Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Legend Of White Buffalo Calf Woman

Art work by Native artist Marcine Quinzer

As I wrote yesterday, today I bring you the Lakota story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman:

Legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman and the Sacred Pipe

The plains people had a religion, given to them long before the Euro-invasion. The religion had spread throughout the land to all people and Nations. It was first given to the Teton Sioux back when Standing Hollow Horn was a chief in the Lakota Nation. This religion promoted brotherhood and peace through the solemn rite of the sacred pipe. It came to the people in this manner. (Some estimates place the genesis of this story about 2000 years ago, well before the horse had been introduced by the Spanish.)

One summer so long ago that nobody knows how long, the seven sacred council fires of the Sioux came together and camped. The sun shone all the time, but there was no game, and the people were starving.

Standing High Hollow Horn, leader of the people, sent two young Lakota men on foot to hunt. The men were returning empty-handed when they climbed a high hill to scan the whole country. In the distance they saw a beautiful young woman who floated as she walked toward them. She was very beautiful, her long hair hanging down, and she wore a fine white buckskin dress.
She was so beautiful, that one young man desired her and said so. The other hunter said that he should not talk so as this was a Wakan woman, a Holy woman.

As the woman arrived she knew their thoughts and she beckoned the Evil minded young man to come to her where a cloud overcame them. When the cloud lifted, she stood alone and at her feet were a pile of bones with horrible snakes crawling over them. (It seems this Holy Woman seeks 'pure' hearts as well. I also note the concept of the Holy Woman and snakes at her feet.)

She then told the man with the Good mind to return to his people and tell them she was coming. When she arrived, the woman carried a sacred bundle that was wrapped in sage. She gave to the people seven sacred rites, among them the rite of the sacred pipe which she carried in the sacred bundle. She gave this to the people and taught them how to use it. (The numerous parallels between Catholicism and the Lakota religion were noticed by both the Lakota and the original French missionaries.)

"With this holy pipe, you will walk the Earth; for the Earth is your Grandmother and Mother, and she is sacred. Every step that is taken upon her should be like a living prayer," she said.

"The bowl of the pipe was made of the red stone. It represents the earth that bears and feeds us. On one side was carved a bison calf which represents the four legged on the earth. The stem of the pipe is wood and represents all that grows upon the earth. These twelve Eagle feathers hanging from the stem mean the sky and the twelve moons. The feathers are for the Spotted Golden Eagle and represents the winged peoples in the air. All these peoples and all the things of the universe are joined to you who smoke this pipe--all send their voices to the Great Spirit."

"This Earth which He has given to you is red, and the two-legged who live upon the Earth are red; and the Great Spirit has also given to you a red day, and red road. All this is sacred, so do not forget! Every dawn as it comes is a holy event, and every day is holy, for the light comes from your Father Wakan-Takan; and also you must always remember that the two-legged and all the other peoples who stand upon this earth are sacred and should be treated as such.…… Wakan-Takan has given you seven days to send your voices to Him."

The woman also told the Sioux about the value of buffalo, women and children. "You are from the Mother Earth," she told the women. " And like the Mother, women bring forth the continuance of life. What you are doing is as great as what the warriors do."

The sacred woman then started to leave the lodge, but turning again to Standing Hollow Horn, she said: "Behold this pipe! Always remember how sacred it is, and treat it as such, for it will take you to the End. Remember, in me is there are four ages. I am leaving now, but I shall look back upon your people in every age, and at the End I shall return.

Moving around the lodge in a sun-wise manner, the mysterious woman left, but after walking a short distance she looked back towards the people and sat down. When she rose, the people were amazed to see that she had become a young white buffalo calf, then this calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a black buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a red buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a yellow buffalo, then the calf walked farther, lay down, and rolled, and become a white buffalo. This buffalo then walked farther away from the people, stopped, and after bowing to each of the four quarters of the universe, disappeared over the hill.

Through the pipe ceremony, all men would become brothers and peace would exist in them and between them. (Hence the significance of the Woman turning into the colors of the four major races.)

The following words from Black Elk, an Ogalala Holy Man, best express the intent behind the gift of the Peace Pipe, and closely echo the intent behind many Marian apparitions.

"In the great vision which came to me in my youth, when I had known only nine winters, there was something which has seemed to me to be of greater and greater importance as the moons have passed by. It is about our sacred pipe and its importance to our People."

"We have been told by the white men, or at least by those who are Christian, that God sent to men His Son, who would restore Order and Peace upon the Earth: and we have been told that Jesus the Christ was crucified, but that he shall come again at the Last Judgment, the end of the world or cycle.

