Yellow Star Woman's Dream Vision
A magic dream vision tale about love and separation. Two beings , living apart, one from the earth and the other from the sky. Shone upon by the light of the Universe, their sacred union reflected by the glow of the stars above, their love is distant yet remains strong...
Boozhoo! Biindigen miinawaa nindaadizooke wigamigong; enji-zaagi'iding miinawaa gikendaasong. Ningad-aadizooke noongom giizhigad! Hello! Welcome back in my Storytelling Lodge where there is love and learning. Let’s tell a zaagi'idiwin aadizookaan (sacred love story) today!
This blog tale is another episode, the 19th already in a series named “Love Stories from the Land of Many Lakes.” The series features love tales and teaching stories that encompass the unique worldview and cultural perspective of the Anishinaabeg Peoples.
Part 1: The First Dream
Once upon a time Ozaawi'anang, lying on the top of a bluff, had a vision-dream. In this vision-dream it was night. She stood erect, holding a copper pail. Inside was a great gift: mide waaboo, the sacred water. Ozaawi'anang stood there all night, singing prayers for nibi, the spirit of the water. Then she directed her gaze to waawiyezi-dibik-giizis, the full moon, who shone straight above her. The moon was so big and full that she could touch it! In the moon, she saw a reflection of a snapping turtle with thirteen moons on its back and of herself, paddling a wiigwaasi-jiimaan (birchbark canoe) across the great galaxy.
The canoe took her westward across the great sky, and after a long journey - that to her seemed to last only a few eye-blinks - it hovered above a large bay, called Animikii-wiikwedong, the Bay of the Thunder. Slowly her canoe was lowered until it touched water.
As she crossed the bay, she saw a large body of stone emerge from the moonlit waves. It was the body of a giant manidoo (spirit) who once lived among the stars, and who had lain dormant in the bay for many winters and summers. His name was Nibaad Misaabe (Sleeping Giant). Their eyes met and a fire was lit in their hearts. It was love at first sight…
Since Ozaawi'anang now lived in the sky, she and the Giant only met for a short period of time. Although their times together were brief, her beauty touched him in unspeakable ways; words fall short to express what this stone manidoo felt for her! Only the moon and the stars high above understood the depth of the love that lived in their hearts and the scope of the feelings that these two beings harbored for each other. Only he moon and the stars saw how hard it was for them to be separated by time and distance. As she was a star born on the earth and he a star being that had been changed into rock, they complemented each other in more than one way. They were stars in each other's eyes, bonded together, yet it felt sometimes as if beyond each other's grasp...
At last, knowing that her home was in the sky, Ozaawi'anang bade her lover giga-waabamin miinawaa (“I will see you again”) and, ascending back to her celestial abode and with tears in her eyes, she sang a sacred song of parting:³
Dibishkoo biidaanakwag, wiingii abi-ezhaa
Dibishkoo waabaanakwag, aabiji-maajaa.
Ningashkendam wiingaa abi-izhaad
Nimgashkendam wiingaa ago-maajaad.
ningaa abi naanig ina?
Wiinaagozi dibishkoo anang
Wiiwaasa wendaagozi dibishkoo anang.
("Like a cloud has he come and gone
Like a cloud drifted away forever.
Sad am I since he came
Sad am I since he's gone.
Now he has found my love
Will he return for my love?
Like a star in my eyes
Like a star beyond my grasp, my love.")
Although, sadly, the relationship between the two lovers did not last on aki, the earth, now the tale of Ozaawi'anang and the Sleeping Giant lives on forever among anangoog, the stars high above…
Giiwenh. So goes the tale about the love that the stone giant of the Deep Sea called Gichigami (Lake Superior) felt for a beautiful woman who came from far and touched his heart before she returned to her home in the sky ...so goes the song sung by this brave woman who felt sad because she and her lover lived far apart...
Part 2: The Second Dream
Nine moons later but at the same time many, many strings of lives in the past, Ozaawi'anang had another dream vision. This was in the era of Dawn when the earth was still young. In this dream she lived in the sky. It was there where she conceived two children, a twin brother and sister. Although evil tongues said it was a Thunderbird who had impregnated her, she was pretty sure the Sleeping Giant himself was their father! She put the babies, carefully wrapped in bundles, in her sky canoe and just as she was about to lower it to the Bay of Thunder to find their father and tell him the news, she saw to her horror that the world below her was inundated with water. The earth had been entirely flooded! Even the Stone Giant had disappeared beneath the lake’s surface! A Thunderbird hovered over the bay, casting down lightning and creating thunder by flapping its gigantic wings. The waves beneath her were roaring, the wind howling, and the lightning was flashing in every direction. The horrendous head of the Great Underwater Sprit emerged from the waves and its tail covered with copper scales slashed around as in a frenzy! Ozaawi'anang’s canoe was rocking back and forth violently. In her struggle to keep her canoe from capsizing she offered tobacco to the waters. Then she sang a magic song.
