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Agares, The Trickster of Erebus

Discussion in 'Fall from Heaven Lore' started by loocas, Jan 21, 2009.

  1. loocas

    loocas Prince

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    Slow day at work meant busy fingers.

    I don't know how interested people are in comparative/particular mythology, but I've been running this through my head for a while now. I've mostly been caught up on the apparent lack of a trickster figure within the game's mythology. One reason for this lack might be that FFH's mythology is not a straight-up pantheism, but a pantheism wrapped up in a monotheism--there is one god, heaven and hell and everything in between, and a good/evil duality. For the most part, monotheisms lack a trickster figure, partly because they don't take well to their god being subverted, but more so because the one god is supposed to provide everything humankind needs, meaning that there is no need for a trickster/cultural hero to steal the amenities of the gods for humankind.

    If we're going to look for a trickster, we should look in the pantheon of the angels. Why am I looking for a trickster? Personal affinity, but as one will find among the myriad trickster myths across the world, the world is the way it is because of the trickster. He (they are very rarely female) may not have created the world, but he shapes it. The most common monomyths we find for the trickster are:

    -Rearranging (as opposed to creating--stealing from gods, inventing),

    -Deceiving,

    -Traveling (lives in thresholds, never belonging to one place),

    -Penetrating (finding pores in boundaries, turning one's strengths against them, finding a third path when facing two options),

    -Imitating and parodying (including obscenities), and

    -Making, maintaining, and traversing gaps between the worldly and the divine.

    All of these are ways in which trickster makes the world what it is and keeps it that way. I hope to describe how Agares does this, and how he follows the trickster's path in his actions. We'll look at some classical and some, well, Kaelian examples of the monomyths in action, and some different directions in which Agares takes the archetype.

    Let's follow Agares' timeline. He is first distinguished when he refuses to let his powers of creation be taken away. He goes on to steal the gems of creation from heaven. Stealing is perhaps trickster's first role in most myths; the action in itself is a one-time action that shapes the world, whereas most of his other roles are constant or repetitive actions. Like Prometheus, Coyote, and Opossum stealing fire, Hermes stealing cattle, baby Krishna stealing butter, Agares' theft is the catalyst that leads to increased independence for those for whom the quarry was stolen. Usually it's humankind, but not so with Agares. Agares' intention was to steal them for himself. He couldn't give up creating, and that desire mirrors the hunger and lust that drive so many other tricksters.

    Creating "not in the fashion of heaven but as he desires," he makes "a shadowy reflection of heaven." Free from any artistic limitation, he makes a parody of heaven, for himself, in secret. It's an act of self-amusement and quiet rebellion against the One. It may be "as he desires," but in his spiteful motivation he is still creating the same thing, only a reflection. Despite his rebellion, he is still trapped in the same framework he hoped to upset. Other tricksters have proven able to invent a third path, an example is Raven stealing food from a trap, preying on his predator, in effect breaking himself from the predator/prey game by becoming both. It's an aspect that Agares needs to, and will, improve on if he wants to be his own god, as Hermes aspired to become an Olympian when he invents sacrifice in his Homeric Hymn.

    The next milestone is when the other angels, followed by the One, find out about Agares' mischief. The One expels all 20 of them to Erebus and this is when heaven becomes separated from earth, a split that exists in all mythological worldviews. Tricksters such as Legba and Eshu are responsible for creating these, and others such as Hermes and Raven are able to move between them. At this point, abandoned, all the angels resume creating using the power that Agares stole (I assume, because it seems more likely than the One granting it back to them). They become the benefactors of Agares' theft and all except Agares create archangels. Why he doesn't create one is a mystery, but is explained in retrospect when he later creates Hyborem as a perverted reflection of Cernunnos. Again we see again his tendency not to create, but to mimic and parody.

