Prayer Fans have been used by Native Americans in the past to assist in physical healing of the body. Today they are usually used for spiritual healing of the soul and heart. Spiritual traditions and beliefs are infused into the very essence of prayer fans and their use is believed to alter the physical and spiritual life of those upon whom the fans are used.
Native Americans believe, like many other cultures, that birds link both the physical world and the world of spirits. Prayer fans are crafted from a great variety of feathers from many different birds depending on the type of ritual or ceremony that is to be conducted. It is believed that a transfer of the bird’s spirit takes place in the feathers and thus is included right in the prayer fan itself. Therefore, the Native American craftsmen are extremely careful in the selection of the feathers and the fabrication of the fan.
During a ritual or ceremony the use of a fan sends a specific prayer message to the Great Spirits in the Heavens above. A fire is started and the message is sent by waving the fan in and out of the smoke. The prayers are thus carried upward by the smoke to the Spiritual Realms above.
If the ceremony is for a physical ailment, certain healing herbs are burned in the fire, and the resulting smoke is wafted towards the sick individual to help effect a cure. This is called smudging. Several different herbs create the healing smoke. Sage is usually the first herb used in order to encourage any lurking evil spirits to flee from the area. Next, cedar is burned as it is believed to refresh and cleanse. Then smoke from sweet grass is fanned in order to attract beneficial spirits. Finally, depending on the ailment, smoke from various restorative herbs are fanned and directed to that part of the body that is in need of healing.
Native American Prayer Fans differ, of course, depending on location, tribal beliefs, and ceremonial customs. They can be flat and stiff, flat and loose, or even double-sided. The Native American craftsmen select certain types of feathers depending on the purpose of the fan. Much time and care are expended in the fabrication. Feathers must be selected carefully and paired together, then ceremonially washed in special herbal solutions and dried before being crafted together.
Many people collect Prayer Fans as a part of their Native American collection to be displayed at home. However, some do recognize the care and sacred devotion that went into their creation and consequently make use of them in cleansing and healing of body and soul. They give them the recognition and respect as a sacred object of Native American Art.
Visit Grey Wolf Trading Post to view our beautiful selections of fans and other replica artifacts. We carry selections from Navajo, Creek and Cherokee Tribes. All come with Certificates of Authenticity.