HEYOKAS AND PERFORMANCE ARTISTS BY LINDA MARY MONTANO: A WIKIPEDIA AND LINDA DIALOGUE
Heyokas and Performance Artists by Linda Mary Montano : A Wikipedia and Linda Dialogue
The Lakota medicine man, Black Elk, described himself as a heyoka, saying he had been visited as a child by the thunder beings. (Thunderbirds).
What a relief finding an anthropological home for my proclivities, my calling, my bizarre/radical/dangerous/sloppy/antisocial actions which I have pursued all of my life and have called “art.”
Knowledge is power and Wikipedia is often the good news deliverer. For my argument, I have re-posted everything this secular bible Wikipedia, said about the word Heyoka, because that word is relevant to my need for affirmation and inclusion. We all need that! To be tribed and part of the hive mind and my hive mind of choice is the American Indian Heyoka. Truly I want to be known as that and also a performance artist. No longer embarrassed by my need to be/do/think opposite, I have found inclusion in the ancients whose vocations are to bless by being wrong, bless by having been visited by the destructive powers of thunder and lightening, blessed by being willing to be the perennial outsider.
I’m just like them.
The Heyókȟa is thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature. This manifests by their doing things backwards or unconventionally — riding a horse backwards, wearing clothes inside-out, or speaking in a backwards language. For example, if food is scarce, a heyókȟa may sit around and complain about how full he is; during a baking hot heat wave, a heyókȟa might shiver with cold and put on gloves and cover himself with a thick blanket. Similarly, when it is freezing he might wander around naked, 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.
Not until 2015 when my car with me in it was struck by lightening, was I a bonafide Heyoka and member of this esteemed SACRED CLOWN CLUB which I became interested in back in the late 70’s when I lived in California and attended American Indian ceremonies in New Mexico with Pauline Oliveros and the Rothenbergs. That began my fascination and always re-fascination with the culture that loves the earth; my fascination with the people who step softly on the earth; my fascination with their methodology of respect for all of the earth’s animals and their fascination with their commitment to feeling breathtaking beauty.
These indigenous people and we performance artists as well, have a way of playing with brain waves, with vibrational frequencies, with energies, with the sacred, that seperates us from everyday/ordinary mind-goers. We tricksters climb the ladder going up and down from Delta Waves (babies, deep relaxation, sleep) 0HTZ-4HTZ to Theta Waves 4-8 HTZ(hallucinations, meditation) to Alpha Waves 8HTZ-12HTZ(day dream) to Beta 12-40 HTZ to Gamma 40 HTZ.. These journeys are erratic and unpredictable and allow both the performance artist and the audience-viewer to play mentally with our own hidden stuff, with our own subconscious , with our issues in a way that a clearing and spaciousness can be practiced as art and later applied to daily life; articulated as loving awareness. For you see, the Sacred Clown/Performance Artist has an important duty. That of mind cleaner!
The heyókȟa symbolizes and portrays many aspects of the sacred beings, the Wakȟáŋ. His satire presents important questions by fooling around. They ask difficult questions, and say things others are too afraid to say. Their behavior poses questions as do Zen koans. By reading between the lines, the audience is able to think about things not usually thought about, or to look at things in a different way.
Principally, the heyókȟa functions both as a mirror and a teacher, using extreme behaviors to mirror others, and forcing them to examine their own doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses. Heyókȟa have the power to heal emotional pain; such power comes from the experience of shame — they sing of shameful events in their lives, beg for food, and live as clowns. They provoke laughter in distressing situations of despair, and provoke fear and chaos when people feel complacent and overly secure, to keep them from taking themselves too seriously or believing they are more powerful than they are.
In addition, sacred clowns serve an important role in shaping tribal codes. Unbound by societal constraints, heyókȟa are able to violate cultural taboos freely and thus critique established customs. Paradoxically, however, by violating these norms and taboos, they help to define the accepted boundaries, rules, and societal guidelines for ethical and moral behavior. They are the only ones who can ask “Why?” about sensitive topics; they use satire to question the specialists and carriers of sacred knowledge or those in positions of power and authority.
For people who are as poor as us, who have lost everything, who had to endure so much death and sadness, laughter is a precious gift. When we were dying like flies from white man’s disease, when we were driven into reservations, when the government rations did not arrive and we were starving, watching the pranks and capers of Heyókȟa were [sic] a blessing.
Like the HTZ-frequency of the earth, performance artists have their ears to the breath of the ground and march to the beat of a different drummer, one that is not only heard by animals and trees but also by infants before they reach discursive/enculturated/highly negatively addictive mind controlled thought.
I realized all my life that I was really different, although my mother had told me that as well as she tried to make sense of her child rearing skills and my interpretation of her best efforts. But it seemed I had access to an intuition that I didn’t own but owned ME and allowed me to know the code that opened the door to siddhis which Hindus say are fantastical inner/outer phenomenon. It was absolutely apparent in 1966-69 when my 3 sculpture professors came into my studio at the University of Wisconsin Madison and asked, “Montano, what are you going to do for your MFA show?”
1. My response was , “Chickens.” Had I known then that the role of opposition and jester was my sacred calling, I would not have been as surprised as I was by my answer because although I had a few reasons to say the word chickens, having visited them at the University’s agricultural school while an MFA candidate so as to escape the art of the male /fellow grads, it was still an upside down answer and one that totally surprised me. It was a heyokas answer perchance given I was in an elite graduate art program at a prestigious university?
2. Or maybe this is why I said, chickens? My father had put the family’s chickens in their kitchen as a prank when his mother would not allow him to go to a Saturday afternoon movie and realizing the punk gesture of my father and his bravado, I imitated his courage some 40 years later by putting chickens I an art gallery
3. Or was this the reason? My mother’s chicken collection graced every table, shelf and bookcase in our middle class home.
4. Subconsciously this might really be the reason? I was feeling “chicken”, the bad aspect of chicken; that is fearful, overpowered, misoginistically overlooked, patriarchically powered-over and out of my league at this over abundantly male and large sculpture making department comprised of 404,947 testesteroned ones and 3 of us brave warrior women also in the sculpture department. Having just graduated with an MA from an all womens university at an Italian Medici-made castle in Florence, I was not ready for this boys club. And remember, it was 1976 when women were seen and not heard, present but not presiding. Hiding behind live chickens was a wise ploy.
5. By 2016, CHICKENS had become my true friends. See below.
Only those who have had visions of the thunder beings of the west can act as heyokas. They have sacred power and they share some of this with all the people, but they do it through funny actions. When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; 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.
MONTANO SAYS: Had I had indigenous training in otherness, had I danced Chicken dances with soft moccasins as a child, had I been sent to a menstral hut at 13 for a week to live with other mensrating women and girls, had I been encouraged to ask for a vision in my private hilltop quest, had I ridden bareback and had my hair braided by elders, then my choice for using live chickens as material/theme/subject for my art would have seemed more natural and less disconcerting to both myself, my audience, the faculty and administration of the art school which removed my three, four by eight foot chicken wire cages with three chickens in each cage nine total. That’s what I had to do when wealthy patron-donors toured the new art department building and I was told, “They just won’t understand showing chickens as art, Linda. Please take them away. ” I had by then gotten my MFA so I gave the chickens to the janitor. Boo Hoo, had I known that I was a Heyoka, I would have gotten in the cage myself with them and refused to move!
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 spirit.