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Heyoka Yawning: Initiation by the Thunder Gods

“Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.” -Tom Robbins

“When people are in despair, maybe the laughing face is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better for them. And so I think that is what the heyoka is for.” -Black Elk



Heyoka Yawning

I am kickdrum and layman.
I am cancerous: a disastrous
beauty mark. I’m multiplying
Mandelbrots through a sieve of errors,
devil-may-care. In the abyss
of my mouth is a tryst,

a tongue-in-cheek. I am
infinite jest, garrulous with silence.
My heart is a wound
from battering through prison walls
called rib cages
guarding red herrings
called hearts.

I’m sojourn and pseudo.
I’m inverse and contrarian.
I’m cartwheeling
on a crow’s wing, wringing
and wrought with seeking
for Coyote’s trickster tactics.

I am gutter and howl, cutter
and caw. My jaw
is hinged like a snake’s.
you’d do well to steer clear,
better still, follow in my wake.

I’m the slayer of Armageddon,
the murderer of the apocalypse. When I meditate,
a dragon leaps from the cup of my neck.
I catch it with my teeth.
Such a bloody, bloody thing,
clipping yokes the size of culture
eating its own tale.

I’m treason and dissimulation.
I’m crossroads. I’m the long road
winding through the green guts of God,
subsuming all paths, usurping all thrones.
My mouth is the past, my tongue
is the next generation laughing
despite you, and in spite of your
attempted ecocide.

I am Dionysus in the throes
of vivisection. I am a Disaster Shaman
riding a pale green horse named Providence.
The four horsemen are eating my dust.
My soul is flapping behind me
like a cape. My right hand a red herring.
My left an inverted bow.

I am counting coup. I am in the throes
of burning down unsustainable cities
and planting gardens in the ashes.
I will stick to you like molasses.
I’m your inner-child’s temper-tantrum
kicking you in the shins.
I am your means-to-an-end
coming to an end.



Heyoka Initiation:

While writing the poem Heyoka Yawning, I was propelled back to the time of my own heyoka initiation on the island of Kauai. There I stood on a rocky peninsula with waves crashing all around me, rain pouring down, and thunder and lightning deconstructing the skies. This was an existential crossroads of sorts, where I defied the gods (both civilized and spiritual); where I built a yin-yang hiker's totem out of black and white stones. I built the totem only so high, and I was left with two stones, one white and one black, but they were too large to balance atop the totem. So without thinking, I made an offering. I tossed the black stone into the crashing waves, saying, “For my mother, for Gaia!” Then I tossed the white stone into the surf, saying, “For my daughter, for the Day of Discovery!”

After this I meditated at the center of the storm. Despite the rain, despite the thunder and lightning, I had a vision that reached across the globe and compressed the past present and future into one single emotion: existential angst. Thunder vibrated in my bones. Electricity funneled through me like I was a conduit. And I was. I was channeling higher energies that I could not explain. Only later did I understand that the thunder gods were communicating with me. They were initiating me into the heyoka inner-circle. It felt like an out of body experience where I literally became the thunder itself. Except I was a thunder that subsumed the world and "felt" it from all points, pressing in like a vibrating mother.

After my meditation I walked off the peninsula and onto the beach. The weather was still ferocious in its intensity. Walking up the beach back to my encampment, I found three coconuts stuck in a tangle of beach wood. I stopped and sat on a large rock to open them. I cracked open the first two but they were rotten. But the third coconut was gloriously fresh. And as soon as I began to drink the sweet milk the clouds miraculously cleared and the sun came out, seeming almost joyous that I'd found sustenance despite the severity of the storm. As I ate, my heart was a ball of tricked happiness in my chest, beating animal-happy against a glorious day, a day seized –dies capta!

But it wasn't until my forty days and forty nights in the Texas Desert that I realized the significance of that day in Kauai. It was in the desert that Crow and Coyote revealed to me the truth of my initiation, that Wakinyan had spoken to me through metaphor and myth, through the almighty mytheme of the human leitmotif. And his message was clear: I was now and forever a Heyoka!

Heyoka is the Lakota equivalent of a sacred clown. They were thunder shamans, representing the mysterious dual-aspect of nature and the cosmos. Their tactics were seemingly foolhardy and ridiculous, but they were revered by their people as powerful and wise. Only a heyoka was allowed to mock the sacred and poke fun at cherished ideologies. They were both feared and held in reverence by the people.

