Have you read this first?
(Holy, sacred, powerful, mysterious)
Wakan means "energy". It implies and teaches that creation has the power to give life or to take it away. Christians understood this word to mean "something sacred". Anthropologists translated wakan as "mystery".
White Hat Sr.
A wakan man is one who is wise. It is one who knows the spirits. It is one who has power with the spirits. It is one who communicates with the spirits. It is one who can do strange things. A wakan man knows things that the people do not know. He knows the ceremonies and the songs. He can tell the people what their visions mean. He can tell the people what the spirits wish them to do. He can tell what is to be in the future. He can talk with animals and with trees and with stones. He can talk with everything on earth.
Wakan Tanka as Grandfather is the Great Spirit independent of manifestation, unqualified, identical to the Christian Godhead, or to the Hindu Brahma-Nirguna. Wakan Tanka as Father is the Great Spirit considered in relation to His manifestation, either as Creator, Preserver, or Destroyer, identical to the Christian God, or to the Hindu Brahma-Saguna.
Joseph Epes Brown
Wachin ksapa yo! (Be attentive!)
This message well expresses a spirit that is central to the Indian peoples. It implies that in every act, in every thing, and in every instant, the Great Spirit is present, and that one should be continually and intensely attentive to this Divine presence.
This presence of Wakan Tanka, and one's consciousness of it, is that which the Christian saints have termed "living in the moment", the "eternal now", or what in the Islamic tradition is termed the Waqt. In Lakota, this presence is called Taku Skanskan, or simply Skan in the sacred language of the holy men.
Joseph Epes Brown
Wakinyan (The Thunderbird)
Wakinyan lives in a lodge on the top of a mountain at the edge of the world where the sun goes down. He is many, but they are only as One. He is shapeless, but He has wings with four joints each. He has no feet, yet He has huge talons. He has no head, yet He has a huge beak with rows of teeth in it like the teeth of the wolf. His voice is the thunderclap and rolling thunder is caused by the beating of His wings on the clouds. He has an eye, and its glance is lightning. In the great cedar tree beside His lodge He has His nest made of dry bones, and in it is an enormous egg from which His young continually issue. He devours His young, and they each become one of His many selves. He flies through all the domain of the sky, hidden in a robe of clouds. His functions are to cleanse the world from filth and to fight the Monsters who defile the Waters. His symbol is a zigzag red line forked at each end.
James R. Walker
This Thunderbird is really Wakan Tanka as the giver of Revelation, symbolized by the lightning. He is the same as the great one-eyed bird Garuda of the Hindu tradition, or the Chinese Dragon (the Logos), who rides on the clouds of the storm, and whose voice is the thunder. As giver of Revelation, he is identical in function to the Archangel Gabriel of Judaism or Christianity the Jibrail of Islam.
Joseph Epes Brown
The Four Directions
Is not the South the source of life, and does not the flowering stick truly come from there? And does not man advance from there toward the setting sun of his life? Then does he not approach the colder North where the white hairs are? And does he not then arrive, if he lives, at the source of light and understanding, which is the East? Then does he not return to where he began, to his second childhood, there to give back his life to all life, and his flesh to the earth whence it came?
In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The East gave peace and light, the South gave warmth, the West gave rain, and the North with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance.
A Thunder-being Nation will appear, behold! And the black riders mounted their horses and stood four abreast facing the place where the sun goes down.
A Geese Nation will appear, behold! And the four white horsemen mounted and stood four abreast, facing the place where the White Giant lives.
Where the sun shines continually, a Buffalo Nation will appear, behold! And the red horsemen mounted and stood four abreast facing the East.
Where you are always facing, an Elk Nation will appear, behold! And the four yellow riders mounted their buckskins and stood four abreast facing the South.
The Red Road
From where the giant lives (the North) to where you always face (the South) the Red Road goes, the road of good, and on it shall your nation walk. The black road goes from where the thunder beings live (the West) to where the sun continually shines (the East), a fearful road, a road of troubles and of war.
