Black Elk (1863 –1950), was a medicine man, or holy man of the Oglala Lakota people and had come from a long line of medicine men and healers in his family. He was a second cousin of the war leader Crazy Horse and fought with him in the Battle of Little Bighorn. He survived the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.
In a childhood vision, Black Elk describes being taken to the center of the earth, and to the central mountain of the world. Mythologist Joseph Campbell notes that an "axis mundi," is the central point, the pole around which all revolves – the place where stillness and movement exist together. Campbell viewed Black Elk's statement as a key to understanding worldwide religious myth and symbols.
Black Elk Quotes
"The Universe is circles within circles, and everything is one circle, and all the circles are connected to each other. Each family is a circle, and those family circles connect together and make a community, and the community makes its circle where it lives on the Earth. It (the community) cares for that part (of the Earth) but cares for it as a circle - which is to say in a cooperative and egalitarian way, where everybody is cared for, and everybody is respected." ~ Black Elk
"All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." ~ Black Elk
"I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy." ~ Black Elk
Black Elk Speaks by John Gneisenau Neihardt, 1932.
"We should understand well that all things are the work of the Great Spirit. We should know the Great Spirit is within all things: the trees, the grasses, the rivers, the mountains, and the four-legged and winged peoples; and even more important, we should understand that the Great Spirit is also above all these things and peoples. When we do understand all this deeply in our hearts, then we will fear, and love, and know the Great Spirit, and then we will be and act and live as the Spirit intends." ~ Black Elk
"The first peace, which is the most important,
is that which comes within the souls of people
when they realize their relationship,
their oneness with the universe and all its powers,
and when they realize that at the center of the universe
dwells the Great Spirit,
and that this center is really everywhere,
it is within each of us." ~ Black Elk
The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux by Black Elk and Joseph Epes Brown, 1953.