Spiritual Development

Page 33

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By Mouse

I would like to explore the Heyoka. I am understanding that Heyoka carries a lot of Coyote
and/or Raven Medicine... but is more than that alone. Not everyone who walks with Coyote, or
flies with Raven is Heyoka, am I correct in understanding that?

So where is the line between Coyote Medicine and Heyoka? Heyoka, the Trickster, the Clown,
the Court Jester, the Fool. I understand that Heyoka holds a sacred position, and is by far more
than just a person who tricks for the heck of tricking. I understand that Heyoka teaches the
balance between work and play, between team spirit and individuality, between light and dark. I
understand that Heyoka is also connected strongly to Fire, to the Sun, to Thunder.

I understand that the role of Heyoka would be to mirror behavior that is not to the benefit of the
greater whole of the tribe, or behavior that is harmful to the person... the Heyoka would be
showing Tribe Elders the holes in the plans, or Tribe members holes in their behavior. I
understand that it is not intended to ridicule out of spite or intention to hurt... but that it is an
honorable role to hold up the mirror for the other person(s) to see what is being presented.
The mimicry and joking exposes hypocrisy and arrogance. The portrayals of ridiculous behavior
shows the people (in a very humorous way) their own foolishness and blind-spots.

From "The Daughters of Copper Woman" by Anne Cameron: "A clown was like a newspaper, or
a magazine, or one of those people who write an article to tell you if a book or a movie is worth
botherin' with. They made comment on everythin', every day, all the time. If a clown thought that
what the tribal council was gettin' ready to do was foolish, why the clown would just show up at
the council and imitate every move every one of the leaders made. Only the clown would imitate
it in such a way every little wart on that person would show, every hole in their idea would
suddenly look real big."

And this is from the myths/legends library:
p199.ezboard.com/fspiritlodge83569frm89.showMessage?topicID=228.topic (No longer available)
“The Heyoka are those that dream of Thunder Beings. They announce changes and they do it in
a clowning fashion. There are Heyoka Ceremonies in the Sioux tradition that are called: Heyoka
kaga: Clown-maker ceremonies.

Until the vision was publicly reenacted before the people as required of a Heyoka, the individual
feared thunder and lightning. During the ceremony the Heyokas’ backward or opposite antics
brought great laughter. According to the Lakota holy man John (Fire) Lame Deer, being a sacred
clown "brings ...honor, but also shame. It gives you power but you have to pay for it."

During the ceremony the Kettle Dance is performed, which includes the holy songs and the ritual
preparation of a boiling pot of dog meat. During the course of the performance, the Heyokas
dance around the scalding kettle and plunge their bare hands into it to retrieve the head and other
morsels of the spiritual food. Their frolics include splashing one another exclaiming over the
coldness of the pot and its contents.

Heyokas teach us through opposites...what not to do. They are the comic relief at times and bring
a sudden snap back to reality in somber situations. Children love their antics and find humor in
them getting away with misbehaving and then seeing the results. In a way they are very much
like Coyote Medicine for those of you who understand it. The trick is always on them and
through that they suffer to teach.”


I'll share what I have with you Mouse:
*Jamie Sams/Sacred Path Cards Book:
Heyokah: Humor/Opposites

The Teaching:
The Heyokah is a contrary clown who holds total wisdom and teaches the People through
laughter and opposites. This Sacred Trickster is one who makes you wonder if what they are
saying or doing is actually correct, thereby making you think and figure it out for yourself. When
people are made to think on their own, the wobbly beliefs that have been a rubber crutch for
them in the past are tested. If the rubber crutch gives way and they end up on the ground on their
rump, a lesson was learned. If they stop and think, test out a teaching for themselves and it
stands in good stead, the wobbly belief becomes a Knowing System for their lives.

This Divine Trickster is called Heyokah by the Plains Tribes and Koshari by the Hopi and
Pueblo Indians. Many Tribes have Trickster Teachers who dress in costume for Ceremony and
wear regular clothing in daily life. Their jokes do not stop just because it is not a feast day. All
Heyokahs operate through opposites. The Heyokah's purported wisdom, imparted to a seeker,
could be the exact opposite of the answers the person would find for the Self. The laughter
surrounding the results could be a lesson for the entire community.

