– retold by Scott Alexander King
A White Buffalo Cow … thanks to Souzanna Tokatlidis for sending in this photo.
Long before the arrival of the white man, a beautiful maiden dressed in white buckskin descended from the star nations and presented the people with a sacred pipe and spoke of changes and sacred things.
To the young braves returning from a hunting expedition she first appeared as a dot on the horizon; a beautiful maiden dressed in a white buckskin dress with intricate beadwork on the chest, eagle feathers braided into her long black hair, and a pouch at her side. She glowed with a beauty neither had ever witnessed before. Not even the dew on the springy mountain moss, the purity of the clear stream-fed lake or the perfection of the gossamer wings on the iridescent blue dragonfly compared to the image that now stood only metres away.
Her beauty prompted the first brave to announce his desire to couple with her on the grassy hillside. Horrified, the second brave scolded him and told him to abandon such thoughts. He was sure she was a sacred woman, a messenger from Great Mystery perhaps, or a vision. But to his amazement, the mysterious woman beckoned to the first warrior, and smiling smugly, he went to her.
As he watched, the second brave saw his friend approach the woman, and as her robes dropped to the ground, a great billowing of dust blew up and enveloped them both. Only minutes passed and the cloud settled. There, doing up her dress stood the maiden with a rotting corpse at her feet. In response to the horrified expression on the brave’s face, the maiden replied in a voice that echoed the soft whispers of a late night summer breeze, that should a man look at a woman and see only her external beauty, he would never know her inner spirit, her divine self, for his eyes are blind and dazed with lust, but should he look at her and see a woman of beauty that prompts him to wonder in awe at the thoughts weaving through her mind, or the possibilities of the stories she could tell, or, better still, what it is that makes her aura glow so, this man will be promised such extraordinary pleasures that include and extend far beyond the physical. To seek first the release of physical desires without thought of the spirit, pleasure may be gained, but you will die from the inside. This was the fate of the first brave. Although his quest resulted in his death, the lifetime he lived in those few minutes gave him great physical pleasure, and amounted to what many could consider a “good” life. By living his life by taking and never giving, he had forgotten not only Great Spirit, but also his own spirit. As the corpse you see him now, he is returning to the earth, because his thoughts were of the earth. Dust.
This made perfect sense to the second brave, and the understanding gave him the confidence to ask the maiden whom she was.
The answer the brave received presented no great surprise to him, yet his facial response echoed immense joy, wonderment and tinges of fear, all at once, which pleased White Buffalo Calf Woman, the Mother of the Old Ones and the Teacher of Truth and Wisdom. She was filled with happiness to see the expressions of unconditional love and respect mixed with horror and excitement as they flashed across the young man’s face, for they meant that he had not forgotten Spirit and that he yearned to return to the old ways, the ways forgotten by his people.
White Buffalo Calf Woman ordered the youth to return to the village, to tell the people to prepare a great tipi of many skins that would accommodate all the people for a great meeting, a meeting in which a Being of Spirit would come and teach them some very sacred things.
That night, as the clouds drifted slowly across the face of the moon, the people gathered in the tipi of many skins with an eagerness and anticipation that bordered on hysteria. As the White Buffalo Calf Woman entered the tipi, the excited chatter ceased and was replaced with a silence that radiated great awe and respect, yet no one, except the young brave, knew why they felt that way. They were surprised at her beauty and grace, for they all thought she would be older in years, instead of the delicate creature, surely no more than a maiden, which now stood in the doorway. Initial thoughts of coupling, and other lustful things, flittered only briefly in the minds of the men, for the news of the brave who now lay decomposing under the moon had preceded the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s arrival.
