Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sundance - Mythical Realities of Native American Oral History and Religious Practice

As I think about going to Sundance this year, I think about the mythical realities behind the experience itself.  All of the stories about the foundational beliefs behind Sundance, are intertwined through magical realistic stories, such as the story of the sacred pipe, and how it came to the Lakota people.

SHORT VERSION OF THE ORAL TRADITION:  WHITE BUFFALO CALF WOMAN

One day, two men were hunting.  As they looked down from the butte in which they were crouched and awaiting the sight of game, a beautiful maiden appeared from nowhere just below them.  They could see her perfectly.

She wore a white buffalo calfskin dress, ornated like they had never seen.  Her attraction to the men was instantaneous; but one man immediately knew she was wakan (holy) and pushed away any impure thoughts.  The other man was quickly overcome by her beauty, and he thought unholy thoughts.  Thus, he perished right on the spot.

The woman gave the remaining hunter a message to return to his people and prepare for her coming.  She then turned, ran away, and as the man stood in disbelief, the woman couldn't be seen.  Only a young white buffalo calf was ahead of where she had last stood, running into the treeline.

The man scurried away to alert his tiospaye, the chosen people of the wakan winyan (holy woman).  The people prepared to the specifications that he was given, and awaited her arrival.

When the White Buffalo Calf Woman approached, she entered the tipi that had been constructed for her.  And after an offering of song and prayer, she presented a gift to the important people and elders of the Seven Council Fires (Sioux) the pipe.  As she filled the pipe, she taught the people to do so.  As she lit the pipe, she instructed the ordained way to go about the ceremony of the pipe; and as she smoked and exhaled, she explained that the smoke would carry the Pte (people's) prayers to the Spirit World.

The Mythical Reality is that the pipe carriers know even more of the mysticism behind the use of the pipe in Lakota Religion, Thought, Philosophy, and Practice.  It is that people can appear, disappear, and reappear... and that... moreso that you will find in any Latin American literature... The Story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman the true example of magical realism - and the pipe is a physical reminder of how to practice the sacred rite bestowed upon the people, in their guidance from God on how to pray.

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