"Wiinabozho and the Butterflies"
This blog story is another joint project by Simone Mcleod and Zhaawano Giizhik. It is the second in a series named Stories from the Land of Crane and Turtle, featuring traditional Anishinaabe stories that encompass the unique world view and cultural perspective of the Anishinaabe Peoples.
Today's story features a set of wedding rings and a graphic illustration by Zhaawano, an acrylic painting and a poem by Simone, and several acrylic paintings by the late Carl Ray and Miskwaabik Animikii (Norval Morrisseau).
A Dancing Butterfly Shows Us the Way
The Power of Enchantment
“When Aki the world was still young, the beings of all animal
Nations were created. GICHI-MANIDOO gifted them with a body, a shadow, and a
soul. But they still had no powers. One day, GICHI-MANIDOO summoned all animal
Nations to come to the high mountain where its abode was. This is where the
animals received their gifts of power.
|Niizhoodenhyag Niigiwn (Birth Of The Twins) acrylic on canvas by Simone McLeod. Copyright Simone McLeod.|
The Creation of Turtle Island
At the same time there lived an aadizookaan, a supernatural being, residing alone in the sky. Her name was Giizhigookwe, or Sky Woman. GICHI-MANIDOO, the Great Mystery of Life, pitying her loneliness, sent a male aadizookaan to Sky Woman to keep her company. Animikii (Thunder), for that was his name, traveled to the sky lodge of Giizhigookwe and from the union that took place were born the Anishinaabeg (a twin brother and sister), whom she planned to lower on the back of a giant Mikinaak (snapping turtle).
|"Recreation": acrylic painting by the late Carl Ray|
The Nurturing of the Twins
|"Heavenly Twins Give Gift Of Life", acrylic painting by the late Miskwaabik Animikii|
Did the flies and musquitos keep the abinoojiiyensag awake? Animosh asked Asabikeshikwe (spider woman) for help – or, if he would not find her at home he himself would jump and snap at their tormentors until the abinoojiiyensag nearly split their sides laughing. Did the niizhoodeg indicate they wanted to be amused? Animosh would do all kinds of hilarious tricks to keep them busy. He would roll around on the earth rolling his eyes and wagging his tongue, then sit up and wag his tail. And he would tickle them by licking their noses, and he did so as long as it took to make them shriek with happy laughter. Then, when the abinoojiiyensag were finally quiet again he would lie down beside them and cover his eyes with his paws, and rest until he was needed again.
But after a while it became clear that something was wrong with the niizhoodeg. This time it was Makwa the bear, worried about his two little protégés, who called upon all the awesi’ag to congregate and sit around the infants.
"Aaniin nisayedog ashi nimisedog gaye! (Hello brothers, and you too sisters!)" Makwa said, "Like you, I am worried about the abinoojiiyensag because they cannot walk! Sure, they look strong and are obviously happy and having a good time with our brother Animosh, but alas! They cannot run and play like our own young! What do you suggest we can do to help them?"
After a moment of thoughtful silence Ma’iingan spoke first."Atayaa! Geget gi debwe! (indeed! You are really speaking the truth!). The abinoojiiyensag are definitely not weak! They do eat the meat that I bring them each morning at daybreak."
Onijaani, the soft-spoken doe, calmly agreed with Ma’iingan."Debwe, the niizhoodeg certainly drink the fresh milk that I bring them daily."
Then Amik the beaver and Wazask the muskrat exclaimed in one voice: "Tayaa! Geget gi debwe! Good golly, this is certainly true! The abinoojiiyensag definitely have a way of waving their arms and legs with great strength as they are being bathed! They even splash us until we are soaked and losing our temper! Then they laugh at us for being cranky and continue waving their legs and arms about as if nothing happened!"
Hereupon Giigoonh the fish quietly chuckled, "Enh, aahaaw, Amik and Wazashk are right eh! The Anishinaabe niizhoodeg are good students, they do exactly like I taught them to do heh heh!"
The Great Teacher Wiinabozho and the First Butterflies
|"Wiinabozho Telling Stories"|
illustration by Zhaawano
These enchanting beings, whom no creature or spirit dwelling the Universe had laid eyes on before, fluttered gaily around, gracefully dancing in the wind, before they eventually alighted on Trembling Tail’s shoulders. In the twinkle of an eye Wiinabozho saw himself surrounded by swirling clouds of continuously changing, kaleidoscopic colors! These were the nitami-memengwaag, the first butterlies…
|"Butterfly" by the late Carl Ray|
|"Children See Dreams", acrylic painting by the late Miskwaabik Animikii|
|Go to our website to view details of this ring set|
This capriciously stylized road with seven side roads or digressions that Zhaawano depicted in the wedding rings - inspired on a sacred diagram appearing on an age-old birch bark scroll kept by the Midewiwin, the Grand Medicine Lodge of the Anishinaabe Peoples - symbolizes the life path of two persons who share their joys and sorrows with each other. The dancing menengwaag in the insides of the rings show the married couple the way through the curves of Life and guide them around pitfalls and barriers that they individually and as a couple encounter along the way. But above all, the dancing Menengwaag remind them how important it is not just to know how to walk, but how to walk together – and even run together (strive hard) if need be in order to keep their marriage healthy and strong and – in a broader sense - to keep their family and their People well.
> Click here to read part 3 in the series: "Zhoomin and the Vision of the Dancing Corn Plants"
About the authors/artists:
Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is a Cree/Anishinaabe painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan) of her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River First Nation) of Manitoba. Simone descends from a long line of Midewiwin seers and healers and artists. Her artwork has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by art lovers from all over the world.