XVII. Cottonwood – Star

Cottonwood – Star – Hope

Genus: Populus – Family: Salicaceae

Cottonwood signals a time of hope, healing and transformation.

There is a Native American legend that tells a story of how the cottonwood gave birth to the stars. In early spring, buds emerge in the shape of five-pointed stars. In late spring, female cottonwoods release cotton-like seeds into the air that fill the sky with “stars.” When an upper branch of a cottonwood is cut, the cross-section reveals a five-pointed star within it.

The Lakota 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 people” who connect the earth with the sky. A sacred cottonwood is chosen for the annual Sun Dance ceremony and placed in the center of a large circle to represent the Sun as the center of our universe. The Sun, which is a star, is the center point of our solar system.

A Sun Dance ceremony is a yearly community gathering of prayer and healing. Chosen individuals also make personal sacrifices on behalf of the community. The intention is one of hope and renewal for all the people on earth and the earth itself.

The Sun Dance ceremony was banned for many years because the spiritual nature-based practices of the native people conflicted with the Christian-based practices of the newly arriving Europeans. Sun Dance ceremonies and cottonwoods are once again bringing people together in hope of healing for the greater good.

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. Their leaves and bark were often the only source of food for horses, which allowed people to move across the vast lands of North America. It was considered the “pioneer of the prairie.”

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 small sacrifices but the peace of mind we will experience will be well worth it now.

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