The Sacred White Buffalo Calf Maiden told the Lakota that when they die, their souls must be purified so they can reunite with the Great Spirit. A lock of hair from the departed person was taken and held over a piece of burning sweetgrass to purify it. Then it was wrapped in a piece sacred buckskin, and the Sacred Pipe was smoked. The soul bundle was kept in a special place in the tipi of the soul's Keeper, usually a relative.

The Keeper of the soul vowed to live a harmonious life until the soul could be released, usually in about one year. The ceremony to release the soul started with a buffalo hunt. A special lodge was constructed. Kinnikinnik, sacred tobacco, was be smoked in the Pipe and special food was buried as an offering to the Earth.

The bundle containing the soul was carried outside the lodge, and as soon as it reached the air the soul was released. The soul then traveled along the Spirit Path, which is the Milky Way, until it reached Maya Owichapaha, the old woman who judges each soul. If she judged it worthy, she sent the soul to the right, to Wakan Tanka. Unworthy souls go to the left and remain until they finally become purified and can join Wakan Tanka.


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