Beliefs

North American belief systems include many sacred narratives. Such spiritual stories are deeply based in Nature and are rich with the symbolism of seasons, weather, plants, animals, earth, water, sky, and fire.

Heyoka

Among the Lakota people, the heyoka was a contrarian, jester, satirist or sacred clown. The heyoka spoke, moved and reacted in an opposite fashion to the people around them. Only those having visions of the thunder beings of the west, the Wakinyan, could act as heyokas. The Lakota holy man and medicine man, Black Elk, became heyoka after being visited by the Thunder-beings, the Wakinyan (Thunderbirds). 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.

Wakan Tanka

In the Sioux way of life, Wakan Tanka is the term for “the sacred” or “the divine”.

In the Sioux way of life, Wakan Tanka (Standard Lakota Orthography: Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka) is the term for “the sacred” or “the divine”. This is usually translated as “The Great Spirit“. However, according to Russell Means, its meaning is closer to “Great Mystery” as Lakota spirituality is not henotheistic. Before their attempted conversion to Christianity, the Sioux used Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka to refer to an organization of sacred entities whose ways were mysterious: thus, “The Great Mystery”.