New Year Ritual: Renewal Through Prayer Flags

New Year Ritual: Renewal Through Prayer Flags

Since moving to Flagstaff, AZ, I have connected with people who follow the moon cycles, honor the Pagan rituals from which many religions started and simply connect more with the earth and nature. Nature has always held a special place in my soul. Growing this connection has truly fed my soul in countless ways.  
Several years ago I followed the moon ritual from the Wild Women Project and the ritual at year’s end really made an impact on me.  When I worked through the above process and came to step three, I had such a creative download. I strongly felt the call to create prayer flags for sharing my dreams and visions in the new year. This would definitely get my messages, dreams and visions out to the world on the winds. 
I do see prayer flags hanging from homes around my neighborhood and they abound at the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park in Sedona where people not only hang purchased flags but also ones of their own creation – what a profound concept!  Creating your own prayer flags.
I started with a small pile of articles of clothing which were my favorites but had holes in unsightly places. I was unable to part with them, yet they were unwearable. I choose to use these clothes to make my prayer flags and repurpose something special to me into something else special. If I cut from some of the edges, there would already be a finished seam to string the rope through for hanging, bonus!
I came across information on prayer flags offering the colors and their meanings as well as the facts about when you remove prayer flags they are traditionally burned. Granted my clothing didn’t meet the traditional colors fully, but somewhere I read that there are typically 10 flags, so I asked my family if they wanted to make a few flags too and we could hang all our visions together. With this in mind, my daughter brought a few articles of clothing to add some of the missing colors. I got out the permanent markers and we all created our visions and intentions for 2019.
Our aim was to have them completed and to hang them on New Year’s Day.  
We had just created a family ritual! I shared this vision with a friend who jumped on board too, loving the idea. 
She even added some good thoughts for the ritual, that we could remove the old flags on the winter solstice and ceremonially burn them and then use that time when we start to move into more light to create our new flags which will be hung on New Year’s Day.  

Over the years we have experimented with different media for words and images on flags.  Media used include:
  • permanent markers
  • acrylic paints
  • stitching with colorful threads
  • regular markers – these fade away as the year passes fully releasing your prayer 
The first year I shared the creation of ten flags with my family, now I have no problem filling all ten with my own intentions for the coming year. Another great lesson learned is to release perfection of your creation and focus on the energy you give to your intention.  As these flags will be subjected the elements all year long and eventually burned, allow yourself to simply take action without judgement of the results while expressing your intention.   Errors or mistakes are simply judgement – there is always something learned from the action.  I truly felt this when stitching my images as the threads would get out of hand and I had to simply trust and let go.

Our new prayer flag ritual —which I encourage you to try, adapting it to your own ideas—has manifested as follows: 
  • Save old clothing or sheets to create flags, or purchase fabric scraps. You may honor a lost loved one by using items of theirs.
  • December 21st - Winter Solstice: Remove and burn past flags. Ceremonially review your past years intentions and how they unfolded (or not) and release them to the fire. 
  • Feel into your intents or wishes for the New Year and craft your new flags.
  • January 1st:New Year’s Day or the first New moon of the year: Hang your new flags and spread your message all year long on the winds. 
The winter solstice is just around the corner.  If you don't have flags for this current year you may always write your intents on paper and release them in a ceremony during the solstice and create the space to feel envision your intentions for the coming year. 

Here I will share my poem for 2019, which came out of this process:
Honor the whole, the broken and create anew
All is Beauty
All is Nature
All is Creation
All is You
As the new year approach us, I encourage you to develop your own personal rituals for intention-setting. 

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Cyclical Living: Connecting with the Wheel of the Year

Cyclical Living: Connecting with the Wheel of the Year
I wrote a note to myself in the front of my yearly planner

When in doubt…. 
Head into nature
For it is in nature where I feel the most grounded, connected, in body. 

Earth is truly our mother, and she holds us however we are—no judgment, just as we are. We are a part of nature, not her controller but a small cog in the wheel. The wheel being the cycles: day/night, spring/summer/autumn/winter, new moon/full moon, existence/life/death/rebirth, tidal ebb and flow, inbreath/outbreath and so on.  

Cycles and circles abound—just look at sacred geometry. These geometric patterns exist all around us, creating the fundamental structure and templates of life in the universe. The circle, which is never-ending, represents the cycles of life, the eternal constant, cycles of change, unity, perfection, inclusivity, boundaries. The circle may then be replicated to create other shapes such as the seed of life or the flower of life.

Sacred Geometry is often referred to as the “architecture of the universe”, it is found throughout the natural world. It is all around us and is one of the very few subjects that satisfy both the left brain and right brain hemispheres simultaneously. It satisfies the left brain's desire for logical, sequential and objective data. It also satisfies the right brain's desire for random, intuitive and subjective data.

Living Within Nature’s Cycles

Ancient peoples honored nature and lived within her cycles. Many cultures utilize either the Wheel of the Year or the Medicine Wheel.  

The Wheel of the Year honors the Solstices and the Equinoxes on the vertical and horizontal axis and then there are the cross-quarter days of celebration with different names in different cultures. Each of these have held a ceremony or festival commonly known as: 

  • Winter Solstice (Yule)
  • Imbolc (Candlemas)
  • Spring Equinox (Ostara)
  • Beltane (May Eve)
  • Summer Solstice (Litha)
  • Lughnasadh (Lammas)
  • Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
  • Samhain (Halloween)
Each of these festivals are linked to a specific phase or cycle of the sun or the moon.  Many of these have now become set dates on the calendar no longer tied to the cycles, such as Christmas and Halloween. Thus, they have been disconnected from the lunar flow and the greater world around us.  

