White Buffalo Woman

October 3, 2007 § 1 Comment

In a reading I did at the weekend using the Haindl Tarot, White Buffalo Woman (aka Daughter of Stones in the West) turned up in the “situation” position. Here she is:

White Buffalo Woman

I am still getting to grips with the Haindl’s court cards. They are quite different to court cards in a traditional deck. For example, you could say the Daughter of Stones is the equivalent of the traditional Page of Pentacles (in The Haindl Tarot Volume II: The Minor Arcana, Rachel Pollack actually uses the title Princess of Pentacles but round these parts we say ‘Page’). However, the comparison couldn’t be more uncomfortable. The sad, solemn eyes and simple beauty of White Buffalo Woman are a world apart from the eager and enterprising Page of Pents.

Whilst Rachel Pollack’s comments on the card are very interesting, I wanted to delve deeper into the myth of the White Buffalo Woman, to try and form my own understanding of the card. (I plan to do this for all of the Haindl court cards.) I love mythology but know very little about Native American folklore – something I’m determined to change.

Last night I found a more detailed and elegant retelling of the White Buffalo Woman myth online. I appreciate how tiresome it can be to click links, so here is an extract to entice you:
“As the woman came closer, they could see that her buckskin was wonderfully decorated with sacred designs in rainbow-coloured porcupine quills. She carried a bundle on her back, and a fan of fragrant sage leaves in her hand. Her jet-black hair was loose, except for a single strand tied with buffalo fur. Her eyes were full of light and power, and the young men were transfixed.”

It was interesting to read that this is one of the central myths of Plains tribes and that it is the only myth in which White Buffalo Woman appears. She came from the horizon as a woman and returned to the horizon as a buffalo, after bestowing her gift of the sacred pipe. Since reading the myth, I have been pondering possible interpretations of this card. I think it can refer to many things, for example:

– a gift, or a person giving a gift
– helping others, showing them how to do something (Rachel Pollack refers to helping others to “help themselves”)
– the sacredness of the earth; a connection to nature and all living things
– an appreciation of material things (not ‘materialism’ but rather treating objects and possessions with respect)
– simple beauty and simple pleasure
– ritualistic objects and objects which possess meaning (for example: heirlooms and items with sentimental value, religious artifacts, and even tarot decks)
– respect and appreciation for the basic things in life, e.g. food, shelter, clothing, etc.

This last point is reflected in the importance of the buffalo – both in the myth and in the lives of the Lakota. The article I linked to above explains:
“For the Lakota, as for most Plains tribes, the buffalo was a vital source of food and clothing, as well as providing most of the material goods of everyday life. Tools were made from its bones, rattles from its hooves, tipis from its hide.”
So White Buffalo Woman is also a reminder of all those things we take for granted but are so fortune to have (including the earth).

In her introduction to the card, Rachel Pollack describes it as “one of the loveliest in the Haindl Tarot”. Before learning more about the myth, I would have disagreed – to my eyes, it was a rather drab image. Now I feel differently. This is why I love the Haindl Tarot. It possesses such simple beauty and yet such depth, and it is a very spiritual, meaningful deck. Since I have started using it, I feel as though I have truly found ‘my’ deck.

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