Lightning Medicine Cloud. Image Source: The Watchers.
In the lore of the Druids, white cows were sacred, sacrificial animals. The Romans, however, on conquering the British Isles, brought dark-coloured cattle with them. White cows were henceforth seen as signs of bad luck, an ancient belief that has survived in the form of a superstition in some farming communities, even to the present day.
Perhaps the mythology of white cattle and conquering powers repeats in North America. In Native American traditions, especially among the Lakota people, the incredibly rare birth of a non-albino white buffalo calf is an auspicious and momentous thing. The Lakotas see the calf as a 'Messenger of God.' The legend of white buffalo is explained by Lakota Ranch:
One summer a long time ago, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux came together and camped. The sun was strong and the people were starving for there was no game. Two young men went out to hunt in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Along the way, a beautiful young woman dressed in white appeared to the warriors and said, "Return to your people and tell them I am coming." This holy woman presented the Lakota people with the sacred pipe which showed how all things were connected. She taught the Lakota people the mysteries of the earth. She taught them to pray and follow the proper path while on earth. As the woman left the tribe, she rolled upon the earth four times, changing color each time, and finally turning into a white buffalo calf. Then she disappeared. Almost at the same time as her leaving, great herds of buffalo could be seen surrounding the camps. It is said that after that day, the Lakota honored their pipe, and buffalo were plentiful. ...
The Native Americans see the birth of a white buffalo calf as the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to the weeping statues, bleeding icons, and crosses of light that are becoming prevalent within the Christian churches today. Where the Christian faithful who visit these signs see them as a renewal of God's ongoing relationship with humanity, so do the Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as the sign to begin life's sacred hoop.
"The arrival of the white buffalo is like the second coming of Christ," says Floyd Hand Looks For Buffalo, an Oglala Medicine Man from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. "It will bring about purity of mind, body, and spirit and unify all nations—black, red, yellow, and white." He sees the birth of a white calf as an omen because they happen in the most unexpected places and often among the poorest people in the nation. The birth of the sacred white buffalo provides those within the Native American community with a sense of hope and an indication that good times are to come.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe. The leader of the Lakota Dakota Nakota Oyate, of the Sioux nation, speaks about the white buffalo legend (2010). Video Source: Youtube.
In August 2010, Lakota Chief Arvol remarked on this legend as it pertains to current world affairs and the state of the environment:
This image of a planet plundered by soulless people is poignant enough. But the additional appearance of a white calf at the turn of the Millennium is seen as a blessing and a warning: it hails a time of great change. As a result, there was enormous excitement when a non-albino white buffalo bull calf was born 12 May 2011 at Lakota Ranch in Greenville Texas. The calf was named Lightning Medicine Cloud.A Great Urgency: To All World Religious and Spiritual Leaders
Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together from the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.
We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the sacred life of all things.
The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit, mistakes that we cannot afford to continue to make.
I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.
I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that have been inflicted on the Earth. ...
So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer. Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember World Peace and Prayer Day/ Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether it is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good decision making by our Nations, for our children's future and well-being, and the generations to come. ...
Chief Arvol Looking Horse sees a great danger threatening "Grandmother Earth" and a great hope for restoring her wholeness. So he is calling all nations to prayer of any kind in an effort to return the planet to balance, the people to spirit. I asked him why this path is the right path to take. "A man or a woman without spirit is very dangerous," Looking Horse explained in a recent phone interview. According to this Sioux chief, the absence of spirit is causing suffering everywhere. "We are in a time of survival," he said. "But we don't want to believe it because we have forgotten our spirits. We have forgotten that Grandmother Earth has a spirit." Disconnected souls are hurting others without even knowing they are hurting others." Those being hurt include animals, trees and waterways.
The Lakota are a proud people. Their 19th century leaders were so important in their struggle against the expansion of white man's America that they entered the popular mind in history and legend: Crazy Horse, Rain-in-the-Face, Sitting Bull. A descendant of Sitting Bull saw this calf as a reincarnation of Sitting Bull's spirit, a hope for all nations.
Sitting Bull's successor describes the significance of the prophecy. Video Source: Youtube.
It was horribly distressing, then, when the poor young Bison was found killed on 30 April 2012. Its mother died the next day. Rumours that the calf was skinned have been denied by local law enforcement. The Sheriff has declared the case closed, with the cause of death attributed to a bacterial infection (amid accusations of cover-ups). Others believe the case is an unsolved crime, now the concern of the Native American Rights Federation.
Whatever the cause of death, it seems this is a persistent omen, for another white buffalo calf was born 16 June 2012 at the Mohawk Bison Ranch owned by Peter Fay in northwestern Connecticut. This baby was named Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy. While recognized by visiting Lakota, this animal appears not to be seen in as potent terms. Perhaps this is because breeding lines can be manipulated to improve the chances of a white calf birth. It is implied, although not stated outright, that Native American owners would not play with breeding lines. Thus, there is a suggestion that a white calf born on a Native American ranch would be truly a gift of nature, not of research in genetics. Even so, this latter calf was named in a sacred ceremony on 28 July 2012, which was blessed by a big thunderstorm.
Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy (centre) with his mother and other Buffalo. Image Source: Peter Fay via Indian Country Today.