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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Way of the Heartbeat, part 6

Simone McLeod Our Fires
"A Sacred Fire Burns Deep in the Earth"

- Updated: Manoominike-giizis (Ricing Moon), August 8, 2021)


Weddig rings by Zhaawano Giizhik titled Ishkoden


"The fundamental essence of Anishinaabe life is unity. The oneness of all things. In our view history is expressed in the way that life is lived each day. Key to this is the belief that harmony with all created things has been achieved. The people cannot be separated from the land with its cycle of seasons or from the other mysterious cycles of living things - of birth and growth and death and new birth. The people know where they come from. The story is deep in their hearts.  It has been told in legends and dances, in dreams and in symbols. It is in the songs a grandmother sings to the child in her arms and in the web of family names, stories, and memories that the  child learns as he or she grows older. This is a story of the spirit - individual and collective." 

- William W. Warren (1825-1853), historian, member of the Midewiwin, and  great-grandson of Chief Waabijijaak (Whooping Crane) of the Crane Clan.

If the New People will remain strong in their quest the Water Drum of the Midewiwin Lodge will again sound its voice. There will be a rebirth of the Anishinaabe Nation and a rekindling of old flames. The Sacred Fire will again be lit."

- The Seventh Fire Prophecy 

Leland Bell Coming of the Three Fires


Boozhoo! Biindigen miinawaa nindaadizooke wigamigong; enji-zaagi'iding miinawaa gikendaasong. Ningad-aawechige noongom giizhigad! (Hello! Welcome back in my Storytelling Lodge where legends and teachings are shared. Let’s tell a teaching story today!)

This blog story is another episode, the sixth already in a series named ‘‘The Way of the Heartbeat." The series features teaching stories that encompass the unique worldview and cultural and spiritual perspective of the Midewiwin and Waabanoowiwin, both age-old Medicine Lodges that until today play a pivotal role in the culture and lives of the Anishinaabe Peoples.

Today's story is woven around two powerful canvases by my artist friend Simone McLeod (Ahki-ekwan─źsit), name doodem (Sturgeon Clan) from Pasqua, Saskatchewan, as well as a set of gold wedding bands handcrafted in my jeweler’s studio. In addition, the story is illustrated with a beautiful painting by the unequaled Manitoulin Island painter Leland Bell (Bebaminojmat), who belongs to Anishinaabe maang doodem (the Loon Clan). Simone's paintings are, respectively, titled Our Fires (2015)” and  Fire Keepers Igniting Our Spirit (2014).” The title of Mr. Bell's canvas, which he painted in 1983, is “Coming of the Three Fires. 


Zhaawano Giizhi Native Woodland jeweler wedding rings Ishkoden


Technique of overlay

These unique two-tone overlay wedding rings, beautifully color-contrasted with palladium gold on red gold, distinguish themselves by a minimalist, yet expressive, colorful design.
The technique used for these wedding rings, called overlay, originated with the Hopi silversmiths by the end of the 1930s. Overlay is a silversmithing technique where two pieces of precious metal are soldered together after a design has been cut from the top layer.
In the case of these rings, fires were created by cutting stylized figures of flames out of a flat sheet of palladium white gold; a jeweler's saw was used for this. Then the palladium white sheet was soldered to a, slighty thinner, blank of red gold, after which both sheets were soldered together; next, the flat piece was hammered around a mandril to form a ring, the ends soldered together, and the exterior and interior of the rings were filed, sanded, and given a high polish.
The flames featuring the wedding rings tell a story that lives deep in our hearts and in the very earth that we, as Anishinaabeg or Spontaneous Peoples, walk on in each and every step.
Fire Keepers Igniting Our Spirit by Simone McLeod

Founding of the Three Brothers Nation

About 1200 to 1500 summers ago during a legendary westward migration from the northern shores of the Great Salt Waters (the Atlantic Ocean), the Waabanakiiyag, or Anishinaabeg Nation, after reaching Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island; Place of the Big Snapping Turtle)  in lower Michigan, split into three, or four groups - the Anishinaabeg proper (Ojibweg), the "Elder Brother" appointed as "Faith Keepers," or keepers of the ancient religion and caretakers of the Sacred Water Drum of the Midewiwin; the Odaawaag (Odawa) or Trader People, the "Middle Brother" responsible for sustenance; and the Bodwe'aadamiinhk (Potawatomi) or People of the Fire Pit, the "Younger Brother" who came in charge of the Sacred Ancestral Fire. There was also a fourth group, the Misi-zaagiwininiwag (Mississauga), but they are usually grouped with the Ojibweg. These groups formed about 1200 years ago at Michilimackinac a loose confederation, called Niswi-mishkodewin (Three Fires), and all three, or four, Anishinaabe nations moved into what is now Michigan State, as well as into other areas around the Great Lakes.
Today the idea of the Confederacy is still very much alive. The Three Fires Society for instance, is a contemporary Anishinaabe movement of spiritual revival, renewal, maintenance, and strengthening of the original Teachings, Rituals, Ceremonies, and Prophecies that the Waabanakiinyag People had brought with them from the old country; all vested in the Midewiwin, the Grand Anishinaabe Medicine Lodge of Mideg ("those who are in a Sacred and Unseen State").
Ishkoden Fires Anishinaabe style wedding rings by Zhaawano Giizhik
The four stylized flames depicted in these wedding rings represent these ancient fires that are buried deep in the soil of Anishinaabe Aki, our homelands. Burning sacred and pure, offering a silent prayer of gratitude to the spirits of our ancestors, three of the fires stand for the Brother Nations that make up the Confederacy, while the fourth represents the original council fire of the Waabanakiiyag /Anishinaabeg stemming from the time when they - according to Midewiwin tradition - still lived in Waabanaki, the old Dawn Land in the east. The four fires combined suggest peacekeeping, protection, spiritual strength, and cultural pride.
Giiwenh. So the story goes about the Three Fires; so goes the story about the Sacred Fire of the Dawn Land that lives in the hearts of the Anishinaabeg Peoples and that burns deep in the very earth we walk on. 

Miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidaadizookoon. Thank you for listening to my storytelling today. Giga-waabamin wayiibabi-waabamishinaan miinawaa daga: I hope to see you again soon, please come see us later...

Visit the Fisher Star Native Woodland Art blog to view details of the ring set.
About the author and his sources of inspiration

Storyteller 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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