The Origin of Wind Horses Collection
As told by Don Hunter (our founder),
My work in Asia has taken me to places of stark natural beauty. Many times, from a mountain peak or ridge I’ve been rendered speechless by a vast landscape of quiet, raw nature. At these places, time slowed as my spirit soared on pure wonderment. Quite often the soft flutter of colorful prayer flags enriched my privilege of place. Local people fly prayer flags at auspicious places and times. On mountain tops and passes, they are left to bless a safe journey, express faith, or send forth blessings and prayers to all. These cheerful expressions of giving brought vibrance and gaiety to my eyes and piety to my heart. Towns and villages adorned with prayer flags seemed less drab, more welcoming.
Prayer flags sprang from one belief system to influence many. Their magical effect can be traced to the ancient Bön religion of Tibet, at the very heart of Asia. Buddhism came later and transmogrified Bön with new wisdom and traditions. Flag colors grew from blue and white to five that convey specific meaning: yellow = earth; green = water; red = fire; white = wind; blue = sky. The faithful believe that when these five elements come into harmony, they invoke the powerful energy of basic goodness. Like the wind, basic goodness cannot be seen or owned yet is present for all. They cleanse and heal the bad energy of people and places, and when flown with selfless intent—the wind carries prayers of well-being and good fortune to all space. Flags may be printed with a prayer, a mantra, historical icons, or sainted teachers. As a wannabe cowboy, my favorite is Lung ta, the Wind Horse. Typically drawn as a finely adorned horse with the flaming Three Jewels on its back. The Three Jewels are where Buddhists take refuge: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (body of followers).
For decades, I have flown prayer flags at my Colorado home, seven acres lovingly called The Ranch. On special occasions or when old flags become too tattered, I unfurl new ones and send prayers to the Wind Horse that carries them atop the wind to all the world. They have enriched my meditation at home and when traveling. Though it feels good to see the flags wafting colorfully in the wind; they are foremost a conduit of personal giving—not receiving. I've gifted them to many of my friends. If you believe in their power, they touch you, move you, as they fulfill a vital purpose: Giving. Prayer flags are one of the oldest forms of giving known to mankind.
So, why hasn’t this unique form of giving taken hold in cultures beyond the worlds of Buddhist and Hindu? Not exactly sure, but I have noticed mainstream faith traditions don’t particularly like followers to stray from established rituals. Prayer flags represent no specific doctrine, but rather exist to inspire a culture of giving found in all faith traditions. So, why aren’t prayer flags flown all around the globe, filling the air with good thoughts, good wishes? Beautiful, colorful, purposeful flags, adorning mountaintops, gardens, ranch entryways, travel destinations, ship masts, special places, and times. How could this be a bad thing?
A few years ago, a global world of prayer flags unfolded to me in a dream. The dream nagged and goaded me to do something to spread the joy of prayer flags—a way, I thought, for me to give back for a blessed life. It occurred to me that perhaps the prayer flag just hasn’t been properly introduced to the West. Many people like and fly (or more often hang) Buddhist prayer flags, but fail to appreciate their meaning, their history, and their purpose. I envisioned a prayer flag custom adapted for western cultures. To start, I sewed paisley printed bandanas of the five colors on a string. They looked and felt pretty good, but then I thought they needed more meaning and some degree of reverence and connection to the eastern and western cultures. I studied the history of the Asian prayer flag and found three obvious themes common with the spirit of the old West: wind, horses, and goodness. On these themes, I created a new prayer flag, transmogrified from the old, reverent of ancient origin, but contemporary to the western world. My family joined in my obsessed, artistic quest. A new design emerged, the Wind Horses Prayer Flag:
After thousands of years Lung ta, Wind Horse of the east, teams with Zephyr, a mustang of the old west. Together, they magnify the power and goodness of prayer flags.
Wind Horses renewed for the present age an ageless form of reverent giving. I loved them, the family loved them, friends loved them. All found them joyful and easily connected to the concept of reverent giving. But to create a prayer flag...was I being sacrilegious, audacious, arrogant? I’m no high-ranking Buddhist or religious scholar, but a little digging confirmed prayer flags have been around for thousands of years. And since the time of their Bön origin, they have undergone many changes with little record of the underlying reason. I asked practicing Buddhists the origin and meaning of prayer flags and got no uniform answer. And some answers were clearly wrong. In fairness, not many practicing Christians fully grasp the Trinity, Immaculate Conception, the nature of Christ, or the many variations of the cross.
Closer to home, I found parallels to prayer flags with the Native American view of horses and wind as supernatural conveyances of spiritual guidance or reward. The powerful center of Navajo cosmology, Nil’chi, the Holy Wind, informs all life. They advise when Nil’chi enters your life listen carefully, for guidance and transformation are forthcoming. I liked the term Holy Wind. It assigned an appropriate spiritual level to the wind’s importance as Nature’s carrier of good will: everywhere on the planet and free to all.
For some time now I’ve had a recurring vision: from atop a special place, I turn my face into the wind. With a hopeful heart I feel as much as hear prayers carried by the wind. The languages are many, but the feel of hope and goodness in the air is unmistakable. My senses awaken a cosmic connection to something unknown yet familiar. The world spins more slowly for a moment. Then my eye catches sight of colorful movement. I see prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, just like in Asia. I smile as my heart lightens, knowing that I’m not in Asia but beneath the western sky of my homeland.
Please join my quest to expand the culture of giving through prayer flags. “Fly the Horses.”