The Red Road is that which runs north and south and is the good or straight way, for to the Sioux the north is purity and the south is the source of life. This Red Road is thus similar to the Christian "straight and narrow way". It is the vertical of the cross, or the ec-cirata el-mustaqim of the Islamic tradition.
On the other hand, there is the "blue" or "black road" of the Sioux, which runs east to west and which is the path of error and destruction. He who travels on this path is, Black Elk has said, "one who is distracted, who is ruled by his senses, and who lives for himself rather than for his people."
Joseph Epes Brown
Four and seven are sacred. And if you add four sevens you get twenty-eight. There are twenty-eight forked posts in the ceremonial lodge. Also the moon lives twenty-eight days, and this is our month. Each of these days of the month represents something sacred to us: two of the days represent the Great Spirit; two are for Mother Earth; four are for the Four Winds; one is for the Spotted Eagle; one is for the Sun; one for the Moon; one for the Morning Star; four are for the Four Ages; seven are for our seven Great Rites; one is for the Buffalo; one for the Fire; one for the Water; one for the Rock; and finally one is for the two-legged people. The buffalo has twenty-eight ribs, and in our war bonnets we usually use twenty-eight feathers.
Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tipis were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nations hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.
But the wasichus have put us in these square boxes. Our power is not in us anymore. You can look at our boys and see how it is with us. When we were living by the power of the circle in the way we should, boys were men at twelve or thirteen years of age. But now it takes them very much longer to mature. We are prisoners of war while we are waiting here. But there is another world.
The Four Ages
The four steps represent, to the Sioux, the four ages or phases of a cycle: the rock age, the bow age, the fire age, and the pipe age. The rock, bow, fire, or pipe constitutes the main ritual support for each age. The four ages may also refer, microcosmically, to the four phases of a mans life, from birth to death.
Joseph Epes Brown
Each month when her period arrives she bears an influence with which she must be careful, for the presence of a woman in this condition may take away the power of a holy man. It was customary that during each menstrual period the woman or young girl should go to a small tipi apart from the camping circle; food was brought to her, and no one else could go near the tipi.
The power of woman grows with the moon and comes and goes with it.
The Red and Blue Days
The Sioux believe that these are the days at the end of the world when the moon will turn red and the sun will turn blue. But since for the traditional man everything in the macrocosm has its counterpart in the microcosm, there may also be an end of the world for the individual here and now, whenever he receives illumination or wisdom from Wakan Tanka, so that his ego or ignorance dies, and he then lives continually in the Spirit.
Joseph Epes Brown
The Color Red
Red represents all that is sacred, especially the earth, for we should remember that it is from the earth that our bodies come, and it is to her that they return.
When one wears red the Sun is pleased and will listen to such a one. The Indians are red, so they are the favorite people of the Sun. The Sun provides everything for them.
The Color Blue
Blue is the color of the heavens, and by placing the blue upon the tobacco, which represents the earth, we have united heaven and earth, and all has been made one.
The flesh represents ignorance, and thus, as we dance (the Sun Dance) and break the thong loose, it is as if we are being freed from the bonds of the flesh.
This was a way to prove bravery by touching, not killing, the enemy. It could be done with either the hand or a special coup stick. The first coup on an enemy had the highest status, then the second, and so on. Acts of coup earned rewards of feathers or special face paint markings. The word coup comes from the French, meaning "a hit or blow."
Nagi Gluhapi (Keeping of the Soul)
Inipi (Rite of Purification)
Hanblecheyapi (Crying for a Vision)
Wiwanyag Wachipi (The Sun Dance)
Hunkapi (Making of Relatives)
Ishna Ta Awi Cha Lowan (Preparing for Womanhood)
Tapa Wanka Yap (Throwing of the Ball)
In concepts || In natural beings
In dwellings || In tools and objects
Back to Lakota's Main Page