Plant Messages and Plant Allies - The Gateway: Hearing Messages from Beyond

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

Plant Messages and Plant Allies
The Gateway: Hearing Messages from Beyond

The plant kingdom also offers us remarkable messages. It’s simply a matter of listening. Just as you have an animal ally, you also have a spirit plant, tree, herb, and flower. Usually these plant allies don’t get as much respect and credence as animal allies because they don’t share our locomotion abilities, emotions, or consciousness. To most people, plants seem inert and almost mundane by comparison, yet they also have consciousness, they communicate with each other . . . and from a native view they are alive.


When I was young my uncle told me a story about the Cherokee Trail of Tears. (This was a forced removal of the Cherokees off their tribal land that began in 1835 on the East Coast of the United States to barren land in Oklahoma. The entire trek was over 2,000 miles. Out of 17,000 men, women, and children, more than 4,000 died from hunger, exposure, and disease during the long walk.) He said that the trees were sacred to our people. He called the trees “The Standing People” and said they were our brothers and sisters. He told me that before the removal, many of our ancestors went into the woods to sadly say good-bye to the trees they loved. I haven’t seen this in any Cherokee lore, so maybe my uncle was sharing his own idea to his young niece, but somehow the story has always stuck with me.

My uncle’s words deepened my love of trees. As a youngster, I treasured trees and spent many hours climbing them, making tree houses, and sitting in their branches. I had a difficult childhood, and at times it seemed that my only friends were the trees. I felt safe nestled in their embrace. When my parents would have a raging argument, I took sanctuary in a tree. When my brother got rushed to the hospital and almost died from a diabetic coma, I was so frightened that I curled up in the large branches of a tree and sobbed. It felt like long tendrils of energy reached out from the tree and comforted me, much the way you would stroke a cat.

In high school, when my dreams were shattered by the guidance counselor who told me I shouldn’t even consider going to college—I should find a husband instead—I took refuge in a tree with a large branch that hung over the languid Maumee River. I could almost “hear” the voice of the tree talking, telling me that I might go through a rough patch, but that everything would be all right. (I did go through a rough patch, and everything was all right in the end, just as the tree had predicted.) Some of my best childhood memories were high up in a tree. So, I can understand the grief of my ancestors about saying good-bye to their beloved tree family.

Trees have souls. All you need to do is to step into an old-growth forest to feel that there is a kind of sacredness afoot. Many earth-based cultures considered trees to be holy. They call them “tree people.” Reverence for trees is not unique to indigenous people: Buddha found enlightenment sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree; the Vikings had Yggdrasil, the tree of life; and the druids communed with the spirit of the trees. However, it’s the natives who lived in harmony with the cycles of the earth that have engendered the most thoughtful reverence for them. In worldwide shamanic traditions, trees are also considered mystic passageways for earth-dwellers to enter into other realms. While in a trance state, it’s believed that a shaman can travel down through the root system of a tree to gain insight and wisdom from the underworld.

When I was in Africa, I was told that the spirit of each tree has a voice, which must be maintained if the wood is to be used for a purpose, such as for a drum frame or for a boat shell. This “voice” is thought to allow the drum to carry a magical sound into the world, and it will also keep people in the boat safe from storms and tumultuous waves. However, the voice will only stay alive if the person cutting the tree takes time to honor and thank the spirit of the tree.

In many tribes in Africa, it’s believed that big trees have a commanding spirit, and some trees are felt to be home to many spirits. It’s also thought that all the trees together in a forest can have a powerful collective spirit that can be felt when you enter their domain. Moreover, there’s the belief that trees that aren’t honored can become cranky and can trip people with their roots or catch them on their branches. However, if they are honored, they can be faithful friends and protectors.


Not only do individual trees have souls, but also entire forests can have a collective soul. Many years ago when I was living in Hawaii, I got an early morning phone call. It was still dark outside. I had been up late the night before and wasn’t quite awake. It was Morrnah. She said, “Come quickly and pick me up. We are going to get some herbs to make medicine.” My tiredness vanished; I was so excited to be asked. Usually when I went with Morrnah to gather herbs, I was told to stay at the edge of the forest and wait for her while she would talk to dead ancestors or chat with the menehunes. So I was eager to go with her this time. She told me that she had a client who had tuberculosis and that she wanted to teach me how to make special plant medicine for her. Morrnah explained that we needed to approach the plants slowly and then sit quietly near them. We needed to then wait until the plants “spoke” to us. We sat for a long time before Morrnah began to speak to the plant. She must have been speaking in Hawaiian because I didn’t understand what she was saying. She told me that she had explained to the plant about her client and asked permission to take some leaves and branches to make a potion, and the plant had agreed. She told me that if she didn’t commune with the plant, the medicine wouldn’t work very well.

