White Buffalo Woman, I seek thy vision
and the Mother of Life
White Buffalo Calf Woman's legend is ancient, arising about 2000 years ago, and is central to the spiritual practices of numerous Native American nations. Various, but similar, versions of the legend of White Buffalo Calf Woman are told.
The brief story presented here is based primarily on the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman at various websites as told by Joseph Chasing Horse, Traditional Leader of the Lakota Nation.
“It was told that next time there is chaos and disparity, she would
return again. She said she would return as a White Buffalo Calf.
Some believe she already has.”
Words of Chief Arvol Looking Horse,
19th Generation Keeper of the
Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe
of the Lakota Nation
While two warriors were out hunting buffalo, a white buffalo calf appeared. As she approached them she changed into a beautiful young woman . . . which is how she came to be called the White Buffalo Calf Woman.
One of the young warriors offended her with his lustful thoughts, and White Buffalo Calf Woman asked him to approach. As he stepped forward, a black cloud descended over him and when it dissipated all that was left of him was his bones.
The other warrior fell to his knees and began to pray. The White Buffalo Calf Woman told him to return to his people, telling them she would appear to them in four days, bringing with her a sacred bundle.
And this she did, appearing to them as a white buffalo calf descending on a cloud. Stepping down, she rolled over on the ground, changing from white to black, then yellow, then red.
When White Buffalo Calf Woman arose she was once again the beautiful woman, cradling the sacred bundle in her arms.
Spending four days with the people, White Buffalo Calf Woman taught them sacred songs, dances, and ceremonies as well as the traditional ways.
White Buffalo Calf Woman instructed them to be responsible caretakers of the land and to be always mindful that the children are the future of the people.
On the fourth day White Buffalo Calf Woman left in the same manner she had arrived, telling the people she was leaving the sacred bundle, the White Buffalo Calf Woman pipe, in their care. She promised to one day return for it and to bring harmony and spiritual balance to the world.
White Buffalo Calf Woman prophesied that the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that it was near the time of her return.
A beautiful, and different, telling of the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman is provided by Matthew Richter in American Comments, a web magazine fighting racial hatred and discrimination. This version tells the story of how a woman called the Mother of Life came to become the White Buffalo Calf Woman and discusses the meaning of the pipe and the prophesy.
According to this legend a young woman, during an enemy attack on her village, saw a toddler injured and ran to cradle him in her arms and comfort him as death approached. Soon, she too was mortally wounded, and her young body crumpled with the young child still cradled in her arms.
Her spirit hurried to catch up with the child's so that she would be there to care for him when they crossed over. To honor her noble act, the Sioux gave her the name Mother of Life.
Later she appeared as White Buffalo Calf Woman to a young warrior whose troubled heart yearned for a good future for the children, a future without the prospect of continual war and divisiveness, a future of peace. White Buffalo Calf Woman advised him "to seek the vision of a mother's heart for the love of her children".
White Buffalo Calf Woman gave the pipe into his care, detailing the ways in which the people could learn to grow into responsible keepers of the pipe, cultivating peace and understanding.
One of her gifts was the suggestion that all children be taught to hold baby animals with love and caring, so that as they grow they will learn to love all the other babies of the world.
As she gave her instructions, the white buffalo calf that accompanied the woman rolled over four times, each time changing colors . . . once for each race, first white, then yellow, then red, the black, signifying that we are all members of the same family.
If this earth should ever be destroyed, it will be by desire, by the lust of pleasure and self-gratification.
— Lame Deer
To the Lakota this is probably the most important of all their myths. It has also become a spiritual focus for Plains tribes generally. It has three main aspects: White Buffalo Woman herself and what she represents, both historically and in the present day; the encounter with the two young men; and the importance of the sacred pipe and the ritual that goes with it.
This is the only myth in which White Buffalo Woman appears. Moreover, there is no attempt to create a whole life story for her, and she has no identifiable family or husband, unlike the Navajo’s Changing Woman. She is altogether mysterious, appearing on the distant horizon, bringing her gifts, and then departing. In her self-sufficiency and virgin inviolability she is like the Greek goddesses Athene and Artemis, though since the coming of the Native American Church, many Native people have identified her with the Virgin Mary.
Certainly she is a powerful anima figure, a maiden goddess who springs direct, untarnished, from the spirit world. She is also a culture goddess in that she brings the all-important fetish object, the sacred pipe, as well as teaching the people how to use it to remain in communication with the spirit world. She is said to come from the north, which is the home of the Buffalo Nation (Tatanka Oyate), and the place of health and spiritual growth through self-discipline and endurance.
She is of course closely identified with the buffalo. For the Lakota, as for most Plains tribes, the buffalo was a vital source of food and clothing, as well as providing most of the material goods of everyday life. Tools were made from its bones, rattles from its hooves, tipis from its hide. The Plains tribes also had a close spiritual relationship with the buffalo, as inferred by the Lakota emergence myth in which the medicine man turns himself into a buffalo to feed the tribe.
