A long time ago, the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Maiden came to Earth and gave to the Lakota People a Sacred Pipe and a small round stone.
These gifts were to be used in the first rite, The Keeping of the Soul, which she taught them. She also said that six other rituals would be revealed to them. Then she left the people, saying, "There will be four ages, and I will look in on you once each age. At the end of the four ages, I will return." As she left, she changed from a beutiful maiden into a black Buffalo, then a red/brown Buffalo, then a yellow Buffalo and finally into a white Buffalo. And then, she disappeared into the clouds.
The bowl of the Pipe she gave the Lakota was made of red stone, representing the Earth. Carved on the bowl was the head of a Buffalo, symbolizing all of the four-legged animals of the Earth. The stem was of wood and represented all that grows on the Earth. Twelve eagle feathers hung from the place where the bowl joined the stem symbolizing all the birds. The round stone was made out of the same red earth as the pipe and had seven circles on it representing the seven rites.When a Lakota smokes a Sacred Pipe, his or her voice is sent to Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit.A central part of each of the Seven Rites is the smoking of a Sacred Pipe. As Archie Fire Lame Deer says in the book Gift of Power: The Life And Teaching of a Lakota Medicine Man:
There is no ritual without the Pipe being smoked...It is the link between man and the Great Spirit above.
A song first sung by the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Maiden and still sung today begins:
With visible breath I am walking...
The smoke from the Pipe is the visible breath.