Native American Deities – Heyoka

Published on July 16, 2013 by Casey

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Native American Deities - Heyoka
A ledger art depiction of Haokah by the Lakota artist Black Hawk. c.1880

Native American Deities – Heyoka

Heyoka is a spirit in Lakota Mythology that is seen as a trickster. It speaks, moves and reacts in an opposite fashion to the people around it. It is not a spirit that people wish to meet at any time; it usually appears to people when it wishes to take something from you or cause some sort of mayhem. The Lakota people have learned to respect it enough to leave it be, avoiding it as much as possible.

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The word Heyókȟa (alternative spellings “Haokah”, “Heyoka”, “Heyokha”) refers to the Lakota concept of a contrarian, jester, satirist or sacred clown.

Heyókȟa are thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature. This spirit is often manifest by doing things backwards or unconventionally—riding a horse backwards, wearing clothes inside-out, or speaking in a backwards language. For example, if food were scarce, a Heyókȟa would sit around and complain about how full he was; during a baking hot heat wave a Heyókȟa would shiver with cold and put on gloves and cover himself with a thick blanket. Similarly, when it is 40 degrees below freezing he will wander around naked for hours complaining that it is too hot. A unique example is the famous Heyókȟa sacred clown called “the Straighten-Outer”:

    He was always running around with a hammer trying to flatten round and curvy things (soup bowls, eggs, wagon wheels, etc.), thus making them straight — John Fire Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions, p250

During the Sun Dance, a Heyókȟa sacred clown may appear to tempt the dancers with water and food and to dance backwards around the circle in a show of respect. If a dancer looks into the mirrored eyes of the Heyókȟa, his or her dance is finished.

In Lakota mythology, Heyókȟa is also a spirit of thunder and lightning. He is said to use the wind as sticks to beat the drum of thunder. His emotions are portrayed opposite the norm; he laughs when he is sad and cries when he is happy, cold makes him sweat and heat makes him shiver. In art, he is depicted as having two horns, which marks him as a hunting god

Source: Wikipedia

NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com Unabridged
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    title = {NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com Unabridged},
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}
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