As the White Buffalo Calf Woman entered the tipi of many skins, the people saw her white buckskin dress and noticed how it glowed and radiated her purity of spirit, and they noticed how she walked with bare feet, and knew instinctively that she did so out of respect for the Earth Mother. In this way she slowly made her way around the great fire that roared in the centre of the Lodge. Seven times in slow and steady footsteps she walked in a clockwise motion until she returned to where she had begun and on arriving there, she looked deep into the eyes of each and every one who sat cross-legged on the floor. Many looked away, but those who met her gaze saw a reflection of themselves that showed them as they truly were, no braver or greater, no smaller or weaker, and they were filled with hope. Those that looked away saw nothing and felt lost.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman then explained that by walking seven times around the great fire in a sacred way, she was remembering and honouring the love energy that radiates down to the people from the very heart of Great Spirit, the love that warms the hearts of all living things, and is often expressed sexually in a way that is intended to honor Great Mystery and Creation. Sexual passion that flares and runs wild out of control like a wind fed grass fire is destructive and dishonours the love sent by Great Spirit, and can cause suffering beyond description. The image of the youth decomposing on the grassy hillside, probably being torn to pieces by hungry coyote became permanently imprinted on the minds of everyone who was listening.
Passion that is tamed with wisdom can feed generations forever more and the knowledge and power will never be forgotten for it is sent with Spirit’s blessing.
Pointing to the great fire burning in the centre of the tipi of many skins, White Buffalo Calf Woman explained that by walking the seven sacred circles around the fire, she had honoured the seven worlds created by the council fire itself. Even though people live in all of the seven worlds at once, many are only aware of one of these realms – the physical. She continued to explain, in a voice that reminded many of the peaceful, reassuring sound of the waves by the great lake as they gently lap against the shore on an Autumn morning, that the people had sadly forgotten the other worlds; the worlds of vision and dreaming, the internal realities, and the kingdoms of Spirit – from where she herself had come.
Lifting a flaming torch from the fire and raising it above her head, casting strange shadows on the walls of the tipi, White Buffalo Calf Woman declared loudly and boldly that she had come as a representative of her people, the Fire Birds; the Thunder Tribes, to remind the children of earth of their existence, to rekindle the fires of connection between them and Great Spirit, and to prepare them for great changes to come.
On replacing the flaming torch, which she had been wildly brandishing throughout her speech, White Buffalo Calf Woman reached for the mysterious pouch that hung at her hip. She gently laid the pouch on the altar stone, which stood alongside the great fire, adorned with protection herbs, healing stones and other sacred objects. Inside the pouch was a special pipe, which White Buffalo Calf Woman had brought as a gift; a gift intended to assist the people in remembering the teachings and words of wisdom she planned to impart that evening. The pipe, it was told, was to be carried, when not in use, in the special pouch that had been fashioned in a sacred way from the finest of materials. It was to be filled with sacred tobacco of the purest quality, grown especially for this purpose, and it was to be treated at all times with the greatest of respect.
As she unwrapped the sacred pipe from the pouch, White Buffalo Calf Woman was pleased to see that all present that evening in the tipi of many skins drew in a breath and held it. It was a collective breath of amazement, awe and joy, which brought tears to the eyes of some, and caused others to bow their heads in reverence.
The bowl of the pipe, which had been crafted from the finest of red pipe stone, and being round in shape, was symbolic of the sacred circle of life, which represents giving and receiving, living and dying and inhaling and exhaling, through which all things receive life by the power and wisdom of Great Spirit.
White Buffalo Calf Woman now looked at the people in a special medicine way that told them to listen intently because something sacred and terribly important was about to happen. Everyone grew still and tried to soften the sound of their loudly pounding hearts.
Taking some sacred tobacco from a dish on the altar, White Buffalo Calf Woman packed the bowl of the pipe and explained that she was about to give them a ceremony that would reconnect them to the heart of Great Spirit while reharmonising their existences so that loneliness and despair would be banished forever.
Reaching once more into the flames of the great council fire, White Buffalo Calf Woman pulled out a flaming twig. This flame, the people were told, was just a tiny spark of the very same fire that burns in the heart of Great Spirit. Placing the burning twig to the mouth of the pipe’s bowl, and raising the pipe to her lips, White Buffalo Calf Woman drew in a deep breath, igniting the tobacco instantly, so that it glowed red and hot.
And so the people watched, listened and learned as White Buffalo Calf Woman demonstrated the pipe ceremony. Seven times she drew breath and exhaled the sacred smoke. Seven times she prayed and seven times she illustrated her actions with their significance to Spirit.
