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The bowl of the Pipe she gave the Lakota was made of red stone, representing the Earth. Carved on the bowl was the head of a Buffalo, symbolizing all of the four-legged animals of the Earth.
The stem was of wood and represented all that grows on the Earth. Twelve eagle feathers hung from the place where the bowl joined the stem symbolizing all the birds. The round stone was made out of the same red earth as the pipe and had seven circles on it representing the seven rites.
When a Lakota smokes a Sacred Pipe, his or her voice is sent to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit.
The Keeping of the Soul
The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Maiden told the Lakota that when they die, their souls must be purified so they can reunite with the Great Spirit. A lock of hair from a departed person was taken and held over a piece of burning sweetgrass to purify it. Then it was wrapped in a piece sacred buckskin, and the Sacred Pipe was smoked. The soul bundle was kept in a special place in the tipi of the soul's Keeper, usually a relative. The Keeper of the Soul vowed to live a harmonious life until the soul could be released, usually in about one year.
The ceremony to release the soul started with a buffalo hunt. A special lodge was constructed. Kinnikinnik, sacred tobacco, was smoked in the Pipe and special food was buried as an offering to the Earth. The bundle containing the soul was carried outside the lodge, and as soon as it reached the air the soul was released. The soul then traveled along the Spirit Path, which is the Milky Way, until it reached Maya Owichapaha, the old woman who judges each soul. If she judged it worthy, she sent the soul to the right, to Wakan Tanka. Unworthy souls were sent to the left and remained until they finally become purified and could join Wakan Tanka.
O, Wakan Tanka, be merciful to me that my People may live. It is for this that I am sacrificing myself.
The Sun Dance was held every year in June (the moon of fattening) or July (moon of cherries ripening) when the moon was full.
It was first revealed in a vision to a Lakota named Kablaya.
Wakan Tanka told him that his People had become lazy in their prayers,
so he sent them a new way of praying-the Sun Dance.
In a Sun Dance, dancers offer their bodies as a sacrifice on behalf of all the people.
Through their sacrifice, the people gain strength and understanding.
In the old days, a large tipi was built and several ritual objects gathered or made.
One of these was a round rawhide circle, representing the sun. It was painted red,
with a smaller blue circle in the center, which represented Wakan Tanka.
Many singers came to sing the sacred songs, and a drum was brought. It's roundness representing the universe, its steady beat the pulse of the heart.
Central to the ceremony was a cottonwood tree, a "rustling" tree,
which was placed at the center of the tipi. It represented an enemy
who has been attacked and conquered. A group of people went out to find
the cottonwood, and when they did, a sacred Pipe was smoked.
One person was selected to make the first cut on the tree.
This symbolized counting coup on the tree, or enemy.
Others then helped cut it down, but it was not allowed to touch the ground.
The tree was carried back to the dance place and put into the earth at the
center of what became the sweat lodge.
Then all of the ritual objects and the tree were purified with the smoke of sweetgrass.
A sweat lodge was built around the tree and the chosen dancers
entered it and were purified in an Inipi.
The Pipe was smoked and sacred songs were sung. One of them was:
"The Sun, the Light of the world.
I hear him coming.
I see his face as he comes.
He makes the beings on earth happy
And they rejoice.
O, Wakan Tanka, I offer to You this world of Light. "
-- Black Elk's The Sacred Pipe.
Wreaths of sage were placed on each dancer's head.
Then each described what he or she would sacrifice.
The sacrifice was either pieces of flesh or piercing of the flesh.
Flesh represents ignorance, so the tearing or cutting of
the flesh represented freeing the body from the bonds of ignorance.
On the final day of the Sun Dance, some dancers had their flesh pierced,
and rawhide thongs were threaded through the flesh and tied to the tree.
Wreaths of sage were placed on each dancer's head and around their
wrists and ankles. As they danced, they blew eagle bone whistles.
As singing and drumming continued throughout; they danced until the
thongs break free. Other offered pieces of flesh to Wakan Tanka,
to the Earth or the four powers of the four directions.
