Friday, April 21, 2017

There is Indeed, Something About You

Folks have written me asking about the literary Trickster themes and how they play into, or pertain to the phenomenon.

Wikipedia says of literary Tricksters: "In mythology, and in the study of folklore and religion, a Trickster is a character in a story (god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphisation), which exhibits a great degree of intellect or secret knowledge, and uses it to play tricks or otherwise disobey normal rules and conventional behaviour." Lewis Hyde describes the Trickster as 'boundary crossers'. We on this blog know what that means, and how it fits into the subject here. Tricksters disobey, violate social and natural order. More often than not, the Trickster figure will have loose gender boundaries or form variability that is slippery and indefinable. 

All of this certainly fits the Trickster archetype seen in people with connections to the paranormal. In Native American studies, we see that the clown, or Trickster is considered essential to any contact with the sacred. When sacred medicines like peyote, or the more than 200 known psilocybin mushroom varieties for example are used - the experiences are reported as 'carnival-like' or heavily laden with 'clownish' personalities. Stewardship of the sacred epiphanies are guarded by jesters. The Trickster seems to be holding the key to many of mankind's greatest questions - of course this suspicion may as well be a ruse.

I think it's a safe bet, that like our previous discussions about rituals - these themes in literature developed out of recognizing patterns in unique, often liminal life experiences or changes, and later in consistencies found in anthropological studies.

In the course of writing this blog I have personally seen a rise in the number of synchronous events. It's not unusual for me to have this happen when I'm re-engaged in the subject on some new undertaking. Not only have I wanted to write this blog for years, but I'm also finding that writing  in it flows out of me like nothing I've ever tried to do. It's also a catalyst for birthing new ideas - I'm finding that as I write and ponder, new connections present themselves in unexpected ways.

I'm not sure how many readers will know of the passing of guitar pioneer and virtuoso Allan Holdsworth on April 15th. Holdsworth was a incredibly gifted player whos influence transcended musical genres. Eddie Van Halen idolized Holdsworth, and players like the late blues/rock great Gary Moore and Journey guitarist Neal Schon called Holdsworth one of the most advanced guitar players of his time. 

Hearing the news I wanted to listen to some Holdsworth as I had been prone to do over the years, but found myself searching around for something I'd maybe not heard before. I was surprised to see that he'd played with the UK based band Level 42 in 1991 on the album Guaranteed.  Holdsworth wasn't a replacement for Level 42's guitarist, but had played with the band during some London residency gigs and was tapped to play solos on some of the Guaranteed tracks.

He wasn't a full member of the band, but he played on the record and his photos were included on the album art inserts. Guitarist Jakko Jakszyk was on the cover in the guitar slot. Holdsworth's involvement would be considered extremely liminal, as yet another guitarist would be tapped for the tour in support of the record. The guitarist slot seemed to be in a serious transitional phase.

Odd, I thought. So I search Google for Level 42 to perhaps listen to some of Holdsworth's solos on the tracks. A search returns a song at the top of the list: "Something About You". And even though Holdsworth didn't play on this album or track, I gave the video a click.



...and the Trickster smiled.

As I watched the video, I was struck by the content. The opening shot is a hallway. A liminal area between rooms in a building - where we see a blurry figure clad in a loud suit with a bowler hat and white gloves jovially bouncing around.

The tunnel and train: symbols of liminality
The next shot is the transitional: out of a tunnel, The scene is taking place on a train. A moving liminality, between outside and inside, between departure from one place and arrival to another.

Mark King, bassist extraordinaire and lead singer of Level 42 plays a dual central character - and the video opens with him asking another passenger for a cigarette - only to be refused. He seems tense. The opening word of the song is sung aloud in the train compartment with the other occupants (other band members).

"How..."

This seems to draw surprise from the others in the compartment. But it's the only word he sings out loud in the measure. How, is indeed the question of all questions.

As the song progresses King examines each of the other passengers - as he looks sardonically at his initial target, the first vignette begins...

