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Buffalo Calf Woman:
The Coming of the Sacred Pipe
The Sioux were taught and understood that all things are of the Great Spirit. Trees, rivers, mountains, grass, four-legged animals, two-legged animals, and winged creatures all came from the Great Spirit, called Wakan Tanka, who is the Supreme Being. In modern times, traditional Sioux still practice their Way. Holy men and holy women can be found on the reservations, and the ceremonies are still conducted. Some of these ceremonies are now taking place in the non-Indian world.
Before the appearance of the Buffalo Calf Woman, the Indian honored the Great Spirit. But among the Sioux, the coming of Buffalo Calf Woman brought a most important instrument, the pipe, which is now used in all ceremonies.
The sacred pipe came into being many, many years ago. Two men of a small band of the Sioux tribe, the Sans Arc, were hunting and saw something approaching in the distance. As the figure drew close, they observed a beautiful maiden, dressed in white buckskin, carrying a bundle wrapped in buffalo hide.
For in a sacred manner
I am walking.
She sang this out and repeated the song as she walked slowly toward them.
One of the men had evil thoughts about this maiden and moved toward her. The other hunter tried forcibly to restrain him, but the evil man pushed the good warrior away A cloud descended on the evil one, and when it lifted, his body was a skeleton being devoured by worms. This symbolized that one who lives in ignorance and has evil in his heart may be destroyed by his own actions.
The good hunter knelt in fear, trembling as the buckskin-clad woman approached. She spoke to him, telling him not to be afraid, but to return to his people and prepare them for her coming. This was done, and the beautiful maiden appeared in their midst, walking among them in a sunwise, or clockwise, direction. She held forth her bundle and said:
This is a sacred gift
And must always be treated in a holy way.
In this bundle is a sacred pipe
Which no impure man or woman should ever see.
With this sacred pipe
You will send your voices to Wakan Tanka.
The Great Spirit, Creator of All.
Your Father and Grandfather.
With this sacred pipe
You will walk upon the Earth
Which is your Grandmother and Mother.
All your steps should be holy.
The bowl of the pipe is red stone
Which represents the earth.
A buffalo calf is carved in the stone facing the center
And symbolizes the four-legged creatures
Who live as brothers among you.
The stem is wood and represents all growing things.
Twelve feathers hang from where the stem fits the bowl
And are from the Spotted Eagle.
These represent all the winged brothers
Who live among you.
All these things are joined to you
Who will smoke the pipe and send voices to Wakan Tanka.
When you use this pipe to pray,
You will pray for and with every thing.
The sacred pipe binds you to all your relatives;
Your Grandfather and Father,
Your Grandmother and Mother.
The red stone represents the Mother Earth
On which you will live.
The Earth is red
And the two-legged creatures who live upon it are also red.
Wakan Tanka has given you a red road--
A good and straight road-to travel,
And you must remember that all people
Who stand on this earth are sacred.
From this day,
The sacred pipe will stand on the red earth,
And you will send your voices to Wakan Tanka.
There are seven circles on the stone
Which represent the seven rites
In which you will use the pipe.
The Buffalo Calf Woman then instructed the people to send runners to the distant bands of the Sioux nation, to bring in the many leaders, the medicine people, and the holy men and holy women. This they did.
When the people gathered, she instructed them in the sacred ceremonies. She told them of the first rite, that of the Keeping of the Soul. She told them that the remaining six rites would be made known to them through visions. As she started to leave, she said:
Remember how sacred the pipe is
And treat it in a sacred manner,
For it will be with you always.
Remember also that in me are four ages.
I shall leave you now,
But shall look upon you in every age
And will return in the end.
The Sioux begged the spirit woman to stay with them; they promised to erect a fine lodge and to give her a fine man to provide for her, but she declined their offer.
No, the Creator above,
The Great Spirit,
Is happy with you,
You, the grandchildren.
You have listened well to my teachings.
Now I must return to the spirit world.
She walked some distance away from them and sat down. When she rose, she had become a white buffalo calf. She walked farther, bowed to the four quarters of the universe, and then disappeared into the distance. Her sacred bundle was left with the people; and to this day, a traditional Sioux family, the "Keepers of the Sacred Bundle," still guards the bundle and its contents on one of the Sioux reservations.
Since the revival of our Sun Dance Ceremony, several Sun Dances have been held close to where the sacred bundle is kept. It is in a place we call Green Grass. Green Grass was where I danced my sixth, and last, Sun Dance. It is a sacred place, and one knows instinctively that something wakan, something very holy, is near.Mother Earth Spirituality
Excerpted from Mother Earth Spirituality: Native American Paths to Healing Ourselves and Our World by Ed McGaa
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