Haŋbléčeyapi – Crying for a Vision, is undertaken by an individual with the help and guidance of a holy man. A person elects to go on a vision quest to pray, communicate with spirits, and attempt to gain knowledge, strength, and understanding. The person pledges to stay on an isolated hill for one to four days with a blanket and pipe, but without food or water.
All men and women can “cry for a vision” or what Black Elk calls “lament,” but only the worthy will receive one. To undertake a Vision Quest correctly, a wičháša wakáŋ – Holy Man – should advise the seeker and interpret the vision.
The most important reason for the Vision Quest is to understand their oneness with all things better and gain knowledge of the Great Spirit. A person undertaking a Vision Quest first goes with a filled pipe to the holy man. He enters and asks that the holy man be his guide and pray for him. Everyone present smokes the pipe. The Inípi ceremony is conducted to purify them. Traditionally, the seeker builds the sweat lodge by himself.
The seeker then takes his pipe and some tobacco and goes to his isolated place, often on a high mountain or bluff. Helpers go-ahead to prepare the sacred place. The seeker stays at the sacred place and prays for a vision. Visions often come to the seeker in the form of an animal, and dreams carry the most powerful visions.
At the end of the Vision Quest, the helpers return and take the seeker back to the sweat lodge. The seeker tells all he has seen and heard to the wičháša wakáŋ who interprets the vision.
The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. Recorded and Edited by Joseph Epes Brown. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953.
The Gift of the Sacred Pipe, Based on Black’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown. Edited and Illustrated by Vera Louise Drysdale.