The Medicine wheel embodies the Four Directions, as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree—all of which symbolize dimensions of health and the cycles of life. It signifies all the knowledge of the universe and is divided into four colors representing the four directions as well as other aspects or cycles such as:
  • Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death
  • Seasons of the year: spring, summer, winter, fall
  • Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
  • Elements of nature: fire, air, water, and earth
The medicine wheel is used for the purposes of prayer, meditation, and deepening our understanding of our relationships to the timeless aspects of creation. Acknowledging that we are more than just a body, but also mind, spirit, and emotions opens us up to greater understanding, connection, and healing for ourselves and our environment. 

Our language connected us to the cycles. Fortnight used to be a commonly used word meaning fourteen days or two weeks, which is the timeframe between full and new moons or quarter and third quarter moons. 

A way of tracking time simply by looking up into the sky. 

A way of cyclical living.  

Linear and Cyclical Calendars

As man moved away from being a part of nature to claiming dominion over her linear living - linear thinking became the norm. Some will link this to the invention and common use of electricity as described in Clark Stand’s Waking Up to the Dark. The ability to have light at any time broke our deep connection to the light of the sun and the moon shifting between day and night and the seasons.  

We now commonly live by the Gregorian calendar, which makes the month and day of the week most vital as opposed to the season and the moon cycle. This creates more of a linear mindset. Linear thinking tends to be dualistic:
Right – wrong  
Black – white
Life – death

A linear life fits upon a timeline with a one-way flow like a checklist moving through 
  - birth  - childhood – schooling – work life – family – children – retirement – death

As a society, we create the “ideal” flow of life and then judge ourselves on our placement on that line.  
What makes this one timeline right or better-than? 

How many individuals truly follow the socially accepted timeline flow? 

How much do we judge ourselves when we do or do not meet the check marks on that timeline?  

Use of the linear calendar moves the festivals from the wheel of the year to holiday dates on the calendar, losing their connection to the cycles of the sun and moon. I feel this loses some of the intent behind the ceremony/celebration and disconnects us from our environment.  

Linear living implies that things are one-and-done. Is this true? 

Life is not guaranteed to flow in one direction, but it will cycle. While you might be starting a new job, you may also be releasing a relationship and be in the middle of a creative project. Thus, various parts of life are taking place at different points in the cycle or flow.  

We’re inherently cyclical beings, our energy shifts, and our wants and needs are always going to change — if they weren’t changing, you’d be static, stagnant, dead! – HeatherAsh Amara

All things in nature and aspects of living come around again.  
  • A tree births new leaves in the spring to drop them in the autumn and begin again after winter.  
  • Each day the sun rises and then sets in the evening to repeat over and over.  
  • The moon cycles monthly (every 29.5 days): New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter and Waning Crescent. 
  • The healing process seems to move through one phase, then another one rears its head.  
  • We think we have learned a life lesson and then another experience brings it into our awareness yet again. 
This is not to say that either linear or cyclical living is better than the other but to make an acknowledgement that both exist, as we need to learn to navigate both in our current world.
Humans have a complicated relationship with time. Our modern lives are almost ridiculously structured by linear time and its precise measurement. However, our human ancestors, and some of our relatives today, live by a different understanding of time, one that it is cyclical, circadian, and rhythmic. There may be wisdom in that.  -The Perspective

Do you have a linear or cyclical view of time?  

To keep meetings and dates with others, we rely upon the calendar and the clock. We create budgets and spreadsheets and action lists in order to complete projects and communicate with others. And these structures are guidelines, not cast in stone, but a snapshot of a time or idea. Therefore, our creativity is needed to move through time and adapt the images of those measures to what is currently happening. 

Moving between the two ways of time requires an unwinding from our judge-victim, black-white linear thinking back into the heart of courageous, cyclical creativity. When we acknowledge that most of life cycles—we cannot simply tick the box and be done but instead know that this to shall return with the next cycle or flow—we may then open our hearts and our inner artist and learn to move with the flow. We may become open to gratitude and forgiveness as well as our place in the greater cosmos. 

While I personally utilize a planner with the months and weeks of the year within, I created a cyclical calendar of the year in order to track time in relation to the seasons of the sun and the moon.  I printed and laminated this and can use dry-erase markers to add my intents for each season and I use the hands to track the moon cycles and the current season  on the outer edge keeping the cycle within view regularly.  

Would you like a PDF of this cyclical calendar?

Would you like a PDF file for your own cyclical calendar?  Request here

Noticing your life flow through the rhythms and cycles of the sun and moon can open you up in new ways. 

Are you feeling in the flow of life? 

Or are you caught in an eddy and finding even the simplest activities challenging?   

Traditions have linked each cycle of the moon to the best time for performing certain activities. This is exemplified in a variety of publications such as the Farmers’ Almanac or the Moon Sign Book. In general, a new moon is a time to plant seeds and set intentions. The full moon is a time to release and forgive.

I have also come across an artist who paints a free form landscape and then looks back at where the moon was during the creative cycle noticing whether she was open and free flowing or more structured and detail oriented. Women’s bodies have a natural link to the cycles with their “moon cycle” or monthly flow. 

Embracing Your Cycles

While we need the linear time to interact in today’s world with others, would you consider adapting a cyclical frame within your daily living?  

By embracing concepts from the medicine wheel of our four aspects of life—mind, spirit, emotion, and physicality—opens us up to more levels of healing and well-being.  We are more than a body. Working with all of ourselves and embracing the movement through the cycles creates a new level of being within ourselves which ripples out to our environment. 

We may become curious about new ways to bring cyclical living into focus in our everyday patterns. I invite you to explore more of my blog posts and contact me if you’re interested in learning more about the kinds of tools that have been transformative for me in my journey of attuning to cyclical living in my life.