When the dance was done, the dancers went into the sweat lodge
and smoked a Pipe. Then all returned to the tipi and a feast was held.
The "Medicine Wheel" creates a sacred space for self empowerment.
It may be physically constructed or constructed within the mind’s eye.
The essence of the Medicine Wheel is change and movement. It also
represents harmony and balance. It can help protect you and establish
peace with all things. It may also be used to pray, meditate, or contemplate.
Use this oil when making changes, to obtain self-knowledge, guidance,
direction and centering. Wellness” can be defined as the state when the
mind, the body, and the spirit are all connected and in balance. One cannot
be separated from the other. The medicine circle, having no beginning
and no end, represents this concept of harmonious unity.
This oil helps heal you and your environment while reconnecting you with
yourself, nature and spirit. It is an excellent oil to use before journeying.
It will also invoke the great power of the imagination and visions. Use this
oil in your quest for knowledge and personal power. It will help bridge the
worlds of vision and reality.
The sweat lodge is constructed of young willow trees placed in a circle which represents many things:
the earth, the womb, the universe.
The door opening faces East--the direction of light and wisdom.
In the center is a round fireplace, the center of the universe, where Wakan Tanka rests.
Ten paces from the door, to the East, is the sacred fireplace where rocks are heated.
In front of that is a mound of earth.
Prayers are said at each stage of the construction of a sweat lodge.
When it is completed, a burning coal is brought in and sweetgrass is
burned by the leader of the Inipi to purify the lodge.
He or she then smokes some sacred tobacco in the Pipe and carries it outside,
placing it on the mound of earth.
The other participants enter the lodge, sitting in a circle on sacred sage,
and the Pipe is brought in and smoked. The heated rocks are placed on the
center fireplace and the Pipe returned to the earth mound.
Then, the door is closed. During the ritual, the door is thrown open four times
to represent the four ages described by the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Maiden.
The fourth time the participants leave the lodge, emerging from dark to light which
represents the liberation from the physical universe.
All that is impure is left behind in the sweat lodge.
Understanding that all things are inter-connected, we are
all linked to our environment. We all live on Mother Earth. What
affects one affects the whole. Use this oil to walk in balance and
harmony with all things, for all is sacred.
Use two drops to anoint yourself.
Dreams have always had meaning to Native Americans. They believed
that both good and bad dreams float above the dreamer. The dream catcher
allows the good dreams to go through the hole in the center. The bad
dreams are confused and are caught in the webbing and perish in the
first light of day. Use two drops of this oil to anoint your body or Dream
Catcher before bedtime. The oil will also help you recall your dreams.
Its a great help if you are working with your dreams for guidance or to
help your understanding of everyday experiences.
Brings health or helps people when they are in need of assistance.
This oil will invoke the medicine woman within you. It will help you
develop your own unique powers.
The Vision Quest is a retreat to a private place in nature for guidance,
instruction and focus. It also helps tune you into available power if you
are seeking solutions and want to get to the core of your life's issues.
To undertake a Vision Quest in the proper way, a Wicasa Wakan (holy man) should advise the seeker and interpret the vision.
The Vision Quest was used in the old days to prepare for going on the warpath, before a Sun Dance, or to ask Wakan Tanka for a favor. The most important reason for the Vision Quest is so a person can understand better his/her oneness with all things and gain knowledge of the Great Spirit.
A person undertaking a Vision Quest first goes with a Pipe to a holy man, and he prays for them. Everyone present smokes the Pipe. The Inipi is conducted to purify them. In the old days, the seeker had to build the sweat lodge by himself. The seeker then takes his Pipe and some tobacco and goes up the mountain. Helpers have gone ahead and prepared a sacred place. The seeker stays there and prays for a vision. Often it comes in the form of an animal. Dreams often carry the most powerful visions.
At the end of the Vision Quest, the helpers come and take the seeker down the mountain to the sweat lodge. The holy man listens to everything the seeker has seen and heard and interprets the vision.