Now I don't know if it happened this way or not, Matt said again, but I know the story is true. Many, many years ago two young men were out hunting when they saw a figure in the distance. As the figure drew closer, they saw it was a very beautiful maiden dressed all in white buckskin. In her arms she was carrying a bundle wrapped in a buffalo hide. As she approached, she sang a sacred song over and over again. Slowly, solemnly, she walked toward the two young men. When the hunters saw how beautiful she was, one of them had wicked and evil thoughts and started toward the woman. The other hunter tried to restrain him, but could not. The hunter with evil thoughts pushed the good warrior away and reached out to grab the woman.
Suddenly a cloud covered the evil hunter, concealing him from view. When the cloud lifted, he was no more. His body was being devoured by worms and only his skeleton remained. The good hunter knew then that those who live in ignorance and has evil in their hearts will be destroyed by their own action. It's not Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, who destroys evil ones. Their own actions destroy them.
The good hunter knelt in fear before the beautiful woman as she approached. She spoke and her voice was as beautiful and clear as bird song at dawn. She told the hunter to return to his camp and prepare the people for her coming to them.
When the hunter told the people what had happened and what the woman had said, the people prepared themselves. And when they had, the beautiful woman appeared in the midst of their camp and told them of the pipe she carried in the bundle in her arms. She said of the pipe, 'This is a sacred gift and must always be treated in a holy way.' She then told them how the sacred pipe was to be used. 'When you smoke the pipe you send your prayers, to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. When you use this pipe to pray, you will pray for and with everything. The sacred pipe binds you to all your relatives; your two legged brothers and sisters, your four legged brothers and sisters, your winged brothers and sisters, your finned brothers and sisters. Your Grandfather and Father, your Grandmother and Mother.'
When White Buffalo Calf Woman had told the People about the sacred pipe, she instructed the elders to call strong, young warriors and from them she send runners to all the many bands of the Lakota telling their medicine men and the holy men and women to gather.
Matt paused and Luke said, You can imagine all the spirit power which was gathered together as the holy men and women from all the bands of the Lakota gathered in one place, around one fire. When they had, White Buffalo Calf Woman taught them the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota, one of which is the sweat lodge--in fact, it and the pipe ceremony are usually part of the other ceremonies. When she had instructed them by visions, she prepared to leave and as she did, she sang,:
Remember how sacred the pipe is And treat it in a sacred manner, For it will be with you always. Remember also that in me are four ages. I shall leave you now, But shall look upon you in every age And will return in the end.'"
Ever so often a white buffalo calf is born and when it is, the Lakota hope and pray it is the return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman bringing peace and healing to the world.
As you can imagine, when she prepared to leave, the Lakota begged White Buffalo Calf Woman to stay with them, but of course, she did not. They promised they would build her a fine lodge and she could have the finest of the young warriors to provide for her, but she, of course, told them she had to rejoin the spirit world. She responded to their plea with these words:
Know, the Creator above, The Great Spirit, Is happy with you, You, the grandchildren. You have listened well to my teachings. Now I must return to the spirit world.
Having said that, she walked, in the sacred way, out of the camp and once outside the camp, she sat down. When she stood,she stood on four legs, she had become a white buffalo calf. She bowed to the four directions and as she made her last bow, she disappeared.
To this day, the Sacred Medicine Bundle with the Sacred Pipe is in the hands of the Lakota family entrusted with it. It is, I have been told, on a Lakota reservation, but even I, who have been chosen by White Buffalo Calf Woman to be a medicine man, have never seen it, nor has Matthew. Both Matt and I feel--and I mean have a deep sense--that Patanka St. Michael Greywolf, Matt's father has seen and touched the sacred bundle holding the pipe, but he had never said one way or the other.
The sweat lodge is one of six other rites--you did say rites, right? Cody asked.
Yeah, and it's spelled r-i-t-e, Luke smiled. The others, just for your information, are the Keeping of the Soul, the Vision Quest, the Sun Dance, the Making of Relatives, Preparing a Girl for Womanhood, and Throwing the Ball.
Before we get too much more into this stuff, I need a break, Hank said. I need to pee. Man, I have drunk so much water some thing's gotta give. As if his words gave permission, we all got up and headed for the bushes.
When I got back, Tom was standing by the fire, talking with Matt and Luke as the three of them added wood to it. Some of the stones already looked pretty hot to me.
