Spirit Sticks: Communing with the Creator - The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

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

Spirit Sticks: Communing with the Creator
The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

Spirit sticks are ornamented power objects created with blessings to give tangible form to your intentions. Traditionally, they were used for healing, petitioning, hunting rituals, honoring ancestors, cleansings, delineating one’s life, garnering respect in council, and protection during battle. They are most often made from a branch and then carefully decorated. They can be painted; carved; or even wrapped in leather, yarn, or ribbon. Sometimes the sticks are adorned with plants, moss, bark, feathers, or shells. Beads, semiprecious stones, and tobacco pouches are also frequently added.

In many earth-based cultures, spirit sticks were thought to play an essential role in connecting with Great Spirit when praying for rain, a good harvest, a successful hunt, or the health of a loved one. Although traditional ones were made in specific ways for each purpose, they have evolved over the years and are now created and used in myriad ways.

The creation of a spirit stick can give clarity to your past, help you understand your present, and provide clear direction to your future. Your intention and your prayers are what give it power. Spirit sticks are as varied as the people who make them and can be used for many different purposes. Here are just a few of the many diverse intentions you may choose for your own spirit stick:



An ancestor stick is traditional in many native cultures. When I was with the Maoris, I was gifted a long, straight wooden cane about 4½ feet high with intricate carvings of faces embedded with paua shells. Receiving this gift was a very special honor. The faces carved into the stick represented tribal ancestors. I was told that whoever held the stick could call upon these ancestors for support.

Creating an ancestor stick not only opens the door even wider for support and healing from your ancestors, but also it can be a way to honor your lineage. It’s not necessary, however, to carve their faces into the stick. You can instead choose specific items, colors, or shapes to represent those who have gone before you. For example, perhaps you had a grandmother who fiercely protected those she loved. To symbolize her fiery nature, you might use red yarn with red beads and tiny dangling bells.


A family spirit stick can be created to empower and protect your family members. The family as a whole can create it, or one family member can birth it, making sure that every family member is represented. At one of my retreats, Gregory, a businessman from New Zealand, decided to dedicate his to improving his relationship with his wife and daughters. He chose a black bead to represent himself, a red bead for his wife, and two yellow beads for his girls. When he had finished, he looked at it and saw that he had placed his black bead a substantial distance from the beads of his family. He decided to remove the decorations and reweave the stick, but this time with the beads closer. But, it still didn’t feel right. All afternoon and into the evening he worked on his spirit stick until he finally felt a sense of union with his family.

Curiously, at that very time, back home, his wife and daughters were discussing the family relationships and concluded by feeling a great deal of understanding for Gregory. He said that when he returned home, it was as if a miracle had occurred—instead of strife and discord, there was a wonderful sense of love and community in his family. Gregory felt that he had literally changed his life through the creation of his spirit stick.


Although all spirit sticks carry your prayers, a prayer stick is specifically created with a particular intention in order to magnify your hopes, dreams, and wishes. You can infuse the stick with prayers for yourself, your family, or a world situation. In many of the native traditions that use prayer sticks, feathers are placed at one end and then the entire stick is “planted” in the ground for at least 24 hours. It’s believed that the wind carries the prayers from the feathers to the Creator. Whether you include feathers or not, it’s recommended that you put your finished prayer stick outside overnight. It’s said that when the first morning light touches your stick, your prayers fly to the heavens.

If you choose to make a prayer stick to send prayers to another person or a world situation, pray only for the highest good and don’t infringe on others. In other words, as an example, rather than praying that everyone in your office stops smoking, pray that you breathe only fresh, clean air. (You never know—you might get a promotion into an office in which no one smokes.) As you decorate your stick, imagine you’re weaving a spirit of love into the world around you.


The prayer arrow is different from a prayer stick in that it is smaller and has a specific directed prayer attached to it. The Huichol native people of Mexico have embraced the prayer arrow (called uru) perhaps more than any other tribe. Every aspect of the Huichol prayer arrow is filled with significance. As anthropologist Carl Lumholtz observed, “There is no symbolic object in more common use, either by the private individual and the family or by the community. . . . No feast can be imagined without the presence of arrows. Whenever an Indian [Huichol] wants to pray, his first impulse is to make an arrow.”

In the Huichol religion, every petition to the gods is sent via an uru. Each feather, piece of yarn, bead, or decoration that adorns the arrow has a specific meaning and collectively creates a particular prayer. According to the Huichol people, the prayer itself is focused in the tip of the arrow.

To create your own kind of prayer arrow, write your intention on a piece of paper and wrap it around an arrow-sized stick. (You can sharpen one end of the stick for the “arrowhead,” and you can place feathers sticking out of the end to be your symbolic arrow.) Then wrap yarn around the entire stick so that you can’t see the paper (this also secures the feathers to your stick). If desired, you can hang additional feathers or herbs off your arrow.


A talking stick is a decorated stick that is passed around when people are gathered in community to discuss important matters. The person holding the stick is given the respect of everyone at the gathering. No one is allowed to interrupt the person holding the stick. A talking stick can be as plain or as ornate as you choose to make it. What’s important is the energy with which you create it.

When making your own talking stick, fill it with wishes for harmony, peace, and equality. Hold the intent that all gathered will honor each other and hear what each has to say. This is excellent to do with children; the simple exercise of allowing little ones to be truly heard and at the same time teaching them how to listen is a powerful practice that will reap benefits in their future.


A blessing stick is filled with objects that carry your blessings and love. It can be used for yourself or for another. It can be a gift for a baby shower, a wedding, a housewarming, or a birthday present. You can create them for your children, a spouse, relatives, friends, or any time when you want to gift your blessings to another. It’s very important when you give birth to a blessing stick that you feel joy and peace while you create it. Don’t make a blessing stick if you are unhappy, sad, or angry.

A blessing stick can also be created (or co-created) to honor a rite of passage. For example, a stick infused with blessings can be a meaningful gift for a newborn baby. Each person in the child’s life can choose a bead, piece of yarn, or natural object to be woven around the stick to serve as a visual reminder of the support he or she will always have. The objects can represent the important people in the child’s life or they can represent qualities that he or she will have. For instance, a small stone might be used for strength and a swath of red yarn for love. Alternatively, if a teen is going off to college, the family can create a small stick—one that fits in a suitcase—that has something from every family member to remind him that he is loved. If a daughter is serving in the armed forces, blessings of protection, strength, and courage can be woven into her stick.

Similar to a blessing stick is a gratitude stick, in which you weave your gratitude for the bounty and blessings in your life.


Creating a spirit stick that symbolically chronicles your life can be a powerful activity. To do this, designate one end of the stick as the beginning of your life by putting an item on that spot that represents your birth. Then, as you work up the stick, mark the major events in your life with different objects.

Once you have completed the stick, spend some time looking at it. Notice the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that arise. Does the stick feel like an accurate symbolic representation of your life? If not, rework it until you feel that it conveys your life. If there’s anything in your life that you are unhappy about, try reweaving and reworking that aspect of your life where it appears on your stick. You can also weave prayers and dreams for your future into this particular kind of spirit stick. (For more information and step-by-step instructions on making spirit sticks, go to my website.)