The Shaman's Tent

Shamanic Healing, Classes, Ceremonies and Supplies

The Sacred Pipe Ceremony

The Sacred Pipe (Chanunpa)Sacred Pipe ceremonies are often offered as part of a Shamanic Healing Ceremony, House Blessing, or for other events. A monthly Sacred Pipe Ceremony is also offered for our community in central NJ as a way of sending out personal prayers and receiving the blessings from the Spirit Nations.

The Sacred Pipe is one of the most important sacred items and rituals from the people of North America. The stories of the origin of the pipe differ from one nation to another but at the core of all of the stories is that the pipe was delivered to the people by a spirit who came in physical form as a means to save the people and ease their suffering.

The Sacred Pipe serves as a bridge between the Human Nations of this physical world and the Spirit Nations of the other worlds. It carries the prayers and blessings between the worlds and when the ceremony of the Sacred Pipe is offered in a good way there is absolute certainty that the spirits are listening.

The story of the origin of the Sacred Pipe that is closest to my heart is the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman which goes as follows according to the telling by the Lakota elder John Fire Lame Deer.

White Buffalo Calf Woman

White Buffalo Calm Woman (Pte San Win)One summer so long ago that nobody knows how long the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota came together and camped. The sun shone all the time, but there was no game and the people were starving. Every day they sent scouts to look for game, but the scouts found nothing.  Early one morning the chief, Standing Hollow Horn, sent two of his young men to hunt for game. They went on foot, because at that time the Sioux didn't yet have horses. They searched everywhere but could find nothing.

Seeing a high hill, they decided to climb it in order to look over the whole country. Halfway up, they saw something coming toward them from far off, but the figure was floating instead of walking. From this they knew that the person was wakan, holy. 

At first they could make out only a small moving speck and had to squint to see that it was a human form. But as it came nearer, they realized that it was a beautiful young woman, more beautiful than any they had ever seen, with two round, red dots of face paint on her cheeks. She wore a wonderful white buckskin outfit, tanned until it shone a long way in the sun. It was embroidered with sacred and marvelous designs of porcupine quill, in radiant colors no ordinary woman could have made. This wakan stranger was White Buffalo Woman. In her hands she carried a large bundle and a fan of sage leaves. She wore her blue­-black hair loose except for a strand at the left side, which was tied up with buffalo fur. Her eyes shone dark and sparkling, with great power in them.

The two young men looked at her open­mouthed. One was overawed, but the other desired her body and stretched his hand out to touch her and possess her as his own. This woman was lila wakan, very sacred, and could not be treated with disrespect. Lightning instantly struck the brash young man and burned him up, so that only a small heap of blackened bones was left. Or as some say that he was suddenly covered by a cloud, and within it he was eaten up by snakes that left only his skeleton, just as a man can be eaten up by lust.

To the other scout who had behaved rightly, the White Buffalo Woman said: "Good things I am bringing, something holy to your nation. A message I carry for your people from the buffalo nation. Go back to the camp and tell the people to prepare for my arrival. Tell your chief to put up a medicine lodge with twenty­four poles. Let it be made holy for my coming."

This young hunter returned to the camp. He told the chief, he told the people, what the sacred woman had commanded. The chief told the the crier and the crier went through the camp circle calling: "Someone sacred is coming. A holy woman approaches. Make all things ready for her." So the people put up the big medicine tipi and waited. After four days they saw the White Buffalo Woman approaching, carrying her bundle before her. Her wonderful white buckskin dress shone from afar. The chief, Standing Hollow Horn, invited her to enter the medicine lodge. She went in and circled the interior sunwise. The chief addressed her respectfully, saying: "Sister, we are glad you have come to instruct us."

She told him what she wanted done. In the center of the tipi they were to put up a sacred altar, made of red earth, with a buffalo skull and a three­stick rack for a holy thing she was bringing. They did what she directed, and she traced a design with her finger on the smoothed earth of the altar. She showed them how to do all this, then circled the lodge again sunwise. Halting before the chief, she now opened the bundle. the holy thing it contained was the chanunpa, the sacred pipe. She held it out to the people and let them look at it. She was grasping the stem with her right hand and the bowl with her left, and thus the pipe has been held ever since.

Again the chief spoke, saying: "Sister, we are glad. We have had no meat for some time. All we can give you is water." They dipped some sweet grass into a skin bag of water and gave it to her, and to this day the people dip sweet grass or an eagle wing in water and sprinkle it on a person to be purified.

