Tobacco prayer 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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