Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ute Medicine Trees

There is nothing so sacred as a tree. It joins the above and the below. During the day, it takes the energy from the Sky and gives it to the Earth. At night it takes energy from the Earth and gives it to the Sky.
Northern Ute Elder

Prayer Tree
Trees were an integral part of Ute culture. They were a source of many things to the Utes - fuel for fires, poles for tipis and travois, food. But many trees were also a source of medicine, used as message boards or were used in spiritual practices. These trees are sacred to the Utes, they see the Trees as ancestors. A project is currently underway whose goal is to locate and map these trees. 

Ute culturally scarred trees can be divided into four categories - Medicine Trees, Prayer Trees, Burial Trees, Message Trees. Ponderosa Pine were usually used for Medicine Trees and Prayers Trees. Cedar Trees are Burial Trees and Aspen Trees are Message Trees.

Medicine Tree
Medicine Trees can be identified by the patch of missing bark. When Ute Medicine People needed to do a healing, they would first have a dream or vision in which a specific tree would speak to them. Trees or Tree People were spiritual helpers of The Ute. The Medicine People would then go to that tree and slice off a section of bark in the area where the person was afflicted. The inner bark was used to make medicine for the patient and the fire to make the medicine was started with wood and bark from the cut.

Medicine Tree
Prayer Trees were selected at an early age, usually when they were saplings, and bent or twisted using yucca rope. The leaves of the yucca plant are fibrous and can be used to make rope or baskets or mats. Once the tree was tied into position, everyone would circle the tree and pray. The members of the band would know that the tree would survive and hold their prayers for 800 years and each breeze would give their prayers new breath.

Prayer Tree
Burial Trees ~ Ute Medicine People carried the seeds of the cedar tree with them. Whenever a Medicine Person or a Chief died, a seed or seeds would be planted nearby. Should a seed be planted on or near rock outcroppings, rain catch pools and canals would be etched into the rock to ensure the trees survival.

Message Trees had Ute Signs or Glyphs carved into their bark. Utes did not have a written language but used pictures to tell a story.

*** I was unable to find any pictures of Burial Trees or Message Trees on the web ***

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the dogs' mother said...

Interesting. Loves trees :-)

Aine O'Brien said...

I am really enjoying these posts about the ute. Trees have always been sacred to me.

Thank you

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Just fascinating! Interesting parallels with Druid beliefs and Japanese culture too.

mrsduncanmahogany said...

What a fantastic story! Love this, so grounded, earth based beautiful medicine.

Mickie said...

Interesting and enlightening. I so enjoy your blog!