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The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards
Spiritual Teachings of the Sioux
by Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer and Helene Sarkis

The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards - 25 - Mahpia - Cloud These are simply beautiful cards. I have had them only a few days and they already have great meaning to me. This is a special deck in which I expect I will find much guidance.

American Indian spirituality, in diverse forms, has been so popular among non-Indian people. And, this is especially true of some Lakota Sioux practices. These cards are a unique offering, combining traditional Lakota wisdom with the system of divination cards. The two blend together very well, and provide much usable insight.

My first experience with American Indian spirituality was as an infant, in a small Indian home in Connecticut. It remains my very earliest memory. As a little girl I attended powwows, during which I felt the holy, the sacred, through the expressed connection to Mother Earth. These experiences created a strong and lasting spiritual foundation for me. My family's religion seemed foreign to me, especially as my mother shared with me the importance of being open to other ways of thinking and living. Her telling of Indian legends and myths was always welcomed by me. I believed in Raven and Turtle, and the stories my mother told. As I grew, I realized this was not my culture, and so, with respect and difficulty, I drew myself away (at the age when many others were trying to claim Indian culture as their own). I have still never encountered a religion that speaks so sincerely to me as the spiritual expressions of those drum circles and tales. Yet I have kept myself at this respectful distance.

But these cards, created with sincerity and pure purpose, invite me back. They allow me, as a non-Indian, to learn and grow from Lakota spirituality. They are honest and true, and have been offered to all, from the wise heart of Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer, and from the artistic soul of Helene Sarkis. The words and images are both precise, and early readings with them have struck me in the depth of their intuitive accuracy. The images simply blow me away. They recall for me the feeling of timelessness I had as a very young child looking at photos of Plains Indians from the 1800s. They are powerful and sure; I am incredibly impressed by Sarkis' skill, her unique ability to bring spirit and form through her artwork. The words are concise, but so complete, that I feel nothing is lacking in them.

The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards - 40 - Hochokan Wakan - Sacred Mound The Sweat Lodge, or sacred Inipi ceremony of the Lakota Sioux, forms the basis of this divination set. We learn that the Inipi is an ancient ritual of healing and purification, that opens a direct path to Spirit, brings vision, and offers lasting connection. "The Inipi lodge is a place of release, vision, and redemption."p.5

In Lakota tradition there are Spirit Gods and Supernaturals, that are aspects of Wakan Tanka (the Supreme Creator, or God). They are present in oral stories and tales, and through these they teach lessons and bring guidance. They also have a place in the Sweat Lodge,
"Positive and negative spirits are invited into the Lodge to act in concert to point out our weaknesses, flaws, strengths, and gifts. It is the purpose of the Supernaturals to force us to see our various aspects, to own and honor our duplicities as part of being human, and to guide us to understanding, change, true wholeness, and balance."
These Great Mysteries make up the first twenty-five cards of the deck, and act as an invocation of Spirit.

The remaining cards bring us wisdom through teaching us the various important elements of the Sweat Lodge, such as Chunupa Wakan, or The Sacred Pipe; Tunkasila Oniwan, or Grandfather's Breath; and Hanblecheya, or Crying for a Dream.

The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards - 27 - Luta - The North-Red I like the way in which divination is explained in this book. Not only does it describe how the sacred Inipi ceremony is effectively mirrored to us through these cards, it also clearly defines how and why divination, in general, works:
"The coincidence or synchronicity of selecting cards that have the appropriate message or meaning is sometimes uncanny. The process is actually directed by the supraconscious mind that is connected to all knowledge of one's self and the world or reality one sees. ... The state of consciousness that is evoked through divination, meditation, and prayer is reserved for deepening perception, for guidance, and for self-exploration."p.20
Five meditations and seven spreads are offered to aid us in finding direction, confirming our actions, understanding our selves, and reconnecting us to the earth and to Spirit. These are effective workings, whether using one card or eight.

I highly recommend this set, for anyone wishing to use divination cards to look within, to learn about themselves, to reconnect to the spiritual; and to those who like myself are deeply moved by Native American spirituality. They are beautiful and effective, and their wisdom is genuine. They are a gift.

The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards - 16 - Yumeni Whouha - The Material The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards - 46 - Unci - Grandmother The Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards - 23 - Tate - Wind
Card artwork by Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer and Helene Sarkis

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Illumination Tarot has been publishing articles, reviews, tarot spreads, and personal reflections for tarot enthusiasts and followers of alternative spirituality online since 1999.
All writing, reviews, and photography © N Levine - Illumination Tarot, unless otherwise noted. 1999-2021