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Friday, March 8, 2019

Teachings of the Eagle Feather, part 20

The Heart-shaped Path of the People

Onaabdin-giizis/Onaabani-giizis; Snowcrust Moon (March 9, 2019)


Jessica Maria Taylor self portrait 2012


 Blood runs the heart. The heart knows what it is."

Boozhoo, aaniin indinawemaaganag, gidinimikoo miinawaa: Hello relatives, I greet you again in a good way! 

I am Zhaawano Giizhik. Welcome to part 20 of my blog series titled “Teachings of the Eagle Feather.” Today I share with you a Teaching against the background of the historical migration path of our People, the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg. According to Ojibwe Midewiwin tradition, our People for many ages lived in Waabanaki (Dawn Land), the old homeland along the Atlantic coast, before they moved westward, to the Great Lakes area in the upper mid-east region of Turtle Island (North America) - and far beyond... 

The story is woven around an acrylic painting and a sterling silver jewelry set titled Gaagige Bimaadiziwinishkode, which means “Everlasting Fire of Life.” 

The set, the necklace being an elegantly stylized variant on the classic Dine' (Navajo) squash blossom necklace, tells the story of the more than thousand years old prophecy that led to a legendary odyssey unprecedented in the history of mankind...

The above picture shows a self-portrait that my sister Jéssica María Taylor did in 2012, as she was proudly modeling the squash blossom necklace that plays a central role in today's story. 


          The Great Diaspora of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg Peoples 
Our forefathers, many strings of lives ago, lived on the shores of the Great Salt Water in the east (Waabanakiing, the Dawn Land). Here it was, that while congregated in a great town, and while they were suffering the ravages of sickness and death, the Great Spirit (Gichi-manidoo), at the intercession of Manab-o-sho (Wiinabozho), the great common uncle of the An-ish-in-aub-ag (Anishinaabeg), granted them this rite wherewith life is restored and prolonged. Our forefathers moved from the shores of the great water, and proceeded westward. The Me-da-we (Midewiwin) lodge was pulled down and it was not again erected, till our forefathers again took a stand on the shores of the great river near where Mo-ne-aung (Montreal) now stands. In the course of time, this town was again deserted, and our forefathers still proceeding westward, lit not their fires till they reached the shores of Lake Huron, where again the rites of the Me-da-we were practiced. Again these rites were forgotten, and the Me-da-we lodge was not built till the Ojibways found themselves congregated at Bow-et-ing (Baawiting; outlet of Lake Superior), where they remained for many winters. Still the Ojibways moved westward, and for the last time the Me-da-we lodge was erected on the Island of La Pointe, and here, long before the pale face appeared among them, it was practiced in its purest and most original form. Many of our fathers lived the full term of life granted to mankind by the Great Spirit, and the forms of many old people were mingled with each rising generation. This, my grandson, is the meaning of the words you did not understand; they have been repeated to us by our fathers for many generations.”  
 -William W. Warren

Ojibwe squash blossom necklace detail
Click on the photo to view details of the Everlasting Fire of Life set


The prophecy of the Seven Fires

The migration path of the People, who, according to Midewiwin sources lived along the northern shores of the Atlantic and at some point in history had been advised by Seven Grandfathers (prophets) - who were instructed by six Mystery Beings who had appeared from the ocean to teach the Grandfathers about the Mide way of life - to leave their home country and expand westward, would be marked by Seven Fires. To this day, the - possibly 2000 to 2500 years lasting- migration of the Anishinaabeg is known as niizhwaaso-ishkoden niigaanaajimowinthe Prophecy of the Seven Fires.


Everlasting Fire of Life squash blossom necklace designed by Zhaawano Giizhi
Click on the photo to view details of the Everlasting Fire of Life set


The Eight Fire

The theme of this jewelry set particularly relates to eko-nishwaaching, the Eight Fire. The eight fire, which is a term arising from the Mide teachings of the Seven Fires, is used here as a metaphor for the importance of a spiritual attitude to life, mutual respect  for one another and a reciprocal exchange between all life forms, corporeal as well as incorporeal. Hence the title: “Everlasting Fire Of Life”.


The Prophecy of the Seven Fires, an sacred as well as educative Teaching that has been passed on for more than thousand years by many generations of Mide practitioners (members of the Midewiwin society), not only refers to the westward migration of the Anishinaabe People, but also, more particularly, to certain phases or eras  in the history of the original peoples of Turtle Island.

