Prayer

Trees

A collage of photos of prayer tree ceremony on a hill above the Kadarim kibbutz in the hills above Lake Galilee in Israel.
Oh hear me All Spirits
Please hear my prayer
Oh hear us All Spirits
Please take our prayers
Here do we place them
Here with Eternal Tree
All of our prayers
Each of them need
All of You Spirits
All of You Spirits
Each of them Need
Please join with our Prayers
Take and Transform
For each Prayer must hear
The Breath of Creator
The Voice of Mountains
Each Prayer must See
Forevereness of blue Sky
Each must be touched
By the Power of Sun
By the Power of Moon
By all that lives within
Both Day and the Night
Here have we planted
At the Center of the World
Our Praying Tree
Bless Us, Oh Bless Us
We surrender our Hearts
And our soulful Concerns
Singing our Thanks
As Praying is Done.

Bone Spirit Tree.
Prayer tree for the dead at our home in Sanata Cruz.
All over the world, people make objects holding and sending their prayers. There are special ceremonies, found in ancient cultures and practiced today, that involve constructing from natural materials "holders and senders" of prayers. These are often called bahos (Hopi), prayer flags (Tibet, North American Indians), prayer sticks (everywhere!).

In my work with Spirits, I have learned that the making of Prayer Trees is an important sacred ceremony to be done; and to plant Prayer Trees in retreat places or lands through which I make pilgrimage.

I often think of and refer to these Prayer Trees as "Praying Trees" for this connotes the important understanding that the Spirits continue to work with the prayers placed on the tree long, long after the ceremony of planting and attaching prayers is done. Thus, using the verb form "Praying Tree" speaks directly to appreciating what occurs after the last human has left the site where the prayer tree is planted. And with some Circles, when we have returned to a retreat where we have met over the years, we find these "Prayer Trees" have changed; we reflect on these changes; we add new prayers.

These are introductory comments on Prayer Trees. I will continue to add to this web page with more comments, examples, and photos related to Prayer Trees, bahos, prayer sticks, and the sacred activity of "making prayers" which are left in certain places.

I consider learning how to "make prayer" essential and powerful shamanic activity. Making prayer is different from "saying prayer." We are mostly accustomed to hearing and saying prayers which is equally important. The making of prayers, however, involves leaving material that is transformed into Spirit. This transformation of matter into Spirit is what shamanic work is all about: whether doing healing, assisting the crossing over of souls, changing our patterns of behavior and thinking, etc. The transformation of matter into Spirit doesn't "stop" with the word Spirit but means that whatever happens in the transforming process "returns" Spirit to form, to embodiment in a new way than previously held.

Making Prayer Trees
Prayer Trees can be used for many purposes. A prayer tree may be constructed with the whole Circle sharing the same intention (same prayer request). A Prayer Tree can be constructed and individuals use it to attach their own individual prayers regarding their special concerns.

Finding the Branch or stick: First, one finds the large stick or a heavy branch with many arms, that will serve as the Tree. Remember this one branch or stick comes from some Parent Tree. It represents all Trees; and it represents the eternal Tree of Life. Finding the branch that wishes to serve this function becomes a matter of "searching for the branch which wishes to serve the people at this particular time, in this particular place." Often two—five people will go out searching the land for such a branch and bring it back for the whole Circle. Blessings and thanks are made to the Tree Spirits for offering themselves in the form of this branch so we might do this sacred activity.

Planting the Prayer Tree
Pay attention to "where" on this land does this Praying Tree wish to be planted. Then once this is known, ask the Earth to receive this Tree. Then the digging of the hole is done. Usually after a deep hole is dug, rocks are placed around the bottom to ensure the Praying Tree's stability. Remember, Praying Trees may be in places of high winds, on mountaintops, near ocean waves and wind.....through all seasons and all climates.

Making one's prayers: sometimes a Circle or an individual already knows for whom or for what prayer needs to be made. Other times a Circle will journey about this; and then there are occasions when something arises in an individual or a Circle's life which "calls" for prayer to be made.

