Sacred Texts  Native American  Plains  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 60


One desiring to dance the Sun Dance according to the customs of the Oglala as they were practised before contact with white people should choose an instructor to prepare him for the ceremony, who should teach him, in substance, as follows:--

The Sun Dance of the Oglala is a sacred ceremony which may be undertaken by any one of mankind, provided he or she:--

1. Undertakes it for a proper purpose.
2. Complies with the essentials for the ceremony.
3. Conforms to the customs of the Oglala.
4. Accepts the mythology of the Lakota.

The proper purposes for undertaking the Sun Dance are:--

1. To fulfill a vow.
2. To secure supernatural aid for another.
3. To secure supernatural aid for self.
4. To secure supernatural :powers for self.

The essentials for the ceremony are:--

1. The constituents.
2. The conditions.
3. The stages.
4. The time.

The constituents are:--

1. The dancers.
2. The Mentors.
3. The assistants.
4. The people.

The conditions are:--

1. Provision for the ceremony.
2. Preparation of the dancers.
3. Consecration of the equipment.
4. Establishment of a ceremonial camp

The stages are:--

1. Announcement of the candidacy.
2. Instruction of the Candidate.
3. Occupation of the ceremonial camp.
4. Dancing the Sun Dance.

p. 61

The time is:--

1. When the buffalo are fat.
2. When new sprouts of sage are a span long.
3. When chokecherries are ripening.
4. When the Moon is rising as the Sun is going down.

Before beginning to dance the Sun Dance during the ceremony the Candidate must make an acceptable offering to the Sun and have a wound that will cause his blood to flow while he dances. If he dances the Sun Dance to its completion, he may expect a vision in which he may receive a communication from the Sun.

All the requirements and rites pertaining to this ceremony are based upon the Mythology of the Lakota and they must be supervised by a Shaman. A Shaman must control the ceremonial camp and conduct all the ceremonies pertaining to the Sun Dance that take place there, except the dance, which should be conducted by the leader of the dance. This dance may take either of the four forms, which are:--

1. Gaze-at-Sun.
2. Gaze-at-Sun Buffalo.
3. Gaze-at-Sun Staked.
4. Gaze-at-Sun Suspended.

The first is the simplest form and may be undertaken for either of the first three purposes enumerated above and performed with a scant compliance with the essentials, though the Candidate must comply with them to the best of his ability. It should be danced only when one or more of the other forms are danced. It must begin with the first song of the Sun Dance and continue during four songs, though it may continue during as many more songs as the dancer pleases. For this form, any offering may be made to the Sun, but it should he of as much value as the Candidate can afford. The wound to cause the blood to flow must not be smaller than that made by cutting away a bit of skin as large as a louse and it may be as large and deep as the Candidate wills to have it made. Women and children may dance the first form, because there are no tortures inflicted during the dance. Those who have danced the Sun Dance on a former occasion may again dance this form, provided they first make an offering to the Sun and cause the blood to flow from wounds on their persons. Such dancers may begin the dance at any time during the dance by others and may dance for as many songs as they choose.

The second, third, and fourth forms each differ from the others, only in the manner of the wounds to cause the flow of blood and the torture inflicted during the dance; but the wounds and tortures for each form should be

p. 62

made alike for each dancer of that form. One may undertake either of these three forms for either of the first three purposes; but one who undertakes to dance for the fourth purpose must dance the fourth form. The torture inflicted in the fourth form, may be, either figuratively or actually, suspending the dancer while he dances. If the dancer is dancing for the purpose of securing the supernatural powers that Shamans should have, he must dance the fourth form actually suspended. A dance thus performed is the Sun Dance in its fullest form which includes most of the: Mythology and much of the customs of the Oglala. One who dances the Sun Dance in its fullest form establishes before the Sun, and in the presence of the people, his possession of the four great virtues, which are:--

1. Bravery.
2. Generosity.
3. Fortitude.
4. Integrity.

One who possesses these four virtues should be respected and honored by all the people. Thus, the scars made by the wounds and tortures inflicted during the Sun Dance are honorable insignia.

One who contemplates dancing the Sun Dance should know these things: and carefully consider the compliance with the essentials for the performance of the ceremony, for it is done for the benefit of both the dancer and the people. He should endeavor to know whether the people deem his virtues sufficient to enable him to dance the Sun Dance to its completion or not;. for, if they think he lacks in one or all of the great virtues, they probably will not become constituents, and he cannot have the ceremony performed.

The Sun Dance is a feastal ceremony and provision must The made for feasts that are rites and are to be given by the Candidate, his kindred, and his band, for all these are honored by the performance of the ceremony. Therefore, while it is expected that a Candidate will give all his; possessions in making provision for the feasts, his kindred and his friends should also give liberally; indeed, the entire band should contribute for both feasts and presents. A Candidate must give presents to his Mentor and attendant and should give to all the assistants and those who take an active part in the rites of the ceremony. He must provide the equipment necessary for the occasion, and make acceptable offerings to the Sun. If he cannot comply with these conditions in an abundant manner, he should undertake only the first form of the dance, and then little will be expected of him or his people. If he thinks he can make suitable provision, he may proceed.

Next: Choosing the Mentor