"The Paradoxical Nature of Life"
- Updated: December 21, 2023
|Visit our website to view details of the above painting by Simone McLeod
Boozhoo, aaniin, hello,
Welcome back in our Storytelling Lodge! This blog story is another joint project by Simone Mcleod and Zhaawano Giizhik. It is the twentieth in a series titled Teaching Stories, featuring our works of art and those of kindred artists, which we symbolically and thematically connect with the Seven Grandfather teachings of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe People.
Today's story features a set of wedding rings by Zhaawano and two acrylic paintings by Simone Mcleod, one on canvas and one painted on a drum membrane.
We invite you to visit our website to view Simone's work and also to learn more about the below-shown wedding rings.
The Mide Life Road
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
A personal hand drum of Simone McLeod, its membrane featuring a white stylized acrylic wolf paw painted by the artist
tells us that we must live good lives by following mino misko-bimaadiziwin
miikana, the good red road that leads to a balanced, long, and wholesome life,
and eventually, to admission into the Land of Souls. It tells us to honor
GICHI-MANIDOO (the Great Mystery) and to thank GICHI-MANIIDOO daily for the life that It
grants to us – including the sun, the winds, the clouds, the stars, the lakes and rivers and mountains, the trees,
and the plants. It tells us to honor our
Elders, our women and children, and, indeed, our elder relatives the animals, the birds, and the fish that sustain
us in our daily lives and guide us in our visions and dreams. It tells us to
strive for peace and knowledge, to be kind, tolerant, moderate, to be right and honest in all we do and to be and determined and courageous if need be.
Life Road depicted on the wedding rings symbolizes the path travelled by a married
couple on this earth, the phases they go through in life, and the code of moral laws they are
supposed to follow. The seven lines
depicted at the four bends of the road (or hilltops) leading from the main
trail represent digressions, or temptations to which we are all exposed during
our lives on earth. If the couple
overcomes all seven of these digressions - and reviews on a regular base their lives and marriage through nanagadawenindizowin
(self-reflection) and gaagiigidonidiwin (dialog) -, they will
eventually reach the state of bimaadiziwin, that is: live to a good old age in
harmony, luck, and prosperity.
the dots or speckles surrounding the
Life Road symbolize life’s energy that is often invisible by the eyes but which
we sense is out there somewhere.
|"Spirit Unity, the bear clan and the wolf clan always working together for the People", acrylic by Simone McLeod (2014)
After the singing of chants by the candidate, and the chanting of songs of welcome by the assembled Mideg, the candidate sits down for a series of tests through which he (or she) demonstrates his (or her) integrity and knowledge of plants. Then the head priest symbolically “shoots” the nominee with a midemiigis (sacred cowry shell) that he carries in his mide-nigig-wiyaan (otter skin medicine bundle), which represents a return to bimaadiziwin (the good way of life) in order for him (or her) to find accomplishment and to recommence purpose and determination. (It is this bimaadiziwin, this good way of life, that is represented by the Life Road design of the sacred scrolls, the very same symbol that features the wedding ring set shown below.)
After symbolically killing the candidate, the Mide then arouses the “corpse” from “death” with the breath of life - as if the canditate were Ode'imin, the first medicine man of the Anishinaabe Peoples, regaining life. In this dramatic fashion the candidate, once revived by the breath of life, standing up feeling invigorated and reborn, is reminded of the paradox that, only through the death of the first teacher-of-medicinal-herbalism Ode’imin, his student and successor had been able to really enlarge his inner curative powers that would be to the benefit of his People…it is this ultimate act of purification and transformation, the novice's perseverance after being hindered by evil contraries and then getting shot by a miigis shell and brought back to life again, that enables him or her to give up his or her previous life and to demonstrate powers not possessed before, powers to be fostered to further growth and put to good use for the benefit of all...
* Source: Basil Johnston, Ojibway Hertitage, University of Nebraska Press, First Bison Book printing 1990, p. 86.
About the authors/artists:
Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is a Anishinaabe/Cree painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan) and feels particularly connected with 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.