By: J Nighteagle
To the Hopi and Pueblo Indians there were many ways of making offerings to Spirit. Corn meal could have been cast to the various directions. Turquoise was often offered, and water contained within a shell was also a common offering. By far the most important tool for connecting with and making offering and petitions to the spirit world was the prayer stick.
Prayer sticks can be shorter then your fingers, or as long as your forearm. There are no rules to the length. To the Pueblo of Acoma there were 17 common types of Prayer sticks, and the people would make offerings of 16-80 prayer sticks a year.
The most common type of stick was that of a peeled willow branch. These were often painted and had carved notches and grooves. Once the painting and carving was competed , then the feather(s) would be attached. The feather(s) are either tied or stuck into one end of the stick. The colors, the notches, the feather, and the kind of stick all had significance were combined into a prayer stick to serve as a petition to a spirit.
The stick is a message, and the feather the call to the spirit bird or totem to carry the message to heavens. One end of the stick is planted in the earth. As the breeze catches the feather, it activates its energies and links the earth request with the heavens.
Ideally, the stick and feather should be compatible. The qualities of the bird should harmonize with the qualities and energies of the stick. One of the easiest ways to determine this is to examine the tree the bird usually builds its nest in. For example, grouse love oak forests and areas where grapes grow. If you had a grouse feather, you could use a oak or the stick from a wild grape bush.
An oriole will build its hanging nest from a forked twig, so using a forked stick, with the oriole feather would add to your ability to link with this totem. You could add to its effectiveness by painting one fork of the stick yellow or orange and the other black–the traditional colors of the oriole. Remember all feathers are associated with, and are relate to spirit and the gods. They are symbols for the breath of life.
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