Prayer shawls are pieces of cloth used by Christians to give comfort and spiritual strength to the sick, dying, poor or those suffering from bad fortune. They are blessed in honor of a saint, angel or a deceased person or can be blessed through prayer through the laity. They are also given to people at times of celebrations, such as baptism or at the birth of a child. Prayer shawls are usually hand-knitted by the giver and as such are a symbol of loving care and devotion.
Power of Three
The number three is very symbolic in Christianity and is significant in the creation of prayer shawls. The most resonant meaning symbolism of three in Christianity is the Holy Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are also threes reflected in the natural life cycle and in nature itself such as "earth, sea, sky" or "birth, life, re-birth." The prayer shawls are knitted in a three stitch cross pattern and the symbolism of colors in shawls begins with the existence of the three primary colors from which all other colors are created.
Throughout human history, there has been much significance and symbolism attached to colors. They provoke strong emotions and have the ability to alter moods and affect a person’s psychology. There are colors that calm, colors that provoke and colors that can depress. The color red has long been denoted for danger while black has often been used as a somber, moody color used in mourning ceremonies or to intimidate. Heraldry, royalty and warfare have long used color to denote symbolical meaning and spirituality. Religion also uses symbols and colors to convey expression and meaning.
The prayer shawls are separated into different colors to denote different qualities or meanings. These meanings are to be matched or considered when choosing which color to use for the prayer shawl for a certain recipient. For example, pink symbolizes friendship, compassion and generosity. Black symbolizes strength, self-confidence and protection and absorbs negativity. Every color in the palette has a meaning. Silver symbolizes feminine energy and intuition; gold symbolizes masculinity and enlightenment. And white symbolizes purity and innocence.
In addition to certain emotions and qualities, colors in prayer shawls are also believed to give strength and healing to individuals suffering from specific ailments and diseases. Red and yellow shawls are given to sufferers of HIV; blue and yellow are given for Down syndrome. Pink is for breast cancer. There is no real official religious symbolism to these colors. Instead, they are a response to a desire in some to ascribe a color to a condition and are based on commonly used colors in other areas, such as fundraising, that are used for each condition.
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