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The Peace Pipe Ceremony

Those who desire to benefit their spiritual path by learning Native American knowledge and wisdom, some of which will come through the ceremonies, are recommended to get a peace pipe. The peace pipe is not restricted to only Indians. It has been jealously guarded by Native Americans, however, because many are fearful that the pipe may be used disrespectfully by non-Indian people.

Many believe that a powerful good for all things can emanate from the respectful and proper use of the pipe, but it must be regarded as a spiritual instrument by the pipe holder, whatever their lineage or color happens to be. The pipe can become a strong catalyst to import a powerful feeling for our Mother Earth and all living things.

Black Elk predicted that we would go forth in numbers as flames to bring forth beneficial change to this generation. The pipe, and the respectful pipe holder, will be a needed force to disseminate a spiritual basis for the goal being sought throughout this nation. There are far too few Native American pipe holders to accomplish all of this alone.

Even some Native Americans must be reminded of our four cardinal principles: respect for Wakan Tanka, respect for Mother Earth, respect for our fellow man and woman, and respect for individual freedom. There are many good and understanding non-Indian brothers and sisters who deeply respect the knowledge and wisdom that emanates from the Indian Way. In the past, we suffered greatly from those that came upon the red path only to convert, destroy and replace it.

Massasoit smoking a peace pipe with Governor J...

Massasoit smoking a peace pipe with Governor John Carver in Plymouth 1621. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those of this new era seek to help, not to destroy. They are open-minded, not narrow minded. Indian people should allow these people insight; together we will all join forces to make a better and a more peaceful world.

The ceremonial use of the peace pipe is a simple ritual. The peace pipe serves as a portable altar. It is loaded with tobacco, and only tobacco, or a tobacco variation called kinnic kinnick , which is the bark of the red willow and non-hallucinatory. The bark of the red willow has a pleasant aroma, and served in the old days as a substitute, when tobacco was scarce on the great plains. No form of mind-altering substance is condoned by Native American religion traditionalists. Unfortunately, peyote, a mind altering cactus bud , is wrongfully associated with traditional Native American religion and ceremony. The True Native American Way finds the Great Spirit through “our own juices” (fasting, knowledge and observances of God’s creation and the Sun Dance, Vision Quest, and Sweat Lodge ceremonies). We do not need or use hallucinating substances.

The pipe ceremony begins with loading tobacco, a natural substance, into a pipe and then acknowledging the four directions, Mother Earth, and Father Sky; it culminates with the final offering to the Great Spirit. The pipe is held firmly by the bowl in the palm of the hand with the stem pointed outward. The last step of the pipe offering is the holding up of the pipe with its stem pointed straight upward, out into the center of the universe. Although the Indian admits that God is everywhere, in ceremony, Wakan Tanka is regarded as above.

A Sioux pipe holder might begin with the east direction for the first acknowledgement, but there is no such requirement. I prefer the east because the sun rises in the east, and it is the beginning of a new day for each of us, so the following description begins with an east-facing celebrant.

The pipe holder stands to face the east, holding the pipe with its stem pointed eastward in one hand, a pinch of tobacco in the other, and sprinkles some tobacco on the ground before inserting the tobacco in the bowl of the pipe. By sprinkling a portion on the ground, the pipe holder is acknowledging that we must always give back to Mother Earth part of what we have taken. The sprinkling also demonstrates to the onlooking spirit world that a portion of the tobacco is for the powers from the east. The pipe holder may say,

Red is the east;
It is where the daybreak star,
the star of knowledge appears.
Red is the rising sun
Bringing us a new day
New experiences.

We thank you, Great Spirit, for each new day
That we are allowed to live upon
Our Mother Earth

From knowledge springs wisdom and goodness
And we are thankful, oh Wakan Tanka,
For the morning sun that rises in the east.
Knowledge shall become the beginning
For ultimate peace throughout this world.

This is an example of an Indian prayer beginning with the east. Onlooking participants will also face east while the pipe is loaded in such a manner.

The pipe holder turns to the south and points the pipe stem in that direction. A new pinch of tobacco is held slightly above eye level in a southerly direction. Onlooking participants face south.

The south is yellow.
Our Mother Earth gives us growth,
gives us all that sustains us,
and herbs that heal us.

She brings forth the bounty of springtime
From the warm south wind
and the yellow hoop.
We think of strength, growth and physical healing
And a time for planting our energies,
My friends while we load this pipe.

After such acknowledgement, the pinch of tobacco is put into the pipe bowl. The pipe holder then faces west.

Black is the color of the west
Where the sun goes down.
Black is darkness, release, spirit protection.
In the darkness, the spirit beings come to us.

The spirit beings warn us,
Protect us, foretell for us, release for us.
They are the spirit helpers to Wakan Tanka.

Black is the cup of water;
The life-giving rains come from the west,
Where the thunder beings live.
Water is life.

Black stands for the spirit world
Which we shall all enter someday.
What we do or do not do upon this earth,
We shall carry with us over into that spirit world.
We shall all join together and either be
Ashamed or proud of how we treated one another,
How we respected or disrespected our Mother Earth,
How we respected or disrespected all living things
That are made by the Great Creator,
Wakan Tanka.

We will see each other
And yet know each other in the spirit world.
Those we have harmed,
They will remind us for eternity.
Therefor we must walk the path of truth
With one another.

The west is where our spiritual wisdom comes from
If we care to seek it.

