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Lakota Symbolism



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The Tipi
The Sweatlodge
The Ceremonial Lodge



The Tipi

The tipi is the universe, the cosmos, and the space outside the tipi is symbolically the Infinite, or Wakan Tanka.

Joseph Epes Brown

The Sweatlodge

The willows which make the frame of the sweat lodge are set up in such a way that they mark the four quarters of the universe; thus, the whole lodge is the universe in an image, and the two-legged, four-legged, and winged peoples, and all things of the world are contained within it.

The round fireplace at the center of the sweatlodge is the center of the universe, in which dwells Wakan Tanka, with His power which is the fire.

The door of the sweatlodge always faces East, for it is from this direction that the light of wisdom comes.

Black Elk
Entering the light after being in the darkness of the purification lodge represents liberation from the universe, the cosmos, or microcosmically the liberation from the ego. Both ego and world are "dark" since they have only a relative or illusory reality, for ultimately there is no reality other than Wakan Tanka, who is here represented by the light of day, or by the space around the lodge.
Joseph Epes Brown

The Ceremonial Lodge

The Sioux ceremonial lodge is constructed with twenty-eight poles. One of these poles is the "key" holding up all the others, and this pole the holy men say represents Wakan Tanka, who sustains the universe, which is represented by the lodge as a whole.

Joseph Epes Brown


Lakota rites:
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)

Other ceremonies

In concepts  ||  In natural beings
In dwellings  ||  In tools and objects

Complete list

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