This I understand and know that it is true, but the white men should know that for the red people too, it was the Will of Wakan-Tanka, the Great Spirit, that an animal turn itself into a two-legged person in order to bring the most Holy Pipe to His People; and we too were taught that this White Buffalo Calf Woman, who brought our sacred pipe, will appear again at the end of the "world", a coming which we Indians know is now not very far off…"

"Most people call it a "Peace Pipe," yet now there is no Peace on Earth or even between neighbors, and I have been told that it has been a long time since there has been Peace in the world. There is much talk of Peace among the Christians, yet this is just talk. Perhaps it may be, and this is my prayer that through our Sacred Pipe, Peace may come to those peoples who can understand, an understanding which must be of the heart and not of the head alone. Then they will realize that we Indians know the One True God, and the we pray to Him continually…"

"I have wished to help my people understand the greatness and truth of our own tradition, and also to help in bringing Peace upon the Earth, not only among men, but within men and between the whole of creation. "

"We should understand well that all things are the works of the Great Spirit. We should know that He is within all things; the trees, the grasses, the rivers, the mountains, and all the four-legged animals, and the winged peoples; and even more important, we should understand that He is also above all these things and peoples. When we do understand all this deeply in our hearts, then we will fear, and love, and know the Great Spirit, and then we will be and act and live as He intends."


Some days when I start the process of writing for this blog, it's like Christmas. I never know what I will learn or where I will be taken in the numerous Google searches I need to do in order to write some of the articles.

I expected an easy time of it today, because I was very familiar with the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman. The article, however, is not my writing, but that of the artist whose painting graces this post.

While navigating her website I came across something I did not expect. It was in the explanation she gave about the genesis of this painting:

"I had planned this painting for two years but when I sat down to painting it, it evolved into something totally different than the planning I had done. As I worked on it, I became aware that Mother Mary was the same personage as White Buffalo Calf Woman. Two years later when I obtained a copy of "Learning Journey on the Red Road" by Floyd Hand, I received validation of this. This piece was a gift of spirit and even the cost of printing was supplied by spirit.

Obviously, I was sort of hinting at this same thing yesterday. It's why I stated I would post this story today. What makes it even more interesting is that the Sundance I attend, Floyd Hand is one of the ceremonial leaders. I had no idea Floyd's thinking ran along these lines.

He and I have a fun relationship. He frequently tries to scare the crap out me, and has offered to monitor me in a vision quest, amongst other things. So far I've failed to accept his invitations, as they seem to lead directly to my dancing in the Sundance, or being scared senseless. Neither of which appeals to me at the present time. Floyd says it's only a matter of time.

He may be right, because now that I've read this, I'm beginning to understand some of his teachings in an entirely different light. The two of us may have a stronger connection than I've thought, one not of this world. This is certainly an interesting time to be alive.

I do know this though, Floyd would agree completely with Dr. Clarissa Estes when she has this to say about the Virgin of Guadalupe, which also involved a Holy woman appearing to an Indigenous man.

"Guadalupe is the quintessential mother... and she does not encourage her sons and daughters who have been broken to walk as weaklings in this world... but rather for broken beings to walk as warriors... who are devoted to speak of her and for her in this world, to enact her holy heart by unfurling the ancient virtues of strength and sheltering, speaking up, standing up and doing... for the sake of goodness." And for the sake of peace.


  1. dear Colkoch. . .i will share where i am these days with pondering of White Calf Buffalo Woman Mythology. . .

    I have utilized and transversed the energetics of Medicine Wheel for over thirty years. . .in 1995 went into the Void space and the one that came out was not the one that went in and i emerged dripping with afterbirth. . .I am not speaking for anyone but my own subjective experiences and what the eyes have seen based on where my feet have taken me. . .

    I think White Calf Buffalo Woman has returned and the birthing of the white calf buffalo is an symbolic indicator of what is happening these days. . .I see Her and know Her in the lives of the awakened Feminine all around this world that are putting all they have into the cleaning up. . . For me there is a bit of cosmic leela here for how congruent our small world and the world of the Divine. . . the Divine Feminine comes in as cleaning woman. . no pay and little glorification. . .to clean the mess of the Spirit of Domination. . .

