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Black Elk IV

Updated on July 27, 2017

The fifth sacred rite of the Lakota is Hunkapi or the right to foster or forge new relationships and it solidifies existing bonds and paves the way for new alliances. It is reflective of the personal relationship that one shares with the center of the universe or the tree that symbolizes the center of the universe.

It can also be interpreted as the rite of procreation or a rite that facilitates the expansion of familial bonds which of course is essential to perpetuate the continuity of the people and to preserve the longevity of the nation.

The nation is strong for only as long as its people continue to foster and forge new relationships and persist with repairing any damage that may have resulted with the passage of time or from past indiscretions. It is also a means to address grievances and to set aside any past disputes and in certain cases to start anew.

The rite may also be a means to enhancing the bond one has with the totem pole (the totem pole may at times represent the sacred tree that is synonymous to the center of the universe).

A totem pole in short, is a sacred object that is relative or unique to a clan, a tribe or even a family and it is perceived to be a spirit-being that is sacred to a specific person or a group of people and it is in the interest of those that are connected to the totem pole to keep the spiritual relationship alive. In more contemporary terms the spirit-being that the totem pole represents is akin to a guardian angel.

The fifth rite may also equate to fostering better relations with one’s spirit guide. According to Native American legends and traditions there are many spirits that may act as guides for example animal spirits, elemental spirits and tree spirits. These spirits not only act as guides in the valley of dreams during vision quest but also as guardians and in certain cases healers.

Spirits in Native American culture and tradition are synonymous to deities in some other cultures and these spirits are the harbingers of good tidings and the bearers of good fortune.

These spirits are similar to deities in eastern cultures (many of these deities are peculiar to specific localities) and just as there are numerous deities, there are also numerous spirits, too many in fact to list down or compile.

It is a rite that is reflective and parabolic of cultures that are keen on fostering better relationships with all beings, regardless of whether these beings are spiritual or corporeal, and to some extent it is an admittance that we share this world with many other beings, some that may not be visible to the naked eye.

It would be a good idea to keep an open mind and to acknowledge the fact that spirits may not always equate to the lingering spirits of the dead and may equate or may be synonymous to the spiritual matter that forms the core of all things, both animate and inanimate.

The sixth rite of the Lakota is Isnati Awicalowanpi or the puberty ceremony. The ceremony takes place after a girl’s first menses, and it is held to ensure that the girl will grow up to have all the virtues of a Lakota woman and that she understand the meaning of her new role. It is also conducted to formally announce her eligibility as a potential wife and a mother.

There is an exact same ceremony that is held in the East Indian culture as soon as a young girl reaches puberty. It is viewed as an important event in the life of all young girls and celebrated accordingly.

The seventh rite is Tapa Wankayeyapi or throwing the ball. It is a game which represents the course of a man’s life. A young girl stands at the center and throws a ball upwards and to the four corners as others vie to catch it. The first person to catch the ball is considered to be more fortunate than the rest - the ball is symbolically equated to knowledge.

This rite acknowledges that all persons have a right to knowledge but they must be willing to work hard and compete to obtain it. Among other things, it instills a sense of fair competitiveness especially among young children.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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