By Certified Life-cycle Celebrant® Marilyn Dion.
I have just returned from about three weeks off the grid in northern Ontario—where I gained an hour, and drove past the point where the watershed changes and all waters flow north toward the Arctic Circle. The lake is a place where I have experienced the Northern Lights and this year was privy to nature’s display of a double rainbow. There were times that were so exciting while I was there, especially the evening a couple of us ladies caught more than a dozen fish in less than an hour with cries of “fish on” echoing across the pristine lake. I amazed myself by quickly hooking minnows to lures, releasing smaller fish back into the water and helping net the others. Rushing back to shore before night fell, feeling the wind in my hair as I grasped my hat, I felt lucky to be alive.
In calmer times, relaxing on the deck of the cottage, after a very hot sauna and dip in the lake, I brainstormed and reflected on the meaning of family and the ownership of such a secluded and idyllic place. I was thankful to be included as if I was family. In the main room of the cabin, flags are hung in tribute to a mountain climbed by one of the brothers who owns the place. His success and the meaning celebrated by the string of flags touched me. As a researcher by nature, when I later had access to internet, I began to research the whys of such symbols and the importance to us as people.
Why Signs and Banners?
There are many ways we acknowledge to others that follow in our footsteps where we have been. What immediately comes to mind is the Inukshuk crafted out of piled stones seen along roadsides and trails in the north country—pointing the way to what lies ahead on the path.
Whether it be a banner, crest, logo, Totem, gargoyle, flag, shield, or sign, all are symbols representing something powerful— distinguishing something from the ordinary. Door hangings are hung as a sign of welcome or celebration of a season. Churches hang banners of spiritual significance. Some cultures hang a stylized cradle as a type of banner for baby blessings. Most of us have seen banners of congratulations such as “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” or “Happy Birthday!” hung as a welcome, announcement, and a form of congratulations.
Though materials used have changed over time from woven cloth creations to digital examples, banners of all shapes and sizes are still used for events in both personal and public spaces. The city I live in offers space for banners to be hung across the main street in front of City hall for non-profits, charitable organizations, and city-run events.
Banners, shields, logos etc., tell a story with minimal words using pictures and colors, assigning a broader meaning to the words sign language. It is a type of communication using a craft with medieval origins in some parts of the world and with indigenous origins in North America, if wampum belts are considered to be a type of banner. They depict a summary of a story but are more than that, as in essence, they invoke a spiritual sentiment, a promise, and a gift of value. They pique our interest encouraging us to find out more. Many banners are considered an art form and a tribute to either family, trade, tribe, or country.
Symbols, colors, and even materials used, become like strong wordless adjectives describing the five w’s of something: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. The adage, “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” is certainly reflecting some truth in a well thought-out banner or family shield. Identifiers chosen are linked with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
The family crest denotes belonging and ownership translating feelings and cares into the tangible and visible. It acknowledges history, family roots, significant mottoes—words to live by and be proud of. There are online businesses that make creating a family banner or shield fun, easy, and affordable. Just a few decisions, a couple of clicks, a credit card and ta-da! Your family can proudly hang its banner for all to see.
Let’s Be Creative
Some of us may wish to make a banner that describes the essence of who we are, what we believe, and what we do. Banners of seasonal celebrations can be created to hang across a fireplace. Welcome banners can be hung on our entrances to our homes. We are only limited by our imaginations.
As a Life-Cycle Celebrant®, when writing a memorial for a cherished individual, I always ask the family for a word or phrase that describes the person. With that information, I can create a “word banner” to hold up for examination—a mental visualization and concept of significance. As I tell their life story the word banner is fleshed out with details and anecdotes to reflect the essence of who the person was in life and the legacy they have left behind.
These links provide ideas and methods for creating personal banners for your use. Check out Pinterest and Google for many more.