The Inverted Power of Heyoka Medicine

“Heyoka shows the Sacred Mirror and shatters the glass between worlds.” ~ Axis and the Undernet

Mirror shower. Inverted bow. Coup counter. Coyote throat. Culture breaker. Abyss tryst. Wound wielder. Thunderbird born. Crow tongue. Utopia usurper. Prodigal sun.

Heyoka moves between worlds, baffling the affable, amazing the baffled. Building broken bridges made stronger at the broken places. Channeling Mystery. Twisting ashes. Transforming hearts into wombs.

Heyoka is primordial energy. A particular counterintuitive energy that bucks and bends, shocks and twists, jolts and mends. It’s in your face. It is your face. Its mask reveals the fact that we are “masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up.”

This type of energy hurts as it heals. It burns as it slakes. It disassembles as it reassembles. It grabs you by the throat, choking you into wakefulness. It is not pretend enlightenment. It is ruthless, relentless, Rubicon-esc in its exact menace. It’s not gentle but it is sincere. 

And if it has chosen you? Well then, you have absolutely no choice. Do you? You are doom-honored into taking up its mantle, or you are forever swallowed by its shadow.

Heyoka is not “taught” but initiated:

“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

Heyoka medicine cannot be premeditated. It is foremost a universal force of nature. The medicine chooses its host: a conduit to forces that defy comprehension. It comes in the form of an initiation. Usually through a powerful vision or out-of-body experience. And usually experienced during a lightning-charged, thunder-infused, fasting meditation. (Here is my experience.)

The vision seizes you. Like the forces of nature have come together to uproot you out of sick-culture and slam you into cruel-nurture. It is visceral, fierce, uncontrollable, and unexplainable. Even now, words fail me. For Heyoka cannot be contained. It is not a thing which can be contained. It’s hot lightning. It is fundamental. It is primordial. It is primal. It is the sweet mockery hidden behind all things.

And once it seizes you, you have no choice but to seize it, or die. You cannot, must not, ignore it. Otherwise, it breaks you. It will probably break you anyway, but there is a difference between breaking and becoming stronger and breaking and being broken forever. In the spirit of breaking and becoming stronger, Heyoka medicine moves through its hosts in a way that is so profoundly reflective that the host has no choice but to become a mirror. 

The spirit of Heyoka is a Great Mirror. This mirror becomes a reflection of the world, subsuming it, discovering it, consuming it, to no end. Thus does Heyoka teach itself, inverting the world into edible power.

Heyoka is between worlds:

“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 between worlds like no other. Even shamans are puzzled. One foot in this world and one foot in all others, Heyoka moves and moves well. A shimmer. A glimmer. A shammer. A glamour. Gleefully disillusioned while snuffing out all delusions. Spilling over into a great overflowing. Juxtaposing juxtapositions in joyous jolts of jouissance.  

Heyoka is both teacher and student, foolish and wise, ignorant and enlightened. Fountainhead aflutter, roots a clutter, Heyoka is a doorway running through the middle of the human condition. Both entrance (door) and entrance (enchanted). But, adventurer beware, Heyoka is just as happy to slam that door in your face as to open it. So, you better come correct.

Heyoka pulls Heaven down and Hell up, forcing a profane (sacred) union of opposites. Angels choke on halos. Demons get hard pressed into diamonds. God gets lost in the brambles. The devil’s heart becomes heavy with light. Meanwhile, Heyoka laughs and laughs and laughs. His shadow so gray it glows. 

Heyoka is its own enemy

“O, full of scorpions in my mind.” ~ Shakespeare

Heyoka is a daredevil, par excellence. Shooting itself in the daredevil foot. Devil-may-care with a demi-god stare. Cartwheeling on a crow’s wing. Hijacking Coyote’s trickster tactics. Subsuming symbolism and twisting it into inscrutable satire. Defying cultural laws with fierce frivolity.

Rubbing powermonger’s noses in the stink of their own shit. Heyoka medicine is at its best when daring the Powers That Be to do their worst. Then Heyoka absorbs the worst with a humor of the most high.

Heyoka is an exalted form of martyrdom. Eventually, Heyoka trips itself. How could it not? And why would it not? For Heyoka knows that it is in the tripping, in the fall from grace, in the broken pieces of shattered soul, where vivid, raw, wholesome wisdom lies. It’s where the shadow’s gold glimmers. Where wounds are transformed into wisdom. Where the heart is inverted into a womb. It’s where ash gives birth to Phoenix. 

Heyoka brings storm and renewal

“Rebels play a useful social role; at least they voice our collective concern and make us aware of our collective guilt. But the acknowledgement of guilt is not enough.” ~ Rene Dubos

Heyoka is a beautiful chaos, transforming the way Transformation itself works. The Great Mystery moves through Heyoka like hot smoke. When this smoke meets a golden calf or a parochial pattern, or an outdated system that’s clogging up the cultural dynamic, it comes in hard like an angry storm.

Born of thunderstorms, brother of Thunderbird, Heyoka channels this power and levels the playing field. Nothing is sacred except Everything. All that matters is harmony. Where before the storm, everything was disconnected, serious, vulgar, profane; after the storm, everything is connected to everything else: sincere, healthy, sacred. Through Heyoka’s profane act arises sacred alignment. Just as planned. 

And so it is that Heyoka usurps all thrones, topples all pedestals, kneecaps all high horses. Heyoka is Sweet God killer. Human-law breaker. Laying low all fat egos. Steamrolling self-seriousness into authentic sincerity. Squaring the circle in order to remain ahead of the curve.

And Heyoka is needed now more than ever. Koyanasiquatsi (Hopi for life out of balance) is a very real wasteland. It surrounds us on all fronts. We are beleaguered with sickness, plagued with dis-ease, overwhelmed by anti-wisdom. Heyoka is here to resurrect the Great Mystery, to bring Mother Nature back into sacred alignment with human nature: stabat mater (Latin for mother stood, or the mother who will never abandon her post). But for many of us, it will be a tough pill to swallow. And that’s where Heyoka comes in, to harshly, but humorously, shove it down our throats.

Image source:

Photo by Francois D’Elbee
Kin-Fables Art

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Gary Z McGee
Gary Z McGee
Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.


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