Prayers for Peace: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Lantern Ceremony

The lanterns on the water. Photo copyright Morag Spinner.

Yesterday, August 6th, was the 67th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. (August 9th will be the anniversary of Nagasaki.) It’s become traditional in various places to hold a lantern ceremony, where paper lanterns are let go on the water as a prayer for peace and the end of nuclear weaponry.

A lantern, lit. Photo copyright Morag Spinner.

I’ve been in Powell River for about two weeks now, and this year my mom hosted the ceremony. I got roped into being her official photographer, which is sort of funny as my ‘camera’ is an Android phone.

Photo copyright Morag Spinner.

The event was mostly solemn; earlier yesterday one of the respected members of the community passed away, so many of the lanterns had messages of love for him. There was a last-minute addition to the program of planting a tree in his honor; this man was a bit like Powell River’s own Lorax, as well as one of the first people in this town to recycle — even when it was illegal. (No, I’m not kidding.)

Photo copyright Morag Spinner.

The mayor made a proclamation of Powell River being a zone free of nuclear weapons and that PR was named a peace capital in 2004 and is committed to remaining so. A local musician did some songs, including All Along the Watchtower, which is basically a religious experience for me. A few people spoke and read poetry.

Photo copyright Morag Spinner.

From Martin Rossander’s celebration of life a while back — held while he was still alive. In honor of all the work he did to save trees.

My mom spoke about growing up in the “duck & cover” era, where school children were taught to duck under their desks in case of nuclear attack. Apparently the wood would protect them. She told us that when she came home as a teenager with a “Ban the Bomb” button on her shirt, her father disowned her — this the same man who fought in the Underground and spent four years in a Nazi prison. Fascism must be stopped, but nuclear devastation is okay.

Photo copyright Morag Spinner

Since 1945 we’ve had the equivalent of 200 Hiroshimas in nuclear testing the world over. Nine countries have nuclear weapons, and if you ask me that’s nine too many. Add our lousy track record with nuclear power stations, and the future looks pretty bleak.

So I put a prayer on my lantern. I made my lantern into a prayer and an offering — a prayer to Manannan for peace, and an offering to my ancestors. The lanterns are completely biodegradable — we put them on cedar planks to float them in the water. They become one with the ocean.

Side one of my lantern. Photo copyright Morag Spinner

To You, Lord Manannan,
we offer up this prayer…
peace
for living, for dead
the wisdom
of the ocean
boundless love
for all

Side two of my lantern. Photo copyright Morag Spinner

To my ancestors
may this flame lotus
bring you light in the dark
and peace in turmoil

I admit the poetry on the lantern is not my best work, but it was very heartfelt — that’s what matters in the end. It’s interesting that on the very day I post about not knowing how to pray, an answer comes to me.

Make my prayer into a physical act. Create something as an act of prayer. Release it to the world — to the gods. 

I may repeat this exercise, or something similar, in the future.

With hope for peace,

-Morag

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