The number four is a sacred Sioux symbol, but why?
I got this Native American symbolism question a few months ago. The oncoming of (one of many) thanksgiving events charged my mind with ceremonies, and holy events orchestrated to honor the sacred in all things.
Never far from my thoughts are the Prime People, and their ways of elegant expression. Sioux, among all Earth Cycle peoples have such clarity in perception, and an ease of understanding that sweeps me off my feet.
The Sioux, and other Native minds were open to the natural flow of Great Creation. They allowed their observations of Creation to spill into every aspect of their lives.
The Sioux observed the number four as dominating several profoundly influential aspects of existence. To wit:
- Cosmic: Sun, Moon, Planets, Stars
- Body: The core of of man, his heart, has four chambers
- Vital Elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air
- Nature: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
- Navigation: North, South, East, West
- Flora: Four parts to vegetation – roots, stem, leaves, fruit (or flower)
- Fauna: Four genre of beasts that take air. The two-legged ones, four-legged ones, those with no-legs and flying creatures.
- Life: The four phases of human life experience.
And so, to the Native Mind, as the number four is so vitally interwoven into such foundational concepts as the ones above mentioned – it was only honorable and logical to incorporate that sacred foundation into their living community practices.
We see these incorporations of the number four consistently in Sioux life. Perhaps most poetically expressed is in ceremony:
- Pipe Passings: The pipe is offered to participants from four different directions
- Sweat Lodges: Traditional Sioux ceremonies guide initiates through four endurance challenges
- Sun Dances: There are four direction facings to this ceremony
Here are some other links that might assist you on your journey to explore the sacred meaning of number four in the Sioux way of thought and beyond:
I also invite you to look at this post on the Navajo Medicine wheel symbolism – which is also in quadrants.