Pipestone (Catlinite) is the sacred red clay stone that American Indians use for making prayer and ceremonial pipes. It is found in only a few places in the world. The best quality pipestone comes from southwestern Minnesota. It ranges in color from pale pink to brick or blood red and normally has small lighter spots - referred to as "stars" - scattered throughout. Pipestone is smooth to the touch, can be easily carved and takes a high polish.
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In response to inquiries from our customers about wax for sealing and finishing Catlinite and Steatite pipes, we are now including a FREE, one ounce button of quality BEESWAX with every order; enough for finishing pipes or several smaller items.
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In 1836, American artist George Catlin - after whom Catlinite is named - recorded the Sioux legend of the origin of the pipestone as follows:
At an ancient time the Great Spirit, in the form of a large bird, stood upon the wall of rock and called all the tribes around him. Taking out a piece of the red stone, he formed it into a pipe and smoked it, the smoke rolling over the whole multitude. He then told his red children that this red stone was their flesh, that they were made from it, that they must all smoke to him through it, that they must use it for nothing but pipes: and as it belonged alike to all the tribes, the ground was sacred, and no weapons must be used or brought upon it.
The following information about the role of the ceremonial pipe fashioned from the sacred red pipestone among the plains Indians is from the book titled "Life and Adventures of Frank Grouard" by Joe DeBarthe, a newspaper correspondent and Grouard's biographer. Grouard was captured by the Sioux when he was nineteen years old and spent seven years with them living in the camps of the great chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
The pipe figured in each and every Indian ceremonial. When lit in council or during religious rites or when used at dances or feasts, it passed from left to right and never from right to left. It was usual for the chief or warrior lighting the pipe to offer some particular spirit the first draught of smoke, and the stem of the pipe was then held toward the different points of the compass, the sun, moon, stars, or any object to which the holder of the pipe desired to offer homage. This little ceremony was never omitted. Before passing the pipe to the neighbor on his left, each Indian inhaled as much smoke as his lung cavity permitted, and the smoke was afterward expelled at his pleasure. They used different pipes at the different ceremonials and would scorn to sanction the use of the council pipe in any other place or on any other occasion.