Wednesday, January 11


A clown in our language is called a heyoka. He is upsidedown, backward-forward, yes-and-no man, a contrarywise. Everybody can be made into a clown, from one day to another, whether he likes it or not. 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.

Suppose you have 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 his dream in public.

If I had a heyoka dream now which I would have to re-enact, the thunder-being would place something in that dream that I'd be ashamed of. Ashamed to do in public, ashamed to own up to. Something that's going to want me not to perform this act. And that is what's going to torment me. Having had that dream, getting up in the morning, at once I would hear this noise in the ground, just under my feet, that rumble of thunder. I'd know that before the day ends that thunder will come through and hit me, unless I perform the dream. I'm scared; I hide in the cellar; I cry; I ask for help, but there is no remedy until I have performed this act. Only this can free me. Maybe by doing it, I'll receive some power, but most people would just as soon forget about it.

The wise old people know that the clowns are thunder-dreamers, that the thunder-beings commanded 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.

-- John Fire and Richard Erdoes Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions