Buffalo. The perfect November power animal for the month of giving—both thankfulness and sharing. This magnificent creature defies limitations and definitions. To understand Buffalo, one must become him. Feel the great breath of life move in and out of your enormous nostrils. Experience the ravishing wind sweep across the great plains and your massive form as if it were nothing more than a gentle kiss. Sense your bull dozer shoulders and muscled haunches covered with a shaggy coat as warm as an electric blanket. Feel what it is to be in the animal body that can stay as still as a held-breath, then at the subtlest signal from your herd of brothers and sisters, take off as fast and as foreboding as a bullet train or rocket. Feel the peace and closeness to the Earth that comes from grazing on the sweet green grasses. Feel what it is to Trust, except in rare moments when Self- and Herd-preservation are truly threatened: then let instinct drive you in the direction of Destiny.
Buffalo is Power Incarnate; abundance; seemingly of this world and yet beyond it. The Plains Indians revered the Buffalo as the Giver of Life and Big Medicine. They relied on the generosity of every part of its body to survive, and when the Bison was driven to extinction by the reckless hunting and the ravishing of the land by Invaders, the People themselves perished too.
The Lakota story of White Buffalo Woman is the cornerstone of their beliefs and rituals and can serve as a guiding white light for people everywhere. Once upon an eternal time, when the world was ravaged by war and famine, two scouts went out hunting and encountered a beautiful and mysterious woman dressed in white skins. One of the men had violent thoughts and intentions to force himself upon her. The other, who was wise and noble, admonished his companion and warned that she was obviously a Holy Woman and to pay due honor. The foolish one rushed at the woman, but he fell at her feet into a pile of bones. She praised the other for his respectfulness, and told him to return to his people and prompt them to prepare for her arrival in the village.
Soon she arrived and gave the people a sacred bundle which included a pipe. She instructed them on how to use it to honor and communicate with Great Spirit, and promised them that if they acted in the right way, peace and prosperity would follow. Upon her leaving, she turned into a white buffalo calf. Later, the calf was seen turning all the colors of the Medicine Wheel: yellow, red, black and finally brown. Then the plains became filled with the brown bison, and the people spent many generations full and at peace.
During this cold and dark season that contrasts, and thus illuminates, our inner warmth and light, re-member the Buffalo and honor her for all that she is, all that she gives us, and all that we can give her. May the Buffalo’s strength AND sensitivity carry through the cold and darkness, and remind us that the Sacred can be as large a presence in our lives as the Bison once was on the Great Plains of our Indigenous lands, if only we would respect and honor all of Mother Nature and her Creation.