    I see Her in so many women we know. . .Women like Dr. Estess. . .women from Mexico. . .women from India. . .Native women and women with and without babies. . . women from all around the world of different colors, languages, and religions. . .women that have removed the blocks from the lies and deceptions and claimed back the strength of the Sacred Feminine in their bodies, hearts, and minds and souls. . .And i am not speaking of the New Ageism with all of its seduction with its egoic dressing of spiritual materialism and narcissium. . .I am talking about women working, serving, sacrificing self for the greater good. . .And i am also not taking about the sexual anatomy. . .

    dear Sister She has returned and from what i can discern from reading your post you are well on your way of remembering Her yourself. . .

    Please forgive me for the length of this but this is something i think express the energetics of how i view White Calf Buffalo Woman better than my ability to place in words. . . As each individual has the courage to heal and be released from the old patriarchal blocks it brings forth the consciousness of the interconnectedness of all life into their being. . .not only are they released as individuals but also the collective consciousness begins to slowly be released from the Spirit of Domination. . .

    This is a short bit from a Sufi teacher, the mystical branch of Monotheism that embraces the ground of all religious expression. .

    "Women carry in their body not only the consciousness of their own suffering of the collective and personal suffering, but also the suffering of the earth. Women carry the imprint of all creation within their body; it is part of their instinctual relationship to the whole of life, the sacred bond that women have with life. The suffering of the earth, wounded and desecrated by a patriarchal culture that sees God only in heaven, is held within the cellular structure of every woman. The pain that many women feel in the core of their being is also the unacknowledged pain of the earth, whose very eco-system in now in danger. This suffering needs to be accepted and sanctified; otherwise the energy of life cannot flow freely within the earth.
    The earth has cried and women have felt its tears. In these tears a deep sorrow and wounding are acknowledged and through the heart offered to Him who is source of all sorrow and all joy. On our individual journey, sorrow takes us deeper within our self, for " God enters through a wound." Through the world's sorrow a healing can take place in which the consciousness of divine love can be infused into the hidden places of the earth, as well as the bodies of women. This love can link the two worlds in a way that has not happened before. Through it Divine grace can flow freely bringing alive the meaning and magic that lie at the core of creation, the secret of the word Kun! (Be).
    If women are prepared to recognize the sacred dimension of their own and earth's suffering at the hands of the patriarchy, to see that it is part of the mysterious destiny of the soul of our world, then much can be redeemed. We can step fro the arena of personal antagonism into the landscape of our larger destiny, and the forces of life can flow in a new way. The divine can become conscious more completely, the oneness become known more fully. The soul of the world is crying to be heard, and only those who have suffered can fully recognize Her. Behind the veil of her tears she has a new face, and in her eyes the stars are again visible. But we cannot wait too long in the antechamber of the heart. The soul of the world needs to know she has been heard, so that her tears can be washed away by the waters of life. Then once again life can become sacred. Only then can the joy of life returns to each moment. Only then can the imprint of Her face become visible, the glory of Her oneness be made known.
    To live this dream takes courage and foolishness.
    Llwellyan Vaughn Lee

    i really enjoy reading your post and hope you do not mind the lengthy comments that turn into full blown discussion?. . .

  2. sorry. . .i have one more rather long quote but think you will relate to it based on the energetics of White Calf Buffalo Woman Mythology. . .

    Now doesn't it make sense the "Patriarchal Powers that Be". . . would not want women to come forth and clean it up?. . .I would imagine many of the Sisters are expressing WCBW. . .and these days much like times of old. . . the black robes quest for power and try to put smother those coming forth them like grass fires. . .They did not destroy the Native nor the soul of the Feminine. . .but the Natives and women will likely be the ones that saves their pompous_______
    and dear souls. . .

    More by LLwellyn Vaughn Lee

    The feminine carries the connections of all life within her, and for many centuries this has been her secret. Even when masculine degraded and punished her, abused and rejected her instinctual understanding, still she carried this wisdom, even as it became hidden from her own conscious knowing. Now this wisdom is needed. It can no longer be hidden,but needs to become conscious. Women carry understand in the cells of their body. They feel the pulse of life in a way that is inaccessible to men. The cells of a woman's body carry a light that is not present in a man's body. This is because she is part of the sacred mystery of creation. She is always a part of the whole of life Her knowing is not abstract but lived.

    The connections of life carry the seeds of the future, of what is being given to humanity. It is through these connections that the energy of life flows Our understanding of the energy flow of life depends upon our knowledge of the interconnectedness of all of life and how these connections are made. We also need to know how connections can be damaged, torn, destroyed, and how to repair, to mend what has been broken. We need to regain the knowledge of how the threads of life are woven, how the tapestry of creation is formed. We need to bring this feminine wisdom into consciousness so that we can learn to relate to the whole of life.

