I’ve long been enchanted with the beauty and magic of prayer flags. A custom started in Tibet over 2000 years ago, traditional prayer flags display Buddhist prayers, mantras and powerful symbols. They are hung outside homes and places of spiritual practice, and it’s believed the flags create a spiritual vibration that is activated and carried by the wind, spreading happiness, long life and prosperity to all beings the wind touches.
Not being a practicing Buddhist (although I deeply appreciate the teachings), I’ve never felt entirely comfortable flying traditional Tibetan prayer flags around my home. So, inspired by the power and grace of this ancient philosophy, a few years ago I created a set of personal prayer flags that display wishes for myself, as well as my family, friends, community and the world.
A group of dear friends joined me in the mindful crafting of homemade prayer flags. We gathered and sat like generations of women before us, working on our handiwork side by side, while sharing stories and offering one another support. The flags we created were as unique as each of us present, reflecting our personal styles, dreams and hopes, as well as the current season of our individual lives.
My flags were carefully planned out and executed. Wanting them to be both meaningful and beautiful, I mindfully selected fabrics, images, words and colors to express my wishes and reflect my essence at that moment in time. They were hand-painted, hand-sewn and lovingly hung on my back porch, where they still sway in the breeze today, spreading their blessings of Peace, Unity, Joy, Love and Bliss. Not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate their beauty and intention.
Each of my friends took a different approach to their flags. My friend Laura blockprinted her prayer flags with a hand-carved symbol she designed to reflect her wishes for her family. Taking inspiration from the Tibetan flags, she incorporated two auspicious Buddhist symbols – a parasol for protection and a pair of golden fishes for happiness, flow and abundance – as well as the initials of each of her family members.
Laura carved her design into linoleum and mounted it on a wood block. Using black blockprinting ink, she then pressed the wood block onto multi-colored squares of gauze fabric. Strung on garden twine, the flags were hung between two oak trees in her backyard, where they could be viewed from her family table.
Another friend created her flags from meaningful pieces and scraps from her fabric collection. She added handwritten personal intentions for inspiration as she awaited the birth of her second child. Yet another used thrifted pillowcases as a canvas to hand-paint original heartfelt images and phrases. Once complete, our prayer flags were strung in gardens, on porches and along fences throughout our community.
Creating Your Own Prayer Flags
As a new season and a new year unfolds, it’s an ideal time to create and hang homemade prayer flags, marking a new beginning and sending silent blessings out on the winds.
Creating homemade prayer flags allows you to adopt an ancient Tibetan Buddhist custom to your own modern culture, background and spiritual beliefs. Messages on your prayer flags can be conveyed through poems, prayers, pictures, words and symbols. They can represent personal wishes, such as health, success and prosperity, or universal blessings, such as peace, compassion and harmony. However you create them, your personal flags should serve as positive reinforcement of the things you most wish for yourself and for others.
You can pull inspiration from the colors, size and designs of traditional prayer flags, which are typically displayed in sets of five on yellow, green, red, white and blue squares (usually 12” x 12” or 6” x 6”) of gauzy fabric. Or you can create something uniquely personal to you. I believe involving a group of like-minded friends in creating prayer flags adds to the power of this project.
Children love creating prayer flags too. Shortly after I made mine, my then 4-year-old daughter requested to make her own set of flags. The blessings she chose were precious and perfect: Dream, Happy, Love and Jewels (I love this one – straight from the sparkly mind of a 4-year-old girl!) Her images were equally fitting: a kitty cat, a rainbow, a sun, a flower. We hung them from rainbow ric rac strung between the posts of her bed.
Over time, prayer flags are intended to fade and disintegrate. Old flags can be burned to release their final blessings in smoke. Or new flags can be flown alongside the old. The flags I created nearly three years ago now have faded, but are far from disintegrating, and still bring me great daily pleasure. But lately, I’ve been thinking about making another set…
This winter, as I embark on a new year, instead of making resolutions I plan to create mindful intentions in a new set of prayer flags. Surely they will look different from those I crafted so many moons ago, reflecting a different season of my life, and displaying a new set of wishes to ride the winds of yet another new beginning. Perhaps you’ll join me?
Elizabeth Sniegocki is a writer and advocate of simple, mindful living. She makes her nest in Sarasota, Florida, where she writes, gardens, cooks, crafts and nurtures two sweet little chicks. Elizabeth blogs about her community, mothering, homesteading and natural living at A Natural Nester.