    Why would Agares steal the power of creation, yet never truly create? Trickster is not a creator. He invents fishing nets, mimics others' ways of hunting, steals fire, and lives in crossroads and thresholds. He has no possessions, no methods, no home--nothing but cunning and an empty stomach. This is the path that Agares takes to achieve his goals. Instead of join the creation arms race of the Godswar, he would rather steal the others' angels. Instead of eat either meat or plants, Coyote and Raven eat carrion, which is meat acting like a plant. When everyone else is being impressed by the invulnerable Baldur, Loki finds mistletoe and kills him. Trickster's way is to copy others' ways, or find holes in their ways. "To this day Agares has more angels in his service than any other angel, but none of them were created by his hand": Greatest return for the least amount of effort.

    It must be around this time that Agares and the evil angels create hell. I say "create," but it is still a parody, much more elaborate this time. This is a parody of creation that turns it upside-down--the demons are made from the bottom up, from death to life. Before he was stuck between having no power to create and having nothing to create. Now he's made for himself a third domain, in which his reflections aren't parallel and mirroring, but rebalance heaven and earth.

    His final action in shaping Erebus was upsetting the balance once again by whispering to Bhall. It would create a domino effect of fallen angels, but we still don't know the final consequences of this. It does, however, echo Loki targeting the invulnerable Baldur, as Bhall was the source of the Order's power. His whispers also echo Hermes, who sings to the multi-eyed giant Argos and puts him to sleep.

    Agares is the trickster in these ways. He falls short in a couple aspects that are essential to tricksters, though: Traveling and Deceit. We hardly ever hear of the angels in any sort of physical form, wherever they are, and so it's hard to know where Agares is or where he goes. All the angels seem to live in trickster's realm on the edge of existence, and we are told that Ceridwen is in fact the angel of the threshold. As for deceit--the angel of despair has little to lie about, as lying would defeat the purpose of despair.

    Are there other candidates? Loki the Balseraph is surely a trickster, but we know nothing of him in the mythology of FFH so we can’t give him much consideration. The jesters and carnival-folk of the Balseraphs certainly embody a prominent form of trickster, that of parody, mimicry, and chaos, but have nothing beyond that. Likewise the liars and thieves of Esus with a different aspect of trickster. For all these reasons, I believe Agares is the most satisfying of any likely trickster as shaper of the world in FFH.
     
  2. KillerClowns

    KillerClowns Emperor

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    Holy... you thought a lot about this. I'd like to suggest Ceridwen as a possible trickster as well, however. She acts as a perverse Prometheus, bringing not fire but magic to Erebus, and she causes Os-Gabella's rebellion. The points regarding traveling, penetrating, and mastery of the gaps between the mortal and heavenly realms also fit her about as well as they do Agares, if not more so, as you mentioned. She also seems more likely to deceive. We don't know as much about Ceridwen as we do Agares, and my information on her is incomplete, so I could be way off.
     
  3. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    I'm pretty sure that Tali would be another trickster god, in a different way. He isn't malicious by any means, but he is very mischievous. Mimicry, parody, chaos, irresponsibility, and fun are his purpose. This is quite different than Agares of course, as his actions don't really aim to subvert the One, to whom he is still loyal. He was just created specifically to provide comic relief.
     
  4. loocas

    loocas Prince

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    You're right about Ceridwen. She covers all the bits that Agares lacks.

    He would definitely be one. His loyalty to the One isn't an issue for me, since Hermes was still loyal to Zeus and trickster is still a god just like the rest. He does fit the role of a traditional trickster... we just need to know what he does...
     
  5. Kael

    Kael Deity

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    Loki (norse god, not balseraph bad boy or team idea man) had a neutral relationship with the rest of the norse pantheon. During times he was their savior, or at least Thor's friendly partner, as likely to get them into trouble as he is to get them out of it. Ragnarok not withstanding (where he opposes the norse gods directly) they actually seem to appreciate his antics.

    I've always thought it was weird that the Norse cast Loki in such an odd role. They seemed to appreciate his guile, which you would expect from a fierce culture that was heavily influenced by war. But why make the clever one, the trickster into the major enemy in the end? What are they saying about the cunning?

