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Arvol Looking Horse's call for a world-wide sacred sites prayer ceremony June 21, 1996, mentions deciding on the time and place by star knowledge. This knowledge is very ancient, and has been recovered in considerable detail by Lakota scholars working with elders.
One of the most interesting books I've ever read -- I bought a copy to keep for myself as well as for the Heart of the Earth School library -- is Lakota Star Knowledge: Studies in Lakota Stellar Theology, compiled by Ronald Goodman of Sinte Gleshka University, Rosebud Reservation. I strongly urge everyone who is moved and inspired by Arvol's declaration above not to make up their own science-fiction ideas of "star knowledge", and "six stars in the sky denoting sacred places in Paha Sapa". If you are interested (and if you are Lakota, I think you must be interested in this!) get the book and learn the real knowledge, rather than making up travesties. If you do obtain and study this book carfully, you will understand why Arvol called for world-wide prayer, and wanted to focus it through a group at the so-called "Devil's Tower", actually as he says, Grey Horn Butte, but sometimes also Mato Tipila.
For more than 15 years, dedicated people from Sinte Gleshka University interviewed elders about star knowledge. They also searched old records, and they made computations based on actual apparent motions (i.e. precessional cycle of the earth's axis) that established ancient dates. The purpose of their book is "to return the skies to the Lakota youth" by showing what the ancient, traditional constellations are, and their significance in relation to a sacred or consecrated round (Ki Iyanka Okanchu, the racetrack) in the Black Hills, Paha Sapa. They learned that constellations -- those pictures that stars paint (woniya of Wakan Tanka, holy breath of the Great Mystery) for the receptive mind in the night sky -- they mirror geological features, places, and ceremonial occasions. "We can see now that many Lakota ceremonies were timed to mirror celestial movements," the authors write.
The book that compiles the knowledge they recovered over the years "demonstrates that knowledge of our star and sun-watching practices is very much alive in some tribal contexts, despite centuries of acculturation and attempts by the dominant society to root out such pagan sacred observances." It also provides important lessons for other tribal groups who wish to retain more of their traditional practices for their descendants.
The authors dedicate the book "To the Lakota people -- who have for decades hidden the star knowledge in their hearts, but who are now reaching over the walls of prejudice to share it with their brothers and sisters of every continent."
Yet there remains special meaning in this star knowledge for Lakota people, because of the way that Lakota star knowledge mirrors, in the sky, the sacred round of life and ancient beginnings in the Hoop of the Black Hills, Paha Sapa. Perhaps especially for those Lakota who are away from the traditional homeland, the authors have collected knowledge that will let you look at the night sky and be in the Hills of Home:
"Wakan Tanka intended that we must always hold the Black Hills special to our hearts, so we are reminded every night that we have a sacred home. And all one has to do to be in the Heart of Everything That Is, is to look at a star pattern and be spiritually with the Black Hills. A constant renewal of relationship by travelling home, to that special palce, with the stars. So tonight, walk outside and look up. See the Black Hills sacred ceremonies of Spring, and you will understand and know why this place is special and stands first among all places of Maka. And return, in the manner the Lakota have done for thousands of years, to the Heart of Everything That Is, to the heart of our home and the home of our heart.
"Then when the sun passes through each part of the star pattern, prepare to travel home and renew the circle once more, that the four children of the earth may all live well, altogether -- and with their generations, walk on the sacred red road in a dancing manner."
Mitakuye Oyasin. They said it well.
It is in this spirit that I very strongly recommend purchase of Lakota Star Knowledge, $15 (please send check or money order with your order) to:
Bookstore, Sinte Gleshka University Rosebud Sioux Reservation Mission, SD 57570
Black Elk said:
"We say that Wakan Tanka created the Heart of Everything That Is to show us that we have a special relationship with our first and real mother, the earth, and that there are responsibilities tied to that relationship. Wakan Tanka placed the stars in such a manner so what is in the heavens is on earth, what is on earth is in the heavensw in the same way. When we pray in this manner, what is done in the skies is done on earth in the same way. Together, all of creation participates in the ceremonies every year.
"A group representing the entire (Lakota, Dakota, Nakota) confederacy would make the annual journey and complete the ceremonies. It was not always possible for all members of the nomadic people, who ranged from Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes and from the Canadian Shield to the Republican River to travel to the Black Hills every spring. So a certain planet's movement gathered the nations every seventh year....When the sun passes through each part of the star pattern, prepare to travel home and renew the circle once more, that the four children of the earth may all live well, altogether -- and with their generations walk on the sacred red road in a dancing manner."
Star Map and Black Hills--Tables identify stars, constellations, and sacred sites for spring ceremonies, ending with Sun Dance at "Devil's Tower" the Grey Buffalo Horn Arvol mentions in his Prayer Ceremony announcement.
CREDITS: I drew the Lakota star quilt pattern in FreeHand and exported it to a raster map for these pages. I drew the moon/star long ago. The symbol (based on a dream I had when I was 15) has been beaded on my Pipe bag for 16 years. All quotes here are from the Lakota Star Knowledge book whose purchase is very highly recommended. The logo by the ordering info for the book is the Sinte Gleshka University logo; it symbolizes the 4 Lakota cardinal virtues: Woksape (blue), Wisdom; Woohitika (red), Bravery; Wowachintanka (yellow), Fortitude, endurance; Wachantognaka (white), Generosity. I scanned it from the back cover of my copy of the Star Knowledge book to use here.
Page prepared by Paula Giese, c. 1995
Last updated: Monday, July 08, 1996 - 7:27:47 PM