"The Spirit of Humility"
Boozhoo, aaniin, hello,
This blog story is the 21th already in a series titled 'Teaching Stories.'
The series features my jewelry and works of art, occasionally along with images of paintings by kindred artists. The stories thematically connect the jewelry and artwork displayed with the Seven Grandfather teachings of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe People.
Today's story features a set of wedding rings and a sterling silver belt buckle, both made by hand in my studio. Feel free to visit my website to view details of the belt buckle and the ring set - which is shown below.
The gold wedding rings feature a free-form interpretation of the age-old Ojibwe design of the Midewiwin Life Road, with a stylized wolf paw on the insides; the silver belt buckle features a hunter who seeks strength from the wolf who is his guardian spirit. Both pieces, made with the aid of the overlay technique, remind us that there is wisdom in walking the road of Life with a humble spirit and a grateful heart.
The capricious, smooth-flowing outline drawing designs of the wedding rings, styled after the rock art-inspired imagery founded by the Canadian Woodland School, combine a highly stylized Midewiwin Life Road with the sign of the Wolf, in the form of a paw. This wolf paw, visible in the ring interiors, is introduced as a symbol of humility in the context of the story that I share with you today.
The wedding rings are part of a theme series titled Bimaadiziwi! Bimaadiziwi! Bimaadiziwi! (Life! Life! Life!)
It is widely understood that like the wolves, Ojibwe Anishinaabe communities throughout the centuries have struggled for survival. This means that the health and survival of the People are undeniably and inseperably linked to that of the wolf. The design of these rings symbolize the fact that the paths of the Wolf and the People have always run parallel to each other.
The wedding rings, which I titled Wiidosendiwag (They Walk With Each Other) are 0.315 inch (8 mm) wide and consist of an exterior of white gold and an interior of yellow gold. The designs of both interiors and exteriors of the rings – a sheet of white gold and a sheet of yellow gold - were cut out with the aid of a jeweler’s saw, after which both sheets have been soldered together and shaped into a ring by hammering it around a ring mandrel.
Symbolically, for a Mide, a member of the Medicine Lodge, to depart from mino-miikana bimaadiziwin, the true path of life, and not return is equivalent to death. But since digression has rarely a permanent character, he or she is expected to withdraw annually in vigil and prayer, to ask the aadizoogaanag (supernatural grandfathers, spirit helpers) for guidance, and to review their life to determine if they are still on the true path.*
Wisdom consists in being humble
Our ancestors knew that if there is one creature who walks the face of the earth who truly understands the principle of humbleness, this virtue of humility, it is Ma’iingan, the Wolf. As they observed how wolf did not live for himself but for the pack he was part of, being the kind of hunter that would never take the food until it could be shared, they looked upon him as a Grandfather and a Teacher of this valuable lesson. So, it is Ma’iingan’s lack of arrogance and respect for the pack that are lessons to us all to be humble and unselfish and to have respect for the community (and our parents and Elders) that bred and raised us.
Giiwenh. That´s how far this blog story goes. Miigwech for reading and listening!
* Source: Basil Johnston, Ojibway Heritage, University of Nebraska Press, First Bison Book printing 1990, p. 86.
About the author/artist and his inspiration
To Zhaawano's ancestors the MAZINAAJIMOWIN or ‘pictorial spirit writings’ - which are rich with symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos that they felt they were an integral part of.
Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many, many generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the lake's coastlines where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.
The way Zhaawano understands it, it is in these sacred places invisible to the ordinary, waking eye that his design and storyteller's inspiration originate from.