Calumets and Pipe Bags (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: The calumet (sacred pipe) was the most widely used ceremonial object among North American Indians, and it has been a central symbol of modern Pan-Indian movements
Calumet, from the French for reed pipe, refers to pipes with long wooden stems and detachable clay or stone bowls. Widely used for both personal and ceremonial purposes, calumet refers to only the sacred pipes. Archaeological evidence shows extensive use throughout North America that may date back four thousand years. Most tribal groups have myths similar to a myth of the Lakota Sioux in which a sacred being, such as White Buffalo Woman, brings the pipe at the time of the creation of the people, or during a time of hardship. The pipe serves as an ongoing means of communication with the spirit beings.
Ceremonial pipes were understood to have a special power and were kept in bags (bundles) tended by specially trained women and men. The bowl and stem were joined only for ritual use, symbolizing the merger of earth and sky, male and female. In most ceremonies, the lit pipe was offered to the six directions (north, south, east, west, up, and down) and then passed in the direction of the sun to all those gathered. Some pipes were so powerful that only certain sacred persons could smoke them. The bowls were often carved in the images of animals or persons, although L shapes and inverted-T shapes were also common. Red pipestone was prized...
(The entire section is 366 words.)
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