Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Flying Folktales II
Folktales On The Wings of the Tibetan Wind Horse
In Tibetan folklore, the wind horse travels to all four corners of the world. In its travels it is able to deliver blessings and prayers intended to increase the world’s sense of peace, wisdom, strength, and compassion. According to tradition these qualities ultimately lead to enlightenment which recognizes human suffering as a temporary condition.
Historically the flags, rooted first in Indian religion, were used as a means to carry forth prayers. Today, Tibetans believe that these prayers and blessings are carried by the Wind Horse (blown by the wind) to spread good will and compassion everywhere. In this way the flags benefit everyone.
So what makes them prayer flags? The people who create them pray over the flags upon which they have written prayers and drawn sacred images. According to Tibetan tradition, the flags are generally flown in sets of five, one in each of five colors. The five colors represent the natural elements of the world and are arranged from left to right in a specific order. The colors and corresponding elements are:
• Blue (sky/space)
• White (air/wind)
• Red (fire)
• Green (water)
• Yellow (earth)
Because Tibetans, like so many other indigenous cultures, such as Native American tribes, use organic bio-degradable materials, the flags in time will fade and then dissolve.
I once wrote a news story about Virginia Ray, an artist who grew the materials she used to make her prayer flags for cancer centers in San Francisco as well as Atlanta. In those intimate workshop settings the flags provided cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families opportunities to write well wishes for the entire world community of cancer patients. Her paper came from garden greens and she also used vegetation as decoration. For example, a leaf dipped in beet juice and then placed on a flag would work like a stamp and stamp pad on paper. In the end a finely outlined leaf would appear.
It’s a good thing that papers made from plant materials and inks created from ground rocks and minerals, do not last forever. How else can the Wind Horse take the messages they hold and deliver them to the far reaches of the earth?
Prayer flags can now be found in many places. Considered to be art forms as well as visual and tangible blessing tools, they not only exist in healing centers and cancer wards, they can also be seen waving in the wind at school yards, farmers markets and elsewhere.
I once facilitated a writing workshop in which the members wrote short family folktales onto paper flags that were on display during a community-wide literary project. In this way they let the world know about select treasured memories.
Families can make their own family folktale flags. The flags can be written or painted upon. They can be created at a family reunion and then laced through the branches of a tree in someone’s yard. Installed on the back porch during an anniversary they could “announce” to the Wind Horse special moments in the celebrated couples’ lives. No matter the occasion, making of the flags themselves can become the source of another family folktale.
It is important to note that while the family folktale flags are temporary in nature because they would dissolve, the folktales themselves would not be lost. Make sure the flags can carry a copy of the folktale. The original can be preserved in a book or on a computer disc.
Perhaps with family folktale flags it will be as the Tibetans believe it is for prayer flags: that blessings which ride upon the Wind Horse will become a permanent part of the universe.
Be sure to read Flying Family Folktales I about the world of family folktales and kites