With a sharp knife, Morrnah carefully cut some small branches. And then she lightly touched the plant and whispered a prayer of gratitude. I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination, but the plant seemed to glow after Morrnah had done this. As we went deeper into the forest, Morrnah didn’t take as long with each plant as she did with the first one. She said there was a network of communication through the forest, and that the first plant “told” the others she was coming.


This idea that plants communicate with each other is similar to what I heard about the mopani trees when I was in Africa. When the impala or the elephants eat the leaves on one tree, before the animals get to the next tree the neighboring mopani tree’s leaves turn bitter, so the animals won’t want to eat them. The natives in Africa say that the mopani trees tell the other trees, “Watch out! The impalas are coming!”

The idea that indigenous people have about plants talking to each other has a basis in science. Communication between trees is not uncommon in Africa. For example, acacia trees send out an alarm to other trees to let them know that the antelope and giraffe are munching on their leaves. As their leaves are being eaten, the acacia tree also begins to produce leaf tannins that are potentially toxic to the animals to hopefully slow them down. The trees begin to emit ethylene into the air, which has been shown to “warn” other trees of danger. Within five to ten minutes, the trees in the area also begin to increase their own leaf tannins. Nearby acacia trees spontaneously produce leaf tannins in quantities that can actually be lethal. However, the antelope are onto this, so they only eat a few leaves from each tree and hurry to stay upwind. Science has a reason, but to native people, the trees are communicating with each other.

At the time when Morrnah told me this about the plants “talking” to each other, it was thought to be just a superstition. Even today most people think of plants as unconscious things that just sit there—mostly inert—but nothing more. They don’t realize that plants actively engage with their environment. Although plants don’t have brains like we do, there’s mounting evidence that suggests that native people are accurate when they say that plants can communicate and even cooperate with each other. Plants do move and they also search for food, just in a different way than animals. They also respond to pain and being attacked, often by putting out a “chemical SOS” in a way similar to an animal, such as a howler monkey that puts out a call of danger to warn the other monkeys. Sometimes a plant will take action when under attack. For example, some plants—when they’re being eaten by a particular insect—can put out a scent that will attract a predator of the attacking insect. They can even discern which specific kind of insect is attacking them and adjust their SOS signal to attract different kinds of specialized insect mercenary troops. This is a kind of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” plant strategy.



Modern science is now acknowledging what those in native cultures have always known about the living consciousness in plants. For example, the idea of communication between plants was suggested after a rigorous research study was done on how cutting the leaves of one group of plants would affect other non-cut plants in the area. In the study, sagebrush plants growing out of doors were clipped. (This might potentially simulate insects eating a plant.) The researchers found that when this occurred, the sage plant changed its chemistry as a way to repel the attack (if it were by insects). And then wild tobacco plants growing in nearby fields responded by increasing their levels of the defensive oxidative enzyme, polyphenol oxidase, which repels insects. The group of control tobacco plants (with unclipped sagebrush neighbors) showed no increase. Hence, over a three-year period, tobacco plants growing near the cut sagebrush experienced much less leaf damage by grasshoppers and cutworms, compared to the unclipped controls. From a native perspective, the sagebrush was saying, “Hey, guys, there’s some monster chomping on me! Be careful.” And the tobacco neighbors responded by saying, “Okay, dude, we’re on it. We’re going to gear up our defenses. Thanks!”

Darwin talked about survival of the fittest, but it turns out that there’s often cooperation among plants to help each other survive. Beneath the surface of the earth, where as much as 80 percent of a plant lives, there’s an amazing, intertwined network of intricate communication that spans the forest. There’s a kind of secret social life, as the roots move, twist and turn, and shift their biochemistry. Far from being unresponsive, there are complex ways in which plants exchange information with each other through their root system. Researchers have discovered that this highly complex underground network is facilitated by a type of fungi called mycorrhiza, which attach to the roots of plants, sending out threadlike filaments to the roots of other plants and thus forming an underground communication web.

The mycelium (which is the outer mantle of the mycorrhiza) sometimes spreads beneath a forest floor as one gargantuan organism, such as in Oregon where a 2,400-acre contiguous growth has been recorded as the largest organism in the world. On this organism, nutrients can be transmitted and even shared via a complex network, similar to sharing information on the Internet. Vital health information travels throughout the ecosystem. For example, if a tree at the far end of the forest becomes ill, this information is sent to the other trees via the mycelium so that they can boost up their immune systems.

