Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": WAKAN TANKA, THE SUPREME DEITY OF THE DAKOTA


Following are the words of Sword, an Oglala of the Teton division of the Dakota Indians, as recorded by J.R. Walker.

Every object in the world has a spirit and that spirit is wakan. Thus the spirits of the tree or things of that kind, while not like the spirit of man, are also wakan. Wakan comes from the wakan beings. These wakan beings are greater then mankind in the same way that mankind is greater then animals. They are never born and never die. They can do many things that mankind cannot do. Mankind can pray to the wakan beings for help. The word Wakan Tanka means all the wakan beings because they are all as if one. Wakan Tanka Kin signifies the chief or leading Wakan being is Nagi Tanka, the Great Spirit who is also Taku Skanskan. Taku Skanskan signifies the Blue, in other words, the sky.
. . . .Mankind is permitted to pray to Wakan beings. If their prayer is directed to all the good Wakan beings, they should pray to Wakan Tanka; but if a prayer if offered to only one of these beings, then the one addressed should be named. . . . Wakan Tanka is like sixteen different persons but each person is kan. Therefore, they are only the same as one.


J.R. Walker, The Sun Dance and Other Ceremonies of the Oglala Division of the Teton Dakota (American Museum of Natural History, Anthropological Papers, vol XVI, part II, (1917) pp.152-3)

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