During my studies of Andean Shamanism and Native American cultures, I ran across the legend of the HEYOKA—the Fool—the Clown—the Contrarian, that I’ll briefly share here.

The Heyoka of a tribe was the person who often acted opposite to tribe rules and to socially acceptable norms; and he especially enjoyed performing the opposite of whatever might be expected from him, because he stood out better that way—he received far more attention from others, even if it was undignified comments at best.

Here’s a Wikipedia description:

“Social role

The Heyókȟa is thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature. This manifests by their doing things backwards or heyobackwwardhorse.jpgunconventionally—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. …

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.[3]

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.[4] Paradoxically, however, by violating these norms and taboos, they help to define the accepted boundaries, rules, and societal guidelines for ethical and moral behavior. …”


The Sacred Fool kept everyone alert to tribe anomalies by accentuating them so that all could more readily see the problem developing within the tribe’s governing structure or within growing member discontent and divisiveness.

But never did the tribe make a Heyoka the Tribal Chief—the leader of the tribe—because to do so would lead the tribe right off a cliff, or at minimal, lead them right into frictional group chaos, because that’s what Heyokas were best at doing—creating chaos wherever they went.

I personally think that’s what we are presently undergoing in our nation—we’re being lead by the tribe’s Heyoka.


The best behavioral example a Heyoka can ever demonstrate is to show you what NOT to do.

And he’s doing that really well.