    Nordic region tales often feature big, brave, strong, handsome and stupid main characters (eric bright eyes and such). Ive never seen it anywhere else. They are almost mistrustful of the bright and Loki's tale seems to confirm that.

    Coyote of american indian folklore is also a great example of trickster spirit that isnt evil. Though the treatment of coyote in the tales shows a big difference between the american indians and the norse.
     
  6. loocas

    loocas Prince

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    I agree that they must appreciate him despite his mischief. The reason for antagonizing him is all Snorri Sturluson's fault. Most of what we know about Loki comes from his Edda. He wrote it a couple hundred years into Christianity's rise and had an agenda when it came to portraying the pagan gods in contrast to the enlightenment, as he saw it, of Christianity. Scandinavian folktales from then on through the middle ages had the devil playing the trickster's role, and I think Snorri's responsible for the failure to see the difference between an amoral agent of chaos and an immoral opposition to heaven. Stop me before I start ranting.
     
  7. Gutentag

    Gutentag Chieftain

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    I don't really picture Agares as a trickster for the most part. Usually when I think of a trickster, such as Loki, the things he does are for his own amusement and there isn't usually much motivation or thought of consequences beyond that.
    Agares actions, as least as far as I understand and interpret them, are all centered around preparing for the return of the One. He corrupts and tries to bring as many gods and other powerful beings to his side in hopes of becoming more powerful than the one and becoming top dog.

    If this fails, he hopes to have corrupted "good" enough and merged it with
    "evil" that no part of creation will be able to be separated without it all having to be destroyed, which he hopes the One won't do. But at least if the One does he "wins". This is also why I think he doesn't create anything; it's not that he can't, it's just that his creations would be separate and that's not how he thinks he can succeed in any of his plans.
    To me the term trickster just seems far too benign and tame for Agares.
     
  8. loocas

    loocas Prince

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    I don't deny that. I need stories in order to call him a trickster, and due to the open-ended nature of the game there isn't a lot of material describing his present state. I'll say that at this point, he has ascended from the pantheon of angels and into the monotheism so he can oppose the one. My point is that he followed the trickster's path to get there.

    I guess this is where I disagree with you. I see him as not being purely evil for the sake of opposing the One, but as self-serving, as jealous and proud, as if he thinks, "It's not fair, why can't I be all-powerful too?"
     
  9. Love

    Love Deity

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    Loki is my favorite norse god, and i know norse gods
     
  10. DioBrando

    DioBrando Warlord

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    Hm, I can't agree with the norweigan gods featuring mostly stupid main characters. I might agree on Thor, but he is the god of pure uncontrolled strength and rage, being the god of thunder and all. Tyr, the real god of war, is mostly shown as a cunning strategist, Odin as very wise, even wiser than any other polytheistic god i know about. Sure, they act foolish at times, but they mature.

    I would say that Loki is the most foolish god in norse mythologi. Cunning, yes, but wise, no. He's a child at mind, or possibly a teenager since he sleeps with everyone, even animals. The other gods probably just keep him around since he is amusing and helpful at times. They probably didn't see him as a threat.

    Loki is the personification of being premature. There's a big difference between smart and wise.
     
  11. Kael

    Kael Deity

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    I didnt mean the mythology when I said nordic tales, but the tales of their heroes like Eric Brighteyes. Its the archetype of the nordic hero who is as strong as an Ox but probably not as smart. Its the only time Ive seen a culture delight in the fact that their heroes lack any guile or cunning.
     
  12. Love

    Love Deity

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    Loki actually was helpful to the gods in most tales (but killing Balder (or telling a blind god to kill balder) wasn't nice at all), but in the late ones, like ragnarök, he flipped out
     
  13. Kael

    Kael Deity

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    He is the Whitney Houston of the Norse pantheon.
     
  14. MacGyverInSpace

    MacGyverInSpace Monarch

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    They canceled the show so we'll never find out.
     