Matt, your dad's name. It's quite a mouthful, Tom laughed.
They go in for mouthfuls in that family, Luke laughed. Old Matt here was baptized Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, Sarang Hanun Pomul was a Korean name his dad gave him. It means, we think, priceless treasure. His Lakota name, Silver Wolf was added after his vision quest, so he's Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Silver Wolf Greywolf. Try saying all that in the heat of passion!!
Well, Lover Boy, you haven't done so badly, Matt laughed then added, Luke was just plain vanilla Luke Hans Larsen, but he had to have a pet name and I thought he needed a Korean one so I gave him Yonghon Tongmu, soulmate. Then after his vision quest, he got his Lakota name, Fire Thunderbird. No more plain vanilla now! He's Luke Hans Yonghon Tongmu Fire Thunderbird Larsen. 'Course what started this was my dad's name. Patanka is a Lakota word which can mean just buffalo, but it also means all that the buffalo do for the People and to bear that name is to take responsibility for the People.
Well, it looks as if we are all back, Luke said. Maybe we need a break from this heavy stuff. How about Tapa Wanka Ya, throwing the ball?
Wes laughed and said, Now the Lakota are a pretty tough bunch, but if it's one time they look pretty wimpy, it's when they start playing ball.
Yeah, well, we don't believe in blood sacrifices, Matt said.
I had heard Granddad talk about the Cherokee ball game. It's still played today and Granddad says it makes football look tame. I've read about it on the Internet and the one thing I learned is the winner is the team with the last man standing literally.
Throwing the ball is pretty tame, Luke said. Originally, a small child stood in a circle, symbolizing the eternal youth and purity of Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. She threw the ball in the four directions, tossing it high so that it becomes a symbol of Wakan Tanka's power descending on all and of the Great Spirit being everywhere. It has become a game these days and looks a lot like a group of people playing Frisbee.
Sounds good, Wes said, and we'll begin with a pipe ceremony. He walked over to a bundle he had hung in a tree, took it down and took a pipea real peace pipe--from it. He was handling it in a way while left no doubt it was special. He walked back to where we were now standing and said, I know you want look at the pipe, so I'll pass it around. Just remember to handle it as you would any sacred object.
When the pipe reached me, I held it and when I did, had a sense it was sacred. It had power. The pipe bowl was, as the one White Buffalo Calf Woman had given the Lakota, of a red stone, beautifully polished. On one side of the bowl was a carving of a deer and on the other three feathers. I remembered the High Chief of the Cherokee would a turban-like head covering with three egret feathers. The stem was a hallowed out piece of river cane. Hanging from the pipe were three feathers, I was sure they were eagle feathers, and the cord holding the feathers was decorated with beads.
When the pipe had made the rounds, Wes gave it to Matt and as he did, said, The pipe ceremony is based on the Four as you have been told, the four is of great significance to Indians. The Lakota have no lock on that! he chuckled as he looked at Matt. In the pipe ceremony as I do itand Matt and Luke think I have it right--there are several sets of four to be acknowledged and respected. All in all the pipe ceremony reminds us of the four great respects: respect for the Great Mystery, respect for Mother Earth, respect for our fellow men and women for the two legged respect for individual freedom.
"As the pipe is filled, the directions are acknowledged and respected. I face the east and sprinkle a pinch of tobacco on the earth, returning to Mother Earth some of what she has given us. It also shows the spirit world we are acknowledging the powers of the east. Red is the color of the east, of the rising sun, the beginning of a new day. With the sprinkling of the tobacco, we prayer for knowledge and wisdom, the gifts of the east and for new beginnings."
Matt held the pipe, the stem pointing to the east, and began chanting. As he did, Wes translated the prayer us. When Matt finished, he put a pinch of tobacco in the pipe,then turned to face south. Wes told the color of the south was yellow, the sign of growth. The prayer was for strength, growth and physical healing. A pinch of tobacco was put in the pipe and Matt turned to face west whose color is black. The west is where the spirit beings live and from which our spiritual knowledge and wisdom come. A third pinch of tobacco was placed in the pipe and Matt turned to face north and, as we had done before, we all turned with him. Matt's prayer this time was in English and he prayed for strength, endurance, purity, truth and courage for himself and for us.
