The Return of the Thunder Beings

The Return of the Thunder Beings

Posted on April 04, 2011 by
Buffalo Skull: Thunderbird

Buffalo Skull: Thunderbird

In the sacred Black Hills, the Lakota ceremonial season begins with the Return of the Thunder Beings (known as Wakinyan to the Lakota people) and is announced by the presence of thunder, lightening, and rain.

It is believed their return (which also marks the beginning of Spring) can bring an extraordinary celebration of life – migrating animals and birds reappear, buffalo emerge from their winter camps, hibernating creatures wake, and the plants and flowers began to bloom.

…but these powerful beings also bring turbulent, destructive storms to the land.

Horse Dance Stick by James Little Wounded: Thunderbird

Horse Dance Stick by James Little Wounded: Thunderbird

The Power of the Thunder Being
Thunder Beings are said to have the power to give life, but also take it away. They can destroy with the wind, cause flood and drought, or burn with lightening; but at the same time, they can also renew and bring the vital rains and nurture all life on earth.

The Thunderbird (one of the physical forms of the Thunder Beings) is said to be an enormous bird-like creature with legendary strength and power. They govern the weather – their voice is thunder and lightening flashes from their eyes.

shield with thunderbird image

Shield: Thunderbird

The legend of Wakinyan Tanka, the Great Thunderbird describes these beings as good spirits, guardians of truth and protectors of men – they are sacred and highly regarded by the Lakota people.

The Thunderbird is often depicted as giant bird-like beings with colossal wings and sharp claws that seem both protective and threatening at the same time.

As they are attributed with the ability to either create or destroy, it is believed this dual nature (give life, cause death) has made them a very prominent, powerful symbol in Native American art.

Suggested Reading

book about american indian myths and legends

American Indian Myths & Legends

book about lakota belief & ritual

Lakota Belief & Ritual

Book about Wakinyan, Lakota Religion in the 20th Century

Wakinyan: Lakota Religion in the 20th Century


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