Published on January 18, 2013 by Casey
An American Indian Legend – Nation Unknown
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The two young Lakota hunters watched the darkening skies gathering before them on the distant horizon. Their buffalo ponies, only used for hunting, snorted and stamped their front hooves as they sensed, and feared, the coming storm. In the distance the hunters heard the sound of thunder rumbling across the vast open prairie towards them.
“The storm is heading our way my brother.” White Feather said.
“This is not the time for storms.” Chasing His Horse said. He studied the sky thoughtfully. Knowing the destructive powers that a fierce storm could bring, and the injuries it could cause to those caught out in the open, he was now calculating whether they could out run it and seek shelter until it passed.
“Maybe we should head back to the village?”
“We cannot return without fresh meat.” Chasing His Horse said. He was still watching the gathering black clouds. “Look,” he said.
Both hunters watched in astonishment, and some awe, as a long black finger of swirling wind reached down from the cumulus clouds and carved its way across the plains towards them. They quickly dismounted and kneeling beneath their ponies watched the spectacle before them.
Within a very short time they were engulfed by a high-speed violent wind. The two hunters tried to protect their eyes from the dust and debris whilst trying to hold their ponies and stop them from bolting. It took all their energy and strength to fight against the wind. The sound of which screamed loudly in their ears, as if taunting them.
Then as quickly as the wind had descended upon them it passed. The air became still and silent once more. Standing up slowly and looking towards the direction of the storm Chasing His Horse noticed something moving across the ground towards them.
“Look!” Cried White Feather.
“I see it my brother.”
Rumbling across the ground at great speed was a white buffalo calf. Both hunters felt the ground beneath their feet trembling each time the hooves of the calf pounded the ground. When it was but a short distance from them the buffalo calf stopped, kicking up dust and dirt that shrouded it momentarily from their sight. As the dust settled it stood impressively before them watching the two hunters and waiting for their reaction.
“Maybe we should kill this calf and take it back to the village.” White Feather said. The two looked at each other, pondering this thought, and then they turned back towards where the white buffalo calf had stood.
But to their astonishment they found not a calf but the most beautiful young woman they had ever seen standing before them. She was dressed in white buckskins and had a bundle tied to her back. The two hunters looked at each other again and then back at the woman. Above the beautiful woman the sky, and the air around her, were suddenly filled with bright lights and intense rumbling sound. When silence had engulfed them once more one of the hunters spoke.
“I shall take this woman for my own,” White Feather suddenly declared, for he was captivated by her beauty, “I shall mount her and tame her. I shall have my way with her and she shall learn to obey me. I want her more than any other woman, and I shall have her, she will learn to please me beneath the buffalo robe.”
“Do not speak like that,” Chasing His Horse said, “for this is a Wakan Woman.”
“I shall still have her.” White Feather pronounced.
“Come and take me then.” The beautiful woman declared.
Without another word White Feather moved towards where she stood. Chasing His Horse watched as his brother strode purposely towards the beautiful woman. As White Feather reached out to take her by the arm, a thick black cloud quickly descended upon him and encompassed him. When the cloud rose up towards the sky again it revealed nothing more than a pile of bones, with snakes now slithering across them, where White Feather had last stood.
Realizing the strong medicine of the woman before him Chasing His Horse fell to his knees and began to pray for the spirit of his lost brother. Hearing his words the beautiful maiden listened until he had finished, only then did she speak again.
“Go back to your people,” she instructed him, “and tell them to prepare themselves for my coming. In four days I shall bring them a sacred bundle. They must, when gathered together, and when they are camped forming a village, do so in a circle, for the circle is sacred to me.”
Without another word she turned away, and after only a few paces turned back into a white buffalo calf once more. Chasing His Horse, who was still kneeling, watched as the calf moved away and was suddenly swallowed by a large black cloud and carried away with the storm.
When he returned to the village Chasing His Horse called all the chiefs and elders together. As they sat before him as he told them what had happened on the hunting trip. Some women sitting nearby, listening to the young warrior, gasped audibly when he described the appearance of the white buffalo calf, and how it had then changed into a beautiful maiden. How she had then turned White Feather into a pile of bones.
Standing up Chief Standing Hollow Horn then said. “Let us prepare for this visit. Strike down several tipi’s and place them as one so that we can gather together to welcome this Wakan Woman.”
Following the instructions of their chief, twenty-eight poles were used to erect the lodge.
As the sun rose on the morning of the fourth day the entire village gathered together in the large lodge. Dressed and painted in their finery, they waited for the arrival of the White Buffalo Calf Woman. They were seated in a circle, as instructed by her, and the circle would become a sacred symbol for the People.
Above the village the sky darkened and a lone dark gray cloud descended towards them. From this cloud out tumbled the white buffalo calf. As it rolled along the ground towards the village the white buffalo calf suddenly stood up and became the beautiful maiden once more. Singing a sacred song the White Buffalo Calf Woman entered the village.
“Welcome.” Chief Standing Hollow Horn said.
“I am pleased that you have all gathered to greet me,” the young maiden said, “for I am the daughter of the Sun and Moon. Now listen for I have much to teach you. I shall spend only four days amongst you. During this time I will teach you seven sacred ceremonies. If you do, and use, everything that I now teach you, then you shall all live-forever: but first I have a gift for you.”
Before the People, the White Buffalo Calf Woman took out the sacred bundle. “Behold this and always love it. It is very sacred.” Then she unrolled it before Chief Standing Hollow Horn, who sat watching her with great interest. For this was the first sighting for him, and his people, of the sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. She placed a small stone down upon the ground and held the sacred pipe with its stem pointing to the sky.