This universal Teaching, which contains seven essential spiritual lessons to the world, stresses mino-bimaadiziwin: the importance of living a good and honest way of life with an open eye for  other people and nature around us and – placed in a bigger context  – the vision that all people and races must come together on the basis of shared dignity and mutual respect. The Seven Fires remind us that the only way humankind can survive and save the planet from social and ecological destruction is  by renouncing materialism and choosing a path that is truly spiritual. “Only then, if the people of all colors and faith choose the right path, a path of respect, wisdom, and spirituality, will the Seventh fire light the Last Fire, an eternal fire of peace, which will unfold an era of spiritual illumination…”¹ 

Two Roads to choose from...

The traditional Mide people of the Ojibweg along with other Algonquin-speaking Nations speak of “two roads”: a road to technology and the road to the spiritual. The thought behind this idea is that even though you are spiritual you still may not be walking on the right path; of course the question that could emerge - if the road of technology that should lead us to greater development actually leads to destruction -, is one that remains open for discussion.


Gaagige Bimaadiziwn-shkode pendant


The symbolic meaning of the necklace

The legendary migration of my distant ancestors and the age-old Midewiwin concept of the Seven Fires are represented by seven oval turquoise stones, each adorned with a crown of seven pear-shaped red corals (which substitute the blossoms of a traditional squash blossom necklace); the silver eagle feathers that I mounted on the double row of silver beads, symbolize spiritualitycourage, and vision.
The pendant of the Fire Of Life Necklace - which substitutes the ‘naja of a traditional squash blossom necklace - symbolizes the Eight Fire. The ovally shaped turquoise stone refers to physical unity and spiritual strength of the People as a whole; the pear-shaped red corals – some  twenty in total – adjusted around the turquoise stone symbolize the historical journey of the People – and, viewed in a broader context, the Life Fire that burns in all human beings.

In the below photo the eight fires appear to form a heart-shaped path.


Gaagige Bimaadizienishkode necklace designed by Anishinaabe Woodland artist Zhaawano
Click on the photo to view details of the Everlasting Fire of Life set


How the Great Sea Shell led the People toward the Land of Many Lakes

“While our forefathers were living on the great salt water toward the rising sun, the great Megis (miigis; sea-shell) showed itself above the surface of the great water, and the rays of the sun for a long period were reflected from its glossy back.  It gave warmth and light to the An-is-in-aub-ag.  All at once it sank into the deep, and for a time our ancestors were not blessed with its light. It rose to the surface and appeared again on the great river which drains the waters of the Great Lakes, and again for a long time it gave life to our forefathers, and reflected back the rays of the sun. Again it disappeared from sight and it rose not, till it appeared to the eyes of the An-is-in-aub-ag on the shores of the first great lake.  Again it sank from sight, and death daily visited the wigwams of our forefathers, till it showed its back, and reflected the rays of the sun once more at Bow-e-ting (Baawiting; Sault Ste. Marie).  Here it remained for a long time, but once more, and for the last time, it disappeared, and the An-ish-in-aub-ag was left in darkness and misery, till it floated and once more showed its bright back at Mo-ning-wun-a-kaun-ing (La Pointe Island), where it has ever since reflected back the rays of the sun, and blessed our ancestors with life, light, and wisdom. Its rays reach the remotest village of the wide-spread Ojibways."

-William W. Warren

So the story goes...

Giiwenh. So goes the Teaching Story about the Prophecy of the Seven Fires and what it means to the Peoples of the great Turtle Island...Miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidaadizookoon. Thank you for listening to my storytelling today. Giga-waabamin wayiiba, I hope to see you again soon...

> To read more about this topic see: Journey of Our People

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¹ Source: 
Journey of Our People. 

About the author and his sources of inspiration

Trouwringen ontwerper Zhaawano Giizhik
My name is Zhaawano Giizhik. 
As an American artist and jewelry designer currently living in the Netherlands. I like to draw on the oral and pictorial traditions of my Ojibwe Anishinaabe ancestors from the American Great Lakes area. For this I call on my manidoo-minjimandamowin, or "Spirit Memory"; which means I try to remember the knowledge and the lessons of my ancestors. The MAZINAAJIMOWINAN or ‘pictorial spirit writings’ - which are rich with  symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos. Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many, many  generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the coastline where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.

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