What is an ‘Empath’?

An Empath is someone who has what could be a called a ‘gift’ for being able to understand the emotional state of another person. There are many kinds of empaths. Just as other gifts are used and exhibited, in many different ways, so there are different types of Empaths with certain abilities and talents.

Then there are the Heyokas.

Heyoka is a Native American term meaning “sacred clown” or “fool”. Seems an odd terminology for what we now consider to be the most powerful type of Empath.

The translation of heyoka gives us little clue into the true meaning the Native Americans tried to put behind the word. In English, it would be more appropriate to describe a Heyoka Empath as someone who sees the world differently and acts in a way that is the opposite of normal.  


The Spirit of a Heyoka Empath

When you meet a Heyoka in person, they act as a great emotional mirror. What you see in them will show you what you must work on to grow and evolve spiritually. Connecting with a heyoka can be an emotional experience. You may leave feeling angry or leave feeling an incredible sense of love.

As an emotional mirror, whenever a Heyoka senses an emotional reaction in you, they use it as a guide of what to reflect back to you that will help you most on your journey.

Sometimes they do this unconsciously.

Say you leave a Heyoka feeling irritated and angry because of their ‘arrogance’. In reality, this is the Heyoka’s way of showing you your need to be humble.

Maybe you leave a Heyoka filled with a sense of love. The Heyoka may be trying to convey to you the importance of self-love and acceptance.

The guidance will be individualized to each person a Heyoka meets. This is what makes them so powerful. Your ability to understand what they are trying to teach you will depend on how ‘open’ your eyes are and whether or not you are tuned into your intuition.  


Traits of a Heyoka Empath

How can you know a Heyoka when you meet one? Is it possible that YOU are one?

The traits of a Heyoka Empath vary but there are some signs that are common, including:

  • being born breach (entering the world backwards)
  • developing some traits slower than normal people and other traits incredibly fast
  • being dyslexic
  • being emotionally unpredictable
  • doing things backwards
  • outside of the box thinking
  • appearing younger than their age

A true Heyoka will never claim to be one. It is a knowledge they carry inside of them as sacred, private and unique. A heyoka can recognize another heyoka when they feel their energy. They are deeply sensitive to another’s energy (like other Empaths) and can see how emotions of various people play out and affect each other on a large scale.

In Native American tribes where Heyokas were respected and revered for their abilities, Heyokas would be the ones to open people’s eyes to new possibilities and different angles of a situation. They also had the ability to shift the energy of a group through their understanding of emotions.

In our modern society, a Heyoka may be a peacemaker or someone who is particularly good at working with people and keeping energy in a group balanced.


The gift of the Heyoka

Heyokas help people who are stuck to see that there is more than one path in life. They are able to look at a situation and seethe backwards way. They have an inept ability to change people’s lives in a single meeting by bringing them outside of society’s one-track way of thinking.

Some people say they hold the medicine for chaos.

Feeling the energy of an Empath can be both a powerful and a potentially unsettling experience. However, this disruption will never be one meant to harm or destroy, but to give us hope for growth and enlightenment.

In the eyes of a Heyoka, we will be able to see a mirror of truth and, if we are humble enough to see it, see ourself as we truly are.

Written by Robyn Iacuone


Robyn Iacuonehttp://empathcoach.com/
Robyn Iacuone is a Life Coach specialising in working with Empaths and Highly Sensitive People. With over 25 years experience in the field of personal development, Robyn is also a trained Past Life Therapist, Rebirther and energy healer.


  1. When the author uses the word inept when meaning innate, I’ll not give the writing much credence. As someone who has studied anthropology, I understand the disconnect between the strict English translation and the actual meaning. And yes this is absolutely an example of cultural appropriation — and I don’t use thst term often. It’s making a mockery out of a religious and cultural belief. And I imagine there is a heck of a lot more that goes into attaining this title then a couple of personality traits. Not cool.

    • live’d in Rapid city walk’d and honor’d your holy places aroud there with sage and me .. I am White… and love mother earth like you do, feel’d the disacceptance of your people… just the Familly of Yellow Robe help’d me to see and understand ….Black elk plaese… all we will be one … and not all of your incarnation happen in your Blood line… some grow out of your soziality… they look’d around and found no Comunity to grow.. We grow and learn.. it is hart to born to know but nobody teaches..
      heal .. there out is a beautyfull world coming

  2. This is a perfect example of cultural appropriation. A Heyoka is not a universally indigenous/Native American term or being. Unless you are Lakota or Dakota, you should never use the word Heyoka to describe yourself or others as “empathic clowns or fools”. The English translation/definition does not accurately depict the word and it’s true meaning so claiming yourself to be Heyoka is culturally inappropriate. Please stop trying to honor us by stealing from us.

    • Please you are Young and open … beautifull in spirit … Show and live …
      got not many words … but stop cultural differencess.. we all have the same obstacle now..

      Love live life Love be happy… I have to do the same.. and I am on my way without elders but and as a free will in spirit

    • sorry my engl. … hopefully you will understand what i mean to say…. and yess the wasichus 🙂 are the once that loose there soul … tricked out of reality… but not 100% of them ….. many of you are now in Europa fighting for Mother earth.. if you like or not .. they are there with there light to manifest a soul …. I found many of them … not knowing where there song is … and electronicaly Downgradet… Crying not knowing in there soul … no elthers …. but also they …. get slowly free .. with knowledge …
      Black Elk … please open up that they can understand and learn … it is time
      Light/flame with two faces/world would be a better name ..
      foolish / clown … would be better with laughing / childish turning the worlds…… then adulds understand only basics
      Never read or study something from that cain of Shaman, I just hear about .. here in Mex.. very little
      please reply

    • I found this but wonder if it’s correct or no? I’m legit curious as I often wonder about these posts and just how authentic they are. So you’re insight would be much appreciated, thanks “A Lakota way of being, a medicine way. A Heyoka is one who does things backwards or opposite. The idea that Heyoka is a clown comes from the opposite behavior; it is part of the medicine of Heyoka, to remind us we are merely human beings and not to become too serious about ourselves, not to imagine we are more powerful than we really are, reminding us that Spirit holds all the power. In this day there are those among the Lakota who pour Heyoka lodges, which are directed towards the West and full of laughter. If a Heyoka man messes up he has the Thunder Nation to deal with. Spirit chooses who is Heyoka; it is a very difficult path to follow.” http://www.pantheon.org/articles/h/heyoka.html

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