THE ORIGIN OF THE PIPE
By Golden Hawk
According to Lakota legend, the pipe was brought to earth 19 generations
ago by White Buffalo Calf Woman, at a time when the seven tribes of the
Lakota nation had gathered in council, and were starving because they
were having no luck hunting. White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the people
and instructed them about living in balance with nature, and about the
sacred directions. She also taught them all the things they needed to
know about making, handling and caring for the pipe, and about how it
is to be used for praying. When the pipe was used properly to ask the
buffalo to sacrifice himself so that the people could eat, the buffalo
returned and the people were able to eat well.
There are two types of pipes. A personal pipe can be owned by anyone,
and be used to pray on their own behalf. It should not, however, be shared.
Pipe Carriers, on the other hand, carry a pipe on behalf of the people.
If there is need, the Pipe Carrier will use the pipe to pray for the people,
to call in the spirits for a gathering or ceremony, or perhaps for healing
In the Mi'kmaw tradition, a Pipe Carrier is born to the task. There is
no way to earn this privilege - it is something you were given before
you arrived on this Earth. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion
today about the role of the Pipe Carrier, caused mostly by people who
are learning about the traditions of other Nations and trying to apply
them to ALL Nations. In addition, because First Nations traditions are
now seen as 'cool', it seems that everyone wants to be a Pipe Carrier,
but again, it is not a task you can assume simply because you want it.
Acting as a Pipe Carrier when it is not your true calling is not only
disrespectful; it is dangerous, both to you and to anyone who shares your
THE SYMBOLISM OF THE PIPE
The bowl of the pipe, with its hole for accepting the pipe stem, represents
the woman; the stem, then, represents the man. Joining the pipe symbolizes
a union and a balance between male and female aspects of the world. At
the same time, the stone of the bowl represents the spirits of the inorganic
things of our world, while the wooden stem represents the organic beings.
While other symbols may be added through carvings or decorations, these
are very powerful, and are present in all pipes.
THE PIPE CEREMONY
An entire ceremony surrounds the use of the personal pipe for praying,
which allows you to adopt the correct frame of mind for the prayer.
Prior to handling the pipe, ensure that you have smudged. Also, when the
pipe is removed from its container, it must be smudged as well. When you
join the pipe, be aware that you are creating a sacred moment in time.
As you handle the pipe, use your left hand to hold the bowl, and your
right to hold the stem.
Loading the pipe is done in four steps, each honoring the four directions.
During each step, offer a pinch of tobacco to that direction, and address
the spirits of the direction, asking them to hear you when you pray. Place
the tobacco into the pipe bowl and repeat for the next direction.
When the pipe is loaded, it should be lit from something besides your
trusty Zippo. If you are near a sacred fire, use it to light a small twig,
or better yet a sweetgrass braid, and use that to light your pipe.
As you smoke the pipe, again acknowledge each direction as you take a
puff. Release the smoke deliberately; as it rises toward the sky, it takes
your prayers with it. If you wish, smudge yourself by guiding the smoke
over your head with your free hand. Between each direction, turn the pipe
stem in a circle clockwise to honor the four cardinal directions.
Finally, when the tobacco has been consumed, separating the pipe is a
way of telling the spirits that you are finished. Clean the ashes out
of your pipe, and dispose of them in a thoughtful way: for example, in
a sacred fire, or at the roots of a tree. Carefully wrap your pipe and
put it away. As you do all this, be aware that your prayers have been
heard, and offer your thanks for the attention of the spirits.
Should you be involved in a pipe ceremony conducted by a Pipe Carrier,
the pipe may be passed around. If so, you accept the pipe stem with your
right hand and the bowl with your left. Take a puff, and again release
it thoughtfully as a prayer. Turn the pipe stem clockwise through a full
circle, and then pass the pipe to the next person stem first. If for some
reason you do not wish to smoke the pipe, or if the tobacco has been exhausted,
then you can simply touch your shoulders with the pipe stem and pass it
Golden Hawk is also a flute maker.
Here to see his flutes on eBay
Click Here to learn more about Golden Hawk
A special thank you to Golden Hawk for allowing us post this. It is
good that you can hear this from someone else besides us.