The Heyokah is known for creating lessons at the expense of another's seriousness. Laughter is
the ultimate lesson that breaks the bonds that destroy balance in people. If the Heyokah is
successful, all is taken in good fun, and the bonds of old habits, no longer helpful, are broken.
The Medicine Ally of the Heyokah is Coyote. The Heyokah is a master at Coyote Medicine and
can use the joking part of Coyote's nature to trick others into enlightened states of
understanding. Occasionally the Coyote Medicine will backfire and zap the Heyokah in a blind
spot. If this happens, the true Heyokah will take it in stride and laugh at the backfire, learning
from the lesson along with the others.

Native People understood the value of being good sports. In earlier times it was not considered
"loosing face" to have the Heyokah play a trick on someone. In fact it was an honor to be singled
out for a trick that contained a valuable spiritual lesson. Each Tribal Member was a valuable
part of the whole, and many times the joke had consequences for more than one person.
Everyone seeing the actual prank or talking of it later could relate those events to personal
situations and grow from the lesson. All are forced to reflect on how they would react if they
were the person the joke was played on. The Heyokah is able to master the art of balancing the
sacredness with irreverence.

The true art of knowing how and when to use Heyokah tactics comes through the ability to laugh
at one's Self while being compassionate in using the Trickster elements of teaching in a way that
is not cruel or self-imposing. An experienced Heyokah will know how sensitive a student is and
would never use a trick on that student to create more pain. In this situation, the Heyokah would
make a joke and become the laughing stock of the situation so that the student could reflect on it
through another's experience. This art of self-sabotage is planned and in no way makes the
balanced Heyokah feel lesser or abused. The joy of the wise Elder within the Heyokah knows
well that the results have created growth in a another. The lesson is complete and even the selfsabotage
was staged and yet, served its purpose.

The Sacred Medicine Path of the Heyokah can involve diminishing fear through laughter. Many
people are frightened by the mystery of the Void. They have to be tricked out of their fear so that
they can see that their self-created "boogeyman" was the only obstacle to Divine Connection.
The Heyokah excels in situations where stubbornness stops growth. If a Heyokah knows that
someone is stubborn and has to do it his way, the Trickster will tell him to do the exact opposite.
Many days later we might find the Heyokah alone in the lodge giggling at the wondrous
Medicine Story moving through the camp. The stubborn person had done exactly what Heyokah
said not to do and a had a mystical experience that was life changing. Only the Heyokah knew
that due to Stubborn's refusal to be guided, the trick had worked and spiritual growth ensued.
Since the Magical Coyote is the Divine Trickster's Ally, all of the antics of Coyote are suspect.
When a hunter tracks a Coyote, the trail will double back on itself many times and can fool even
the most experienced tracker to the point of total frustration. Anyone trying to guess a Heyokah's
next move can likewise become befuddled. Coyote teaches Two-leggeds to find joy in their own
foolishness. When the Heyokah calls upon Coyote to assist him in keeping prying eyes off his
trail, Coyote will assist in a multitude of ways.

I learned my first Coyote lesson in Mexico when Joaquin, my Medicine Teacher, wanted me to
see how ridiculous my seriousness had become. We spent one whole day gathering dried Cow
dung, Rabbit pellets, Coyote dung, and Owl waste and carefully placing each in an old tin
bucket. The next day we spent mixing all of it together, crushing each part into powder and
slowly adding water to make a paste. After this was completed, I was told to mark a circle in the
earth with string and a stick making sure that the circle was perfectly round. Then Joaquin told
me to fill the tiny groove in the soil with all of the paste I had made from all of the feces. I was
very careful to make a perfect circle and not to let any of the circle be crooked. Joaquin praised
my work and how careful I had been during the two-day process. He then told me to enter the
circle and sit in the center until I understood the value of the lesson.

I sat there for at least three hours, thinking that maybe this was a way to contact the Power
Animals. Finally Coyote came into my consciousness, took one look at me, and rolled on the
ground in side-splitting laughter. Coyote was laughing so hard he could not speak. I was
fascinated, while still sitting in my circle of poop, serious as ever. In between his guffaws, Coyote
spit out the words that taught me my lesson. "For the past three days you've been examining
other people's s***!" he screamed. "Now you've surrounded yourself with it and you are so
serious you can't even see how ridiculous you look."