The first smoke, she explained, was as a breath of gratitude to Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, Grandfather above all Grandfathers, for the very life given to you, represented by the first breath you ever took.
The second smoke should be taken out of respect for the Mother above all Mothers, who cradles you and nurtures you, who shelters you and feeds you without question, hesitation or expectation. Your one mother – the earth. Give thanks to her for all that she gives you and for all that you take.
The third breath of smoke should be for all the other living creatures which reside on the earth – the winged ones, the four-leggeds, the reptiles and fish – all of which we sometimes take for granted, but are always there for us as beasts of burden, food, warmth or companionship.
The fourth breath should be for all the people who know reality, yet carry Spirit in their hearts. This fourth breath should be taken with the hope and belief that one day all the nations; all the people of the earth shall congregate as one.
The fifth breath should be taken as a means of asking the unseen spirits which walk with you to come forward and guide you with your desires to work with Great Spirit. It should be taken as a way of asking them for the best possible way to help and honor the ways of Spirit as you go about your life.
The sixth smoke should be taken out of respect for the six people you would like to see especially blessed. Consider those friends and family who are suffering, who are ill or lost, those who are in despair or who have made an effort to honor the ways of Great Spirit. Consider the Grandfathers and Grandmothers who watch over you in life and in the other worlds. Consider those you would like to see Spirit shine on, and take this smoke for them. While she explained this, the people watched as White Buffalo Calf Woman drew six circles in the sand to represent the souls of the six people, and then a larger circle that enveloped them all as a representation of the blessing. Some of the people present that night wept with joy as they felt Spirit enter them, and through them into the hearts of the people they secretly yearned to have blessed by Spirit.
As White Buffalo Calf Woman prepared to draw the seventh smoke, all became still, including the breeze that had previously been heard rushing through the branches of the great pines which encircled the camp and tipi of many skins. The seventh smoke, she explained, was best taken in silence, for it was meant as a means of honouring the Sacred Being from which every being first came. For that Great Mystery which was at the very core of creation and life, silence was preferred, and no words were needed.
On the completion of the seventh smoke, the pipe was handed around the tipi of many skins so that each and every one present could offer their own seven smokes to Spirit, and in doing so, much reverence and love was offered to Great Spirit for this sacred learning. After the pipe was handed round and it had eventually made its way back to White Buffalo Calf Woman, she told the people to sit quietly and ask Spirit to show them the wisest path to follow. She told the people to find their still place within where their deepest knowing reside. By focusing on this place, the external chatter of everyday life would be put to rest, enabling the fire of Spirit, which burns in us all, to speak in a clear, unbroken manner.
White Buffalo Calf Woman allowed the people to explore this place for some time before speaking again. This time she spoke of a great need for the people to walk together, instead of allowing violence and fear to envelop their collective souls. She encouraged them to remain true to their learning, for a time would come when a darkness, a time of confusion, would over-run the prairies, the hills and the valleys, and it would come from the east. During this time it would seem as though all was lost, and all sacred learnings would temporarily be forgotten. The fires burning in the hearts of the people, radiating the ways and truth of Spirit would dwindle, and in some these fires will become embers, while in others they would be extinguished completely. But from these embers great fires can be raised, it must be remembered, for when the darkness passes, the brilliant light of dawn, the glorious rays of sunlight of a new day shall again spread across the earth heralding great new beginnings and sacred times, when all the people of the world, the people of all colours, shall unite and walk as one. All that was broken shall be made whole. The sacred circle of life shall be mended and peace shall again reign supreme, as Spirit is reborn in the hearts of all the brothers and sisters. During this time, the animals shall become plentiful and all shall rejoice in harmony and balance with nature, and the people of the Bird Tribes, the Winged Ones of Heaven shall return, preceded by the birth of a rare and sacred White Buffalo Calf.
On August 20, 1994, a white buffalo calf was born on the farm of Dave and Valerie Heider, Winconsin, USA. Since then, in 1997, two other white buffalo calves have been born, as White Buffalo Calf Woman prophesised. One of these calves, an albino, is housed in a secret location in North Dakota.