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The Sacred Pipe


There are different kinds of pipes and different uses for them. There are personal pipes, family pipes as well as pipes for large ceremonies.

NOTE: There really is no such thing as a Peace Pipe. The U.S. government sent representatives to The People with an understanding that the pipe would allow for peaceful land transactions because no Native person would lie once words were spoken in the presence of the pipe. (It was never the Native people who lied!!) Afterwards, when the Europeans started using tobacco for financial gain, its use became corrupted and great sickness came to the world - the inevitable results when a gift is misunderstood and misused. The great sickness was also contained in several ancient prophecies.

Generally Sacred Pipes consist of two parts, a tobacco holding bowl made of bone, wood, stone, or metal (as in calumet pipes or some of the later trading pipes) and a stem, usually made of wood. The Pipes of the Plains were usually made out of soft, red Catlinite stone (found in southwestern Minnesota).

When the bowl and stem of a Sacred Pipe are joined the pipe is considered to be a living entity. The pipe is a ritual object created to focus and alter the consciousness of the user. It has its reflection in the human body and in the Universe. The pipe is a cosmos unto itself uniting all dualities within Creation. The pipe, when joined, is a living being with energies coursing up and down its spine. Although the pipe represents one of the highest forms of Native spirituality, you do not have to be a pipe carrier to receive the messages from the universe or to live a sacred life.

What does the bowl represent

Earth Mother, Female, Heart of Creation/Creativity, Birth, Rebirth, Womb, The Stone people , The Heart, Soil, Fertility, Life, Grandmother Moon. It is held in Left Hand.

What does the stem represent

Sky, Father, Male ,Spine, Transcendent, Impregnation, Original Energy, God Beyond Creation, The Tree Nation, The Airway, Lightning/thunder, Grandfather Sun. It is held in Right Hand.

Beginning the Process: Your intentions should be pure, peaceful and for the greater good. Keep negative and violent thoughts away. The purpose of smoking the pipe is to provide harmony, balance and wholeness. The pipe is not to be used as a vehicle for a self-indulgent wish list.

Ego has no place here.

Joining the Pipe:  Before joining the pipe, the stem and bowl are laid on a ceremonial blanket or held in the right and left hands respectively. The stem is lifted to the stem hole in the bowl as if in greeting; the stem is then fitted into the bowl. If the pipe is being used in ceremony or prayer, it is normally turned away from the body with a one-quarter turn.

Holding the Pipe: The bowl of the pipe is held in the left hand (closest to the heart). The bowl is cradled gently in the open palm. The stem is held near the top generally with an overhand grip when a pipe ceremony leader is praying in public, and in an underhand, palm up, grip for private ceremony.

Loading the Pipe:  Native tobacco (Kinnikinnik made from natural herbs) is normally used, and each pinch that is inserted into the bowl means something. The reason tobacco is used is because its roots go deeply into the earth, and its smoke rises high into the heavens. The tobacco represents both the seen and unseen worlds, and the connections that every living being within these two realms have as a huge and cohesive group. For example, the flying, crawling, swimming beings; four and two-legs; Mother Earths blood (water), air, fire, earth, star nation, planets, Ancestors, Stone and Tree families, and on and on......They all meet inside the bowl in a peaceful dance.

Lighting the Pipe: The pipe should generally be lit with a wooden match or taper for it represents the fire of Creation meeting its children.

Smoking the Pipe: The pipe in the right hand should switch from an overhand to an underhand grip almost as if you are sipping water from the heel of the palm. The smoke is drawn down the stem and not inhaled. The smoke for a moment merges with the breath and at that moment, the sacred and the profane become one; it is then gently released into the air as a whole being and the smoke carries prayers and intentions to original Creator. When you have finished smoking, the right hand should return to an overhand grip and the pipe should be passed clockwise to the next person.

Passing the Pipe:  The pipe is nearly always passed in a clockwise direction representing the travel of the sun. The pipe is passed with an overhand grip on the stem and a careful cradling of the bowl. The pipe is received with two open, upward palms, and then the bowl is cradled in the left hand while the right hand closes over the stem in an overhand grip.

Posting the Pipe:  This means the pipe is set on an altar which could be a buffalo skull, 2 forked sticks, rock or ceremonial blanket. During the time the pipe is posted the conversation should remain spiritual.

Breaking the Pipe:  When the pipe ceremony is finished the pipe is taken apart by holding the bowl in the left hand and stem in the right. The ashes are returned to the earth and blessed. The stem is turned away from your body one quarter turn then pulled straight out of the bowl. When not in use, the two parts are usually stored separately.

Who Are Keepers Of The Sacred Pipe: Normally pipe carriers are those Native individuals who have been walking and talking their earth walk in a good way for many years, and who have accepted the responsibility that goes with such an onerous undertaking.

Individuals should not give themselves a pipe because this is viewed as self-indulgent and arrogant. Sadly, it is the case however, that more and more folks after a spiritual weekend here or there, are suddenly pipe carriers.

Also, non-Native people have a habit of giving pipes to other non-Native people. This practice is both mystifying and dangerous. It is viewed as particularly heinous to many Native Cultures who see this as just another attempt to purloin Native spirituality without any real thought as to the consequences of their actions. Many Elders believe that both the giver and receiver of such a sacred item will both suffer in one way or another.

In these instances, the pipe has no essence, no power. If you purchased a pipe for yourself or someone else hang it on your wall, it has no spiritual value, and like Elvis, the Ancestors and all things magical and mystical have left the longhouse!

How Does An Individual Receive A Pipe

In the time of the Ancestors, the pipe was 'dreamt' by one person (already a Pipe Carrier) on behalf of another, or it was passed down from Mother to Daughter, Father to Son, AND only after the receiver had shown themselves to be worthy.

There are very serious ceremonies that are undertaken before a pipe is smoked or used in ceremony. It must become the property of the carrier and, therefore, there are rituals involved for that process.

A pipe is normally received in three time-honored ways and this is only after years of learning and walking the walk.

(A) A legitimate Native Elder or Traditional Teacher who is a pipe carrier and who has earned the right to give pipes and who does NOT know you, yet has had at least four profound experiences about you  (dreams, visions).

(B) A legitimate Native Elder or Traditional Teacher who is a pipe carrier and who does know you and has had at least four profound experiences about you (dreams, visions).

(C) the pipe was inherited through the family and the current Native owner has "earned" the right to smoke

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