I started to laugh at myself as I imagined how Joaquin must be rolling in hysterics at the joke he
had played on me. I wondered how he could have kept a straight face for two days. It finally
came to me that I had spent the previous days worrying about the problems of others. All of
those worries had left me, in effect, sitting in a circle of other people's mental garbage.
The lesson hit me hard, and I laughed until I was aching with no breath and tears ran down my
face. It has taken me many years to master the lesson and I still get sucked in the drama of others
at times. Joaquin was an excellent Teacher and even now he will come to me, in spirit, and break
my seriousness with more Heyokah antics.

The primary lessons of the Heyokah trick us into revelations rather than giving us the answers.
Heyokah is needed when we refuse to allow ourselves alternatives. The view will always expand
if we use the Divine Medicine of laughter. Nothing is beyond repair. We may need to use comedy
to crack a smile so we can reclaim our Sacred Space.

Heyokah Medicine can be called upon through Coyote. Remember that the Divine Trickster is
the perfect integration of all things wise and foolish, sacred and irreverent. When we ask for
those lessons, we need to be prepared for adventure. We need to be willing to laugh and to have
others laugh with us. We will have achieved the ultimate union of opposites when we learn to
celebrate more than we mourn. The time has come to laugh and reclaim our divine right to find
pleasure in the sacredness of being human.

The Application:
If the Trickster has appeared on your horizon, you are in for a barrel of laughs. You may be
doing exactly the opposite of what you need to be doing and are about to get busted for it. Stop
leaking your creative energy on other people's problems or high drama. Stop being so serious
and crack a smile, or Coyote will dog your dreams. Remember that some days you are the
fireplug and some days you are the Dog. That goes for everyone, so don't let getting pooped on
get you down. Learning through laughter or opposites can be fun.

The keynote to the Heyokah card is to lighten up and start balancing the sacredness with
irreverence. If you are just being stubborn, it may be time to create some contrary lesson that
will force you to crack up, crack a smile, or trick you into going into the crack in the universe to
find out what's really important!

*Excerpts from John Lame Deer/Seeker of Visions;
Chapter 15: The Upside-Down, ForwardBackward, Icy-Hot Contrary

To us a clown is somebody sacred, funny, powerful, ridiculous, holy, shameful, visionary. He is
all this and then some. Fooling around, a clown is really performing a spiritual ceremony. He
has a power. It comes from the thunder-beings, to the animals or the earth. In our Indian belief a
clown has more power than the atom bomb. This power could blow off the dome of the Capitol. I
have told you that I once worked as a rodeo clown. This was almost like doing spiritual work.
Being a clown, for me, came close to being a medicine man. It was in the same nature.
A clown in our language is called Heyoka. He is an upside-down, backward-forward, yes-and-no
man, a contrary-wise.

It is very simple to become a Heyoka. All you have to do is dream about the lightning, the
thunderbirds. You do this, and when you wake up in the morning you are a Heyoka. There is
nothing you can do about it. Being a clown brings you honor, but also shame. It gives you power,
but you have to pay for it.

My grandma told me about one clown who used to wander around naked for hours in subzero
weather, wearing only his breechcloth, complaining all the time about the heat. They called him
Heyoka Osni--the cold fool. Another clown was called the straighten-outer. He was always
running around with a hammer trying to flatten round and curvy things, making them straight,
things like soup dishes, eggs, balls, rings or cartwheels. My grandma had one of those round
glass chimneys which fits over a kerosene lamp. Well, he straightened it out for her. It's not easy
to be a Heyoka. It's even harder to have one in the family.

....the wise old ones know that the clowns are thunder-dreamers, that the thunder-beings
command them to act in a silly way, each Heyoka according to his dream. They also know that a
Heyoka protects the people from lightning and storms and that his capers, which make people
laugh, are holy. Laughter--that is something very sacred, especially for us Indians. For people
who are as poor as us, who have lost everything, who had to endure so much death and sadness,
laughter is a precious gift. When we were dying like flies from the white man's diseases, when we
were driven into the reservations, when the Government rations did not arrive and we were
starving, at such times watching the pranks of a Heyoka must have been a blessing.

