Sacred Songs of the Lakota

Carefully preserved and protected by tribal ancestors throughout their turbulent history, the pipe, prayer, and healing songs used in Native American ceremonies are very special and highly revered.

The songs not only teach spiritual lessons and share beliefs, but are also a way to connect with future generations.

It is believed these ethereal songs have the power to lead the listener to a place of peace and understanding, as well as bring strength and comfort...but they must never be abused or treated in a disrespectful way, as this may also bring harm.

Wordless Melodies
Many Lakota ceremonial songs have no words and most have no titles. The few that do are considered special gifts from the spirits as these songs can be expressed using an earthly, recognizable language; but the wordless melodies are held in even higher regard because they surpass intellect and "touch the heart directly".

But the mind cannot think, "Great Spirit" (Wakan Tanka) or conceive reality as it truly is. Thus, additional songs have been given to us - songs with music only - praise expressed throughout a few sacred syllables which go beyond the mind, beyond language and say the inexpressible, sing what is intellectually unutterable. These are perhaps the very chants which the spirits themselves sing - similar to the hosannas and hallelujahs of another tradition. - John Around Him

Origins of these Sacred Songs
Some songs are to be used socially. They have a pleasing sound and are nice to listen to. It is said these songs come from a collaboration between the singer and the spirits and are often inspired by the sounds of nature - a breeze through the trees, trickling stream, or the rhythm of the earth's heartbeat.

Other ceremonial songs are believed to come directly from the spirits. The singer acts only as the vehicle for the melody, but has no influence on the song itself. According to ancient belief, these songs may be given either to an individual in the form of a vision or to many at onceā€¦

It is said that once, a long time ago, in the quiet evening after sunset, the full moon lit the clear sky in which the stars were shining brightly, and the people at camp were preparing for nightfall.

Suddenly, out of the twilight, they heard a beautiful voice singing out on the prairie. It was the voice of a man, so they check the camp to see who was missing and thereby account for the mysterious singing. But everyone was there. So the people decided to investigate by walking onto the prairie and surrounding the beautiful voice they heard.

As they tightened the circle, at last they came close enough to see that the singer was not a man, but a lone coyote. Then and there they learned the song from the coyote, and today we sing it when we worship. - Origins of Coyote Song as told by John Around Him

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