The Ghost Dance religion, which tragically led to the Wounded Knee Massacre, had as one of its aims the restoration of the buffalo. It met with failure, but there is a prophecy, believed by many modern Lakota, that when four white buffalo have been born, then the old ways will return and the earth will be saved. White Buffalo Woman herself, in the myth, promises to return ‘at the end’.
The two young men show very different attitudes towards the spirit world. One is oblivious to the woman’s power, and is reduced to bones by this encounter with spirit for which he is totally unprepared. Joseph Epes Brown, in Sacred Pipe, quotes the famous Lakota medicine man Black Elk’s explanation of the foolish man’s fate: ‘Any man who is attached to the senses and to the things of this world, is one who lives in ignorance and is being consumed by the snakes which represent his own passions.’
This makes the important point that the foolish man’s action stands for more than just sexual desire.
The pipe is extremely important in Lakota ritual. It is the symbolic means of making an exchange between humanity and the spirit world. Hence when smoked it is always offered to the Four Directions. The smoke is regarded as rising up to the spirit world.
The Plains tribes still make their pipe bowls from red pipestone found only in a quarry in south-west Minnesota. The dark red stone is said to be the congealed blood of those killed in the Flood, and it is also a reminder of the blood sacrificed by the creator Inyan in order to make the world. In addition it is the colour of the earth in much of Lakota territory. Lastly, it is the colour of the ‘red road’ associated with the north, the direction from which White Buffalo Woman comes. This refers to what in Christian terms is the ‘path of righteousness’.
When the White Buffalo Woman enters the lodge she walks around it in the solar directions, to meet the chief in the west (opposite the east, place of dawn and therefore of enlightenment). The spotted eagle feathers on the pipe are symbols of transcendent solar spiritual power. His feathers are equated with rays of the sun. As Joseph Epes Brown says, when a Lakota wears the eagle-feathered war bonnet, he ‘actually becomes the eagle, which is to say that he identifies himself, his real Self, with Wakan Tanka.’ Thus when the Ghost Dancers sang, ‘The Spotted Eagle is coming to carry me away,’ they were referring to spiritual transcendence of the material world.
Adapted from Teach Yourself Native American Myths
Thank YOU, Dear Sonja ~ this is such an Auspicious Group with correlating information for ALL the People of Our World. What a Lovely Gift! We Are Soooo Blessed!
I have been following the White Buffalo Calf information since 1996. It is well represented in this Group.
Many Blessings to YOU, Dear Heart.
With Infinite LoveLight,
Thank you so much, dear sister CrystaLin Joy :-)
If you feel something is missing I shall be gratefull for any post or comment / idea or whatever! This MOON is White Buffalo Calf Woman's Moon ... and it is leading us straight to the EQUINOX!!!
BLESSED BE - and joyous Thanks for joining,
Thank YOU sONJA! White Buffalo Calf Woman means so much to me.
Love and Light Dear Sister!
I have read the story anew now after I read the other version of the White Buffalo Woman - and see that both are correct ... the man with the lustful thoughts perishes. He longs for the woman - and does not see her SPIRIT - he fails to rever her DIVINITY ... according to the other story this is the Lakota man who comes and wants to kill the White Buffalo
The man who recognizes her as the Goddess who she truly is - is given the honor to bring message to his people of her imminent visit ... and his people are bestowed the gift of the Sacred Pipe ...
The underlying MEANING of these two stories is IDENTICAL!!!
And PLEASE NOTE that the WOMAN - is never given a NAME in the story!!!
Only the interpretations speak of the White Buffalo Calf Woman ... and this name is appropriate in respect of the long awaited RETURN of the White Buffalo Woman - in the form of a CALF ... a calf which will change colours four times ... from white to red to black to yellow - and then back again to white!
Indeed - LOOK BEHIND the veil of the story and behold the essence - and you will see that both stories speak of the same underlying TRUTH - that we need to learn to see behind the veil again whence the SACREDNESS of all things becomes VISIBLE to the beholding eye ... and only from this point of views are we offered the TEACHING ... only a humble heart shall reap the fruit of wisdom!
BLESSED BE, dear co-creators - and THANK YOU all :-)
Sonja Myriel Aouine
Shenna, I feel our connection growing from moment to moment ... I feel prompted to tell you that I had a beautiful experience when I was creating our songs prayers and chants group here at lightgrid. I was listening to rainbow songs and songs by Lisa Thiel all day long - and then I printed them out and sang them until I knew them by heart ... and in so doing I finally realized I had connected to another timeline of my-self in which I have been singing and chanting these songs all along and knew them all ... and I was able to INTEGRATE this paralles version of ME then - and feel much more complete now, especially as I know now that we can truly integrate these paralles life times into the NOW of our present life, too! And I believe that automatically I have integrated my present being into THAT life time, too ...
I am sending you MUCH love and joy, my dear si-STAR Shenna,