose energy and penchant for fun at another's expense seems to be insatiable.
Of all the characters the one with which I most identify is the Raven. My intrigue with this figure began before I knew my last name translated "Raven" from the Ukrainian. The Raven is known as trickster around the world in folk traditions. The story with which I most closely identify is the Haida legend in which the Raven, through his mastery of trickery, was successful in rescuing the sun, moon and stars from the entrapment of an evil chief and returned them to the sky. I came across this legend for the first time when I was in the midst of much personal darkness. The promise of the Raven was that I would find the light in the midst of darkness and when I released it would light my path forever.
These polar images of darkness and light are characteristic of Raven. The Raven represents the dark path to redemption. S/he is in many respects outside or above morality. In some traditions Raven cooperates with the gods as in creating the world. Raven descends to the bottom of the ocean and brings mud to the surface to form the earth. At other times Raven acts against the wishes of the gods. In many respects he acts as mediator between Creator/rix and creation.
Raven is also the protector of culture which aligns him strongly with the artist. The Raven's energy of tearing down and refashioning or recreating parallels the work of the artist.Both energies have an element of irreverance and disdain for the status quo.
The Raven is a scavenger and picks from corpses that which is suitable to sustain life and nurture. Raven represents the dark path to redemption, rescuing light from the darkness. It is the move from unconscious to consciousness. It is consciousness seeking reflnement from crude unconscious beginnings. He is sexually boisterous and childlike and in some imagery is pictured with a large erect penis on his back. The Raven is about coming to terms with one's instinctual behaviour and primal passions.
The Raven is in many cultures the shaman. He is the wounded wounder. The Greek God Apollo turned himself into a Raven and mated with the crow and then wounded the offspring. It is these wounds which push one to another level of consciousness.
The Raven fell from cultural acceptance with the advent of Christianity. Darkness became associated with evil and death as did witchcraft. The tricksters penchant for chaos and disorder was despised as subversive and demonic. The Christian path to order and subservience did not serve the pursuit of salvation but rather preserving order. Obedience and submission were the great virtues in preserving order in the patriarchal religion.
The Artist's and Trickster's insight into salvation and redemption is that too often and too early the soul is tamed and subdued by culture. It is necessary that the soul reconnect with the primitive and passion in order to recover its power. In terms of my personal history, what I discovered was that I needed to own my own darkness and disruptive nature before I could focus my life in a constructive and powerful manner.
I have learned to accept certain things about myself and to factor them in to my life. I have a desire to always stretch the envelope. There is a dissatisfaction if things are comfortable and normal. I am continually wanting to challenge myself and do the irregular in work and love. I continually take risks. Whatever I do needs to express some distinctive stamp.