The Lakota view the legend of the White Buffalo Woman as one of its most significant myths, as it serves a spiritual purpose for the Plains tribes. Those who study the myth pay attention to the meaning of the White Buffalo Woman and how she is described in the legend. There are historical and modern day theories surrounding her existence. Other notable parts of the myth include the encounter of the two men are important to note and the importance of the sacred pipe and accompanying ritual.
There is a distinct mystery that surrounds the background and other information concerning the White Buffalo Woman. This is the only myth that she makes an appearance and no tales describe any details about her life. She has no family that the Lakota identifies and isn’t married to any known figure. The only purpose that she serves is to make herself known for this one occasion, bear gifts and then leave. Over time, she has been compared to other people in mythology and history, including the Greek goddesses Athena and Artemis. Others liken her to the Virgin Mary.
Observations Surrounding the White Buffalo Woman
The White Buffalo Woman is often viewed as a “maiden goddess” that suddenly appears from the spirit world. She serves the purpose of bringing an important cultural object to the Lakota tribe (the sacred pipe) and they benefit from her teachings of how to stay in contact with the spirit world. Her connection to the buffalo signifies a significant source of food and clothing for the Lakota.
Most of the things that they use under everyday circumstances are associated with the buffalo. For instance, they used buffalo bones to make tools. The hooves were fashioned into rattles for babies and the hide was used to construct teepees. The Plains tribes also cultivated a close spiritual relationship with the buffalo; there is a myth surrounding a medicine man that transforms into a buffalo to feed his tribe.
The White Buffalo Woman gives the tribe the sacred pipe, which plays a highly important role during Lakota rituals. It symbolizes the exchange between humanity and the spirit world. This is why when it is smoked, it is always offered to the Four Directions. It is believed that the smoke will rise up and reach the spirit world.
There is symbolism in the way that the White Buffalo Woman enters the lodge. She makes her way around the lodge in the solar directions and meets with the chief in the west , opposite of the east, which is known as a place of dawn and enlightenment. On the pipe, there are spotted eagle feathers, which symbolize ‘transcendent solar spiritual power’ and the feathers are often likened to the rays of the sun.