Right now there’s an explosion of research that supports the native belief in the consciousness of plants. Research is currently coming forth that has found that plant roots also make subtle sounds, and even ultrasonic sounds, that are detectable by other plants. The rhizosphere is literally surging with plant messages, as plants carry on clandestine relationships giving each other vital information about the other plants in the vicinity. Plants can even communicate with each other before germination to determine how fast they need to grow.

Research done with Mimosa pudica, whose leaves respond to touch by closing, has shown that some plants actually have a form of memory. Scientists rigged an apparatus that dripped water drops onto the plant; to their surprise they found that once the plant “learned” that the water drops weren’t dangerous, it would stop responding . . . and amazingly a plant could remember this for several weeks. Research in another area has shown the influential effect that sounds and music can have on plants. For example, playing specific birdsongs to an orange-tree grove was shown to increase the vitamin C content of the oranges by 121 percent, and they also tasted sweeter. Crop yield of potatoes and corn in Pakistan increased 15 percent and 85 percent respectively, simply using methods developed in conjunction with the playing of birdsongs over the fields. In some mysterious way, there’s an intimate bond between plant growth and birdsongs. There is, indeed, a secret life of plants.


Native people knew that not only do trees and plants communicate with each other, but also they can communicate with us. This last holiday I had an experience with a Christmas tree that had a powerful impact on me. Since I was a child, my family had the annual tradition of going to a lot to pick out a Christmas tree. This tradition carried forward into my adult life; every year, my husband, my daughter, and I would go to a lot to choose our tree. This year we got a small noble tree, which we brought into the house and put into the tree stand to decorate the next day. But that evening as I was about to go to bed, I walked by the tree and I “heard” the tree say in a soft, tentative voice, “Hello?” She had the sweetest, almost shy, voice.

How was this possible? How could she talk to me? I thought that when a plant or tree was cut, the spirit stayed in the soil with the roots. I had no idea that the spirit could remain with the tree, even after being chopped down. She talked to me of her life in the forest and of the snow she’d experienced. She didn’t blame me, or anyone, for cutting her down, but I was racked with guilt. I couldn’t stop crying.

How could I have been so unconscious? Then, almost as if to prove that she was alive, every day she drank five gallons of water for almost a month. Usually Christmas trees will absorb water for a few days, but then they taper off. How was it possible for a small tree to take in so much water? I named her Krista, and we chatted every day. Then one day, she simply stopped talking and stopped absorbing water. She was gone. In the future winter holidays, we’ll have a live tree to plant in the forest afterward, or maybe even an artificial tree, but I don’t think I want to have another cut tree. I’m so grateful to this sweet, unassuming tree spirit for allowing me to see the world in a different way. Of course, people will always cut down trees for Christmas; it’s a tradition. But it’s my dream that they will thank the tree for its giveaway with the understanding of the tree’s great gift of life.

Here are a few activities you can do to deepen your ability to connect with tree energy:

Meditate with a tree: On our land we have a 300-year-old oak tree that I’ve named Geronimo. Although he is scarred and twisted, he continues to stand tall and strong, like the famous Apache warrior. I lean against him, with my back against his rough bark, and imagine that I’m talking to him. I feel comforted by his steady advice and support. As a suggestion, find a tree (or a plant) with whom you feel a kind of connection. Sit quietly next to it. (Even if you live in a home that doesn’t have trees, you can adopt one in a local park, or visit your ally tree in nature in your meditations.) Begin by using your imagination and get a feeling for what the plant/tree might be telling you.

In my 20s I lived in a Zen monastery for over two years. One night I decided to meditate (it was called sitting) outdoors instead of in the monastery (zendo). I sat in some grass under the stars on a warm, still night. There was not even the slightest breeze. A few feet from me was a small tree. As I meditated in the quiet darkness for a number of hours, a branch slowly began to bend in my direction until one of its fingers lay across my shoulder. I could feel the sparkling love flowing from the tree into my heart. Amazingly, even 40 years later, this brings tears to my eyes. I could feel the spirit of the tree connecting with me in such a caring way.


Adopt a tree: To adopt a tree, find one with whom you feel a kinship. It can be in a park or in the woods, if it’s not in your backyard or garden. If you want to know about the soul of a tree, you need to touch it. Imagine that you’re merging deep inside. Then it’s simply a matter of asking and, if permission is given, you can “adopt” your tree. Over time your tree will send you energy and healing, in direct relation to the respect and care that you send it, even if you’re miles away.

