Thursday, January 12, 2012

Prayer Flags - Self-Expression and Story

Prayers on the Wind- Prayer Flags and Sacred Spaces  

I seem to be bumping into Prayer Flags over and over lately.  
So, I am inspired to finally do my own prayer flags post.  
All of the flags I've seen online are unique and I've enjoyed seeing them.
Mine have been important to me these last years because of their story.

Years ago I heard of a prayer flag project that involved 
painting on muslin 'flags'. 
It explained the 5 traditional colors and how they represent the 5 basic elements: yellow(earth), green(water), red(fire), white(air), blue(space).  
I was intrigued, so I went online and did a bit of research.
I learned that the Tibetan word for a horizontal prayer flag is Lung ta, which translates literally as "wind horse."  The prayers flags whip in the wind, evoking the sound of hooves. They are left in place, while new ones are added over time, right alongside the old ones.  The images fade from the sun and wind, threads work loose and their prayers become a permanent part of the universe.
This idea really spoke to me.  So, I enlisted the participation of my guy and we painted some pre-stitched flags.  I gathered everything together, using the muslin as the white (air) element.  We used natural and other materials to apply the paint.  After they dried, we added the words we wanted to send out into the universe.  Now, my guy makes music but paint, fabric etc. are not really his thing.  However, he agreed to have a go with me.  He painted in his way, his style.  When it came time to add words that we each deemed important messages, he did that in his style too!  Let's just say that I am the one who reflects or participates in matters of spirituality.  He learns about history and science and facts.  

 Prayer Flags
Our prayer flags hang from the porch over the front door.  The ones above are the latest ones made in 2010.  We made them for about 5 years in row, usually around Thanksgiving.  I liked making them then, in a season of gratitude.  It felt good.
My favorite story related to our prayer flags came up after the very first group had hung out in the elements for about one year.  One day as I stood looking at them I noticed something odd.  All of his words (messages) were so faded that they were barely visible.  My words were there in black Sharpie marker, as if I had just written them that day.  The flags hung side by side in an every other one pattern.  His - mine - his - mine...
I looked even closer.  
Oddly enough, it was true: his words were gone and mine were still there!
None of the reasons we could think of explained 
what we were looking at with our own eyes.
We had used the same exact materials ... they had equal time in the sunlight ...
There was not a reasonable explanation.  
Even if I pressed harder while writing, therefore leaving more ink behind...
well, my writing did not fade to the same lightness for another couple of years.
Let me tell you we've had many a good laugh over the mysterious, 
yet selective disappearing words!
We missed making the prayer flags in 2011.  
Maybe we'll make some this year. and see what happens to our messages.

If you'd like to explore more prayer flags, just follow the links:

There is the collective art project: The Prayer Flag Project

Jenclair at Bayou Quilts blogs about her prayer flags and she shared
Linda's of Art Quilts envisioned them as a prayer mobile

Peggy of Woman With Wings posts about her green craft: prayer flags

Karen of Art Therapy has made prayer flags with groups.

Elizabeth (rhythm of the home) writes a thoughtful post on creating prayer flags with friends.

I have to include Valerie over at Sew On and On and her installation: thankfulness project
While not typical-adapted-art prayer flags, I loved following her gratitude project last year.

Last, but not least, there is You Tube
where you can find more informative and inspirational videos.
Photos by NAE @pomegranatetrail ©2012


Ms. ∆×∆p×≥h/4π said...

this touches my heart. I just joined the prayer flag project.

Nancy said...

Michelle - glad you found meaning here :)

jenclair said...

What a great post, Nancy! I've enjoyed looking at all of the links to different Prayer Flag projects. Thanks for the mention!

deanna7trees said...

nice idea. there are lots of prayer flags out there for inspiration.

Jane LaFazio said...

Lovely! thanks for the mention.

woman with wings said...

Nancy, well first of all, thanks for mentioning my prayer flags. Second of all, how cool about yours! It is a mystery which makes it a good thing. Thirdly, the video shows a Universal Dance for Peace group -- we called it Sufi dancing in the old days. There are still groups all over, here in the Denver area there are several. It is the most wonderful thing to go to the dances. Thanks, Nancy, I feel very uplifted from your post and will go visit all the sites you mention. xo

Nancy said...

Jenclair- thank you, and I've been enjoying your posts and stitching so much.

Deanna- Yes, this is just a sampling for sure!

Jane- You are most welcome.

Peggy- Oh thanks for the information on the dancing. I bet it would be very meaningful to join in!

Deb G said...

I've done prayer flags over the years too...need to make some more soon.

Nancy said...

Deb - Yes I'm feeling it too!

Anonymous said...

i love this story of prayer flags. i think it want to try this too..
i love the idea of the words floating in the universe

Anonymous said...

hmmm. i left a comment earlier, but where did it go?
anyhoo...thanks for the information about prayer flags. really like the idea of wind horses. & your mysterious disappearing words!

Nancy said...

Anonymous- I hope you do give it a try! It's so fun to create.
(PS If you feel comfortable, sign with a name or nickname...I feel so silly calling you Anonymous!!!)

Cindy- I liked the windhorse idea too. If you only knew how many odd stories like this one have happened in my lifetime! But, really HOW did that happen??? Ha!

Valerie Kamikubo said...

Nancy, thank you so much for the very kind mention of my project. I enjoyed reading you post :-)

Nancy said...

Valerie- Thank you, it's nice to share!

Linda's Art Quilts said...

I mentioned your blog and project on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook today.