  15. Morni

    Morni Warlord

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    I'm just running on year old memories now, but I believe I've been taught that the single most important trait for the old Nordic peoples was trustworthiness/reliability. It was vital that you could trust a man no matter what, so I suppose the "clever" ones would also be seen as the ones who weren't trustworthy, while the "not-so-clever" ones were more likely to stay true to their word. But again, I'm saying this from lessons years ago of which I've most likely forgotten most, so I may just be spewing lies.
     
  16. wilboman

    wilboman Hibernorse Frost Giant

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    No, I think that sounds about right. Honesty to the point of absurdity was highly valued. And of course honour was insanely important, and a cunning, sneaky person will often be less than honourable, worming his way out of trouble and playing people against eachother.
     
  17. LDiCesare

    LDiCesare Deity

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    A bit of thread necromancy and a bit off-topic, but regarding Loki, does anyone know of George Dumézil's book about this god? He compares him to the Nart (Osset hero) Sirdon (or Syrdon). The parallels are very strong, and Sirdon is not a good warrior (thus not well-considered by the warlike Narts) but he is very clever. He's the son of a devil in certain versions, but is always helpful except he hates Soslan (Sosryko) (=Baldr) and will get him killed because he just hates the strong, beautiful and stupid warrior that everybody loves where he has zero merit, what with being invulnerable, while he, poor Sirdon (and Loki) does what he can time and again to save the gods and is always scorned and disliked.
    What Dumézil says of Loki (and Syrdon)'s intelligence is that he's someone who will find clever tricks when needed, he is impulsive, he doesn't plan in advance, ponders or prepares. He's generally carefree and only uses his intelligence when cornered rather than planning in advance. In this sense, he's different from Agares, who had prepared and schemed quite a lot.
     
  18. loocas

    loocas Prince

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    What's the name of that book? Sounds interesting. Agares is, like you said, much different from Loki. Loki's different from other tricksters too. The fancypants word for that impulsive, carefree, careless, and self-centered manner is puer (the opposite is senex). Loki, definitely; Agares, not. There are examples of tricksters being puerile and examples of them being more cunning and forward-thinking (but not senex, so maybe "opposite" was the wrong word). Although, Loki's killing of Baldr shows that he's able to plan ahead. He wasn't cornered, just spiteful or maybe jealous, and he went to lengths to track down the overlooked mistletoe and then orchestrate the murder. Also, how often has Loki saved the gods? IIRC he's always putting them in danger or turning them against each other.

    If we're calling Agares a trickster, then I'd say the greatest difference he has to others is that he has a clear agenda. Tricksters are generally driven by impulses, like hunger, libido, or in Loki's case, that Bart Simpson urge to cause mischief. Agares's agenda is driven by the desire to create, but he's got an even stronger desire just to rebel. If the One's so perfect and all follow his command, then perhaps Agares's rebellion is like Loki's slaying of the invulnerable--irresistible.
     
  19. LDiCesare

    LDiCesare Deity

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    The book is called "Loki" by Dumézil, but I"m not sure it's available in English.

    Loki helped the gods and put them in trouble about as often:

    With the giants Thjazi, he caused them grief and got them out of the mess he had put them into.
    Loki allowed the giant who built a castle for the Aesir to use his horse, and was forced to lure that horse in order to trick the giant. Although the deal the giant initially offered wasn't the best one for the Aesir, it turned good and was in the long run beneficial. In this adventure, Loki also gave birth to Sleipnir, which was a good thing too. On the other hand, he later fathered the wolf that would kill Odin...
    With Geirrodr and Andvari he was only a pain.
    With Thrymr, he was solely helpful.
    He cut Sif's hair but got her new hair, and Skildbanir and Gungnir, and his bet with the dwarves led to the creation of Mjollnir, which was overall vert beneficial for the gods.
    Loki stole Freyja's collar for Odin, so he helped the Aesir here.
    Loki killed Baldr. This act was what definitely made him evil, but apart of that, he was just a selfish god that the others often called upon to help them when they needed brains.

    Loki is very puerile, but Agares is also in a sense. When his toy (creation) is taken away from him, he destroys everything like a child in a fit of rage.
     
  20. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    The most puerile god of Erebus is Tali, of course.
     

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