"Everyone writes for their own reasons. To share, to dare, to enlighten or just be noticed, but ultimately writing is about connecting. Because the more we connect to others - the more we learn about ourselves. Writing is a journey, an adventure started with a single step. I'm taking this journey with crow's feet, in more ways than one. Come along and I'll show you why."~ Michelle 2009
My Sacred Clown
~ Michelle 2009
My grandfather was born as the middle child of a large family in the British African colony of Southern Rhodesia. When he died, at a far too early age, so many people came to his funeral that they had to put chairs outside the windows and doors.
Named Gabriel after an angel, yet never angelic, he was a walking oxymoron – an extrovert who loved being alone. He was a born performer, the charmer and the clown who stood out at every gathering and yet he almost never spoke about himself. He loved to be with people and yet he would sometimes just pick up his gun and gear and vanish into the bush for a week or a day. He knew the land intimately, as only a lover can, and the people of the land loved him in return. He knew every edible and poisonous plant and he knew every stone… quite literally. Geology was one of his passions and he had barrels of agates, amethyst, malachite and tigers eye that he’d collected on his wanderings. He worked as a dowser finding not only water, but minerals and even gold. After he died the barrels came to us and as a child I’d sit in the sand and play with chunks of malachite and agate, pyrites and mica.
If I had to sum him up in one word I’d have to steal it from another culture and another continent. My grandfather was a Heyoka, the Lakota word for a Sacred Clown. I first came upon that idea several years back and the moment I read about it I knew I’d found my grandfather’s true spiritual calling...
(Quoted from Wikipedia)"Heyoka are thought of as being backwards-forwards, upside-down, or contrary in nature. This spirit is often manifest by doing things backwards or unconventionally.
Their satire presents important questions by fooling around. They ask difficult questions, and say things others are too afraid to say. 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 Heyoka functions both as a mirror and a teacher, using extreme behaviors to mirror others, thereby forcing them to examine their own doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses.
In addition, sacred clowns serve an important role in shaping tribal codes. Heyokas don’t seem to care about taboos, rules, regulations, social norms, or boundaries. Paradoxically, however, it is by violating these norms and taboos that they help to define the accepted boundaries, rules, and societal guidelines for ethical and moral behavior. This is because they are the only ones who can ask "Why?" about sensitive topics... Their role is to penetrate deception, turn over rocks, and create a deeper awareness."
How he dressed with complete disregard to fashion in whatever he liked, which included going to town in his favourite pith helmet on Saturday mornings. He never went to any church, yet helped out at all of them.. he also laughed at all of them. He laughed at everything he thought ridiculous or pretentious, nothing was too sacred to be found silly, and yet he rarely angered or hurt anyone’s feelings with his laughter. His comic version of the Catholic Latin Mass has been known to leave good Catholics giggling hysterically. I think it’s because he laughed from love and a pure joy in the silliness of humankind. He was a terrible mangler of song lyrics, making up his own wickedly funny or just plane giggle-silly versions of everything from everyday tunes and classical works to opera and hymns. I grew up singing his versions, always naughty, sometimes rude, but never to the point of offensive or insulting.
I have no conscious memories of him, but he’s there in the sparkle in people’s eyes when they speak of him. Through him, and through his son, I grew up with an abiding sense of silliness and a complete disrespect for anything/anyone pompous. To this day, over forty years after his death, I still sing his song lyrics (as well as make up my own for new songs), I tend to dress with an equal disregard for fashion, and I have an obsession with stones that I think he would have approved of… and he managed to have the last laugh on us all. Six years ago my husband came out to Africa to marry me. One morning, a few weeks before we left Africa to return to Scotland, he came through singing. This might not seem very remarkable, except hubby isn’t a sing-out-loud type. He prefers and audience of one, not a kitchen full of people making breakfast. My dad turned to him in absolute amazement and asked, “Why are you singing that song?” Hubby shrugged and admitted he had no idea. He didn’t even know the name of the song he’d been singing, but my dad did. It was one of my grandfather’s favourites - an old song called “Home on the Range.” My dad shook his head in wonder, “Do you know what today is?” he asked us. I didn’t know, only my mom remembered. It was the date of my grandfather’s death.
Only a Sacred Clown could have pulled off a joke like that from the other side. ;-)
All rights to text and photos are retained by Michelle at Crow's Feet. Continue with excerpts of her adventures here on Cloister Voices and visit her websites: Crow's Feet, First Light, and Homeland.