What does the word “sacred” really mean?


I was recently in conversation with a colleague of mine who is fortunate enough to be receiving mentoring from nature connection guru Jon Young at the moment. In a recent telephone conversation Jon explained why ceremonies specifically for new parents are not practised in many Native American traditions – apparently this is because the pressures of becoming a parent are so intense that new parents become gripped with a kind of insanity. Witnessing many of my friends who have recently become parents for the first time I can well believe this.

By chance last week I came across a recording of a teleseminar delivered by Jon Young. Entitled Song of Connection, the seminar explores the important part that music plays in both modern and indigenous cultures around the world, including in healing ceremonies. The hour long seminar is well worth a listen (a free download is available here) but one section in particular really got me thinking. In this passage Jon talks about this parental insanity as he unpacks the meaning of the Lakotan word wakan which has been roughly translated to the English word sacred. Contained in this single word – wakan – is so much rich meaning that not only does it’s (mis)translation as sacred speak volumes about the profound cultural losses we experience when languages fall out of use, it also says a great deal about the universal wisdom which is also in danger of being lost.

A great deal of wisdom is contained in this six minute passage which you can listen to below.