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The Trickster and the Alphabet, Part II: The Letter Q

In my last Medusa's Ladder piece, I pointed to a holographic, Trickster-within-the Trickster dynamic that expresses the profound reflexivity often present within manifestations of the Trickster archetype. Stage Magic has its Uri Geller, The Virgin Mary has her Lady of Death, and contemporary paranormal pop its Ouija Board.

It is difficult to think of any synthetic system that we are more subject to and dependent upon than language and its raw bones--the alphabet. It is absolutely ubiquitous in and inseparable from modern culture—it contains all the signals we've chosen to convey everything we do, everything we know. In a sense, the alphabet is a companion of reality.

It's not surprising then, with such a serious and cosmic job, that such a system would be all Trickster. As I stated in Part 1, the nature of the alphabet is symbolism. The nature of symbolism is approximation and interpretation. This leaves the door wide open for the stuff of Trickster.

Within the alphabet, there is a particular letter that seems to take an extra share of liminality and general oddness—the letter Q. Beginning with its physicality, it is composed entirely of the base symbols of both male and female—with its circle and line, it is pure androgyny.

Looking at Q by every angle, there's Trickster intrigue. A large number of the few English words that begin with it including: Quantum, Question, Query, Quiz, Quixotic, Quark, Quirk, Quibble, Quandary, Qualm, Quiver, Quiet, Qualify, Quagmire, Quell, Quack, Quash, Quarry, Quarter, Quadruple, Quotient—when taken as a whole, seem to describe a weird chasm on the border, in various shapes and extreme states of measurement.

In my 1972 Webster Handy College Dictionary, the antiquated word 'quandoon' is defined in an equally antiquated way as "a person of one-quarter Negro blood." The word 'queer', meaning 'unusual, or 'not quite right' is used almost exclusively now in reference to describe homosexuality. With the example of these words, we find that a Q word has been used to signify an idea of marginalization, ambiguous identity, and Other.

Q is a special, needy child too—it is helpless on its own and can't do anything without 'u' (you.) Looking at this dynamic very symbolically, it is a highly personified and confrontational letter. Q is fittingly the first letter on the computer keyboard—the device used in our new, ethereal way of communication via the internet. Q is present within our modern Western sociopolitical narratives—usually with associations of The Other; there is the oft-referred to Qur'an, as well as the Qabalah.

Q has been appropriated in fictions to designate extreme Trickster-like characters. The 1982 dark comic horror film 'Q' refers to the return of Quetzalcoatl, the winged serpent; there is a complicated and mysterious figure (or figures) named Q within the James Bond canon.

Perhaps the brat-god character Q from Star Trek TNG most perfectly embodies the spirit of the letter; isn't there just something inexplicably "tricky," absurd, comical, space-agey, otherworldly, and esoteric about the letter Q? I suggest this ineffable quality is the aligned with Trickster archetype.


The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, Albert and Loy Morehead, Signet pub., 1972, pg. 371

Photo credit: MadeMistakes, Alphabet Poo

Contact Richelle Hawks

Visit Richelle's blog: Beamships Equal Love