Then she explained to the chief and the people gathered there about the appearance of the sacred pipe. How the earth was their Grandmother and mother, which was reflected in the red stone which made the bowl, upon which was carved, in the center, the head of a buffalo calf, this representing all of the four-legged, who live upon the Mother.
“The stem of the pipe,” she continued, “is made from wood, and represents all things that grows upon the Earth. These twelve feathers, which hang from the stem, are from the Spotted Eagle, and they represent all the eagles and the winged of the air. All these things, and things of the greater universe, are joined to all those who smoke the pipe. Their voices, their words, shall be carried to the ears of the Great Spirit.”
Now the White Buffalo Calf Woman touched the stem of the pipe upon the small stone that she had placed down upon the ground before her.
“The Great Spirit has also given you this red stone,” she told them, “it is made from the same stone as the bowl. This represents the Earth, your Grandmother and mother upon which you will live, generation after generation. This earth he has given you is red for the two legged who live upon it are red, and the Great Spirit has given you a red day and a red road. All of this is sacred and you must never forget it. Upon this stone are seven circles, representing seven sacred ceremonies that I will shortly teach you.”
The White Buffalo Calf Woman now filled the sacred pipe, lit it with a buffalo chip, and as the People watched, she held the pipe up and offered it to the spirit of the sky, then the earth and then the four directions. Then she took in the smoke and before offering the sacred pipe to Chief Standing Hollow Horn said.
“This is the pipe of peace and truth.” She explained, “When men gather together their words will be carried to the ears of the Great Spirit. All upon the Earth and Universe shall be brought together. Remember this is the most sacred of all pipes for I have brought it to you as a gift from the Great Spirit. Therefore you are the first Keeper of the pipe.” She said handing the pipe to the Chief. “Ensure each generation knows of its existence, choose wisely those who will follow you in ensuring of its safe keeping, and remember I shall return for it at sometime in the future, and the sign of my coming will be the birth of a white buffalo calf.”
Leaving the lodge she called the children of the village to her. As the children sat around her she began explaining to them the importance of caring for, and loving, the animals around them. She taught the children, and the men and women of the village, how they were all connected, the four legged, the winged and the two legged. She informed the hunters on how they must conduct themselves when taking the life of the buffalo and deer that nourished them. She told them that they must live their lives in harmony with their surroundings. Reminding them that the earth was their grandmother and mother, and they must not change anything upon the land. She reminded them that the animals of the earth, sky and water were their brothers and should be treated as such.
“Always give thanks, and praise their spirits, when hunting them and the Great Spirit will always provide you with all that you need.” She told them.
Everything she said, all that she explained, became clear to those that listened. To the men and boys she became like a sister, to the women and girls likewise.
During the morning of the second day the White Buffalo Calf Woman began instructing the People on the Seven Sacred Ceremonies. She called together a selection of men from the village. These men, she informed the chief and elders, would become Holy Men. She would take them away to begin teaching them the art of how to perform sacred ceremonies so that the people could talk directly with the Great Spirit.
When they had traveled far away from the village she ordered the men to make a clearing. When this was done she instructed them on how to construct a Sweat Lodge. As the men worked she taught them to sing songs and chant prayers. These were to be performed when they held their own ceremonies. For this was the Purification Ceremony.
In the afternoon the White Buffalo Calf Woman taught the Holy men the Healing Ceremony. Showing them which wild herbs and grasses, which roots and chewed pulp to use. These mixtures, she informed them, could heal all kinds of sickness and wounds.
When they returned to the village the Holy men were each received with newfound respect and reverence. In their honor, and to honor the coming of the White Buffalo Calf Woman a celebration was held and a great feast was had.
During the third day the village gathered together and were shown three important ceremonies. These were the Marriage, the Naming, and the Making Relatives ceremonies. When she instructed them the White Buffalo Calf Woman explained why each was important.
“The marriage ceremony is very important. It is a way to show the love between men and women, to ensure that the people, the Lakota, continue through the birth of each generation that come through the togetherness of man and woman. The Naming ceremony, for the young of the nation, is important because only truly beautiful names can be chosen, in this way each and every one of them will become known to the Great Spirit. The Making Relatives Ceremony is there to ensure that all children, and those of different Nations, will always have a sense of belonging, whether they are born through kinship or whether they are found and taken in by the People.”
Next she took all the men, old and young alike, away from the women and the village and with the help of the Holy men, instructed them in the Vision Ceremony. She smiled as the Holy men built their sweat lodges and heated their stones, singing and chanting their songs and prayers as they worked, and then gathered the men inside the structure so that they could be purified and cleansed with the help of sage and steam. Then she told the men that they must journey to the sacred Black Hills so that they each might find their own Spirit Guides who would help them in their Vision Quest.
On the morning of her fourth, and last, day the White Buffalo Calf Woman then instructed The People upon the importance of the Sun Dance Ceremony. She described to them all about the placement of the Thunder Pole, the center of the universe, and how they must go about searching out the pole and the way it was to be chopped down and brought back to the village. How the men must fasten themselves to the pole and dance.
When she had finished the White Buffalo Calf Woman left the village. The People were sad to see her go. For in the short time they had known her they had come to love her. When she was but a short distance from them the maiden changed into a white buffalo calf. Bowing to the four corners of the universe the calf then disappeared over a distant hill. The blue above them slowly turned bright red as their brother Sun sank in the evening sky and the People knew this to be a sign from the Great Spirit.