When Matt finished, he touched a long splinter to one of the hot rocks, lit the pipe and took one puff before passing it Stone who stood to his left. The pipe was passed from person to person, clockwise, around the circle until it reached Luke who leaned it against a holder I had not noticed before.
I guess I thought Wes would toss a softball or basket ball out for us to play with. No such luck. While it was about the size of a basket ball, it was made from leather of some kind and stuffed with something. It was pretty heavy and after tossing it around for awhile, we had all, Beth included, worked up a pretty good sweat. Wes finally caught the ball, put it on the ground and in one smooth motion, stripped off his pants and shirt and stood in his breech cloth. He took a running leap into the basin below the small falls.
Not to be outdone, he was soon joined by nine breech cloth clad men. Right after I had dived in, I was surprised when I heard a splash and looked up just in time to see Beth surfacing beside Hank. She was wearing her bra and panties and was as nonchalant as any of us males.
After we swam bit, we got out and headed for the fire pit. The day was pleasantly warm, but the river was cold and by now, the fire pit was a bed of red hot coals and rocks.
While we were warming ourselves, Matt and Luke asked about our families, school, hobbies, etc. Matt told me he knew Maestro Alexas and he would not steer me wrong or take advantage of me, but that I needed to get an agent soon. "I'll give you a couple of names," he said, "people I know you can trust. I suspect you play because you enjoy it and because music is important to you, but it's also a business and there are some rotten apples in the music barrel as in any other."
Wes told us he had exercised his rights as an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee and placed a bid on the property formerly owned by the Circle of God's Chosen. He said he had several ideas for its use, but he wasn't ready to talk about them. "Counting chickens and all that," he laughed.
We had all gotten warmed a bit and dried off when Matt said, I think a little nap might be good about now, and looked at Luke with an evil leer.
Keep it down, Silver Wolf, Luke said. Purity, remember purity, and laughed.
None of us had to be begged as we got our sleeping bags and crawled into them.
I soon drifted in to a very deep sleep.
When I woke up, Granddad had arrived and he and Tim were adding wood to the fire. When I walked over to the fire pit, I saw the rocks, glowing red, resting on a bed of red hot embers. Tim and Granddad had to shield their faces when they approached the pit to place the new logs around the rocks in the middle of the pit, allowing them, later, to removed the stones while maintaining a very hot fire.
Shortly after Granddad arrived, Wes called us together and said, Strip to your breech clothes. We are ready to get started.
I wondered where Matt and Luke were and Beth. I folded my wind suit and put it with my sleeping bag and joined the others around the campfire which was now just a few glowing embers. I heard something behind me and when I turned around, I gasped in surprise. Beth was dressed in a white buckskin dress In one hand she was carrying a bowl from which smoke was rising and in the other she held a smoldering bundle of what I guessed was sage. She was breath-taking! Behind her walked Matt and Luke, faces painted, each carrying a large bird's wing in their right hand.
When the three reached us, Luke took a tobacco pouch from Matt and filled the pipe once more and placed it on its stand. When he had finished, he took the bowl from Beth and handed her the pouch.
Matt stood in front of Jonathan, took his bird's wing and, bending over, fanned smoke from the smoldering sage bundle over him from his feet to his head. He then indicated that Jonathan should turn around and he repeated the smudging. Moving clockwise, Matt continued smudging us as he chanted a prayer in English asking for our purification and for a successful sweat.
Luke followed Matt, fanning the smoke from the burning cedar in the bowl over us as Matt had from the sage.
When the two had smudged all of us including Granddad and Tim, Beth took the sage from Matt and smudged the lodge and then did the same with the cedar. When she finished, she walked to the fire pit and threw the burning sage and cedar into it. That finished, she came back to stand between Matt and Luke.
We were all standing in silence awed silence, I'm sure when Luke said, I have talked with Beth and after she has opened the lodge, she will be joining us in the sweat. I know it was not as we planned, but my spirit guide tells me Beth is very important to this sweat. Beth.
Beth took the pouch from her belt, opened it and as she chanted in a whisper, she sprinkled a trail of tobacco from the fire pit into the lodge. She was just a shadowy figure, but I could tell she was circling the stone pit, clockwise. When she came out of the lodge she was very quiet as she handed the pouch to Granddad and removed her buckskin dress. She was wearing the shorts and halter she had worn earlier.
We continued standing quietly then Luke, holding Beth's hand,led the rest of us into the lodge. Matt brought up the rear.