Max Ehrmann said it best: “You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.” The this totem animal is the one that will help you stay connected with your place in the Universe and your connection and interrelationship with all other living things. The Above animal also guards the sleeping mind and is considered to be the guardian of the dream time, allowing you your own personal access to other plans and/or dimensions. (For our purposes, although the technical difference is understood and appreciated, for ease of understanding bison/buffalo will be used interchangeably.)
Technically, the semi-shaggy large herd animal that roamed the American west in herds so large you could purportedly walk across the entire of the Great Plains on their backs without touching the ground is a bison. Called Buffalo, this great beast is solid passive strength personified. The bison can weigh more than a ton, some of the larger specimens topping a ton and a half. Readily known for its massive head, fur-covered shoulder hump (which makes him look as if he has half-shrugged his shoulders), the bison is a formidable animal. Various hunting methods were used by the Native Americans to enjoy the bounty of bison. One method was the “buffalo jump.” Essentially the animals were stampeded and force buffalo over a cliff. This is an easier said than done activity as the Buffalo was not known for skittishness and being easily driven to stampede. Many of the western states have a bluff or cliff with a sloping back called “Buffalo Jump.” When buffalo was hunted and killed by Amerindian peoples every part of this great gift was used. Buffalo gave skins for a wide variety of uses from robes to wear or hides for sleeping. Buffalo hide was used to make clothing. Buffalo meat is rich and ideal for jerking and was used to make pemmican and other “travel food.” Nothing went to waste. Bones became utensils once they had been split and the nourishing marrow removed. The brain could be used to tan the hide. The hooves were turned into glue. Buffalo provided all.
Buffalo tradition in the Lakota Tribe includes the tale of the White Buffalo Calf Woman. White Buffalo Calf Woman brought the Lakota the sacred pipe and the power of prayer. Through the sacred pipe she showed them the importance of prayer. The pipe itself was as symbolic as the smoke and tobacco it used. The pipe bowl as receptacle was feminine energy. The tobacco itself was imbued with the energy from both genders. The stem of the pipe represented masculine energy and was symbolic of the male fertilizing the female. White Buffalo Calf Woman showed the Lakota that the Great Spirit could be connected with through the coming together of male and female. The connection to the divine energy was considered sacred and personally intimate. During the ceremony as the pipe is loaded, honor was given to every member of fauna, they are requested to share the medicine of the pipe by entering into it and adding it’s medicine to the prayer and praise being given to the heavens. After the pipe is lit, the smoke is prayer in physical form wafting its way to the upper realms.
Most traditions hold the White Buffalo the most sacred. Rare in occurrence, the White Buffalo is nearly an animal of fable and myth. Legends attached to the White Buffalo include that when the White Buffalo returns she will herald the resurgence in power of the Native American. Her abundance will finally be theirs again. White Buffalo medicine is considered exceptionally strong. The Buffalo has long been a symbol of abundance and prayer. Buffalo reminds us to honor the Great Spirit, Supreme Being, Spirit Nation, or Powers That Be. The massive shoulders of the buffalo indicate her ability to store energy and maintain good health. Her sacred tie to the Native American is easily seen in the oral histories and tribal traditions. The American philosophy of Manifest Destiny and westward expansionism nearly spelled the doom of great buffalo. Young cowboys and cowgirls today still thrill to stories of the great buffalo hunters – For over a century we have celebrated the exploits of Wild Bill Cody and Buffalo Bill. The railroad was interested in feeding the large work crews of men needed to push the metal beast through. Hunters were hired to kill the buffalo not only for it’s food but also to destroy the menace. Over a ton of four legged animal on a railroad track is dangerous. A whole herd of beasts of that size crossing in front of a train is disastrous! In his greed for more land, crossing the continent and settling the nation from sea to shining sea, the Victorian era American nearly caused the extinction of the mighty Buffalo.
But, true to her Totem’s energy, true to her own power, true to the associations she has carried over the ages, Buffalo has survived. Although she no longer runs in massive herds across the vast expanses, she still survives and her population is growing. Her strong ties to the Native American are seen in the recent transfer of care of a herd of Buffalo to the Salish-Kootenai Tribe of northwestern Montana. The tribe fought long and hard, battling up hill all the way to be able to care for Buffalo. Now the tribe cares for and manages an entire herd, preserving not only Buffalo, but their personal and tribal heritage as well.
The Bison reminds us that sustenance is there for us, all we have to do is ask. We have to realize that when we ask for help in prayer we must be open to the answer that we receive. Bison/Buffalo medicine reminds us to take what we get and be happy with it. Buffalo also reminds us that in order to receive we must ask in the appropriate manner. Hence Buffalo reminds us to spend time in prayer.
Those to whom Buffalo has granted her abundant totem need not fear for lack of physical needs. Buffalo reminds us that if we plan properly, observe our beliefs, and take time for prayer and asking for the help that we need, our prayers will be answered. The test for those with Buffalo Totem is finding the path of least resistance, much like buffalo does as she wanders across the wide open spaces.
Buffalo energy is powerful energy. Buffalo energy reminds us that no matter who we are, no matter what we are trying to manifest it is through asking for assistance from the Great Spirit that our greatest good will come. Buffalo knows when it is time to seek the warm places as the winter nights get cold. Buffalo invites us to remember the warm places that can be found when we have the affirmation of prayer to sustain us. Buffalo energy speaks about abundance from a well laid foundation.
Under the Christian ethic Buffalo energy could best be described as “The Lord Helps Those Who Help Themselves.” Buffalo reminds us that we are interconnected with all other living things. Buffalo energy is the energy created through right thought, right action and right deed. Buffalo calls to us to prepare our foundations properly. Buffalo’s cycle of power doesn’t diminish throughout the year. Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring, Buffalo calls us to prayer. Through prayer we outwardly recognize our connection with a higher power. Through that connection and just and appropriate action on our part Buffalo tells us we will have what we need. Some with Buffalo energy around them miss the bounty that is before them. Buffalo calls to us to create the future of our dreams through proper action and prayer, followed by recognition that we will be provided with what we need.