Prayers on Mt. Ashland offer thanks

Prayers are common atop Mount Ashland, with thousands of skiers and snowboarders looking to the heavens for a little more powder each year.

On Thursday the mountain hosted prayers of a different sort, a ceremonial blessing from musicians and spiritual leaders across faiths.

One hundred men, women and children gathered near the ski lodge to offer thanks to the mountain and pray for the cleanliness of the water there, which provides much of Ashland's drinking supply. The same group has met at the end of each ski season since 2007 to bless the melting snow with their music and energy.

"Bobcat" Robert Brothers oversees the annual ceremony, which he calls Blessing Mountains in the Snow. Brothers is the co-founder of California-based nonprofit Chaltasom Cultural Restoration, and he holds a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley.

From a Celtic harp to a peace choir, from Native American drums to a modern American banjo, this year's event was a meeting of different cultures, uniting under the cause of protecting Mother Earth.

"It is a powerful time to collectively come together to pray and bless the snow," volunteer Mark Mukunda said. A musician and sound healer, Mukunda views prayer as a vital source of purity that can even affect the water people drink. He said group prayers provide an opportunity to increase the wellbeing of entire communities.

The idea that blessings spread through snow and water was pioneered by Japanese author Masaru Emoto. His 2004 book, "The Hidden Messages in Water," suggests humans share many of the properties similar to water, and they can benefit themselves and the earth by nurturing this connection.

Larry Morningstar feels a deep significance in offering his blessings to the snow.

"Water holds vibrations, which influences how we think, talk and feel," he said. "And this is about us giving thanks."

The ceremony began with a purification ritual, in which participants were fanned with the smoke from burning sage leaves. Music was played throughout the ceremony, while speakers of Native American, Christian and Buddhist faith offered their prayers to the mountain.

Southern Oregon University student Wylie Bettinger attended the ceremony. Bettinger is enrolled in the school's Native American studies program, and appreciates the blessings people came to the mountain to give.

"Regardless if it's proven that prayer can change the water or not, there are a lot of good intentions here," he said.

The ceremony was held in conjunction with Mt. Ashland's scheduled closure for the summer. Ski activities were slated to end last weekend, but management added one extra weekend. This Saturday and Sunday are now the final ski days.

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