Jiigewe’am naawij, nagawawin jiimaan,
Bimaawadaaso wiijiiw giigoonh,
Megwe digowag, megwa anwaatin ge
Nagamowin nibi nagamon,
Wiikwedong nagamawin nagamon,
Paddling along in my canoe,
Traveling along with the fishes,
Among the waves, in calm waters too
Offering tobacco, heya-wya-whe.
Tobacco cleanses hearts.
Tobacco cleanses minds.
Tobacco brings peace.
Singing my water song,
At the bay singing my song,
The moment her clear voice stopped sounding above the rage of the storm, the great black shadow that was the Thunderbird disappeared to the west. The Underwater Cat, appeased by Ozaawi'anang’s tobacco offering, dove back under and the surface of the flooded bay regained its calm. The moon and the stars cast their peaceful light on the waves, and the world, covered by a thick blanket of water, was silent again…
Ozaawi'anang looked around her
to see if there was any life moving about. Then she noticed that to the
southeast a giant turtle floated on the water surface. Only a few land animals had
managed to find refuge on its back! Looking for a haven where she could nourish
and raise the twins she had brought along from her abode in the sky, she
steered her canoe toward the turtle shell. This is where she met Maang (the loon), Amik (the beaver), Nigig (the
otter), and Wajashk (the little muskrat), who told her that they were the only
survivors. All the other animals had been drowned!
That day, long ago, Ozaawi'anang spoke to her new friends as follows: “My relatives! I don't have all the powers of creation. But I am a female spirit and I have a special gift. I have the power to recreate. I can recreate the world, but I can't do it by myself. I need your help. I need you to dive deep. I need you to bring me a handful of the soil of the original land. The soil will be the seed I use to recreate the Earth.”
And so it happened. All day long the animals took turns trying to reach the soil covered by the great depth of water but to no avail. At the end of the day, it was only Wazhashk the little muskrat, not used to swimming in deep water, who had not given it a try. The brave little animal decided that with no one else available to help it was up to him to do the job. He took many deep breaths and dived down and down.
As he finally came back to the surface, Wazhashk had clutched in his paw the soil from the bottom of the flooded land. Gratefully Ozaawi'anang, still dreaming, took the soil, dried it, and breathed life into it, then rubbed it on the turtle's back. She rubbed the soil round and round and as she did, an island took shape above the water. Ozaawi'anang continued to move over the new soil. She walked in wider and wider circles; it took her 14 summers to complete the job! And so, the New Earth was created.
Once the new island was complete and a new flora and fauna had emerged, Ozaawi'anang put on her yellow jingle dress and danced upward, through the hole in the sky toward to the moon, who, as she still shone high up in the night sky, had witnessed the recreation of the land. Suddenly, without a sound, a tall giizhikaatig (cedar tree) grew out of the soil beneath her and its tip pushed swiftly through the sky layers. Keeping the bundles safely in her arms she descended, still dancing, through the hole in the sky onto the newly-formed island, and as she carefully positioned the twins on a bed of eagle feathers resting on the giizhik aniibiishan (cedar foliage) of a branch that grew halfway out of the tree she noticed how a makade-noozhe-makwa (black female bear) travelled through all four layers of the earth and, once she had reached the surface, started to climb the tree! Quickly the bear climbed into her direction! As soon as she had reached the tree branch, she picked up the bundles and, holding them tenderly in her paws, she descended and lowered them to the ground!
Dancing, she chanted a sacred song:
From up above I come, leaving footprints in the sky.
Mystic-like I come forth!
From the hollow of the earth you emerged, leaving footprints in the soil.
Mystic-like you come forth!
Watched from above by Ozaawi'anang the bear spirit nurtured the twins to manhood and womanhood. She also built the first Medicine Lodge that was ever erected on Turtle Island, and it was in this Lodge where, many generations later, Wiininwaa ("Nourish From the Breast") would be born. She would become the mother of Wenabozho, the beloved Elder Brother and benefactor of the descendants of Ozaawi'anang's children!
Once Ozaawi'anang knew that her children (whom she named Anishinaabeg, “Beings Born from Spirit”) were mature enough to stand on their own legs, she bade them giga-waabamin miinawaa (“I will see you again”) and descended back into the bay and paddled her canoe in northwestern direction where she had last seen the Sleeping Giant. As soon as she reached the bay of Thunder, she saw to her relief that her old-time lover cast his huge shadow across the water like he had done before the flood had hit the land. Once again, they lay together, united, even though if it was only for a moment...
