The other day, in a teleconference call for the Process of Magic class I was asked if I thought a deity represented access to something beyond what it was in and of itself. It was an intriguing question and it prompted me to consider my own perspective/experiences of deities as well as what I've read in various books.
When I work with a spiritual entity of any sort, I recognize it's own existence in and of itself. But I've also noticed that various entities also represent specific functions. This is true not just for deities, but also Angels, Daimons, etc. On the one hand, this can be attributed to the need humans have to label what they deal with and/or be able to explain the usefulness of a particular entity. On the other hand, it could also be true that the particular entity really does represent those particular attributes and has presented itself to people accordingly in order to provide its knowledge to those people.
On a deeper level, however, I also think that any given spiritual entity represents access to something deeper than it, something that is so primal that it may not be easily understood or experienced. Jung's archetype theory applies here. In one sense Loki the trickster is his own entity, and yet in another sense Loki is a facet of a deeper spiritual force that is the trickster on a more primal level. And when we find other entities that have similar characteristics of the trickster, like Coyote, what we see on one level, are the masks of that deeper spiritual force. Coyote and Loki are still their own entities, but they are also representatives of that deeper spiritual force, or masks, if you will that provide a filter for the spiritual force and a face that is understandable to the people who are working or interacting with that energy.
It's also important to recognize that there is a cultural facet attached to the archetype. Even though Loki and Coyote might represent the Trickster, there are culture specific aspects which don't make them swapable for each other. In other words, Coyote will have different cultural characteristics that are suited specifically for the culture where he represents the trickster. However, with the cultural aspect accounted for there is enough similarity in terms of what the trickster does that we can see access to something deeper, something that is underneath the mask. The question is can we understand it?
I think whatever understanding is had occurs at a very primal level. It is something that makes sense, but not in a necessarily rational manner. And when you consider how rational people have become, how analytical they are, the necessity for having a mask is apparent because the mask is for the analytical, rational sides of ourselves that need something to cling to in order to understand and work with that deeper spiritual power.