One of the roles of the trickster, whether it shows up from ourselves or the wider world, is to nudge us beyond what we are familiar with – our identities, roles, world views, beliefs.
It is usually not what our personality wants, can often be uncomfortable, and may even seem disastrous, but it is always an invitation to move beyond our familiar identities.
We went through one version of the Scandinavian fairy tale of King Lindorm today, in the workshop on alchemy, and the trickster shows up several times there, disturbing a stable situation, setting things in motion that brings the kingdom ahead in its development (the individuation process of differentiating then integrating the whole of who we are.)
The king and queen are not able to have children. The queen meets an old woman in the woods (in the untamed, beyond the known areas of the castle) who tells her to eat a white or a red rose, but not both. She eats the red first, but can’t help herself and eat the white as well, in spite of the warning. This is the first instance of the trickster, this time in the form of an irresistible impulse. It also shows the initially unconscious union of the male and female in all of us, one that is driven by impulses and instincts that cannot be resisted because there is not much or any consciousness there.
While the king is away waging a war, she gives birth to a lindorm (a dragon), which initiates the first nigredo phase for them all (mortification.) After the king returns, the lindorm demands a bride. He is given a princess, and he promptly eats her. This is still an unconscious phase where the demands of the impulses and instincts are automatically given in to, first when the lindorm is given the bride, and then when he can’t help himself and eats her (much as his mother ate the second rose).
This repeats itself once more, but the third time the bride is a commoner (presumably with better sense). Before the wedding, she meets the (same) old woman out in the woods, gets advice for how to deal with the lindorm, and is able to tame him.
Actually, she tricks him into shedding all of his nine layers of skin, and then beats him into a bloody pulp. This is the second time the trickster shows up, this time tricking the lindorm. Also, it represents the albedo phase, a purification. After the beating, she bathes (what is left of) him in milk, wraps him in the nine night skirts she took off, cradles him, and falls asleep.
This is the soothing, nurturing and comforting end phase of the albedo, after the grief of the nigredo and the heavy work of the earlier albedo.
When she wakes up, she finds herself in bed with a beautiful prince, transformed from the remains of the lindorm, a rebirth of a prince out of the death of the monster.
Now follows a period of joy, an early rubedo phase. One of maturing, of reaping the fruits of the work that has gone before.
But the work is not finished (is it ever?) And to start the next cycle, pushing the kingdom beyond its complacency and a situation everyone is enjoying, the trickster returns. King Lindorm, as his father before him, is away waging war when his wife gives birth to two healthy boys. A red knight acts as a messenger between those at the castle and King Lindorm, but for unknown reasons changes the content of the messages, causing a great deal of grief and upheaval.
He tells King Lindorm that his wife has given birth to two dogs (when she has really given birth to two boys), and then gives a return message to the old queen with an order to burn and kill all three of them (King Lindorm’s message was to allow them all to live.)
This is the next nigredo, a return of the grief and sorrow, showing the cyclical nature of the three alchemical phases. There is more work to do, which is shown in the misalignment between the masculine and feminine. Although they are friendly towards each other, serious problems still arise through miscommunication.
The old queen disobeys the order (there is more consciousness here now), sends the two boys to a wet nurse, and the young princess out into the woods (again, going into the untamed areas, beyond the familiar realms of the castle, the conscious identity.)
She meets a swan and a crane, feeds them milk, and they turn into two princes. This is a much easier albedo, this time transforming already noble creatures into human form. Noble and beautiful, yet instinctual, patterns are released from instincts into more consciousness.
This time, there is a more full reconciliation. The communication between the masculine and feminine is established in a more genuine way through some work. The two liberated princes marries and establishes their own kingdoms, and King Lindorm and his wife have several more children.
This is a more full, complete and rich rubedo, where the fruits of the work are abundant and spreads out to the wider world. It no longer only benefits the original kingdom (individual), but also other kingdoms.