A clown gets his strange powers from the wakinyan, the sacred flying-ones, the thunderbirds. Let
me tell you about them. We believe that at the beginning of all things, when the earth was young,
the thunderbirds were giants. They dug out the riverbeds so that the streams could flow. They
ruled over the waters. They fought with Unktegila, the great water monster. It had red hair all
over, one eye, and one horn in the middle of its forehead. It had a backbone like a saw. those
who saw it went blind for one day. on the next day they went witko, crazy, and on the third day
they died. You can find the bones of Unktegila in the Badlands mixed with the remains of
petrified sea shells and turtles. Whatever else you may think you now that all this land around
here was once a vast ocean, that everything started with the waters.

When the thunder-beings lived on earth they had no wings, and it rained without thunder. When
they died their spirits went up into the sky, into the clouds. They turned into winged creatures,
the wakinyan. Their earthly bodies turned into stones, like those of the sea monster Unktegila.
Their remains, too, are scattered throughout the Badlands. There you also find many kangitame-
-bolts of lightning which have turned into black stones shaped like spear points.

High above the clouds, at the end of the world where the sun goes down, is the mountain where
the wakinyan dwell. Four paths lead into that mountain. A butterfly guards the entrance at the
east, a bear guards the west, a deer the north and a beaver the south. The thunderbirds have a
gigantic nest made up of dry bones. In it rests the great egg from which the little thunderbirds
are hatched. This egg is huge, bigger than all of South Dakota.

There are four large, old thunderbirds. The great wakinyan of the west is the first and foremost
among them. He is clothed in clouds. His body has no form, but he has huge, four-jointed wings.
he has no feet, but he has claws, enormous claws. He has no head, but he has a huge beak with
rows of sharp teeth. his color is black. The second thunderbird is red. He has wings with eight
joints. The third thunderbird is yellow. The fourth thunderbird is blue. This one has neither eyes
nor ears.

When I try to describe the thunderbirds I can't really do it. A face without features, a shape
without form, claws without feet, eyes that are not eyes. From time to time one of our ancient
holy men got a glimpse of these beings in a vision, but only a part of them. No man ever saw the
whole, even in his dreams. Who knows what the great thunder-beings look like? Do you know
what God looks like? All we know is what the old ones told us, what our own visions tell us.

These thunderbirds, they are wakan oyate--the spirit nation. They are not like living beings. You
might call them enormous gods. When they open their mouths they talk thunder, and all the little
thunderbirds repeat after them. That's why you first hear the big thunder clap being followed by
all those smaller rumblings. When the wakinyan open their eyes the lightning shoots out from
there, even in the case of the thunderbird with no eyes. He has half-moons instead of eyes, and
still the lightning is coming out.

These thunderbirds are part of the Great Spirit. Theirs is about the greatest power in the whole
universe. I tis the power of the hot and the cold clashing way above the clouds. It is lightning--
blue lightning from the sun. It is colossal welding, like the making of another sun. I tis like
atomic power. The thunder power protects and destroys. It is good and bad, as God is good and
bad, as nature is good and bad, as you and I are good and bad. it is the great winged power.
If the thunder-beings want to put their power on the earth, among the people, they send a dream
to a man, a vision about thunder and lightning. By this dream they appoint him to work his
power for them in a human way. This is what makes him a Heyoka. He doesn't have to see the
actual lightning, or hear the thunder in his dream. If he dreams about a certain kind of horse
coming toward him, about certain riders with grass in their hair or in their belts, he knows this
comes from wakinyan. Every dream which has some symbol of the thunder powers in it will make
you into a Heyoka.

Suppose you have such a dream. What happens then? It is very unpleasant to talk about. What I
mean is that a man who has dreamed about the thunderbirds, right away, the next morning, he's
got a fear in him, a fear to perform his act. he has to act out the dream in public. Let me tell you
one aspect of it, why we fear it. Indians are modest. In the old days, to expose a leg--say, to the
knee--for a girl was improper. We are a bashful race, and the poor Heyoka, in his dream he
would probably be stark naked without even a G-string on him. And he would have to go before
the people like this and it would not be easy for him.

A Heyoka, if he follows his dream to the letter, has to dress up as he saw himself in his vision.
Now, here is something strange. The people he saw in his dream, if he saw you, you would be
there, at the time and place where he would put on his act. You'd be there to witness it,
regardless of whether you had planned to be there or not. You couldn't help being there. It's hard
to believe. Some people say It’s fantastic; others say it is ridiculous, but it is so.

