Tobacco prayer ties

Tobacco prayer ties

Hello everyoneprayer ties

As I just made tobacco prayer ties, I thought I would dedicate a post to the tradition and its meaning. As some of you know I am enrolled in a certificate on Aboriginal psychotherapy and complex trauma, which includes ceremonies and the passing on of traditions by Elders and teachers. You can read more about the program here. So today I made prayer ties for 2 reasons. One as part of an offering for healers taking part in an upcoming conference. Second, for a ceremony I am attending tonight, which will be the topic of my next post. The Yuwipi ceremony.

Why tobacco?prayer ties

As you noticed, the title is not just “prayer ties” but rather “tobacco prayer ties”. Why do we use tobacco? Well first off, tobacco is a medicine. Just like sage, sweetgrass or cedar. For the Eastern nation such as Cherokee, Lakota or Cree, tobacco is considered the most sacred medicine. It is the most cherish medicine. Therefore, it is not to be abused or sold for profit. Hmmmm, it sort of does not fit with our present day society no? I personally do not smoke, as I am very sensitive to cigarette smoke (yet love smudging). But I have been told the same thing by both a Cherokee Elder and a Lakota Medicine man, that tobacco is not to be abused. It is to be used within ceremonies. But I respect people’s decisions to use it for other purposes. I just don’t. Thus, tobacco is used as an offering to the person conducting the ceremony or as an offering to the Creator. I have in the past given tobacco to an Elder who was giving me smudge. It’s just the native way of doing things, if you receive something you also give something.

So what are prayer ties and what do they represent?

Well I can only share what I was taught. Again my teaching in this regard comes from Cherokee and Lakota Elders, as tobacco is not used as much by the Western nations such as Coast Salish people. So what you have been taught might be sightly different. Just be mindful that the information I am giving you is not the ultimate truth but rather a version of it. I also want to be respectful of the teachings that were given to me, as not too long ago they were not shared in the English language.

Tobacco ties are basically prayer ties. They are to be thought of as a physical manifestation of a prayer. Why different colors of cloth you ask? Well, each color represents something. Depending on the nation, different colors might be used. Within the Lakota and Cherokee cultures, a white cloth is used for a prayer for healing, a red cloth is used for our ancestors and a yellow cloth is used for giving thanks. Blue and green cloth can also be used. Below you will see mine for tonight’s ceremony. I have 3 white cloth ties as I am praying for healing for 3 individuals. I have 2 red cloth ties because I am praying for someone’s ancestors and mine.

prayer ties

Making a prayer tie

When you make a prayer tie, be mindful of your hands as they will be touching medicine. Begin being aware of them before (you will sometimes see some people shaking their hands before). It is sacred medicine and should be handled as such. Place a small bundle of tobacco at the center of a square piece of cloth. Fold it up as you make your prayer “capturing it” within the bundle. Then tie the bundle with a piece of string or thin cloth. Don’t knot the string, instead use the hitch method. Like you can see on one of mine. Granted my tie is not long enough and I was somewhat struggling to tie it appropriately but do your best.

double hitch

Double hitch

Bring them to a ceremony and give them to the medicine man as an offering so your prayers will be answered. You can also make them at home and offer them to the Creator as you pray or smudge. During a ceremony, the medicine man will often make an altar and tie the or place the prayer ties all around.

Final thought

Women getting their periods, on their “moon cycle“, should not handle medicine. Whether it’s tobacco, a pipe or smudge. As the moon cycle is considered a ceremony of its own, a time where the woman is going through a cleansing. The cleansing needs to happen first before the woman can handle medicine.

I leave you with this video showing the double hitch tying method, the one I used on my tobacco prayer ties. Have you made prayer ties? What is your experience with them? Share below!

All my Relations


30 thoughts on “Tobacco prayer ties

  1. Eoinmc

    Fascinating stuff. I guess tobacco has a long history before Sir Walter Raleigh brought it to the attention of us white folk (meaning me). So what was in the peace pipe in those old movies. Tobacco or Weed?
    I love the idea of the prayer tie and the rituals that go with it.

    1. Emily Post author

      In the peace pipe or the ceremony pipe, there will not always be tobacco. At times, there will be different types of medicine, depending on the the Elder or Medicine Man. Native tobacco is quite different than the tobacco that is smoked in cigarettes. Quite more natural

      1. Nemo

        Is canibus sativa not a sacred medicinal herb used in ceremonial traditions in some cultures, thus “did they have weed in the pipe” ? Maybe it was an honest question and perhaps it’s not ignorance, but just a case of uninformed? ONE LOVE

    2. mollz

      tobacco, weed is not medicine and is considered bad medicine at ceremonies. People who are not in “their right mind” contaminate the ceremony.

  2. Demi

    Very informative post. I was not aware of tobacco prayer ties. Thanks for sharing. I was amazed to know that different color ties represents different type of prayers!

  3. Jesse

    A great article on tobacco prayer ties! Your whole site is packed with practical information of native americans and I absolutely love it! Keep writing out these artciles and educating people 🙂

  4. Cat

    As usual, Emily, a fascinating post. I had never even heard of tobacco prayer ties, or any prayer ties for that matter. I was curious what tobacco would have to do with it, since I associated that with bad smell and cancer (there’s my upbringing). But you say tobacco has medicinal properties! I’m always amazed at how many plants have medicinal properties that we just don’t know about. Anyway, thank you again for sharing your insights! It’s so nice to hear your perspectives. Cat

    1. Emily Post author

      thank Cat! Yep I had the same understanding as you of tobacco before. As I said, I cannot tolerate cigarette as it makes me sick (even just the smoke). So I was pretty much anti tobacco! But I now know its healing and sacred properties

  5. Ed

    Hi Emily,

    Very nice post on Tobacco prayer ties. I didn’t know any of this information. I knew tobacco had it’s place in ceremonies, just not how you’ve explained it here. Like you, I don’t smoke it. I use to and it took 35 years to stop. Maybe that’s why the natives say not to abuse it. Medicinally, I only ever used it on bee stings. Thanks for the insight. Cheers.

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Ed!
      I did not know it could be used on bee stings! I learned something too then! And yes tobacco is often used within ceremonies. For its healing powers and it really is seen as a gift to the person conducting the ceremonies. and good for you for not smoking anymore!

  6. Sandi Dean

    Where can I get sacred tobacco? I have found places to buy some. I am not sure if that is proper. I would grow it, but I live in a upstairs apt (one of my prayers is to be able to have my own garden)

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Sandi
      I am not sure, I would say see an Elder. They can give you some. But give something back in return. Or buy some (in a pouch) and mix it with other medicine such as sweetgrass and sage

  7. mark

    Hi Emily – Just read your post Aboriginal Day In Canada. Its good that people are finally realizing the part native people play in a country’s culture. The native people of Canada have tended the land for thousands of years. They have an affinity to the earth.
    Keep on posting and I’ll keep on reading

    1. Emily Post author

      hi Mark!
      Yes it is good to see that the Native contributions are being acknowledged. Hopefully some day it will be every day and not just on a specific day….Keep on visiting!

  8. christy cheek

    Thank you so much. I was just reading The Red Road to Wellbriety and it said make a Tobacco Prayer Tie and place it in the fire that heats the grandpas before the sweat and I had no idea how to make the tobacco prayer tie.


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