Nicolas Black Elk (1863-1950) tells the Legend of the White Buffalo, revealing so much about his life and times. The story is quite compelling and hard to understand, or believe, if one has never had or seen a mystical experience. It details how Black Elk, as an adolescent, encountered a woman of mythic abilities in a vision. She is called White Buffalo Calf Woman who came to bring the White Buffalo Pipe sometime around the 1790’s (uncertain).
The story goes that there were two scouts who saw a woman coming in the distance. She knew one had good thoughts and the other bad thoughts. The one who came to her with bad thoughts was killed upon approach. The other she promised she would return and bring a medicine bundle with a sacred pipe. Later she came to bring the medicine bundle, including the White Buffalo Pipe. To this day, the pipe is passed down from generation to generation among the Lakota people. She gave them seven sacred ceremonies which are practiced to this day, including sweat lodge, adoption, dances, and other sacred songs and rituals. She told the people that when she returned she would be a white buffalo calf, bringing a promise of a better world.
The story has been told by many elders, but in Black Elk’s vision, he saw White Buffalo Calf Woman coming out of the clouds in the form of a buffalo. So, in this image the White Buffalo is emerging from the clouds, transforming from buffalo to woman, as she arrives to bring the seven sacred ceremonies. Her story brings hope and the promise of a better world through contemplative rituals that bond the practitioners with the Earth and Spirit.