An Artist (creative type) argues and fights with his female companion as he hangs abstract works. A mirror is seen pass by the camera view, as the two continue to bicker. Above them both, unseen, is the man in the loud suit, making jester like moves. He is above them, symbolic for a higher point of view, or overseer - a place of greater perception.

As the female is framed with a dismissive smile we see the strange man in the mirror. Mirrors of course have place in a magical significance as'otherworldly' or just out of reach. Note that the female is shaking her head and gives an eye roll at the ridiculousness of rage exhibited by the artist - who is always in close proximity to the man in the loud suit no one seems to actually see.
Trickster in the mirror

I think you already know who the odd figure is. The Trickster. He takes pleasure and dances as the artist rages on in irrational anger, and the scene ends back in the train car - just as we enter yet another tunnel...

At the moment of threshold into the darkness, an unknown force blows papers and messes up hair - the Trickster (now in disguise as, or perhaps even in possession of Mark King) finds mild amusement in the irritation of the others in the car. Native American lore refers to spirits that are said to 'ride on the cold wind, searching for paradise and the Trickster can hear what they're saying'. It certainly seems as if King is hearing something as he narrows his eyes and sights his next target: the Rebel (a marginal, anti-structural personality).

The scene opens on yet another threshold - an arched entry into a circle driveway. The Rebel pulls up in his fast car as he opens the door. As the female steps halfway in but he doesn't let her enter by moving the car. He beckons her in and pulls the same provoking, illogical move. Frustrated, she slams the car door and shouts "Go on!", waving him away. He pulls out, seeming to take pleasure in her anger. He stops halfway out the circle - he looks back as she suddenly smiles, she gets in and they pull away.

Trickster in the threshold
What could be the cause of this irrational behavior that leads to conflict? The proximity to the Trickster, who we see standing in the threshold. As the man gained distance from him, he comes to his senses. The Trickster waves them goodbye, smug with the minor discord he's sown.

As we come back to the train car - King, once again as the Trickster eyes his next target. The man pulls out...musical notations. The Musician (another creative personality).

The quick vignette opens on a large room with an small orchestra exiting their places and music stands. A black and white checkered floor - a spiritual symbol representing duality - not good nor evil. Ancient mystics also used the checkerboard pattern for opening portals of energy. The similarity  or reference to our Trickster's suit is obvious. The musician walks to the female and immediately the conflict begins - the Trickster is watching again from above, not on the floor but not on the ceiling -  a balcony area. The liminal location providing the best vantage point. He laughs as the woman bolts away in anger

As the couple leave the proximity from the Trickster behind, their contention melts away - nearly as they exit the threshold. The Trickster, seeing the two reconcile - is not amused. He realizes he can be restrained or confined, or that his influence is limited. Back on the train the Trickster as Mark has an outburst, and is restrained to his seat by the other passengers as the operative word pours from his mouth:

"...confusion."

Confusion is a central aspect to Trickster theory.

By this point as I'm watching this video unfold, my mouth is gaping at how this went from Holdsworth's death to a complete Trickster bath in two easy steps.

The Trickster laughs bathed in bright white light. He's right in your face.

We come out of the tunnel yet again, this time into light. In one of the best vocals of the 1980's Mark sings the chorus. The Trickster Mark smiles as if he's still got the game well in hand.

And he does of course.

We flash to the rebel and his lady, standing in a rape field (connected with crop circle formations - a phenomenon rich with Trickster-like aspects - you can almost picture one in the background behind the couple) at night, illuminated by the headlights of his flashy sportscar.

Trickster taking 'stage'
The Trickster takes the center stage...and one should know by now what's coming.

As he approaches the car in somewhat of a rage, in a perfect representation of contact with the anomalous - the car goes dead. The Trickster flips his walking stick with a smile.

