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Friday, October 5, 2012

Teaching stories, part 10

"Heartbeat of The Earth"

 - Updated: April 16, 2020

Trouwringen ZhaawanArt: Gookomisinaan-bapangade'ewin
Click on the image to view details of the ring set



In this blogpost, we will dwell a little further on our pictorial and jewelry art and the ancient teaching stories that we share along with it. Here's part 10 of a series that wants to explore (and describe) the spiritual relationship between the world of our Native forefathers, the land they lived on, and the beings that surrounded them.

We will discuss the concept of GICHI-MANIDOO, the Great Mystery of the Universe. We will talk about Sleeping Giant, the sacred island in Thunder Bay where Wiinabozho, the most beloved manidoo of the Anishinaabe People, found his eternal resting place after he was turned to stone. The main focus in this post, however, will be on the meaning of the Midewiwin drum, whose beat has since time immemorial attuned the heartbeat of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe people to the pulse of Aki, the land. 

The Anishinaabe-Ojibwe-style wedding rings shown on this page, their strong graphic designs reflecting the outline drawing style of the Native Woodland Painters, mirror in color and form the pictographic and oral traditions of the ancients. The rings tell of all these things that have for many generations been handed down by the elders. 

The rings, like the elders, are storytellers in themselves.   

==The sum of all Mystery==

Traditionally, our ancestors that lived in gaa-zaaga'eganikaagthe land of many lakes (the North American Great Lakes area), have always been aware of an existence in the cosmos that vibrates with a sacred, creative energy. 

The sum of this cosmological energy - or manidoo- is called GICHI-MANIDOO: literally ‘Great Mystery.’This sacred existence Zhaawano tried to capture in the above shown multicolor gold-and-silver wedding bands.

==The Sleeping Giant==

Sleeping Giant Thunder Bay Ontario
The SLEEPING GIANT at Thunder Bay, according to Anishinaabe tradition the sleeping body of a petrified manidoo, inspired Zhaawano into designing the ring set; its amazing silhouette even served as a model for the two adjacent human faces and bodies that, depicted in a dramatically stylized fashion, can be recognized in the design of both rings. 

==Symbolism of the rings==

The title of the wedding ring set is GOOKOMISINAAN-BAPANGADE'EWIN, literally: Heartbeat of Our Grandmother. The red gold part and the oxidized outline of the ring designs represent the bodies and spirits of two soul mates becoming one with each other and with the earthmother herself. It serves the notion that from her fertile womb we sprang, and unto Mother Earth we shall return.

Aki earth unieke trouwringen


Ojibwe Trouwringen "Heartbeat of Mother Earth"


Hartslag trouwringen

The graphic , oxidized ‘‘earth line’’ that runs across the surface of both rings, showing the characteristics of the earth surface as well as the anatomy of the human body, symbolically connects the individual to the cosmos through a ‘‘sound’’ that represents all aspects of GICHI-MANIDOO. 

The Anishinaabe ancestors believed it to be important that a person joined his or her voice on a regular base with the voices of the spiritual world. This concept is called aanji-nkweshkamong enweying shka-kimi-kweng: ‘‘Reconnecting our voice with Creation.’’ 

One side of the rings shows a heartbeat graphic; on the other side a red gold, oval-shaped inlay design of baagaakokwaan is constructed - a drum stick representing the MIDEDEWE'IGAN (also called mitigwakik), the Grandfather water drum that belongs to the Midewiwin, the age-old Society Of The Way Of The Hearbeat. A sacred instrument circular like life itself, and believed to have been a living soul long before first man walked the earth.

The Midewiwin Lodge is presided over by the Spirit of the Midewiwin called Mide Manidoo, in the form of Gimishoomisinaan, the Grandfather Water Drum. The Grandfather is supported by Oshkaabewis, his ceremonial helper, called the Little Boy Water drum in reference to an origin story of the Midewiwin, about a little bear boy who descended from the Sun and remained for some time among the Anishinaabeg to teach them the Mysteries of the Midewiwin. It is said that the Little Boy points the way to the Grandfather, but when the Grandfather comes, darkness flees before him, and the whole world, indeed the whole sky is enlightened...



According to Midewiwin belief the sound of the Mide drum causes the sky to brighten up and the water to be calm for the person who carries the drum. Both midewe'igan and baagaakokwaan are considered to be gifts from Gichi-manidoo; the latter is held even more sacred than the drum itself. 

The stylized heartbeat and drumstick designs in the ring symbolize the heartbeat of our mother the Earth, and at the same time the heartbeats of two individuals in love with one another, joined with those of all living creatures that surround them.

Listen closely. You might be able to hear the combined sound of countless hearts filling the Universe, each pulsing at their own speed, yet each a part of the whole...

Wedding rings by ZhaawanArt trouwringen symbolize the sounds of the Universe


Anishinaabe Akwesahne drum



A hundred thousand years have passed
Yet, I hear the distant beat of my father's drums
I hear his drums throughout the land
His beat I feel within my heart.
The drums shall beat, so my heart shall beat,
And I shall live a hundred thousand years.

- Shirley Daniels (Ojibwe author)

Anishinaabeg thunderbird drum


Midewiwin Grandfather drum photographed inside a Midewigaan (Mide lodge) structure (1932)

Click here to read more about the topic of the Mide drum

Read the next episode in the Teaching Storie series: Footprints of the Wolf.


Jewelry photography by Zhaawano Giizhik (© 2011). From the Mother Earth series: GOOKOMISINAAN-BAPANGADE'EWIN ('Heartbeat Of Mother Earth'). Ojibwe-style, overlay wedding bands of 14 K white gold and red gold with an interior of sterling silver.

Acrylic painting of Bear by Simone McLeod (© 2014).


The authors Zhaawano Giizhik and Simone McLeodAbout the authors/artists:

Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is an Anishinaabe painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan). She feels a special kinship with her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River "#16" 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.

Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in North Carolina, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawiting (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten. As an artist, a writer, and a designer of  jewelry and wedding rings, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists. He has done several art projects with Simone and hopes to continue to do so in the future.



  1. My Wife and I just found this blog and we absolutely love the rings you've created and shown in this blog. I am an Ojibwe man from Rama Ontario (Chippewas of Rama First Nation) and loved the stories and thought you put into these rings. I am hoping you could contact me to discuss these rings, if they are available.

  2. Boozhoo Denny, I accidently found your comment while editing the above blog story, I am sorry about that! Yes, the rings are still available, if you're still interested. All my rings are available by custom order, so if you let me know the rings sizes of you and your partner I will gladly make you a customized price offer. Miigwech, Zhaawano

  3. Hello Miigwech Zhaawano! My darling and I are on the hunt for engagement rings. With love for tradition, combined with his deep and beautiful Ojibwe roots, we have come across your beautiful blog. We would love to hear of some more details and discuss with you customization and pricing of your magnificent art creations. Is there an email address that you would prefer to keep in contact with you through? We eagerly look forward to hearing from you. :) Kiersten&Allan

    1. Boozhoo Kiersten & Allan, miigwech for the interest you show in my rings and the stories they tell, yes of course I well gladly give you all the details you need. You can contact me through The rings Heartbeat of Mother Earth can be found on my website:

      Please note that my studio is closed (and I will be away)in the period between August 14 and September 4.