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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Teachings of the Eagle Feather, part 10

"The Way We See the World"

- Updated July 27, 2020


Anishinaabe izhinamowin jewelry

Click on image to view details of the above ring set

Boozhooaaniin, hello,

This blog story is the tenth in a series titled Teachings Of The Eagle Feather, featuring works of art that provide an insight into the unique world view of the Anishinaabeg Peoples. 

Today's story features three acrylic paintings by Simone McLeod, a unique graphic illustration by Ahmoo Angeconeb - and three sets of wedding rings (or rather three versions of the same set) designed and handcrafted by myself.

The rings feature stylized feathers of the eagle and the hawk. A hawk and an eagle soaring together, it's one of Zhaawano's favorite metaphors when referring to the ancient stories and worldview of his ancestors, and also in exploring how the love and the mutual responsibilities between two peope relate to this old worldview ...

You are welcome to visit my website to view details of the wedding rings.


An age-old concept

The title of the simple yet elegant set of white gold overlay rings, Izhinamowin, expresses an age-old concept based on Anishinaabe culture that, depending on the context, holds multiple layers of meaning. Izhinamowin, or ishinaamowin, can mean mental or spiritual perception, dream, or vision, or world view. Its literal meaning is “the act of seeing the world in a certain manner.”* 

The concept of izhinamowin does not so much refer to vision with the eyes, but rather to ideas associated with mental perception; of course, the eyes may be the gateway for that mental perception. From of old, ANISHINAABE IZHINAMOWIN interprets the countless phenomena, forms, and forces of the natural world specific to man’s immediate environment purely in a cosmological context. 

Gete-aya’aag, our ancestors, had an equally great respect for all entities within the cosmos, even for those that are more remote to mankind. They saw all life forms as animated and inter-related “persons” or “relatives” (called inawemaaganag) possessing a consciousness, rationale, and a will of their own. They saw the world as as a living, harmonious, interdependent system, a gigantic web of social relations - kind of like an extended family -, where the relationship between humans and the nonhuman and spirit world was one of continuous interfusion and reciprocal exchange. All these indinawemaaganag or “my next of kin persons” were often described as gakina gegoo, “everyone and everything” or “all living things.” Everything and everyone was alive and created for a purpose!

The gete-aya’aag saw the cosmos as basically consisting of three spheres or layers connected by a huge coniferous Tree of Life (in the form of giizhik, the northern white cedar): anaamakamig (Underworld), agidakamig (the middle world, the earth’s surface called Mikinaakominis or Turtle Island), and gizhigoong (Sky world). See below illustration, a graphic representation of Waawiyekamig, the Anishinaabe Universe by the late Ojibwe Anishinaabe artist Ahmoo Angeconeb. 


The Anishinaabe cosmos

Anishinaabeg Miniigoziwin
Anishnawbe Miinigozwin ("Anishinaabeg Gift”) silkscreen by Ahmoo Angeconeb, 1973. Giizhik, the northern white cedar, connects the underworlds with the middle world (earth) and the sky worlds. The figures in the image represent the inawemaaganag (including the humans) that inhabit Aki, the world.


According to the traditional Anishinaabe worldview, Anaamakamig, the Underworld of the rivers, lakes, and seas, house a myriad of manidoog (spirits) and aadizookaanag (spirit grandfathers; shapeshifters). Both categories, manidoo and aadizookaan, are represented by fish and the fish spirits (gihoonhyag), including Makadeshigan (Black Bass), mishi-bizhiwag (Great Underwater Panthers), mishi-ginebigoog (Great Underwater Snakes; see the figure depicted in the bottom left corner), nibiinabekwewag (Mermaids), and nibiinaabewag (Mermen; see the figure depicted in the bottom rigth corner). 
Giigoonh the fish - represented in the image by mishi-ginebig (Great Underwater Snake) and nibiinaabe (Merman) -, embodies Learning and transmission of Science and Medicine. Mishiikenh, the mud turtle and Mikinaak the snapping turtle, depicted on both sides of the Giizhik (cedar) tree of life that has its roots in the underworld, are regarded as grandfathers and spirit messengers, and as such, as masters of communication of thought, and as important intermediaries between the lakes and rivers and their underworlds.

The second layer of cosmos is called Agidakamig, the Middle World, the earth’s surface often called Mikinaakominis (Turtle Island) that houses countless corporeal and incorporeal beings; represented in the image by Anishinaabeg (humans), mitigoog (trees), a makwa (bear), and a ma'iingan (wolf).

The third layer of cosmos is Giizhigoong, the Sky World and all of its beings represented in the image by aadizookaanag (spirit grandfathers, muses) that represent the physical orders of the universe: giizis the sun, dibik-giizis the moon, anangoog the stars, muses and shapeshifters in human form, and animikiiwaanakwadoon (the thunderclouds), as well as by bineshiwag (taloned birds of prey; hawks, falcons, and eagles).


ZhaawanArt Fisher star Creations wedding rings design


Visit the website to view details of the above wedding ring set

The eagle and the hawk

Izhinawomin wedding rings by Zhaawano
The white gold wedding ring to the left, the men’s ring, shows an image of a feather stylized in a somewhat angular fashion; it is the feather of Gekek, the Hawk. The ring to the right, its more fluent design depicting the feather of Migizi the eagle, is the ladies’ ring. The hawk feather embodying Gekek’s virtues like reflection, deliberation, and foresight, and the eagle feather representing Migizi’s courage, strength, and preknowledge, complement each other in a symbolic way; just like future partners for life are supposed to complete each other, physically as well as spiritually. Additionally, both feathers of the rings also symbolize the Spiritual and/or Academic Learning Path that we, as humans, although very individual to every one of us, must follow together as we walk the Road of Life toward a happy and rewarding life and toward a bright future for our children and grandchildren (see also the below images, a painting and a triptych canvas by Simone McLeod).

Izhinamowin  Native American wedding rings of sterling silver
Sterling silver, oxidized version of the Izhinamowin ring set. Click here to view our sterling silver wedding rings collection.

Aki-egwaniizid painting
Migizi Babaamaadiziwin ("Migizi's Journey") by Simone McLeod. © 2014 Simone McLeod


Bicolor gold version of the Izhinamowin ring set. Click here to view details of the rings.

Learning series by Simone McLeod
"Learning Series": Triptych by Simone McLeod. © 2013 Simone McLeod.


Giiwenh. That´s how far this blog story goes. Miigwech for reading and listening!

Bi-waabamishinaang miinawaa daga: please come see me again!

>Click here to read Teachings of the Eagle Feather, part 11.

>Return to the blog overview page

*Miigwech Charles Lippert for explaining in detail the multiple meanings of the term izhinamowin/ishina(a)mowin. 



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 numerous joint art projects with Simone McLeod in the past.


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