Only a person who had the unique and transforming vision of the thunder god, Wakinyan, could become Heyoka and forever be able to channel the mysterious forces of Wakan Tanka, the great mystery. Heyoka reminds the people that Wakan tanka is beyond good and evil; that it's primordial nature doesn't correspond to human platitudes of right and wrong. He acts as a mirror, reflecting the mysterious dualities of the world back onto the people.

“Being a sacred clown gives you honor, but also shame. It brings you great power, but you have to pay for it.” -Lame Deer

Heyoka is more of a chaos theory personified and is actually a re-enforcer of societal roles. Heyoka shows by bad example how not to behave. The charm of life exists precisely in its inconstancy. Between essence and appearance there is the unconscious, there is Heyoka, existing in a delicate pirouette of transcendence, a coup de théâtre of higher awareness, that brings about such a fantastic jouissance as to make angels weep and cause kings to cast their crowns to the ground in abeyance.

Heyoka is also the hero's cure. Because only heyokas can see through the hero's plight, whispering, "like soft coyotes in a hard desert, your power is a veil." Only heyokas can see the hero's feet of clay. Heroes are powerful but they have no womb. The heyoka teaches the hero about the contingency and arbitrariness of the human condition, and he plants the flexible Dionysian seed into the hero's rigid Apollonian armor, thereby transforming the hero's heart into a womb. Heyoka is the only one who can speak unspoken truths to power and therein transform what the concept of power really means.

“When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunderstorm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm.” -Black Elk


Zakoyeh, Disaster Shaman:

Now my name is Zakoyeh (heyokaz spelled backwards), and my heart is a barbed-wire unraveling, ready to trip the world. I am a post-modern heyoka, and the worlds first Disaster Shaman. I am Thunder Dreamer, the inverse warrior, contrarian and laughing backwards with coyote-throat and crow-tongue. I have dreamed of thunder. I have dreamed of lightning. I have literally been Thunderbird's Wing...

When you need shelter I'll be the rain.

When you need a parachute I'll be the fall.

When your glass house needs a mirror I'll be the stone.

In the end, through my coup de wit (a sudden or unexpected stroke of trickster genius), my heart has become a trickster god. What it tricks is me, the small-picture-me, so that the big-picture-me can call the shots. In an immoral world one must appose it amorally in order to compel it to moralize itself. I amorally rebel; therefore morality exists. Quixote is my copilot; we know all the rules but the rules don't know us. Zakoyeh is my name, and I am the world's first Disaster Shaman.

But what exactly is a Disaster Shaman? He is I, and I am him, the fifth horseman of the apocalypse. Where the four horsemen before me brought Pestilence (white), War (red), Famine (black), and Death (pale); I bring Providence (green).

So it begins.

Comments 9 comments

Lady Legacy profile image

Lady Legacy 5 years ago from Imperial

Just amazing!


-Z- profile image

-Z- 5 years ago from Everywhere, USA Author

Thanks, Lady Legacy.


Jaguar Priest profile image

Jaguar Priest 4 years ago from Amaruca

How amazing. I, too have seen the Thunder-beings. I have wondered since I was a young child what my visions told me. I have ran into the luck of fate of understanding. We Heyoka need to stick together. We usher in the Fifth World. Together we are though, Mitakuye Oyasin ("We are all related")


-Z- profile image

-Z- 4 years ago from Everywhere, USA Author

Yes! Let us usher in the Fifth World together, friend. Let's transform Koyanasiquatsi (Hopi for life out of balance) into stabat mater (Latin for mother stood, or the mother who will never abandon her post).


Aster Max 3 years ago

Talk about cultural appropriation!


-Z- profile image

-Z- 3 years ago from Everywhere, USA Author

Indeed, my cultural appropriation knows no bounds. I'm only an 8th Native American, but that 8th is my heart. So it goes.


Mali Rosen 14 months ago

It's culturally appropriate for sacred clowns to arrive now. It's tricky... how not to be offensive and still be true to thyself? Crows got my tongue for shizzel


david-holistiq 7 weeks ago

I'm also 1/8 Native (Cherokee) .. and have followed a path of crazy wisdom without Native context for it .. Chogyam Trungpa, author of a book: "Crazy Wisdom" was an influence on me in my early teens .. as were the beat poets & book writers.

Interesting article, thx.


Daniel Klein 5 weeks ago

I had a strange vision about 2 years ago I was in the dessert and this thunderstorm came towards me. This light shined down from the clouds and it felt oddly holy. I don't know if that was a Heyoka initiation or just my subconscious conjuring up a dream. When I look back on my life after reading about Heyoka, I definitely do a lot of Heyoka-like actions automatically. Who knows

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