Sacred Texts  Index  Previous  Next 

sacred-texts |  Web | Powered by Google

Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

      This article is excerpted from the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal.
      Each issue of the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal is published by
      High Plains Arts and Sciences; P.O. Box 620604, Littleton Co., 
      80123, a Colorado Non-Profit Corporation, under a Public Domain
      Copyright, which entitles any person or group of persons to 
      reproduce, in any form whatsoever, any material contained therein
      without restriction, so long as articles are not condensed or 
      abbreviated in any fashion, and credit is given the original
                           CONCERNING THE HEYOKAH
                         Copyright 1987, T. W. Moore
           Hello, people!  Before I get to the subject of this little
      piece, let me give you a bit of information as to its roots.
           Recently I have been doing a lot of writing, horror stories
      for the most part, and this article grew out of that.  It is also
      derived from a dream that I had not too long ago and something
      that has puzzled me until recently.  Now, with all that out of
      the way, let's get to it.
           Those of you who are familiar with Native American beliefs
      already have an idea of what a heyokah is.  For the benefit of
      those who aren't, I'll try to briefly describe him for you.  Who
      knows?  There may well be a counterpart in your own tradition.
           The word heyokah comes from the Lakotah (Sioux) and is used
      in reference to a particular type of shaman.  According to
      tradition, the heyokah is one who has "dreamed of the Thunder
      Spirits."  This dream bestows great powers upon the medicine
      man/medicine woman, one of which is reputed to be an ability to
      influence storms.  However, these powers have their price in that
      the shaman becomes a "contrary/"  If you've seen the movie Little
      Big Man, then you have seen a sample of the heyokah's antics.  Of
      course, this was a parody of the real thing, but our subject does
      do a lot of clowning around in reverse.
           Now I've read quite a bit on the subject (there's a lot out
      there, too), but still couldn't put it together.  There seemed to
      be something missing!  It's only in the last month or so that
      it's become clear to me and I'd like to share my insights with
           Probably the greatest barrier to my understanding was the
      one created by language.  Not being able to speak Lakotah, and
      additionally not knowing the culture, I lost something in the
      translation.  Here's the whole picture, as I see it anyway.
           In his vision, the heyokah comes into direct contact with
      the life-force itself.  This is symbolized by the Thunder Spirits
      that he dreams of.  When this occurs, a death/rebirth sequence is
      begun, which gives the shaman the capacity to control some of the
      manifestations of life-force.  This would include an ability to
      influence storms and, as is typical of the shamanic experience,
      the power to heal.  He also becomes a very potent teacher.  This
      last is where the "contrariness" comes into focus, in two ways. 
      The first is that the heyokah is teaching us about our selves. 
      By "mirroring" all of our doubts, fears, hatreds, weaknesses,
      etc. he forces us to examine what we really are.  For example, if
      you have any self-hatred (a common malady in our society) this
      sacred teacher will make you look at it.  The second aspect of
      his mirroring is that, as we are taught, the heyokah heals us of
      our hurts.  This is the most important and remarkable part of the
      holy man's clowning.  For this wonderful shaman takes our pain
      and transforms it into laughter.  And what can heal a human
      beings faster than to laugh at ourselves?
           As you can see, these "sacred clowns" had a very important
      role in traditional societies.  And personally, I think we could
      use a few more of them in today's world.
                              Suggested Reading
      SEVEN ARROWS, Hyemeyosts Storm .
      SONG OF HEYOKAH, Hyemeyosts Storm .
      LAME DEER: SEEKER OF VISIONS, Richard Erdoes and Lame Deer.
      SHAMANIC VOICES, Joan Halifax.
           If anyone would like to respond to this or has anything to
      share with me, please write to me c/o Post Office Box 11125,
      Englewood, CO  80110
      ..........  FROM RMPJ, 2/3/1987

Next: Full Moon Ritual (Seastrider)