(A Native American view on the natural and the supernatural)
We love silence
We let the mouse play
When the wind whispers in the trees, we are not afraid.
(Indian chief to the Governor of Pennsylvania, 1796)
Many native peoples of Northern America are still there and retain their original creeds. Generally speaking, it is safe to say that most native Americans believe in similar things, all centered around their most pivotal symbol. Come and join the circle. Learn about the ancient and profound ways of America.
In innumerable ways, a circle reminds us of Nature. In the beginning, when the Great Spirit placed all things on Earth, he did so in a circular form. All things in Nature arrived thus, in the most essential natural form. The moon is round, and so is the earth and fruits on each and every tree. Cutting a tree, you will find it again. Apples, oranges, coconuts, everything comes to you in this shape. Mushrooms grow in circles. The human body is curved and round. Look at your eyes, at your head.
These are the words of Black Elk, a Sioux chief: “Everything that a Native American acts upon, he realizes in a circle. This is because the power of this world describes a circle, and because everything tries to be round. In earlier days, when our nation was happy and strong, all our powers derived from the holy circle . As long as this was not broken, our times were well. The living centre of our hope was a blossoming tree and the ring of four windways helped to grow it. The East gave us quietness and light, the South gave warmth, the West gave rain. And the North, with its strong and powerful winds, gave him strength and resistance. This we learned by our trust in nature: everything the power of the world realizes, manifests itself in a ring. The sky is round and I heard the Earth is round like a ball, and the stars too. The wind turns round when it is at its strongest. Birds build round nests because their belief is equal to ours. The sun rises and sinks in a bow, and so the moon describes its circle. The seasons form a constant ring of changes, and always return like before. A human life, from early childhood on, forms a ring. It’s the way all his powers move. Our tipis were round like nests of birds and were placed in a ring, the Ring of the People, a nest out of many nests the Great Spirit destined to breed our children in. “
“In the heart of our circle of tipis was an open space called the Hoceka. Before warriors went to battle, the prophet, a holy man, built a tipi for his own to retreat in. He was able to look into the future and receive vision in which he could foresee what was going to happen. People offered him gifts. Besides predicting, he constructed holy symbols and talismans to protect them on the battlefield. Just before battle, warriors would gather and sit down on the Hoceka in a circle in anticipation of their prophet. On arrival he would sing an holy song and distribute his handmade amulets among them. Every warrior heard his fate in the Song of Predicting the prophet sang, especially in the magical verse on the end. In other cases, nothing but amorphous sounds would be heard. But now, he sang the words that every warrior would predict his fate from. It is to be performed just before the scouts leave to search the enemy.”
Here is the first and invariable part of it:
Song of the Predictor
In this ring
O, thou Warrior
Listen, I will tell you
All things will be as I reveal now
In this ring
Listen, all of you
Holy Number of Four
A very common symbol expressing the Native American idea of brotherhood of mankind and nature is a cross in a circle. In the heart of it stands a man, linking the cross of the Four Winds of Space with all other four-shaped things in universe. It’s four-winged, as four is considered to be a holy number.
Tyon, an old Oglala Sioux, explains: “All our works we do in groups of four because of many things, like these directions of North, South West and East. Four divisions we’ve got in time: day, night, the moon and the year and four parts in everything that rises from the soil: roots, rank, leaves and fruits. Four things that breathe: crawlers, flyers, the walkers on four legs, walkers on two legs. Four things above the world: sun, moon, sky and stars. Four different gods: the great ones, the helpers of the great ones, the gods among them and the spirits. And at last: man has four fingers on each hand. Four toes on each foot. Thumbs and big toes make four together. Because the Great Spirit took care of creating everything in four, mankind too has to realize everything in four as much as he can.”
© Frank Flippo, October 2018
(This is an article I wrote almost 30 years ago. It has never before been published)
(to be continued on this blog. Next part: The Earth is our Mother. Subscribe freely to Zilvervis, so you won’t miss the rest!)