Still dreaming, Ozaawi'anang had visions of many sacred things and events. Her dream was as vast as anangokwaan (the galaxy) and the visions she had were as numerous as the stars that filled it. She saw how the bear, added by Animoosh, the dog, looked after the twins, nurturing them throughout their infant years. She saw how Elder Brother Wenabozho, the first two-legged being that walked the new earth teamed up with his brother Ma'iingan the wolf. Together, they walked the Earth naming all the other creatures on the planet. Then, as she started to dream backward in time, she saw to her horror how the earth shifted, bringing chaos to the world, and how the Wiindigoog (Cannibal Spirits of Winter) volunteered to bring back order. Straight through the void of space from the stars they came, ⁴ moving through the earth to stabilize the tumbling, holding the Earth's poles constant. She witnessed how they were gifted the gift of ice for holding the actual poles of the earth! This event marked the creation of biboon (winter) and the beginning of the Anishinaabe calendar, and from that moment on the cycle of the seasons started at the full moon when the sucker fish spawn...⁵
Fatigued from all these impressions, but reassured the world that she had helped to revive had regained its balance, Ozaawi'anang closed her eyes. After a long slumber - which transported her into another time frame - a light from the east drew her attention! Looking into the direction of the light she saw how six Mystery Beings emerged from the water of the Ocean, bringing the Anishinaabeg the Seven Teachings along with a vast system of clanship - which exists until today! - and she saw how Elder Brother Wenabozho gave the Anishinaabeg the gift of fire and of Medicine - teaching them chants and medicines and rituals for warding off sickness and death - and how he taught them to build Medicine Lodges. Next, she saw how the Grandfather water drum was lowered from the Madoodiswan (Sweat Lodge constellation) and gifted to the People and how a bear spirit descended from the Sun to bring the People the Little Boy Water Drum! She witnessed, in yet another frame of time, how three old men came together to light a fire, thus establishing a political and spiritual bond of brotherhood between Anishinaabe tribes - a sacred alliance that is upheld and honored up until this day! Then, hoowah! she even saw how, in yet another era, beneath her, in the Bay of Thunder, Elder Brother Wenabozho turned to stone overnight! With fire stirring in her heart and loins, she visited him again to make love to him before she returned to the star world....haw sa, In her dream, she saw many, many sacred things and events. Things and events that even nowadays are being reminisced on through the aadizookaanan, the sacred stories that the Elder Persons tell the young during long winter nights...
Next, after witnessing all those many sacred things and events, Ozaawi'anang, still dreaming,, knowing her purpose and nature were finally fulfilled, ascended back through the hole in the sky. She had been dreaming for such a long time that she had turned from a young woman into Nookomis, a grandmother! This is when she changed her name in Wezaawi Giizhigookwe, Yellow Sky Woman....From then on, she watched over her children, the Anishinaabeg, by night; by day the Sun and the Earthmother took care of them...
Part 3: The Reflection
Ozaawi'anang woke up, finding herself on top of the bluff overlooking the Land where the Waters Divide. She smiled, understanding that what had happened in it actually happened a great many strings of lives ago, when the earth was still young…Closing her eyes she reminisced on her sacred union with the Sleeping Giant in the faraway Bay of Thunder...She looked up at the moon grandmother in the night sky, and she saw a reflection of many faces on her silver surface. They were the faces of her People, the Anishinaabeh…Life is good, she thought by herself. She smiled again.
Even today, thanks to Ozaawi'anang’s dream vision, Grandmother Moon’s existence, her gift of life, and the primacy of women are still remembered by our People each time Dibik-giizis, the Night Sun shines on our precious island-home…
Ahaaw, miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidaadizookoon. Well, thank you for listening to my storytelling today. Giga-waabamin wayiiba, I hope to see you again soon...
¹ The story is loosely based on The Amazing Legend of Yellow Star and the Sleeping Giant by Zhaawano Giizhik.
² Bkejwanong, present-day Walpole Island, Southeastern Ontario
³ Source: Basil Johnston, Ojibway Ceremonies, pp 85, 86. McClelland & Stewart, 28 Jan 2011.
⁴ Wiindigoo, a cannibal winter monster from the North, does not only live in the below-world; old Anishinaabe star stories relate of a celestial being with the same name that lies in ambush along the Jiibay-miikana (Milky Way) to snatch those unprepared for the celestial journey. Wiindigoo, which is part of the Gaa-biboonikaan (Bringer of Winter, Orion) winter constellation, is called alpha Orionis, or Betelgeuse, on Western star maps. Click here for more reading.
⁵ The full moon in the month of January.