Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What is Sacred? The Story of White Buffalo Woman

I am an idealist. I always try to offer another perspective, granting the benefit of the doubt to an annoying level to those around me. It’s a choice. I’m not simple minded. But I found myself listing too far towards jaded, so I chose to see a silver lining until I could see how dark the cloud truly was. Hope is my bread and butter. Not in a fanatical way. I’m no Pollyanna. I see the world the way it is.
If magic is in the manifestation of energy and words, then hope is the exhalation of breath. The unfurling seed. Hope is picking your foot up off the ground because you believe the only way out is forward and through. It’s returning a stranger’s dropped twenty dollar bill when you only have two dollars in your wallet. It’s the belief that people are good at heart; that we’re meant to be good. In this way, hope is sacred to me. What is sacred to you?

The White Buffalo
One of my main totem animal guides is Buffalo. Buffalo is my earth, my grounding radiance, my Buddhisattva ideals. The buffalo is sacred to me also, in my practice. Last week I wrote about Buffalo Brother, and how I adopted him as a guide for my work with gratitude, compassion, and loving-kindness. Among the legends of buffalo you will find stories of the white buffalo, sacred to the many Native American tribes, including the Lakota, who call it Tatanka Ska. While the white buffalo is a message that all living beings are connected and interdependent, it is also considered to be a warning to the Lakota. The birth of a white buffalo is a sign that it is time to focus on creating a healthy, harmonious, and peaceful world.
The legend of White Buffalo Woman originates with a starving people; the game had disappeared. The seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux were joined together in their suffering. Two men went into the Black Hills of South Dakota to hunt. They came upon a young woman dressed in white. One hunter tried to claim her by force and she turned him into a pile of bones. She told the second hunter to return to his tribe and tell them she was coming. She came, carrying a sacred pipe. She laid it down, facing east. She stayed with the people and taught them to pray, to respect the earth, to respect the buffalo for their sacrifice so the People could live, and all of the rituals and ways to share in the smoke of the sacred pipe.
When she left, she said she would return in a time of peace. She walked away, bending to the earth and rolling over. She transformed into a black buffalo, then a brown one, a red one, and finally a white one. After her visit, the buffalo returned to the earth and the Lakota thrived. The image of the white buffalo became as compelling a symbol to the People as the peace pipe. John Lame Deer says, "A white buffalo is the most sacred living thing you could ever encounter." The lesson of White Medicine Woman is that, if man can live in true harmony with the natural world, as part of it, not above it, then he will see he has everything he needs around him.
There are four reasons a bison calf may be born white. An albino will remain white their entire life, with pink eyes and, most likely hearing and vision problems. There is a rare genetic condition where the calf is born white but their coat turns brown as it matures over the next two years. A beefalo calf is more common, born from bison and cattle crossbreeding. The white coloration comes from their cattle ancestors. And then there is the leucistic calf, a buffalo born with white fur and blue eyes. The odds of a leucistic birth is one in ten million. In the last 200 years, only a handful of these births have been reported.
On May 11, 2011, a white calf named Lightning Medicine Cloud was born to Buffalo Woman at the Lakota Ranch in Greenville, Texas. I followed his exploits on-line, but not for long. Before his first birthday he and his mother died of a bacterial infection called blackleg. After his death, Arby Little Soldier, the 3x great-grandson of Sitting Bull, and owner of the calf, said, "The Native Americans see the birth of a white buffalo calf as the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to the weeping statues, bleeding icons, and crosses of light that are becoming prevalent within the Christian churches today. Where the Christian faithful who visit these signs see them as a renewal of God's ongoing relationship with humanity, so do the Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as the sign to begin life's sacred hoop."
An Oglala Medicine Man from South Dakota, Floyd Hand Looks For Buffalo says that, “the arrival of the white buffalo…will bring about purity of mind, body, and spirit and unify all nations- black, red, yellow, and white.” A month after the death of Lightning Medicine Cloud, a white calf was born on a dairy farm in Goshen, Connecticut. Four elders from the Oglala Sioux Tribe performed a naming ceremony for him, along with members of the Cayuga, Lakota, Mohawk, and Seneca tribes. Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy will be cared for and raised as a symbol of hope.

What is Sacred to You?
Because of my work, the image of the buffalo, white or brown, is a sacred symbol. Trees are also sacred to me. When we sacrifice them they become shelter, paper, fuel. When they are rooted in the earth they are oxygen. It makes me sad to see the human population multiplying and the tree population dwindling. They are necessary. They are life bringers. Look around your world. What in it is sacred to you? In this, world, the other thing that is sacred to me is kindness. Goodness. Those ways of being, of breathing, are their own message of hope. I walk towards them every day, my feet on the ground in prayer.

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. Afterall, it was never between you and them anyway." - Mother Teresa

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