If you are a Heyoka you usually don't want to continue being one for the rest of your life, doing
everything backward, acting the fool, be a permanent contrary. You'd want to cleans yourself,
and be rid of it. Acting out your dream, undergoing shame, being humiliated so that you don't
dare uncover your face, that is one part of freeing yourself from this, but it is not the whole part.
The ceremony which must be performed is awesome in some of its aspects.

The dreamer asks the medicine man and all Heyokas for their help. A horse or wolf dreamer will
make the rounds and announce that the man has dreamed of the thunderbirds and must fulfill his
vision. They Heyoka could also be a woman, but this does not happen often. The dreamer invites
all who are, or have been, Heyokas to join in the ceremony.

First they have a sweat bath, make themselves holy with the smoke of sweetgrass. The Great
Spirit wants a man clean and purified for this ceremony. It is the same as with all our
ceremonies which start in the sweat lodge. The steam bath is the same as always except that
those inside are singing Heyoka songs. Also, a Heyokas sweat lodge is always sited facing east
instead of west. I know that all the books say that a sweat lodge always faces east. Whoever
wrote this must have been describing a Heyoka's place, or maybe he just got it wrong and
everybody copied him afterward. All our sweat lodges face west toward the setting sun.

A Heyoka ceremony starts with a dance. I want you to know that our dances are not just
powwows, having a good time, hopping from one foot to the other. All our dances have their
beginning in our religion. They started out as spiritual gatherings. They were sacred. Clowns
are a part of this. Many, many ages ago, before people knew how to dance, the thunder dreamers
had a vision to run and jump around a buffalo stomach in which some meat was boiling. We had
no iron pots in those days. They call this the "Around the Bucket" dance. It is performed in honor
of the thunder-beings, the lightning spirits. This is our oldest dance together with the sun dance.

The bucket is there, all right, full of dog meat boiling over an open fire. For this dance all the
Heyokas get together to help one another. You have to have four leaders and four assistants, men
who know the Heyoka songs. All these should be Heyokas, but these days there are not enough of
them, so we have to put somebody in there willing to fill the vacancy. The real Heyokas, those
who are or have been thunder clowns, wear special bustles made of eagle feathers of all kinds of
birds--eagles, owls, crows, or woodpeckers. They also have some rattles made from rows of deer
hoofs. We honor these things. They are wakan.

The substitute dancers who are not Heyokas don't wear these things. They put grass in their belts
and in their hair. From these men come our social dances--the grass dance, the Omaha dance,
the good-time dances. They grew into our modern dances, which we do to enjoy ourselves, but
all started in our religion. Dancing and praying--it's the same thing. Even at our powwows, with
everybody laughing and kidding, we first introduce and honor the Heyokas. We combine the
powwows with our give-aways by which we honor our dead, with the consoling of those who
mourn, with aiding each other. It is more than just hopping around.

Well, the Heyokas dance around that steaming kettle, sing and act contrary. If the dreamer says,
"A good day tomorrow," well, it will be a hell of a day next day. And if he says, "Tomorrow will
be a bad day, thunderstorms from morning to night," why, you can leave your umbrella at home.
You won't need it, because it will be beautiful. And if the Heyoka sees a sick person and says,
"He's going to die," that sick pwerson will be all smiles because he knows he's going to live. But
if the Heyoka says, "You are going to get well," the poor thing, he might as well start writing his will.

*Note from Cinn: I'm going to skip the ceremony itself. If you are interested in it please check
the book out. It's just filled with lore that weaves in and out of it. Back to the issue:
We call the Heyoka a two-faced, backward-forward, upside-down contrary fool, but he is an
honest two-faced. He works backward openly. He says "god" when he means "dog" and "dog"
when he means "god." You know what is in his mind. he doesn't say, "If I get elected to be
congressman, I will do this or that." He makes no promises. He has the power. He has the honor.
He has the shame. He pays for it all.

I think clowns are holy to all Indians, not only to us Sioux. I have heard about the "Mudhead"
clowns in Zuni, way down in New Mexico. {*His story about them is not appropriate for the
forum...adult X rated.} It is very different from us Sioux, yet it is the same. Different but the
same--that is real Heyoka business. I think when it comes right down to it, all the Indian
religions somehow are part of the same belief, the same mystery. Our unity, it's in there.
*Mouse, if you want more on the Heyoka let me know

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INDEX Page 2
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