The pipe holder sprinkles some tobacco upon Mother Earth and puts some tobacco into the pipe bowl.
Every time the pipe holder faces a direction, all onlookers face that direction and listen to the speakers words intently

. The last of the four directions is the north.

White is for the North.
Waziya ouye – the north power
Waziya ahtah – the white giant from the north.

Strength, endurance, purity, truth
Stand for the north.
The north covers our Mother Earth
With the white blanket of cleansing snow.
The snow prevents many sicknesses
Found in places without snow.
After the winter snows
Our Mother Earth wakes refreshed
To bring forth the bounty of springtime.
For us two-leggeds
It is the time of long contemplation.
We must think of when we will have
The face of the old.
We will want to look back upon our lifetime
And hope that we stood for the straight road
In our relationship to all things.

It is also a time to do small things,
Crafts and creative works,
In order that we may pass through
And enjoy our long winters wait.

Courage and endurance,
These strengths we seek
And wish to be blessed with
As we stand here facing north.

The tobacco is sprinkled to the north and then inserted into the bowl.

A note regarding prayer or acknowledgement; Indian people memorize few prayers or acknowledgements. R ote prayers are not recommended. The Our Father, common to Christians, would be considered too lengthy a recital to be memorized by traditional laypeople. Sioux holy men, holy women, and medicine people do chant lengthy songs and prayers in a prescribed manner for certain ceremonies. But, by and large, Indian prayers flow from the heart. A prescribed symbology is followed, especially in regard to the four directions. Knowledge in relationship to the east, growth from the south, and so forth are included, but rote prayers are not generally followed.

A note on the colors of the four directions: the red, yellow, black, and white, beginning with red for the east and following clockwise to the south, is in accordance with Black Elk. Some medicine people interpret the four directions as depicted. Many Sioux people, especially those who have not read Black Elk Speaks, however, use other color arrangements; blue is often substituted for black.

Traditional Indians do not squabble over the colors. Rarely, if ever, do arguments spawn over such trivialities. Indian people consider it disrespectful to argue over the Great Mystery’s mystery. Acknowledge, respect, and do not harm one another or interfere with another’s spiritual visions are cardinal traditional Indian principles.

After acknowledging the four directions, the pipe holder touches the pipe bowl to the ground.>/P>

Green is the color for Mother Earth.
Every particle of us comes from her
Through the food we take from her daily.

We all start out as tiny seeds.
We have grown to our present state and status
Through what she provides.

She is truly our Mother
And must be acknowledged and respected.

Tobacco is sprinkled upon Mother Earth and the pipe is loaded. The pipe is then pointed at an angle to the sky. We usually point our pipe towards the sun; if it is evening, we point it towards the moon, to acknowledge Father Sky.

Father Sky gives us energy from the sun.
Father Sky provides the fire that
Fuels our homes and our lodges
And the energy that moves our bodies.

Father Sky has daily communion with our Mother.
Together, they are our true parents.

Some tobacco is sprinkled on the ground, and the major portion is loaded into the pipe.
The pipe receives a portion` of tobacco one last time, and then the pipe is held almost straight up into the sky.

Wakan Tanka,
Great Spirit, Creator of us all
Creator of the four directions,
Creator of our Mother Earth and Father Sky
And all related things,
We offer this pipe.

If the pipe ceremony is preceding a Sweat Lodge Ceremony, the address might be as follows:

Oh, Great Spirit,
We now offer this pipe to begin
Our Inipi Ceremony tonight.

The pipe tobacco in the bowl is then capped, or temporarily covered, with a piece of sage (flat leaves of cedar or other natural material may be used in place of sage for capping the pipe), which will be removed when the pipe is ready to be smoked. After the sage is inserted, the pipe is placed on a pipe rack to await the completion of the ceremony that will follow. (Many pipe bowls, especially on ceremonial pipes, have a pointed tip. The pointed end is inserted into the ground with the stem usually pointed towards the sun or moon. In the Sun Dance Ceremony and during an evening Sweat Lodge, pipe stems generally face the west.) If a pipe is to be smoked immediately after loading, it need not be capped.

In a Sweat Lodge Ceremony, the pipe is smoked following the ceremony, after the participants emerge from the lodge. The ceremony ends in the smoking of the peace pipe. Usually the participants will change into dry clothing, before they gather in a circle to smoke the peace pipe. After this last ritual, the participants can then partake of a meal, which is a general custom following an evening sweat that is not a preparatory ceremony for a Vision Quest or the Sun Dance.

The smoke from the pipe represents the participants’ visible breath and stands for truth: truthful words, truthful actions, and a truthful spirit. In regard to the actual smoking, most participants do not inhale the tobacco. Nonsmokers simply hold the pipe for a moment and then pass it on to the next person.

If there is still some unburned tobacco remaining within the bowl after the pipe has made its journey around the circle, one who smokes will general be asked to smoke out all the tobacco loaded in the pipe; the ashes will be cleaned from the pipe and sprinkled upon Mother Earth. The pipe ceremony is then finished.

The pipe is then disassembled. It’s bowl, generally, resides within a red cloth sack within a pipe carrier’s buckskin or animal hide pipe bag. A cloth pipe bag may be used in place of a hide.

When a peace pipe is loaded indoors, a woman will usually serve as acceptor for the tobacco that is normally sprinkled unto Mother Earth.

The woman represents the White Buffalo Calf Woman and will take the accumulation of tobacco offered to the four directions, Mother Earth, Father Sky, and the Great Spirit outside at some later time and sprinkle the tobacco upon the earth.

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