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Weaving The Prayer Flower: Performing String Figures as a Healing Art
by Lois Stokes

I sit in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the sacred island of Kaua'i. I am weaving a web of light as I connect to the source within me. I bring back memories as I weave ancient patterns with a simple loop of string. I perform string figures as a healing art, using a gift given to me from our ancestors to influence healing: healing of relationships within self, with others and with the environment. I am learning from Hawaiian spirituality that everything is alive and responsive, that every thought, every word, every action is a prayer.

What is a prayer? In The Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, published by The University Of Hawaii Press in Honolulu, you will find the word pule . It means prayer, but also bears reference to magic spell, incantation, blessing, grace, church service, church, and to pray, worship, say grace, ask a blessing, cast a spell.

On one level string figures are prayers. To me they are prayers that influence harmony and promote transformation.

Journey with me a little further into the symbolism of transformation and look at a Hawaiian word for butterfly, pule lehua . If you look at the word lehua it bears reference, among other things, to a beautiful red flower found on the Hawaiian Islands.

The Hawaiian language is filled with multiple meanings, symbols and metaphors. Pule lehua ; a butterfly can become prayer flower, a symbol of transformation.

I am on a mythological journey as I sit weaving prayer flowers. Prayers of healing.

I watch the faces of the women as we bring back the memories while we weave the string patterns. Tears of recognition well in their eyes. Laughter bubbles forth as the transformation takes place. Myths resurface of ancient spider and dreams of women weaving the sacred space. Healing takes place on many levels.

A woman told me her story of how she used the string figures that I taught her to help her through an episode she had with not being able to breathe because of an asthma attack. She took her usual medicine and as always happens for her, she had to wait for it to start working. This time, something different happened. She took the string loop that I had given her and started weaving string figures. Time passed, breathing calmed without the usual fight, tension and feelings of helplessness. By making string figures while she waited for her medicine to work she was able to relax and influence her own healing.

A group of friends gathered together for an orphan Christmas. We sat on the floor and I brought out my strings. I played a game of cat's cradle with a woman whose eyes started to fill up with tears. Memories of her great grandma flooded into her present moment. The string started to take on a movement of its own and we were suddenly creating new patterns. There came a moment of silence when we suddenly realized that the pattern that we held in our hands was that of an angel. We carefully laid out the string on the floor and it was clear that we had woven a Christmas Angel, a gift from her great grandmother.

In this same group of friends were a mother and a teenage daughter. I enchanted the girl with the string figures and she learned them quickly. She changed before our eyes; a transformation took place as she sat weaving the patterns of string. Mom thanked me for the gift I had shared with them for this was the first time that this girl had come out of her head and relaxed into the beauty of the present moment.

These are just three stories of how weaving string figures have helped to influence healing. There are more. The time has come for us to share this ancient wisdom for it is a living legacy and it has "a purpose under heaven."

This article is the second in a series published on the internet. The first article is entitled "String Figures and Shamanism" and can be found on or through typing the title into the search window of your favorite search engine. The author can be reached at .

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