Receive energy from a tree: If you’re physically or emotionally in pain, sit against or very near a tree. Often you’ll find that the pain subsides. (Make sure to leave offerings in gratitude. It can be a bit of your hair, cornmeal, or fruit. Some native traditions even leave money.) Another way to receive energy from a tree is to stand where the light is filtering through the leaves and allow that green-tinged sunlight to bathe you. This is excellent for healing and for purification, especially if done in the early morning hours.


Not only are trees bringing you messages, but they can also be your personal allies. Just as you have a particular animal as your spirit animal, you also have a tree species as your tree totem. It can be one particular tree, or it can be a category of trees. Your ally can offer you protection, blessings, support, and guidance. Once you know your spirit tree, it’s said that you carry its medicine. For example, if your ally is the willow tree, then you carry Willow Medicine in your energy field. There are several ways to discover your tree ally; here are a few:

· Spend time in the woods: You can walk in forests and notice the trees that seem to “speak” to you, call out to you, or pull you to them. Your tree ally may seem to even glow.

· Take an inner journey: Often our allies will come to us when we meditate or take inner journeys. Visualize being in a beautiful place in nature and the spirit of your tree coming forward. This is a kind of shamanic journey that can help you attune to your tree.

· Watch for signs: It’s not uncommon for your tree ally to come to you through signs. Pay attention if you get a similar sign three times in a short period of time. For example, Sally, one of my students, was trying to figure out what her tree ally was when she looked up at the sky, and it seemed as though the clouds had formed into an oak tree. Then later that day, she received a large flyer in the mail about saving the oaks. On the next day, her neighbor dropped by and said he was digging up an oak tree sapling and wanted to know if she’d like to plant it in her yard. Sally laughed and said, “Okay, the oak is my tree ally!”

(For more in-depth information on how to find your individual tree, plant, or flower ally and what each one means, please visit my website:


For thousands of years, native people around the world have burned special plants (a practice called smudging) to use the smoke to clear stagnant energies and invite positive energy into a space. Smudging calls upon the spirit of the plant to restore harmony. Additionally, prayers rise on the smoke up to the Creator and blessings travel down on the smoke to the petitioners.

In North American tribes, various kinds of sage, sweetgrass, pine needles, pinion, and cedar continue to be used before ceremonies. Traditionally the smoke should cover everyone in attendance, thus symbolically clearing each person of what’s not needed. It also cleanses the area, which helps to leave behind troubles and start a new cycle. In addition, the elders believe it’s important to use smoke to clear a home in which a person has been sick or has died. And smudging in the place where a new baby is to be born is considered a vital part of preparing for the new arrival.

The ancient native tradition of smudging is one that you can employ in your life to clear the energy in your home; cleanse your personal energy field; honor life transitions; or symbolically leave old relationships, situations, or experiences behind. You can also smudge for protection and calling spiritual beings into your life. Although the herb or plant you choose will depend on your location and on your own personal preference, here’s information about what is most often used in the United States:


Sage is the most common herb in smudging ceremonies in North America. It’s interesting to note that the genus Salvia comes from the Latin root salvare, which means “to heal.” There are many different kinds of sage (with over 800 varieties), and many of them can be used in smudging. However, culinary sage usually isn’t intended for clearing ceremonies. There are also other varieties of sage that work well for smudging, which are in the Artemisia family. Sage is known for clearing out old energy and keeping positive energy flowing into an area. If you’re going to do a lot of smudging, it’s helpful to grow your own sage. The energy will be enhanced, and you’ll help prevent deforestation of native sagebrush.


The second-most-common plant used for smudging is cedar—both the wood and the needles. Much like sage, cedar dispels and purifies, but it also blesses. Some Cherokee traditions believe that cedar invites protective spirits, so often a tiny bit of the wood is added to a medicine bag; also it would be placed above the entrance of the home to protect it. The Hočągara (Ho-Chunk Tribe) consider cedar to be a sacred link between earth and the Creator, and they use it above all else for purifying their living spaces.


