Seven Sacred Ceremonies - taught to the Lokota Peoples by 'White Buffalo Calf Woman' (Star Teacher Miriam, Councillor of 3rd Moon of star Altimar.)
1) Inipi - Sweat Lodge: a Rite of Purification involving prayer, meditation, and immersion in ritual purifying steam for four cycles. The participants pray, sing, and maintain humble posture within the darkened lodge.
2) Hanblecheya - Crying for a Vision: a period of 1-4 days in isolation, fasting from food and water, meditation, and prayer, humbly asking Spirit for a Vision to guide the way forward.
3) Wiwanyang Wachipi - Sun Dance: a seven-day ritual of prayer for the well-being of Grandmother Earth and all upon her, accompanied by sacred singing and dancing to drum and song around a central tall wooden pole, and, for many participants, while pierced by a sharp-ended peg positioned under a flap of chest or back skin, and attached by a line to the pole until the peg breaks free of the skin through motion. (Some participants spend four previous days in preparation and purification before the Sun Dance.)
4) Hunkalowanpi - Making of a Relative: a person, persons, or tribe, seeking adoption or other special personal relationship, enters the tipi of the one(s) adopting or relative-making. Several ritual prayer actions follow, including purification by sweetgrass smoke, use of a dried buffalo bladder as a container into which are placed, in turn, pinches of tobacco after they have been offered in turn to the Six Directions [North, East, South, West, to the Sky (Great Spirit), and to the ground (Mother Earth). There is an assembling of an ear of corn, and an eagle feather, and ritual face-painting is done using red and blue paint tracing symbols and lines, and finally a piece of buffalo meat is given to the one(s) being adopted along with a declaration that he/she/they are now family. A celebratory feast follows, with everyone joining in.
5) Isnathi Awicholowanpoi - Girl's Coming of Age Ceremony: This ceremony is done when a girl has arrived at her first menstrual period, and is in transition between childhood and adulthood. A ritual is done involving purification with sacred smoke, prayers by a Medicine person, the use of sacred objects, and sacred song. At one point women from the village come in and instruct the girl on what is happening to her body, and her new role as a woman, and the virtues she should display such as modesty and generosity, her future role in child bearing, and being supportive to male relatives and her future husband. The ceremony ends with a feast, and a giveaway to others in the tribe.
6) Wanagoi Yuhapi - Keeping of the Spirit: This ritual involves purifying a person, typically a family member, after they die. A lock of hair is cut off, purified in the smoke of burning sweetgrass, prayed over, and then wrapped in a sacred buckskin bundle and placed in a special honored location for about a year. Friends and relatives of the deceased may come and honor the bundle holding the memory and representational presence of the family member who passed. The person in the role of Keeper of the Spirit Bundle takes on an exemplary lifestyle for a year, avoiding fighting, and praying often for the one who passed. After a year, the deceased's relatives and friends assemble in a sacred lodge and there is the final ritual of Releasing the Spirit of the Dead Relative. The Bundle Keeper picks up the Spirit Bundle, addresses the Six Directions with it, and places it briefly on sacred objects assembled. Then the Keeper lifts the Bundle towards the heavens and walks out of the lodge calling out to the Spirit in the Bundle not to forget the people who have loved him or her, but to keep them in mind and send them supportive energy. The Bundle is unfolded, and the Spirit is released to the heavens. The lock of hair is no longer sacred, and is then given to a relative wanting it.
Thapa Wankayeyapi - Throwing of the Ball. The basic activity of the ritual of the Throwing of the Ball is familiar. The ball is made of buffalo hide, then stuffed with buffalo hair. A Medicine person first paints the ball red, symbolizing the earth. Then he paints four blue dots on it, and then paints blue lines all the way around it. Blue symbolizes the sky (the heavens). Thus the ball represents the coming together of Earth and Sky. As such it is then consider wakan, very sacred.
The Ceremony: A young Native girl, symbolizing innocence and purity, is given the ball. People attending the Ceremony stand in a wide circle around her. She first throws the ball in an arc to the West. Someone in that part of the circle catches it, holds it briefly, offering it to the Six Directions, then hands it back to the girl.
In similar fashion the ball is tossed to the other three sacred compass directions and handed back to the girl.
The fifth time, the ball is thrown straight up! There is a great scramble as everyone in the circle tries to catch the ball. Finally one person has the ball and hands it back to the girl at the center. At this point the Medicine man points his sacred pipe stem towards the heavens and prays to Wakan Tanka (Great Spirit) that "May we never lose his relationship established here! [the uniting of the Earth with the Heavens). May we love it and cherish it forever."
At first superficial glance this Throwing of the Ball Sacred Ceremony seems somewhat pointless compared to the other Six. And not convincing is the explanation some websites come up with that the Catching the Ball Ceremony is a Coming of Age ritual. Nothing in the Ceremony speaks to age milestones.
To get to the real point of the Catching of the Ball Ceremony, it may help to share part of a discussion that Dr. Boylan was in with fellow Sun Dancers during a Sun Dance they participated in. The talk was about the ball in the Throwing of the Ball Sacred Ceremony. It was not like the balls most young people grow up with. It was not hard like a baseball or softball, nor did it bounce like they do, or bounce even more if the ball is a rubber handball. Furthermore, one of the senior Sun Dancers noted that it is considered bad IF the ball did bounce! The point is that it have a soft landing. A lightbulb went off in my head. The soft non-spherical semi-flat 'ball' is not a recreational ball at all. The "ball'', looking like a cross between a beanbag and a golf disc, was a non-technical indigenous society's representation of the appearance and landing characteristics of a UFO! Such a vehicle would not bounce when it touched the ground. It would gently settle. Thus, what I thought is what was the case, that the Throwing of the Ball sacred Ceremony is an ancient recreation of a landing UFO. And a sacred event. Wakan. As the Native people consider all encounters with the Star People sacred events.
At the 1996 Star Knowledge Conference, Lakota Elder Harry Charger discussed the oral tradition of the Lakota [Sioux} peoples. There have been many Star People visitations with the Lakota during sweat lodge ceremonies. Charger said that 50% of what we see of Star Visitor appearances are mental projections from the Star Visitors. He told of, as a boy, being instructed by his grandmother to make a ball that didn't bounce. Later the village grandmothers gathered to try out tossing this gentle-landing ball that he made. They smiled with satisfaction as it soft-landed.
Years later he realized the whole point: that the soft-lander 'ball' was a ritual reenactment of a space vehicle carrying a Star Teacher which had gently touched down on various Lakota lands. Including where our Catching of the Ball Ceremony and discussion were taking place.
O mitakuye oyasin! All are my relatives!
Richard Boylan, Ph.D., Councillor of Earth