Black Elk's Vision
Retold from Mother Earth Spirituality
by Ed McGaa (Eagle Man)

Black Elk saw two men descend with flaming spears. They took him, on a cloud, to a great plain. There a bay horse greeted him, accompanied by prancing horses of different colors: black, white, sorrel (red), and buckskin (yellow). (Later, the colors of these horses would represent the four directions.) Leaving the horses, Black Elk went into a rainbow-covered lodge, the lodge of the Six Grandfathers (the powers of the four quarters, or four directions, of the universe and of Mother Earth and Father Sky).

The first Grandfather, the power of the west, gave Black Elk a cup of water, the power to sustain life. From the black west, thunder beings release the life-giving rain. Then the grandfather handed him a bow and told him he would also have the power to destroy.

The second Grandfather, the power of the north, gave him a white wing and a sacred herb of sage. The wing, like the northern snow, exemplified the power of cleansing, endurance, and courage. The herb provided truth and honesty, strong, healing sustenance for our bodies, Mother Earth, even world governments and leadership.

The third Grandfather, the power of the red dawn rising in the east, gave Black Elk the sacred pipe, the power of peace. The daybreak star appeared, and he was told he would have the power to awaken others. Powerful knowledge would come to this land, and peace would come, through knowledge and wisdom.

The fourth Grandfather, the power of the south, gave him a bright red stick sprouting leaves. The Grandfather said that a tree would grow in the center of the nation. A yellow hoop appeared, symbolizing in its color, growth and physical healing, in its circle, the unity of all things.

The fifth Grandfather, the spirit of the sky, became an eagle. He spoke, saying that all things of the sky - the winged, the winds, and the stars - would be as relatives and would come to Black Elk and help him.

The sixth Grandfather was really Mother Earth, the Earth Spirit. The Earth Spirit took Black Elk outside the lodge and told him the Earth Power would be with him. In time, the two-leggeds would desperately need Mother Earth's help.

Black Elk was instructed to set the red stick in the center of the yellow hoop. There, the tree was to grow, and around it people would gather. In time the tree would bloom.

W "... they have given me the
           power to make over." E

Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four-legged ones grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul. Below, Black Elk saw a blue man living in and empowering the sickness. The powers of the four directions, represented by four horses, charged the blue man, but were beaten back. The Grandfathers called upon Black Elk. His bow changed into a spear, and he swooped down on the blue man, killing him. When the blue man fell, all life came back upon the earth; all things became fresh and healthy again.

Then Black Elk took the bright red stick and cast it into the center of the earth. The stick became a Sun Dance tree, a waga chun, a cottonwood tree. A peace pipe descended to the tree's base, spreading deep peace, and the people sang with delight. The daybreak star rose. Black Elk was told that the star would be as a relative to the people; those who saw it would see much more, because the star represented wisdom.

Black Elk was then shown his people over a great span of time, beginning with the time his people all walked in a sacred manner, following the good red road, camping in a sacred circle. A holy tree stood out sharply within the encampment's center. "Behold, a good nation, walking in a sacred manner, in a good land." the people sang. In time, however, the people broke into little groups and denominations, each group following a different path, and all around them was fighting and war. The sacred tree withered. Black Elk saw miserable, starving faces of people who were sick and dying.

A red man appeared among the people. His transformation into a buffalo indicated a time of plenty. A sacred herb became four flowers, four blossoms on a single stem. The four-rayed herb - red, yellow, black, and white - became the flowering tree. Black Elk heard a song: A good nation I will make live, this nation above has said, they have given me the power to make over.

Then Black Elk saw that the sacred hoop of his people was only one of many hoops, all joined together to make one great circle, the great hoop of all peoples. In the center of the great hoop stood a powerful, sheltering, flowering tree, and under it gathered children of all nations.

At the end of Black Elk's vision, two spirit men gave him the day-break-star herb of understanding. He dropped the herb down to the world below, and it flowered, spreading its power out into the whole world. In time, he was promised, his people would be free and would help spread this power of peace and understanding.

See also: Black Elk Speaks
              Black Elk's Prayer

This page was first posted on October 21, 2001 and last revised on January 7, 2022.

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