Yuwipi, Vision and Experience in Oglala Ritual

Yuwipi, Vision and Experience in Oglala Ritual

Yuwipi, Vision and Experience in Oglala Ritual

Yuwipi, Vision and Experience in Oglala Ritual


Yuwipi is the present-day Oglala Sioux version of an ancient and widespread ritual in which a shaman is bound and, in the darkness, call spirits to come and free him and to communicate with his audience.


Whether the myth is recreated by the individual or borrowed from tradition, it derives from its sources -- individual or collective (between which interpenetrations and exchanges constantly occur) -- only the stock of representations with which it operates. But the structure remains the same, and through it the symbolic function is fulfilled.

[LU+E9vi-Strauss 1963:199]

In an earlier work, Oglala Religion (1977), I focused on the structural and symbolic relationships among several Oglala (Sioux) cultural domains -- myth, ritual, social organization, and so forth. In this book my task is to explain similar relationships between three Oglala rituals -- the vision quest, the sweat lodge, and Yuwipi (pronounced yoo-WEE-pee), a modern curing ritual. At first I had planned to present only the last ritual, which is less well known than the others, offering the first complete translation of Yuwipi to help the reader understand what it is like to experience this important contemporary ritual. But as the writing progressed I found it necessary to include the first two because the three together exhibit a particular relationship not necessarily found among other rituals. My selection of these three is not arbitrary. The vision quest and sweat lodge have a particular status among the Oglalas: they are regarded as the oldest, the "original" rituals that existed before the arrival of the White Buffalo Calf Maiden and her gifts of the sacred pipe and sacred rites.

There is also a structural relationship between these two rituals. Although a sweat lodge may be conducted independently of any . . .

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