The Importance of Play: Or Embracing the Trickster

By M.W. Whitaker

girl-and-laughing-camel-2Witches should be serious at all times about our craft. With that said, it cannot be stressed how important play is, or more specifically, how important enjoyment, laughter, and play are.

Reclaiming isn’t solemn. It is not supposed to be.  It is ecstatic.  It is the embrace of the natural world, so let’s take a look at what nature is like.

Ravens and crows are black, and in some cultures they are considered creatures of ill omen, just as witches are. But what can ravens teach us about our world and ourselves as witches?  Well, for one thing, ravens are very intelligent creatures, and like all intelligent creatures they love to play.  Sometimes ravens have been observed playing around in areas with a lot of wind.  At first, biologists thought that they were doing mating dances, or territorial displays but then it was discovered that they were playing.  They were essentially doing the avian equivalent of surfing, or skateboarding.

Dolphins and whales are curious, inquisitive, and will often come into the shallows to interact with people and other animals. They also love to race ships at sea, and like their distant cousins the humpback whales, they love to jump out of the water.  It was originally thought that dolphins and whales were doing this as a way to stun fish or plankton, however, it was later noted that after breaching, the whales  and dolphins were not feeding, nor were they being territorial.  They were jumping out the water for the simple enjoyment of it.

Dogs and cats like to play, and it isn’t just leftover hunting behavior. How many times have you seen a dog romping with his or her owner, and doing activities that dogs normally don’t do?  Briards are dogs well known for their ability and desire to play and to learn new things.  Cats also love to play, and it isn’t just squeaky toys.  Sometimes, they love to climb and jump for the sake of climbing and jumping.

Consider the joy and the laughter you experience dancing around a maypole or a bonfire. Did you ever have a teacher who was funny, and marched to the beat of her own drum?  I bet it would surprise you to know how much you learned from her, and how much you remember.

Laughter releases endorphins in our systems, and since we often laugh when we are surprised, it clears the fog around us, and makes us focus on what someone else is saying. Laughter can be an effective way to teach someone, just as genuine joy and happiness can.

Tricksters are often maligned. They bring mischief to calm and chaos to order.  Yet sometimes, the trickster can teach us something.  She can teach us to enjoy life a bit more, and maybe not take ourselves or the world seriously.  He can teach us ways to overcome adversity by not struggling continually with a problem but to face a bit of the absurd and to laugh at a non-sequitur completely unrelated.

So remember, She herself said “All acts of pleasure are my rituals.” Sing.  Clap your hands.  Laugh at yourself and the world every now and then. Be serious when it’s absolutely necessary.  Just don’t forget to laugh.  When you do, you honor yourself, and the trickster god or goddess in us all.

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