Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hokaheh, Hoka hey, Hoka hay

The Lakota have no alphabet, so any phonetic spelling is as correct as any other. The first was seen on a license plate prompting a question, sending me on this search. Her motorcycle plate spells it with a “y”. But what does it mean?

The majority definition states, “This is good day to die.” It was use by Crazy Horse to exhort fellow warriors to action. A different opinion was that it is in conjunction with the “good-day-to-die” statement, and means “Let’s go!” A finer shading indicates deeper, soul meaning, with the peacetime translation being “Welcome to the soul.” Eagle Voice, a Lakota Holy Man, told John Neihardt, biographer of Black Elk, it literally means, “Hold fast. There is more.”

It isn’t clear, so its user, the license owner, gives it the most meaning. She is a hospice nurse, who quietly talked with Mother, telling her all was well, that it might be a little tough getting there, but that where she was going would be fine. She told Mom to listen to her body, it has the wisdom of knowing what the mind sometimes resists. In spite of being hearing impaired, Mom heard every word, visibly relaxed, accepting and serene. Magic was happening there.

Later, the nurse told me she has studied seven years with the elders. When she came here to the mountains, she did not know that was to happen, but seemed to imply it was the inevitable reason for doing so. The meaning of Hokaheh, says she, is to live life in such as way that one has done all that one should upon one’s last day, so it is indeed a good day to die. After watching those moments with Mom and hearing this history of working with the elders, “there is more” and “welcome to the soul” are indeed within her definition.

Magic happens. I am blessed I now see it for what it is. Hokaheh.


  1. Grandmommy is constantly in my thoughts. I have complicated feelings on a lot of life transitions now and this for me is the most complicated but also the most clear. I wish I had known to say something better than what I said when I saw her last, which was "I love you too, I'll see you soon." But what do you say? Ever?

  2. Do not concern yourself. She knows how you feel and that is the isignificant thing. She now just smiles and says "Hello." when John or I feed her. She has reached a transition point where she is both very limited, but something about her is all knowing and wise. Whatever her last task was, she has completed it and is now transitioning peacefully, even serenely, patiently waiting for the inevitable.

  3. Please know that it was an honor to serve your mother at such a sacred time in her "earth-walk." Thank you for the clarity about "Hokaheh." Knowing these "meanings" allows me to live and serve others more fully. Keep up the good work Ran!

  4. The Way Of The Soul. Merry Christmas To All Who Aid In The Transition Of Life To Life. Death Is But The Shadow On The Path To Heaven.

  5. Yes, they do have an alphabet. I have attended Lakota language courses.

    1. They do now, but not so historically. The written Lakota/Dakota/Nakota language(s) is/are still being developed and is/are not yet standardized.

  6. Yes, they do have an alphabet. I have attended Lakota language courses.