The Sacred Pipe of White Calf Buffalo Woman

The 1994 birth of a white buffalo in Janesville, Wisconsin is a sign that White Buffalo Calf Woman is returning to fulfill a prophesy held sacred by many Native Americans. Generations ago, she promised she would bring back spiritual balance and harmony.

One summer so long ago, oh about several generations ago, two warriors of the Lakota people went out hunting as commanded by their chief. They searched all over for food but couldn't find anything. Seeing a high hill, they decided to climb it in order to look over the whole country. Halfway up they saw a cloud from far away. There was something coming towards them, but the figure was floating instead of walking. From this they knew no matter what it was, it was very Holy.

At first they could make out only a small moving speck and had to squint to see that it was a human form. As it came nearer, they realized that it was a beautiful young maiden dressed in white buckskin. She was more beautiful than any woman they had ever seen. The outfit was so beautiful and was embroidered with sacred and marvelous designs of porcupine quills, in radiant colors no ordinary woman could have made. This holy woman was White Buffalo Woman, also called White Calf Buffalo Woman. In her hands she carried a large bundle and a fan of sage leaves.

The two young men looked at her open-mouthed. One was overawed, but the other desired her body and stretched his hand out to touch her. This woman was very sacred, and could not be treated with disrespect. She opened her arms and welcome that man and closed her arms. As soon as she did that, lightning instantly struck the brash young man and burned him up, so that only a small heap of blackened bones was left.

To the other scout who had behaved rightly, White Buffalo Woman said, "Good things I am bringing, something holy to your nation. A message I carry for your people from the buffalo nation. Go back to the camp and tell the people to prepare for my arrival. Tell your chief to put up a medicine lodge or a Teepee with twenty-four poles. Let it be made holy for my coming."

This young hunter returned to the camp. He told the chief, and the people, what the sacred woman had commanded. The chief told the medicine people to prepare for her coming. "Someone sacred is coming. A holy woman approaches. Make all things ready for her."

So the people put up the big medicine tepee and waited. After four days they saw the White Buffalo Woman approaching, carrying her bundle before her. Her wonderful white buckskin dress shone from afar. The Chief invited her to enter the medicine lodge. She went in and circled the interior clockwise. The chief addressed her respectfully, saying, "Sister, we are glad you have come to instruct us."

She told him what she wanted done. In the center of the tepee they were to put up a sacred altar, for a Holy thing she was bringing. They did what she directed, and she traced a design with her finger on the smoothed earth of the altar. She showed them how to do all this. She then circled the lodge again clockwise. Halting before the chief, she now opened the bundle. The Holy thing it contained was the Chanupa, the sacred pipe. She held it out to the people and let them look at it. She was grasping the stem with her right hand and the bowl with her left, and thus the pipe has been held in this way ever since. She ran out the door falling to the floor and turning into a White Calf Buffalo after giving all the instructions around this sacred bundle. The chief yelled will we see you again and she continued running towards the door and turned into a yellowish colored and so forth. Until she was black and yelled that she will be back to help cleanse the world. There have now been 19 generational Grandfathers who were Chief and medicine men of the Lakota people who have carried that pipe since. Many believe that White Calf Buffalo Woman has returned since the birth of the White Buffalo. Remembering that since contact we were not able to practice our sacred ceremonies and there was a dark void. Many people forgot that Buffalo Women asked to gather all the people and especially those who walked in a good way. The pipe traveled to many nations and has been adopted by many different Nations, for example my people uses an antler bowl or a soap stone bowl.

The Rite of Prayers with the Pipe

Since then the sacred pipe and ceremony became a very important ritual of native people's culture as they travel the Red Road.  The native road of balance in a good way, the way of Kitchi Manitou, the Creator or the living breath of the Great Spirit Mystery, the way of love and freedom, here on the back of our Earth Mother Turtle Island. Simply put, the smoke coming from the mouth symbolizes the truth being spoken, and the plumes of smoke provide a path for prayers to reach the Great Spirit, and for the Great Spirit to travel to know who you are.

The sacred pipe is a spiritual artifact, always to be treated with respect and care, and used only in a sacred and prayerful manner. When it is put together with the stem it is sacred and represents two spirits, that of the male and the female. The stem represents the male and the bowl represents the female.

The ceremony is simple. The pipe is loaded with tobacco a pinch at a time, or a tobacco mixed with sweet smelling herbs, barks and roots such as bayberry, bearberry, mugwort, red willow inner bark, wild cherry bark, white willow bark, birch bark, cherry bark, mullen and many others indigenous plants to a local area. The cultivation of the tobacco and the mixture preparation were the sacred responsibility of the "Tobacco Society" of the tribe, and practices varied in each area. Today most pipe carriers prepare their own mixtures.

The ceremonial tobacco is usually very strong, and usually the smoke is not inhaled, but puffed into the mouth, then out of the mouth in each of the four directions, also acknowledging Father Sky, Mother Earth, and the Great Spirit by the pipe carrier and then the pipe is smoked and passed from one person to the next around the circle while people chant a pipe song or drum a beat.

A Typical Pipe Ceremony

The pipe holder stands holding the bowl of the pipe in his left hand, the stem in his right over a bowl full of smudge that is lit and creating smoke for purifying the tobacco that will go in the pipe. Then pointing the stem to the East. He or she continues this type of ritual with the offering of tobacco to the South and so on until all 7 directions are acknowledged. As he/she loads a small pinch of tobacco into the pipe, the pipe carrier usually says a prayer requesting the Great Spirit to hear the prayers requested.

The pipe holder now touches the stem to the ground, saying something like We are all part of Mother Earth, each rock, each four legged, each two legged, all creatures, plants and minerals. We are all related. We respect our Mother Earth and protect her and we come in a good way. The pipe holder now holds pipe above his head with the stem up at an angle, perhaps at the Sun or Moon and says Father Sky in union with Mother Earth here we stand before you hear our truth have pity upon us two legged. Now the pipe is ready to be lit, and passed around the circle clockwise from east to south to west to north, returning to the east. Each person takes a puff and thinking of their prayers.

On completion of its journey around the sacred circle the pipe is separated, the stem from the pipe, set aside in its pouch until it is smoked again. The typical pipe pouch has separate compartments for the pipe and the stem so that they do not touch when not being used in ritual ceremony.