The White Buffalo Dream

March 11, 2024

The Dream

I had several dreams last night. The one I dreamt just before I woke up was a short dream about a beautiful green plain filled with white buffalo. Not a herd, but several (I don't remember how many exactly). The point of view of the dream was above the plain looking down. There was a voiceover saying, "they were looking out on a wide plain, but it was the white buffalo that held everyone's attention." 

Biblical Associations

When I look at a dream that I think may be spiritual, I turn to biblical and religious references first. I do this because as a Catholic, I've read the Bible and am familiar with Church traditions. So these elements tend to be part of my personal symbology. 

There are no buffalo in the Bible so I focused on the color white and the significance of a green plain. I immediately associated the green plain with the green pasture of the 23rd Psalm. To me, the 23rd Psalm is about trusting and following God.

My favorite verse about the color white is from Isaiah, so that was another easy association.

Come now and let us discuss this, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow. Though they are as red as crimson, they shall become as white as wool.. - Isaiah 1:18 (New Catholic Bible)

After my first impressions, I like to do a word search in an electronic Catholic Bible to find key terms (like white) and read through the verses cited. I also use Fr. Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary. (I have the print version but you can access the entire dictionary free online.)

The liturgical color for all feasts of the Trinity, Our Lord (except his Cross and Passion), the Blessed Virgin, angels, all saints except martyrs, and on Sundays during Easter Season; also in the celebration of the sacraments that do not imply penance or the remission of sins. White is a symbol of joy, purity, innocence, holiness, and glory. Pope St. Pius V (reigned 1566-72) prescribed that the ordinary papal attire be white. - Fr. Hardon via Catholic Culture

There may be a lot of Bible passages for a single term, so I try to focus on those that have personal meaning to me and / or are coherent with other aspects of the dream.

While white is occasionally associated with symptoms of illness in the Bible, I don't feel that applied to this dream.

More often, white is used to describe angels, God and Jesus in the Bible. It is mentioned in connection with the transfiguration and the resurrection. There are so many references to the color white in Scripture that I can’t list them all here.

But Mary [Magdalen] stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now as she was weeping, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. - John 20:11,12 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

The four horses  mentioned in Revelation and in Ezekiel include a white horse. In Revelation, Jesus rides a white horse. The lamb of God who represents Jesus is white as is the countenance of the Ancient of Days.

The common denominator in all of this is that white is associated with the holiness. What's really interesting about this to me, is that the Indian meaning of the white buffalo is very similar. 

Native American Associations

I have an interest in the symbols and teachings of indigenous cultures. I knew the white buffalo was significant in Native American culture but I didn't know the details, so I decided to do some research.

I learned that there is a Lakota myth about the White Buffalo Calf woman who was a supernatural being who appeared to teach the people the seven rituals. All the rituals are fascinating but I found Wanáǧi Yuhápi or the Keeping of the Soul especially interesting.

According to the Sacred White Buffalo Woman, when a Lakota person dies, their souls must be purified so they can reunite with Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka - the Great Spirit. Traditionally, a lock of hair from the departed was cut and held over a piece of burning sweet grass for purification purposes. After being wrapped in a piece of sacred buckskin, called the soul bundle, the bundle was kept by the soul’s keeper in a special place within the tipi. The Keeper of the Soul vowed to live a life of harmony until the soul can be released - typically about a year. After a commemorative banquet and gift-giving ceremony, the bundle containing the soul was carried outside and released. It is said that the soul travels along the Spirit Path - Milky Way - to reach Mayá Owíčhapaha - the old woman who judges each soul. The one-year commemoration remains a common ceremony today. - "Seven Lakota Rites"

There are prophetic ideas linked to the white buffalo as well:

For many American Indians, the birth of a white buffalo calf is the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to many Christian signs such as weeping statues. - "Meaning of the Sacred White Buffalo

This video tells the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman:

General Associations

General associations include anything that occurs to me about the dream. It can have to do with plot, context, or symbolic meanings not previously explored.

The point of view in the dream was above, looking down. This, combined with the voiceover,   suggested an omniscient, or all-knowing narrator. A group of people were observing the white buffalo below and the buffalo were what held their attention. The unseen group thought the white buffalo were important.

Waking Context

To me, the waking context of the dream matters. This context could include related events that seem to be connected with the dream as well as any prayers or petitions that precede it.

People have practiced dream incubation from ancient times to the present day. The practice can be simple or involved. The way I usually approach dream incubation is through prayer. In this instance, I was praying for insight on my writing and learning about dreams. 

I have heard various priests say that we should just ignore our dreams and I understand why they have this opinion. But to me, Scripture and the early Church take a different view. In spite of that, I feel some conflict about working with my dreams.

Possible Meanings

  • The dream reinforces the idea that dreams have meaning in many cultures. Dreams were valued in biblical times, as well as in many other cultures. 
  • There are common cross-cultural themes in this dream. I am a Catholic with an interest in American Indian culture and some very distant Indian heritage, so this feels right to me.     
  • I feel this dream speaks to the importance of following God (omniscient viewpoint), staying close to Jesus (lamb of God), working with my guardian angel (man in white), and cultivating virtue (holiness). These are all things to think about.
  •  Because a group of people are observing the buffalo, I think the dream might be of interest to others, which is why I've posted it to the blog.
  • The story of the White Buffalo Calf woman is something that I want to reflect on further.
  • There are prophetic elements in both the Indian and the biblical resources. I'm not sure what that means as of this writing, but I'm open to further insight.
  • I usually share important dreams with a good Catholic friend who has a gift for dream interpretation. She gave me some wonderful insight on the dream I had prior to this one but we did not get to the buffalo dream yet.

As you may have noticed, I put a lot time into interpreting this dream even though it’s short. This is why I don't take a deep dive into most of my dreams, though I do record them all. To me, it is worth the effort because there is so much to learn!

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