Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
The Native American Sun Dance
1886 engraving showing Cree Indians performing a Sun Dance
and compiled by George Knowles
During the 19th-century the Sun Dance was one of the
most important ritual ceremonies practiced
by the Native Plains Indians of North America.
It was normally performed after the last of the season’s great buffalo
hunts, which usually occurred about the same time as the Summer Solstice.
For many of the tribes, the Sun Dance is a ritual calling on the Sun’s
powers of regeneration, and for those taking part, is a time of personal
renewal, dedication and spiritual rebirth. This
however could only be achieved through a “vision quest” which included:
three or four days of seclusion, fasting, purification and other trials
involving pain and suffering.
Some of the tribes who performed the Sun Dance included:
the Arapaho, Arikara, Asbinboine, Bannock, Blood, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros
Ventre, Hidutsa, Mandan, Sioux, Cree, Plains Ojibway, Sarasi, Omaha, Ponca, Ute,
Shoshone, Kiowa, and Blackfoot tribes. Each
tribe held its own annual celebration, and while some of their practices may
differ, in common with each was that the main Sun Dance ritual was performed by
the tribe’s younger men.
however, the Canadian government followed by the United States in 1904, banned
the more torturous aspects of the ritual on humanitarian grounds.
As a result, and under the threat of prosecution from the Department of
Indian Affairs, for many years the full ritual was only practiced in secret.
Today with a better understanding of Native Indian beliefs and
traditions, both governments ended their restrictions.
In the United States, legislation in the form of the American Indian
Religious Freedom Act of 1978 was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.
This granted Native American Indians the right to freely practice their
own traditional religious ceremonies.
Today the annual Sun Dance is a great social occasion lasting from four
to eight days, during which, the whole community takes part in its preparation.
Once the tribe has gathered, a Sun Dance leader (usually one of the
Elders) is selected to organise the event. A
large circular area is cleared on which the ritual itself will later take place,
and around this a large temporary lodge
is constructed. This consists of a
double row of wooden posts that are covered to create a shaded area from where
spectators can watch the proceedings.
The tribe’s most senior Chief or Medicine Man is then sent out to locate a suitable forked sapling tree to be used as a central pole within the circle. Younger men from the tribe, particularly those who had distinguished themselves in some way, are then given the honour of cutting the tree down. After being trimmed, the tree is taken back to the dance site where scared and symbolic objects are secured between its forks. Under the direction of the Sun Dance leader the tree is then ritually erected in the middle of the dance area. Once erected, the tree symbolically connects heaven and earth where the tribe’s Guardian Spirits reside, and to where all further prayers and devotions during the event will be directed.
next day at sunrise the tribe’s Chiefs and Elders, dressed in all their
finery, take their places around the dance site and the ceremonies begin. Before
the main ritual, anyone wishing to dance can do so.
Many do so wearing costumes representing important leaders or animal
spirits; others wear body paint indicating honours and achievements symbolic of
their family lineage and position in the tribe.
Throughout the day dancing, drumming and traditional songs are sung,
while in between, old legends are retold by Elders, thus maintaining the
tribe’s history as passed down by oral tradition.
This social part of the celebration can go on for as many as four days,
during which gifts are exchanged, tribal disputes are discussed and traditional
pipes are smoked.
In the meantime those who have pledged to dance in the main ritual would
have been undergoing supervised preparation by a mentor, usually someone who had
already been through the ordeal. Each
would have been fasting for several days prior to the event, and before the
dance will undergo a spiritual purification ritual in a specially constructed
sweat lodge. For many of the
participants the Sun Dance is an opportunity to give thanks to the tribal Gods
for blessings received, to fulfill a vow or pledge, or to petition help for
specific purposes, be it protecting loved ones or for aid in healing a sick
family member or friend. It is hoped
that during the ritual and through enduring its sacrificial pain and torture,
they would be rewarded with a vision from the Gods containing answers.
Before the start of the main ritual, the Sun Dance leader prepares the center Sacred Tree with
When all the participants had been prepared, the tribe’s drummers start
a slow rhythmic drumbeat and the Sun Dance begins.
As the participants dance to the drumbeats, they keep their gaze firmly
fixed on the Sun while reciting prayers and singing praises; at the same time,
they continually pull backwards against their tethers in efforts to tear
themselves free. Those who haven’t
managed to free themselves by sundown are allowed help from their mentors, who
by adding their own weight pull and jerk them backwards in a final effort to
tear them free.
When the ordeal of the Sun Dance is over, the participant’s wounds are
tended to by a Medicine Man before being led away by their mentors to rest and
recuperate. Later, whatever visions
they may have experienced while enduring the pain of the Sun Dance are discussed
with their mentors who help in their interpretation.
While not everyone experiences a life changing vision, all those taking
part in the dance bring away some kind of reward.
And for the tribe as a whole, the end of the Sun Dance brings a sense
that the relationship between their people and the Guardian Spirits has once
again been reaffirmed.
Man, Myth and Magic -
Edited by Richard Cavendish
Sioux Sun Dance at Spring Creek, South Dakota 1960
(Copyright © 2005 David Zimmerly)
© George Knowles
Best Wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Unicorn / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat / Rats / Unicorn
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Pioneers: Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda Metteyya / Allan Kardec (Spiritism) / Alphonsus de Spina / Amber K / Ann Moura / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Balthasar Bekker / Biddy Early / Barbara Vickers / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christopher Penczak / Christina Oakley Harrington / Cornelius Loos / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Donald Michael Kraig / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edain McCoy / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Heinrich Kramer / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / Ivo Domínguez Jr. / Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jean Bodin / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim - the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Lodovico Maria Sinistrari / Ludwig Lavater / Madeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Michael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" / Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Martin Antoine Del Rio / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Olivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Paul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school / Peter Binsfeld / Philip Heselton / Raven Grimassi / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Richard Baxter / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Rossell Hope Robbins / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / Walter Ernest Butler / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
"FAIR USE NOTICE"
While I have taken due care and diligence to credit all sources where possible, this website may contain copyrighted material which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. My use of making such material available here is done so in my efforts to advance our understanding of religious discrimination, the environmental and social justice issues etc. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this website for purposes of your own then you must obtain permission from the relevant copyright owner yourself.
Any queries please contact me at email - George@controverscial.com
My online email discussion group:
Dove of Peace
Help send a message of peace around the world! The Dove of Peace flies from site to site, through as many countries as possible. It does not belong to ANY belief system. Please help make a line around the globe by taking it with you to your site, by giving it to someone for their site, by passing it on to another continent or to the conflict areas of the world. May trouble and strife be vanquished in it's path.