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White Buffalo Calf Woman
Encyclopedia of Native American Religions:
(Bronze statue of the White Buffalo Calf
Woman, by Lee Leunig and Sherri Treeby)
Located in Mankato, MN, USA
The holy woman who brought the people
their most sacred possession, the Buffalo Calf Pipe, and foretold
the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota. According to belief, White
Buffalo Calf Woman first appeared to two young men who were
out hunting. As they stopped to scan the area for game, they
saw someone approaching in the distance. When the mysterious
person drew nearer, they saw a woman of great beauty clothed
in white buckskin. One of the young men expressed bad thoughts
toward her, but his companion warned him that she was most likely
wakan, or sacred. When the mysterious woman reached the hunters,
she called to the one with evil intentions. After approaching
her, they were both enveloped by a cloud. When it lifted, all
that remained of the man were his bones and the snakes that
had eaten him. the mysterious woman then told the other hunter
to return home and tell his chief, named Standing Hollow Horn
in the account given by BlackElk, to prepare for her arrival.
Upon reaching the camp, the young man related all that had happened.
As instructed, a large tipi was built, and the people gathered
together. They then waited for the mysterious person to arrive.
Soon some of the people saw the holy woman approaching in the
distance. After entering the tipi, she walked in a sunrise (clockwise)
direction then stopped before the leader. The holy woman took
a bundle from her back, removing a pipe and a round stone.
She then gave the people the sacred
teachings. Beginning with the pipe, she explained its meaning
and each of its components. She told the people that the pipestone
bowl represented the earth, that the wood stem represented all
of the earth's growing things, that the buffalo calf carved
on the bowl represented all four-legged creatures and that the
pipe's 12 feathers, from the spotted eagle, represented all
winged creatures. Whoever prayed with it would be joined to
all other life in the universe. The holy woman also instructed
the people about the stone, explaining that the seven circles
on it stood for the seven sacred rites. She presented the first
rite, stating that the other six would be revealed in time and
that the sacred pipe was to be used n each of them.
After teaching the Ghost-Keeping
Ceremony, the first rite, the holy woman walked in a sunwise
(clockwise) direction around the tipi, then left. While walking
away she stopped and sat down. When she stood up, the people
saw that she had been transformed into red and brown buffalo
calf. The calf continued on, stopped, lay down and arose as
a white buffalo. The white buffalo repeated the same actions,
becoming a black buffalo. This buffalo bowed to each quarter
of the universe and then vanished from view. There are several
published accounts of White Buffalo Calf Woman, some including
her other sacred teachings. She is also known as White Buffalo
Calf Maiden, White Buffalo Cow Woman, and White Buffalo Woman.
Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota
Sacred ceremonies foretold to the Lakota by White Buffalo Calf
Woman, a holy woman who appeared among the people.
The Sweat Lodge Ceremony (Inikagapi)
The Vision Quest (Hanbleceya, 'crying for a vision')
The Ghost Keeping Ceremony (Wanagi yuhapi)
The Sun Dance (Wi Wanyang wacipi)
The Hunak Ceremony ('the making of relatives)
The Girl's Puberty Rite (Isnati awicalowan)
The Throwing of the Ball Ceremony (Tapa wankayeyapi).
The Lakota people have a rich, diverse
array of ceremonies beyond these seven sacred rites, including
those that originated in visions.
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