The White Buffalo Woman showed the people how to use the pipe. She filled it with tobacco. She walked around the lodge four times after the manner of the great sun. This represented the circle without end, the sacred hoop, the road of life. The woman placed a dry buffalo chip on the fire and lit the pipe with it. This was "the fire without end", the flame to be passed on from generation to generation. She told them that the smoke rising from the bowl was Tunkashila's breath, the living breath of the great Grandfather Mystery.  The White Buffalo Woman showed the people the right way to pray, the right words and the right gestures. She taught them how to sing the pipe­filling song and how to lift the pipe up to the sky, toward Grandfather, and down toward Grandmother Earth, and then to the four directions of the universe.

"With this holy pipe," she said, "you will walk like a living prayer. With your feet resting upon the earth and the pipestem reaching into the sky, your body forms a living bridge between the Sacred Beneath and the Sacred Above. Wakan Tanka smiles upon us, because now we are as one: earth, sky, all living things, the two legged, the four­legged, the winged ones, the trees, the grasses. Together with the people, they are all related, one family. The pipe holds them all together."

"Look at this bowl," said the White Buffalo Woman. "Its stone represents the buffalo, but also the flesh and blood of the red man. The wooden stem of this chanunpa stands for all that grows on the earth. " The White Buffalo Woman then spoke to the women, telling them that it was the work of their hands and the fruit of their bodies which kept the people alive. "You are from the mother earth," she told them. "What you are doing is as great as what warriors do."

And therefore the sacred pipe is also something that binds men and women together in a circle of love. It is the one holy object in the making of which both men and women have a hand. The men carve the bowl and make the stem; the women decorate it with bands of colored porcupine quills. When a man takes a wife, they both hold the pipe at the same time and red cloth is wound around their hands, thus tying them together for life.

The White Buffalo Woman had many things for her Lakota sisters in her sacred womb bag; corn, wasna (corn meal balls), pemmican (dried meat), wild turnip. She taught how to make the hearth fire. She filled a buffalo paunch with cold water and dropped a red­hot stone into it. "This way you shall cook the corn and the meat," she told them.

The White Buffalo Woman also talked to the children, because they have an understanding beyond their years. She told them that what their fathers and mothers did was for them, that their parents could remember being little once, and that they, the children, would grow up to have little ones of their own. She told them: "You are the coming generation, that's why you are the most important and precious ones. Some day you will hold this pipe and smoke it. Some day you will pray with it."

She spoke once more to all the people: "The pipe is alive; it is a red being showing  you a red life and a red road."

She spoke one last time to Standing Hollow Horn, the chief, saying, "Remember: this pipe is very sacred. Respect it and it will take you to the end of the road. The four ages of creation are in me; I am the four ages. I will come to see you in every generation cycle. I shall come back to you."  The sacred woman then took leave of the people, saying: "I shall see you again."

The people saw her walking off in the same direction from which she had come, outlined against the red ball of the setting sun. As she went, she stopped and rolled over four times. The first time, she turned into a black buffalo; the second into a brown one; the third into a red one; and finally, the fourth time she rolled over, she turned into a white female buffalo calf. A white buffalo is the most sacred living thing you could ever encounter. The White Buffalo Woman disappeared over the Horizon. Sometime she might come back. As soon as she had vanished, buffalo in great herds appeared, allowing themselves to be killed so the people might survive. And from that day on, our relations, the buffalo, furnished the people with everything they needed, meat for their food, skins for their clothes and tipis, bones for their many tools

The White Buffalo Today

White Buffalo Calm (Miracle Second Chance)The promise of White Buffalo Calf Woman was that she would return when the Human Nations needed her again. In 1992 we began to see the White Buffalos being born again. The first one was named Miracle and since then we have seen several White Buffalos born (once every few years). This is seen as a great blessing and is a sign given to us in the physical world that the spirit nations have not forgotten about us and want to see us "wake back up" to living in harmony and balance with the land.

It is also important to realize that the White Buffalo is not an albino buffalo. The true White Buffalo is born as a white calf and as it matures it turns yellow, then red, then black as an adult. These are the colors of the four directions of the medicine wheel, they are the colors of the four Human Nations, and they are the colors that White Buffalo Calf Woman became before she left the first nation people.

Schedule an Appointment:
Adam Kane at 732-859-7386