As the Artist and his lady ascend the stairs of the studio or gallery, they are surprised by a gust of air out of nowhere and a shocked and scared look comes over them. At the same time the musician ascends a staircase in what seems to be a lighthouse (classically haunted structures, that features heavily with liminality/anti-structure) and simultaneously the couples are thrown into a high strangeness, fear inducing manifestation of some kind. We don't really see what they see - we see the Trickster figure in moments of anger - but if you think about it, we don't see the couples and the Trickster in the same frame. The Trickster enraged and present in front of all 3 personalities, screams "Nooooooooooo!".

Encounter at the field
Did the couples see a ghost, a UFO, or a strange angry man in a loud suit? We are left to guess. I find it compelling that the couple at the field are seen in the car with bright light illuminating them from above/front (UFO),

Back on the train, Trickster Mark lets out what looks like a maniacal laugh of triumph. As the train slows we arrive at the destination. Disembark. The Trickster in both forms (Mark King and the loud suit man) walks by us as we pass the female by - and realize that she is the same woman who's seen with all 3 personality types featured. Fade to black.

It's highly compelling that the couples encountered the strange manifestations of Trickster phenomena in perfect settings: the rape field at night, a rural area often associated with paranormal encounters with UFOs (and the reaction of the car going dead is a common one in such events). In the other two instances, on stairs or stairwells - a liminal place between floors. As we know from a past George Hansen interview, a place where more paranormal or ghost phenomenon is reported - or - that in some cases random number generators have shown odd readings indicating that something is off, or different about certain stairwells that have reports of ghost phenomena.

So, what to make of this? I'm struck by the amount of levels of chance and coincidence that have to occur for me to see this video, when all I was looking for was some music from a recently passed virtuoso. I'll point out here that the genesis of the series of events leading to the Trickster heavy visuals was a reaction to hearing of a death.

This video is also not just a typical Trickster story. While in literature and folk tales the Trickster does have powers of one sort or another, this video seems to connect to what we know about the Trickster and the paranormal - that paranormal events are in tandem with discord and conflict.

Blurring distinction
Note that the Trickster character in the video wears lipstick and eye makeup, and has a sort of androgynous quality even as the male sex seems to be dominant here. As we know, the Trickster is a shape-shifter, and blurs the distinction of male/female.

The video Trickster also resembles the main character in "The Entertainer" a film that stars Laurence Olivier as a failing third-rate music-hall stage performer who tries to keep his career going even as the music-hall tradition fades into history and his personal life falls apart. It's a film where Olivier's character is in a stage of chaos, discord, and over the top liminality. Was it deliberate to make the Level 42 character resemble the tragic Entertainer?  We may never know. 

I've written Mark King and asked him about the making of the video, and am currently seeking out director Stuart Orme to ask the same questions. Will I hear back from either? I don't know. This one may leave us wondering. 


Olivier's "The Entertainer"
But I cannot deny the weird set of events that led me to this video from a 1980's video that I probably flipped by hundreds of times (I was more a heavy metal guy than UK pop) on MTV. And yet here I am, writing a lengthy post (sorry) about the Trickster and a music video. I asked Seriah Askath of 'Where Did the Road Go' in a late night discussion - "am I really going to write a article on a Level 42 video??" thinking how absurd it seemed, but that the overwhelming thematic and synchronicity made it impossible for me to ignore. 

I'm beyond sure this is far from the only media that has a strange Trickster figure force. But I'm lead to wonder how much of the production examined here was deliberate - and how much was pure creative consciousness-flow from the writer/director? Did odd things happen on the set? During production? 

I'd so love to know more. But like many other aspects of this stuff it may remain a mystery. Either way, I hope readers find this interesting (as I wondered myself how many would) and worthy of reflection on the Trickster archetype in media. 🔻

My thanks to Seriah Askath for his guidance on the significance of mirrors in occultism.


2 comments:

  1. That's a fun piece. Happenstance or destiny? We may certainly never know.
    Here's a link to the video.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-ZbdAg3iFk

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent article. I will note that the female actor is Cherie Lunghi who played Guinevere in Excalibur.

    ReplyDelete