(By Sword, Translated by Burt Means.)
Wakan means very many things. The Lakota understands what it means from the things that are considered wakan; yet sometimes its meaning must be explained to him. It is something that is hard to understand. Thus wasica wakan, means a white man medicineman; but a Lakota medicineman is called pejuta wacasa. Wicasa wakan is the term for a Lakota priest of the old religion. The white people call our wicasa wakan, medicineman, which is a mistake. Again, they say a wicasa wakan is making medicine when he is performing ceremonies. This is also a mistake. The Lakota call a thing a medicine only when it is used to cure the sick or the wounded, the proper term being pejuta. When a priest uses any object in performing a ceremony that object becomes endowed with a spirit, not exactly a spirit, but something like one, the priests call it tonwan or ton. Now anything that thus acquires ton is wakan, because it is the power of the spirit or quality that has been put into it. A wicasa wakan has the power of the wakan beings.
The roots of certain plants are wakan because they are poisonous. Likewise some reptiles are wakan because if they bite they would kill. Again, some birds are wakan because they do very strange things and some animals are wakan because the wakan beings make them so. In other words, anything may be wakan if a wakan spirit goes into it. Thus a crazy man is wakan because the bad spirit has gone into him.
Again, if a person does something that cannot be understood, that is also wakan. Drinks that make one drunk are wakan because they make one crazy.
Every object in the world has a spirit and that spirit is wakan. Thus the spirit of the tree or things of that kind, while not like the spirit of man, are also wakan.
Wakan comes from the wakan beings. These wakan beings are greater than mankind in the same way that mankind is greater than animals. They are never born and never die. They can do many things that mankind cannot do. Mankind can pray to the wakan beings for help. There are many of these beings but all are of four kinds. The word Wakan Tanka means all of the wakan beings because they are all as if one. Wakan Tanka Kin signifies the chief or leading Wakan being which is the Sun. However, the most powerful of the Wakan beings is Nagi Tanka, the Great Spirit who is also Taku Skanskan; Taku Skanskan signifies the Blue, in other words, the Sky.
Iya is a Wakan Tanka, but he is an evil Wakan Tanka. Mankind is permitted to pray to the Wakan beings. If their prayer is directed to all the good Wakan beings they should pray to Wakan Tanka; but if the prayer is offered only to one of these beings, then the one addressed should be named.
Wakan Tanka is pleased with music. He likes to hear the drums and the rattles. When any of the Wakan beings hear the drum and the rattles they always give attention. He is also fond of the smoke of sweetgrass and evil Wakan beings are afraid of the smoke of sage. All of the Wakan both the good and evil, are pleased with the smoke of the pipe.
The Wicasa Wakan or priests, speak for all the Wakan beings. Wakan Tanka gives them the power that makes them Wakan and by which they can put ton into anything. Each priest has an object for himself into which ton has been put. This is called a Wasicun. A Wasicun is one of the Wakan beings. It is the least of them, but if its ton is from a powerful being it may be more powerful than many of the Wakan beings. This Wasicun is what the priests do their work with, but the white people call it the medicine bag, which is a mistake, for there are no medicines in it. A medicine bag is a bag that doctors have their medicines in. If a man has a Wasicun he may pray to it, for it is the same as the Wakan being whose ton (wan) is in it.
The earth and the rock and the mountains pertain to the chief Wakan. We do not see the real earth and the rock, but only their tonwanpi.
When a Lakota prays to Wakan Tanka he prays to the earth and to the rock and all the other good Wakan beings. If a man wishes to do evil things he may pray to the evil Wakan.