Wiwanyag Wachipi: The Sun Dance

In the book The Sacred Pipe, Black Elk recounts the words of Kablaya, who had received the vision for the Sun Dance ceremony and describes the first time this rite was performed.  The retelling is quite beautiful.  I’d read this book years ago and just found a copy in a used book store and felt it would be well worth the read again – this time starting with the chapter Wiwanyag Wachipi: The Sun Dance

Kablaya then took the red paint, offered it to the six directions, and spoke again to the sacred tree: “O tree, you are about to stand up; be merciful to my people, that they may flourish under you.”  ” When we go into the center of the sacred hoop we shall all cry, for we should know that anything born into this world which you see about you must suffer and bear difficulties.  We are now going to suffer at the center of the sacred hoop, and by doing this may we take upon ourselves much of the suffering of our people.”  “O Wakan-Tanka, be merciful to me, that my people may live!  It is for this that I am sacrificing myself.”

I am in awe of those who make the commitment to dance.  It is a hard way to pray.  It is an honorable way.  And already, for weeks in fact, I can hear the whistles and the drum, the sacred songs.  I am pulled towards the Tree, towards the center of the Universe.  It seems surreal that I stand in my kitchen with a cup of coffee and laptop typing these words now when in a few short hours I will be on my communities land to bear witness to the suffering of men and women who will dance and pray in this old way.  I find this a remarkable juxtaposition as I bridge the modern with the ancient.

“By your actions today you have strengthened the sacred hoop of our nation,  you made a sacred center which will always be with you, and you have created a closer relationship with all things in the universe.”

I woke today to rain and the words willingness to gracefully transcend in my head.  The dance has begun.

May your own suffering be eased by your connection to all those who will dance in all the Sun Dance ceremonies around the country as we are all related in this way.

Aho Mitakuye Oyasin!


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