Tobacco and Tobacco Ties
Tobacco is one of the sacred medicines of our people. A tobacco tie is simply the making of a small sacred bundle if you will to hold the tobacco. A tobacco tie is made with a small square of 100% cotton (usually red) cloth and it is tied with either a narrow strip of 100% cotton cloth or a narrow piece of red ribbon. Making a tie for the tobacco makes it easier to carry on your person, to make an offering of tobacco to another person, and to hold on to for longer periods of time. Offerings of loose tobacco are made as well, in particular to the Sacred Fire.
Most Sacred Medicines such as sweet grass, sage, cedar and fungus are burnt and the smoke that is created is used for cleansing and purification and to carry our prayers to the Creator and to our people who have passed on into the spirit world. Tobacco, even though it was burnt in the Sacred Pipe Ceremony, it was more commonly used to make offerings.
Our Ancestors offered tobacco for many reasons, when a tree was cut down, when an animal was killed, when rocks were taken for the Sweat Lodge or to make a medicine wheel. It was done as a way of showing our appreciation for that which was taken. Our Mi’kmaq Ancestors believed that everything in creation had a spirit, they hunted for food, shelter, clothing, never for the sport of it. Tobacco offerings taught the people from early childhood to always be respectful and to always show their gratitude to the Creator, to the spirit of the animal, to the spirit of the tree, to the spirit of the rock. Through the people’s shared belief that everything in creation has a spirit, a life force and is not to be taken for granted or exploited in any way, this teaches an appreciation for all these things. Tobacco offerings are a sign of respect and genuine appreciation for everything in Creation.
Tobacco offerings may also be made for a special intention, for someone who is ill or someone who has passed on into the spirit world, or for the elders, the ancestors, the youth. Tobacco offerings are usually made at ceremonies. When you attend a Powwow or wherever there is a sacred fire, you may make a tobacco offering to the sacred fire for either a special intention or to say “thank you” to Mother Earth and the Creator. A tobacco tie may be offered to a medicine man who has the gift of name giving in order to receive your “spirit name”. A tobacco tie may be given as a sign of friendship. When you are seeking advice or information from someone you may give that person a tobacco tie. You may also give a tobacco tie to someone to show your appreciation for something they have done for you or for the people.
When it comes to making your tobacco tie, you may want to focus on your special intention while you are making it (if you know at the time what your special intention is) or you may want to make your tie and hold on to it until such time that you have a special intention. Trust your instincts, your inner voice, it will come to you when, where and why you need to make an offering. Always store your tobacco tie in a place of reverence and respect. Never just toss a tobacco tie in a junk drawer, it is sacred.
How To Make A Tobacco Tie
To make your tobacco tie, first, you take your small square of red cloth and lay it out so that the four corners of the cloth face the four directions: East, South, West, and North. Now, take your tobacco (about two tablespoons) with your left hand. Hold the tobacco in your left hand for awhile and focus on your special intention. If you don’t have one, focus on receiving one at any time in the near or distant future. Then you take your tobacco and place it in the center of the square piece of cloth.
Starting with the eastern corner, where the sun rises, lift up that corner of cloth that faces east. If you are familiar with the Mi’kmaq Sacred Seven Prayer, you may recite this prayer as you make your tie. If not, just keep focusing on your special intention as you make your tie. Next, lift up the corner that faces south, then west, and north, always in a clockwise direction beginning with the east and going in the direction of the sun. Holding on to all four corners of cloth with one hand, take your other hand and holding the tobacco and center of the cloth together, twist the cloth around and around, making what looks like a doll’s head. Then take your ribbon and wrap it around a few times and secure it. There you have your tobacco tie.
Where, when and why you make your tobacco offering is entirely up to you. You may choose to make your tobacco offering at Sunrise, Sunset or at any time of the day or night. You may leave your tie on the earth, buried in the earth, tied to the branch of a tree, in a stream, or on a mountain top. What your special intention is may have a bearing on where and when you make your tobacco offering. Whenever you make your offering, please hold it up to the four directions (or seven directions), beginning with the east before you place your tie. The important thing to always remember is to show tobacco ties the proper respect, so that you may pass this teaching on to the next generation. Keep it in a safe place, a place of honour and respect.