The Plains Indians use a wild grass called sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata), also called seneca grass, holy grass, and vanilla grass. It’s thought to be the sacred hair of Grandmother Earth and is often plaited into long braids. It has a sweet, earthy aroma. When the dried braids are lit and begin producing smoke, it’s said that the smoke calls in blessings and good spirits . . . after the sage or cedar has cleared out the stagnant energies. The slow-growing sweetgrass is rare today because of overharvesting, cattle grazing, and agriculture. The best way to obtain sweetgrass is to purchase it from authentic Native American retail shops. Don’t buy it if you are not sure of the source. This supports native people who are working to keep the land from being depleted.


1. Gather the Herbs: The great thing about most smudging herbs is that they’re fairly easy to gather or grow, depending on where you are in the world. Here are some instructions for gathering sage; however, if you don’t have sage growing wild near you, rosemary is often easy to obtain and was traditionally used in ancient times in Europe and Britain.

· Timing: The best time to gather herbs is in the morning right after the sun has peeked over the horizon. When the plants feel the coming of a new day, their energy expands.

· Ask permission: Whenever you wildcraft herbs for any sacred purposes, you must first ask the plant’s permission. To do this, simply place two fingers gently on a sage branch, and mentally “ask” for permission. If you feel a “yes,” then carefully take only a small part of the bush. Never kill the entire plant or take a large amount, as this creates stress for the plant. Your sage will carry that stress and won’t provide very good smudging.

· Cutting: It’s better to cut with a sharp knife, clippers, or scissors than to rip the plant (unless it breaks off easily). You’ll need pieces about 8 to 12 inches long. Hold the place where you’re going to cut for a short moment to prepare the plant. Then make a very clean cut. This creates less trauma for the plant, and you’ll get the best energy in your sage.

· Leave a gift: When you’re finished, it’s important to leave a gift. It can be cornmeal, a pinch of chemical-free tobacco, coins, hair, water (if the plant needs water), or even some saliva so that you’re leaving a part of yourself.

2. Dry the Herbs: Either hang them up or lay them flat, but don’t bunch them together if they’re still moist—otherwise, they may mold or never dry completely, which makes it difficult to stay lit. However, if they are too dry, they will crumble when you wrap them.

3. Wrap the Herbs: Put the stems together and take embroidery thread (or cotton cording) and wrap from the stems upward. Several colors can be used together. Do not use anything synthetic, wool, or leather since the cording will burn when the sage burns. A crisscross design helps keep the sage stable. The bundle should be firmly bound, but not so tight that air can’t get in, and the thread should go at least two-thirds of the way up the stick.



1. Prepare a fireproof container or bowl: Take your smudge bundle (or loose leaves) and place it into a fireproof container or bowl. Often you’ll see abalone shells advertised as authentic for smudging with sage. Although they look beautiful, they’re not traditionally used for burning sage. Sage doesn’t grow in the same areas where abalone shells are gathered. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for tiny bits of burning herbs to fall through the hole in the abalone shells. This can burn your carpet or floor. Elders in the Pacific Northwest say that abalone represents Grandmother Ocean, so it should be used for water ceremonies. If you wish to smudge with abalone shells, consider using silicone to fill the holes and put sand in the shell to avoid having any part of it overheat and so the embers (fire) don’t touch the shell. A deep metal or pottery bowl with a large amount of sand is usually better because, as the mixture can burn quite hot, the vessel won’t crack or become too hot to hold. Also, the depth of your vessel will keep embers from falling onto the floor.

2. Light the herbs: The instant the flame touches the herbs is a hallowed moment. Be focused with your intent. Hold the thought that your prayers go up on the smoke to the Creator and that blessings flow down through the smoke. As a suggestion, use a lit candle rather than a match, as it’s easier to hold the smudge bundle while you light it.

3. Make an offering: Offer the smoke to the four directions, as well as to the above, below, and within, with gratitude and prayers. Ask for guidance and support from the Creator.


4. Cleanse yourself with smoke: You can use your hands or a feather or a feather fan to circulate the smoke. As the cloud of smoke rises, you can symbolically “wash” yourself in it, cupping it up to your face, over the top of your head, and down over your body.

5. Cleanse the space: With an open heart, you can move the smoke throughout a room for clearing or around a space that will be used for a ceremony. This can be with your hands, with a feather, or by slowly spiraling the bowl as you walk. (I talk more about feathers and their use in Chapter 3.)

6. Give thanks: As with all ceremonies, respectful attention must be given to every aspect of it. You’ve entered into a relationship with the plant spirit, and it’s important to give thanks to the sage spirits and to all those nontemporal beings in attendance.

7. Completion: Make sure that the smudge stick is completely out. It’s all right to run the end of it under water to douse the flame. (It will dry out for later use.) You can also push it deep into the sand in your bowl so that it’s deprived of oxygen and the fire goes out.


