native american

The Native American peace pipe

I first got to know about the Native American peace pipe from a Native American friend. I often noticed that he used the expression “Smoked the peace pipe” whenever he referred to patching up with someone after a fight. One day I got curious and asked him about it. He enlightened me on the ancient tradition of smoking a peace pipe by the native Indians. The peace pipe also known as medicine pipe or calemut is used by many Native American tribes as a symbol of peace and as an offering to Mother Earth for her bountiful gifts.

I had the fortune of trying out the ritual myself thanks to my friend. He had saved up the smoking pipe that his forefathers had used years ago. Along with the pipe came a pipe bowl which is usually made of red pipestone. The ceremony began with the pipe being loaded with tobacco, and then being pointed to all four directions – East, West, North and South with respect to Mother Earth (Gaia) and Father Sky. It finally ends with the final ceremonial offering to the Great Spirit. On one hand I held the pipe firmly by the bowl and pointed the stem of the pipe to the east. On the other hand I held a pinch of tobacco, which I sprinkled on the ground to the wise and prosperous Mother Earth and also in recognition of what I have taken from Her. After this I inserted the tobacco in the bowl of the pipe. The sprinkling, it seems, is also a message to the spirit world that a portion of the tobacco is for the powers from the East. The last step is the holding up of the pipe pointed straight upward, into the centre of the universe as Wakan Tanka is regarded to be above, said my friend, although Indians admit that God is everywhere. I had to chant ritual words which included praises and thanking each of the directions for the various gifts.

After chanting the ritual words I turned to the south and pointed the pipe stem facing the south. I held another pinch of tobacco slightly above eye level in the south direction. And I chanted the respective verses. Next I turned west and added another pinch of tobacco. The west is where, according to their tradition, we gain our spiritual wisdom from. Then I sprinkled the tobacco to the north and then inserted into the bowl. After all four directions were accredited I touched the pipe bowl to the ground. I sprinkled tobacco on Mother Earth and then pointed it at an angle into the sky. We performed the ceremony in day and hence I had pointed it to the sun. My friend told me that I should point to the moon if it was night. This was an acknowledgement to Father Sky. Then more tobacco is sprinkled on the ground and the pipe is again loaded and held almost straight up to end the ritual.

My friend said he still believes that the ritual of the peace pipe gives him peace of mind. I borrowed it from him for a week and realised it was true. Many of these customs and traditions though different in many ways are aimed at making a better world. I was glad I was open to such cultures and having learnt more about the Native Americans.

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