XVII. Cottonwood – Star

Cottonwood – Star – Hope

Genus: Populus – Family: Salicaceae

Cottonwood signals a magical time of hope, healing and transformation.

A Native American legend tells of how the cottonwood tree first gave birth to the stars by holding star seeds within its branches. Buds shaped like five-pointed stars emerge in early spring from the branches. In late spring female cottonwoods birth their cotton-like seeds into the air, filling the sky with magical “stars.” In winter, the stars sleep within the branches. When an upper branch is broken a five-pointed star is revealed within it as the home of star seeds.

The Lakota (Sioux) believe cottonwoods embody the “Great Spirit” of Wakan-Tanka, also known as “Great Mystery.” Their star-like qualities and majestic size are honored as the “standing one” who connects the earth with the sky. Every year a sacred cottonwood is chosen for the annual Sun Dance ceremony and placed in the center of a large circle as a time of coming together.

Sun Dance ceremonies were yearly community gatherings held is late spring or early summer that corresponded with buffalo herding together after a long winter. Just like the buffalo, Sun Dance ceremonies brought tribes in North America and Canada together for the regeneration of life. Chosen individuals made personal sacrifices on behalf of the community. The intention was one of renewal for all people on earth and for the earth itself. Sun Dance ceremonies were banned for many years because the nature-based spiritual practices of native tribes conflicted with the Christian-based practices of Europeans. In the mid 1900’s the “ban” on Sun Dance ceremonies was lifted. Cottonwoods are once again being used in Sun Dance ceremonies as symbols of connection between us and our star ancestors.

Stars inspire hope in our hearts and minds as we realize that we all come from the stars and will return to the stars. Ancient cultures honored stars as ancestor spirits that guided us home. Stars inspired mapmakers and mathematicians. They shine light into our human journey on earth and the spiritual journey of our soul.

Populus is a genus of 25-35 species that include poplar, aspen and cottonwood trees. Eastern Cottonwood, Populus deltoides, are large deciduous trees native to North America, Europe and western Asia. Cottonwoods grow rapidly and live to be 100-400 years old. They have broad spreading canopies that grow up to 125 feet tall.

Message: Cottonwood is asking us to reconnect with the ancient wisdom teachings based in nature and to remember that we all belong to each other. To move forward we must have hope in the future and embrace our community by including all our “relations.” Now is a time to count our blessings as we dream a new world into being. This may require some sacrifice but the peace we create within our self is necessary for the healing and regeneration of our spirit and our world.

Challenge: Daydreaming and or floating through life. Not taking life seriously enough to make a difference.