    We need to regain an understanding of the dynamics of the relationships that bind together all of creation. The feminine holds this natural knowing within her. It is a part of her instinctual connection to life: she contains withing her body the sacred essence of creation. But to protect this sacred knowing from the ravages of the patriarchy and its misuse of power, she hid her wisdom. It was never written down in books, but transmitted from mother to daughter, from priestess to initiate. Then when the wise women were persecuted and burned, when it became no longer safe to have any access to this knowing, it was pushed into the unconscious.

    Many times in the course of humanity, esoteric wisdom has been hidden and so protected from misuse. Sometimes this wisdom can never be regained: for example, many of he secrets of sacred geometry have been lost forever. But if there is a real need, then the wisdom can be recovered. Certain scarifies have to be made, however. The women who hold this knowledge are still fearful of the power of the patriarchy and its potential for misuse. They carry in their ancient memories the scars of persecution, and often a deep anger towards the masculine. But they have to put aside their own misgivings, and bring their inner knowing into the light of consciousness. Certain connections need to be made within the foreseeable future.

    If the connections of life are made known, then light can travel through these connections, awakening centers of consciousness within humanity. The light of masculine consciousness cannot find these centers without the full participation of the feminine. The connections cannot be made that will awaken them. Without the activation of these centers of consciousness, humanity cannot take the next step in its spiritual evolution It will not have access to the wisdom, power, and love that it needs. Humanity will then remain fragmented, rather than learning to function as a dynamic, interrelated whole. Patters of energy flow around the planet will remain dormant, or function on a lower level. Once again humanity will have missed an opportunity.

    Certain women have already made this step, and a certain knowledge has been given back to humanity. But the next step is the most difficult, because this involves the knowledge that is held withing the physical body of woman. Women have been physically abused for so many centuries that this knowledge is covered in pain and anger. To bring this knowledge into the open would require a degree of vulnerability that is frightening. Yet it is necessary. Without the full participation of the feminine, the energy of oneness cannot become part of the earth. The physical body of the feminine is the connection between heaven and earth. Without the connection a quality of boy and belonging to God cannot be lived; oneness will not be made manifest.

    Through suffering life can be made holy. A woman know this in her body. Through suffering the immortal spirit takes on form, the soul comes into manifestation. This is not self-inflected or self-indulgent suffering, not the suffering behind which we hide, that protects us from life or our self. This is the suffering that life brings us naturally, that is part of the destiny of the soul. Suffering can transform us and help us remember who we are. It can lift the coverings of the soul. In the words of Keats, this world of tears is also the "the vale of Soulmaking".

  3. several important points, at least to American Indians---
    1. White Buffalo Calf Woman Pipe is carried by the 19th generation keeper. This would put its arrival at about 400 years ago.
    2-The lakota are a ceremonial migration of the cherokee nation group about 800 years ago
    3. Only non-tribal people call it a peace pipe-
    4. white buffalo calf woman was a sacred woman, not a buffalo. white buffalos are genetically predictable and it is nonsense to equate them with the sacred pipe.
    5.The algonquian/Ahnishinabeg tribal nations have a history of sacred pipe going back 12,000 years, as do the Creeks and catawba Nations as well.

  4. These are powerful statements Marci and their is much in them to digest. Thanks for the input. I was especially struck with your personal experience of returning covered in after birth.

    It is true that the divine feminine is in the process of cleaning up after the Spirit of Dominance. I like that term far better than patriarchy, because it speaks to men as well.

    This too is absolutely true:

    "Women have been physically abused for so many centuries that this knowledge is covered in pain and anger. To bring this knowledge into the open would require a degree of vulnerability that is frightening. Yet it is necessary.

    Without the full participation of the feminine, the energy of oneness cannot become part of the earth. The physical body of the feminine is the connection between heaven and earth. Without the connection a quality of joy and belonging to God cannot be lived; oneness will not be made manifest."

  5. Sacred Pipe, thank you for the clarifications and input.

    I am aware that Sacred Pipe is the more correct term for a pipe, but in context of the quote from Black Elk and the main theme of these most recent posts, I went with Peace pipe.

  6. Colleen, this is a wonderful holy story that I just didn't know well--all its ramifications--until I read this posting. I'm struck always by the profound wisdom of the native American perception that we are of the earth and, in abusing the earth, we end up abusing ourselves.

    And by your conclusion, pointing out the intersections between the Guadalupe holy story and the Lakota one. I love the emphasis on that mother figure not teaching people to cringe, but to walk uprightly on the earth--grounded in the Mother of all.