While making the prayer to be tied on the Praying Tree, it is important to be focused with clear intention. All the time the prayer is being made, the prayer-maker is involved in thanking the materials used, reflecting on that for which one is supplicating, and mindful that one is surrendering to the Spirit one's own singular hopes and accepting that "what is necessary will be done" by the Healing Powers of the Universe.

Customary materials used in constructing prayers are yarn, feathers, paper for writing prayers, personal objects of meaning related to the prayer, etc. Anything can be placed on a Praying Tree. Often however, you use objects that will be transformed by the changing seasons—objects that exist for a while then are transformed into Spirit. Feathers are used because they call the Winged Ones to take our prayers to the highest sources and carry our prayers over the lands. Nearly all prayer trees, sticks, and bahos involve the use of feathers. The feathers need to be gathered in a sacred way.

All these materials are our way of asking the beings of this Universe to join in our prayers; to help us, to use their Powers to assist the movement of our prayers.

Tying or Placing the Prayers Once an individual and/or the Circle together has made their prayers, the go to the spot where the Tree is planted. Now comes drumming, singing, blowing of whistles, fluting, dancing: the gathering of our intention through all these activities as we begin the sacred act of attaching the prayers to the tree and transforming this branch into a Praying Tree.

Usually the "supporting activity" (such as drumming and singing) is done until all prayers have been attached. After the last prayer is attached, people gather around in a Circle with the very focused, final attention and prayer: "Please Spirits and Prayer Tree, take these prayers we have offered, transform, heal, and do that which needs doing with all of our prayerful requests." As soon as the cloth, feather, or materials are attached to the Tree, that "object" begins to offer the prayer for which it was made.

That is the basic ceremony. Once the ceremony is done, then at different times throughout a Circle's gathering, or when Circles return, prayers are con tinually attached for one becomes mindful of prayers that need to be made.

Other aspects of prayer trees
I only wish to mention a few examples of objects you will see on prayer trees for the possibilities are unlimited. 1) Sometimes you may see white tufts of cotton and for many peoples, these represent the souls of the children being sung to the Light; they may also represent the clouds of the Rain Maker or Rain Goddess who will help to bring the crops. 2) Various colors of cloth that are used often represent different cardinal directions of the Earth, different seasons, different times of day. So, for example, I might wish to tie a prayer that the Circle I am with be "illuminated" with clarity of spirit and mind. I would choose a color of cloth similar to the color of dawn, first light, or the Sun for this represents "light" and illumination. 3) Colors can also represent particular intentions: I might tie a prayer with blue yarn or cloth. The blue, for me, might represent asking the "cooling waters" to do their healing work with some very ill and feverish friend. 4) Feathers, too, can represent different prayers. Tying an Owl feather could represent: "may we see our way clearly through this time of darkness." Quail feather: "may we remember to pay attention to the small, wee beings of the Earth."

Such examples indicate why it is good to be clear about your intentions; gather materials accordingly. And to both ask and thanks these "beings" from nature for lending their assistance.

Pictures on this webpage
I will begin writing poems and descriptions about the various photos of Prayer Trees you see on this webpage. Each of them was made, planted, and ask to serve for particular prayers. these poels and descriptions will start appearing on Feb.10 and will be added to weekly until each Prayer Tree has been "witnessed" and thanked through my writing.

I invite you to begin "learning" and experiencing Prayer Trees by simply looking at each photo carefully; see if the picture speaks to you, invokes in you some feeling of why these individuals are gathered; or what this Prayer Tree is supplication to the Universe there on the Land.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments you wish to add, write me.

Just as we make Prayer Trees, so too may we each be a Walking Prayer Tree.

Love and blessings,

Carol

Prayer tree on a hill above Clifden in the Conamarra area, west coast, Ireland
Prayer tree in the Mojave desert, Lucerne Valley. Tree is a cactus.
A prayer tree for Matthew Sheppard offered by Shamanic Men's group. It is located at our home in Santa Cruz.
Prayer tree in the forest in south-east Holland.
Again, the prayer tree in Galilee, Israel.
This page was posted on February 27, 2000