Tobacco—like sage, cedar, and sweetgrass—is considered a sacred plant in many native cultures. The Amazonian and Peruvian shamans employ it in their spiritual practices, as do many of the natives of North America. The use of tobacco as a recreational drug has only occurred since the colonization of the Americas. Traditionally, it was believed to be a blessing from the Creator, and was only used for sacred purposes.

Tobacco was also a way of showing a depth of appreciation; so when an animal was killed, a tree was felled, berries were picked, or rocks were taken for a sweat lodge, tobacco was left in gratitude to the spirit of the animal, tree, bush, or stone. It’s a sign of respect to leave tobacco, for life should not be taken for granted. Likewise, if there was a disagreement between individuals, clans, or tribes, it was not uncommon to smoke tobacco together; the tobacco smoke was thought to unite people and diminish hostilities.

A request of an elder to share tribal wisdom was often accompanied by a gift of tobacco; if someone was ill, or had passed to the spirit world, tobacco was offered. The most basic offering is a loose pinch given to Grandmother Earth and the Creator as you pray. Before setting off on a journey, tobacco was typically offered for a safe journey. Before religious ceremonies, tobacco was offered to the spirits. When storms approached, tobacco was placed on a nearby rock or stump for protection. It was used and continues to be used in many ways, but there is always an understanding of the deep respect that accompanies it.

Tobacco Prayer Ties: In native cultures throughout the world, there are many different kinds of special carriers of prayers. They have various names, but ultimately their function is to serve as a focus point and a holding place for prayers. To the Native American, tobacco ties are one way of doing this.

Once tobacco ties are created in a soulful manner, they can be carried on your person, made as an offering to another, left in special places in nature with prayers and gratitude, given as a sign of friendship, or used in ceremonies. You can tie them on a branch of a tree, or place them on your altar, or anywhere that feels sacred to you. They must always be placed with respect for the plant and with blessings. They are sometimes hung inside a sweat lodge or around a medicine wheel. You can also wear them during a spiritual ceremony. They can even be placed in a fire in order for your prayers to go up in smoke. (Tobacco ties should never be put in the trash; either burn them when you are complete or place them outdoors, such as hung in a tree or a bush.)


1. Gather and prepare your materials. Once you begin making your tobacco tie, you don’t want to stop in the middle of it, so it’s best to have all your materials ready beforehand. (Tobacco ties should never be purchased. You can make them or have them gifted to you. The power is infused in the creation.) Here’s what you need to get started:

· Cotton fabric—preferably 100 percent cotton; red is most common, but other colors can be used for various purposes

· Scissors

· String/embroidery thread/cording/cotton sinew

· Smudging yourself and all your supplies

2. Cut the fabric into small squares. They should be no larger than four inches. You can make two- to four-inch strips by ripping the fabric lengthwise. And then layer a couple of the strips and cut them into squares. (The number varies according to tradition. Even one tobacco tie has power if it is created with focused prayers.)


3. Place a pinch of tobacco in the center of each square. Do this with prayers and good intentions. You can say silently or out loud what blessings are being put into each tie. You can have different blessings for each tie—for example, one for blessings for your mother, another for blessings for the dolphins, and so on.

4. Place the corners together. Say a silent prayer as you do this.

5. Tightly wrap the string around the bundle so that it looks like a small pouch, and you have now created a tobacco tie. (See illustrations.)


6. For doing more than one: You can leave string hanging from the first one to tie the subsequent ones onto. The other tobacco ties can be about three to four inches apart, but use the same string for tying so that it is continuous, representing the continuous flow of life. (If you’re making a long length of prayer ties, you will need something to wrap them on so they don’t become tangled after you’ve completed them. You can tape one end and wrap them around a rolled-up newspaper, a rolled-up towel, or a long cardboard tube.)

7. When you are finished, smudge your tie or your entire string of prayer ties and say your prayer either out loud or silently. Here is an example: Creator, I offer you my string of ties in gratitude for your bounty and humbly ask for your blessings for my children. I ask this with deep respect and love.

Note: If you use tobacco for sacred purposes, please obtain certified-organic tobacco from a good source. Organic tobacco purchased from artisan growers rather than big business is best for ceremonies. Please do diligent research. Tobacco is sacred, and when it’s not used in a sacred way, it becomes destructive and harmful. Consider growing your own tobacco. Yes, it’s legal to do so. There are many varieties of tobacco, and if you can, use heirloom seeds.