A prayer tree is a place where you can go to honor your prayers, hopes, intentions, dreams, and wishes. Essentially, a prayer or intention is spoken into or written on a ribbon and then tied around the branch of a tree. And then it's left there so that the Spirits in nature can absorb your prayers and help them to become answered.
I first learned about this tradition in 2019 when I was working with a healer friend of mine. She kept intuitively seeing me connecting with the trees in a deep and meaningful way, and it led me to discover the ancient tradition of prayer or intention trees.
This is a very old practice that can be traced back to ancient Celtic traditions where rags or strips of cloth were tied to sacred trees. The pieces of cloth were believed to be physical representations of a person's prayer or wish. And it was a way to physically "ground" a person's desire into this physical reality by attaching a prayer to something physical. Our dreams, goals, and prayers are more powerful when they are written down or spoken out loud.
In places like England, Scotland, and Ireland, the tradition of leaving clooties/clotties/clouties at trees is widely known and accepted. Usually people left a small rag, also known as a clootie, at a sacred healing site, such as a well, as a symbol of prayer or offering. Other sacred offerings such as rosaries or religious medals were tied to Hawthorne or Ash trees for those who were seeking healing or restoration.
Native Americans and other indigenous cultures have also had their own versions of prayer trees in which they created "prayer ties" by ritually tying them to sacred places. These deeply intuitive people would often designate a tree near their villages where they could offer their sincerest forms of prayers, letters, drawings, creations, and writings to the Other World. They would also honor their dreams and visions for their future and future generations here.
You can easily create your own prayer tree in nature. First, you'll want to choose a private, secluded place where you will feel safe praying and setting intentions. You'll also want to choose a tree that has low enough branches that you can easily reach. A tree in your backyard or your favorite spot in nature is perfect.
Next, you'll want to collect a long piece of cloth or ribbon. You can either write your intentions onto the cloth or simply speak your prayers directly into the ribbon. You can make this process as short or as long as you want. You can also speak about your dreams and goals, or say prayers for healing, assistance, or Divine guidance. It's up to you as to how you do this part!
After you've finished with your prayers, you'll tie your ribbon loosely to a tree branch. You want to allow some room for the tree to continue growing. Eventually, the ribbons may be released by the wind or returned to nature. I always take this as a good sign that my prayer has been answered and is no longer needed. So, don't worry if you look outside one day and your prayer ribbon has been taken by the wind!
As you tie your ribbon to the tree, really connect to your intention. Feel and visualize your prayer being received by the tree and the Spirits that are bearing witness. Imagine how your life will feel once your wishes or intentions come true. Like any sacred practice, you must really put your heart energy towards this for it to be most effective.
Some traditions will use this ritual to set dreams or goals for the upcoming cycle. So, tying a prayer ribbon to a tree at the start of every new season or with the new moon is a great time. However, you can use this prayer ritual as often as you want. You can do it daily, weekly, or monthly. Again, it's up to you as there is no wrong way to do it.
Energy Clearing Ritual
In some cultures, the prayer trees were designated next to a sacred body of water or a holy well. In some traditions, people will soak their cloth in the holy water. Then, they'll put the wet cloth against a part of their body that needs healing. Or, if they have a troubled or stressed mind, they'll rub the cloth over their head.
After that, they'll tie the cloth onto the tree. It is believed that this ceremonial act would be a kind of energetic cleansing ritual. And the cloth is believed to absorb the illness. The Spirits of the tree and water would then be invoked to carry away and transform the root cause of a person's pain or suffering.
In a similar way, you can use a prayer ribbon to let go, surrender, or cleanse yourself of anything that is harmful or unwanted. Simply speak or write these things into the ribbon and then ask the trees to help you to let go of anything that is holding you back. This is a beautiful way to clear yourself of unhelpful energies.
Connecting To the Trees
The Dagara believe in a hierarchy of consciousness. The highest consciousness, it is believed, is the plants, trees, fruits, and vegetables. The second is the animal world, and the third one is us. I personally believe that trees are very magical and intelligent beings. I have always had a unique relationship with the trees, and can feel them reaching out to me, smiling at me, and exchanging healing energy with me.
When we spend time working with the trees, we can begin to feel more stable, balanced, and grounded in our life. We can also learn a lot about connection from the trees. Because it is well known that the trees are all connected to one another, just like we are all connected, even if we don't realize it. Essentially, the trees form a massive network or grid all over the world that is connected by their deep, underground root system.
Before tying a ribbon to a tree, it is suggested to really pause and connect with that Tree Spirit that resides within. Talk to the tree like you would an old friend and ask for its assistance. The trees can reach far and wide, all over this world and into the Spiritual dimensions to deliver your message to Otherworldly beings and Spirit Guides who may be able to assist you. So don't just haphazardly tie a ribbon to a tree without much thought or attention. Rather, approach the trees like a spiritual communion between you and Spirit.
Sometimes, people will tie ribbons to the trees as a simple act of reverence, gratitude, or appreciation for the trees and nature. They will do it without any thought of personal gain, which is a nice way to honor nature.
Prayer ribbons are like a kind of charm or ornament that can also be used to honor or bless a tree and/or the spirits that dwell in nature. Many cultures will use prayer ribbons as part of their nature ceremonies or healing rituals. They will make an offering to the nearby trees before proceeding with their rituals.
In addition, some people will leave a small offering next to the trunk of a tree. I always find an offering to nature as a very simple, yet sweet gesture to invoke the Nature Spirits for assistance. Although any benevolent Spirit will never request or expect an offering, I think it's a great way to occasionally say "thank you" to the Spirits who work with us.
Here's a few examples of offering that you can leave at the base of trees:
Fresh water, rainwater, crystal water, or moon water
Milk for nourishment or growth
Honey or chocolate for when sweetness or wholeness is desired
Flowers as a symbol of beauty
Coins as a token of abundance or blessings
Bread for nourishment and fullness
Seeds or grains for growing your intentions, dreams, and visions
Coffee beans as a symbol of awakening or alertness
Vinegar for matters dealing with change
Any kind of food offering, especially something you've hand made
Wine or liquor (poured into a bowl or directly on the Earth)
You do want to be mindful of the kind of wildlife and/or pets that may stumble upon your offerings. It's perfectly okay for nature and animals to consume your offerings, but we don't want to make them sick. So, I usually only offer a small amount or offer it in a place where my dog isn't going to consume it. If possible, you may even be able to set your offering higher up on a tree branch or in a tiny nook.
Also, if you don't have anything to offer, and you want to make an offering, please know that just your presence and awareness is enough. Most trees and spirits in nature get very little acknowledgement from the human world. And, so to have someone come along and spend a moment with them, is more than enough. You can always chant, sing, say a prayer, give thanks, or simply offer a hug to the trees. These gestures are always appreciated by nature!
Some people believe that the different colors of the ribbons or cloth that you use also have specific meanings or spiritual significance. If desired, you can choose your colors to coordinate with your prayers.
Red: passion, vision, power, courage, confidence, success, connection to the Spirit World
Orange: creativity, energy, vitality, enthusiasm
Yellow: new beginnings, birth, creation, home, family
Green: prosperity, growth, change, transformation, authenticity
Blue: peace, reconciliation, cleansing, balance, tranquility
Purple: spirituality, wisdom, insight, intuition, truth
White: endings, sudden loss, renewal, community, communication, relationships
Black: challenges, adversities, illnesses, death
It is quite beautiful to see your prayers build up over the years. It makes my soul so happy whenever I see a prayer tree with so many beautiful prayers for humanity adorning nature. It gives me so much hope for our future.