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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Teachings of the Eagle Feather, part 33: A Flower of Fire


"A Flower of Fire"

April 5, 2022


Gold eagle wedding rings titled A Flower of Fire




Shkode-waabigonii Nimisawinawaa Nimisawenimaa Nimbamenimaa a’aw ikwe Gaawiin bekaanizid.

Dibishko nenookaasiins Niyaazikawaa Misko-waabigonii Ni ga-aazikaagoon Haw sa.

The Flower of Fire I have my heart set on her I long for her I care for her, that woman I care for no one else.

Like a ruby-throated hummingbird I will get there first The scarlet flower She will come to my aid Yes she will!

- My personal song to a woman, the love of my life




Aaniin, boozhoo gakina awiiya ge gidagindaanaawaa igwa. Biindigen!

Hello everyone who reads this. Welcome!

Today’s story is woven around a set of wedding rings created at my workbench, craftfully conceived in the spirit of romance. The title of the ring set, shkode-waabigonii gikinawaaji gizaagiwewin, is Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) for “A Flower of Fire Symbolizes Our Love.”

In the rings, two evocative design elements, the eagle feather and the cardinal flower, merge into a poetic narrative of love.

Let's first take a look at the cardinal flower or Lobelia cardinalis, which my People call shkode-waabigonii, or "Flower of Fire." At one time this beautiful crimson relative, its sugary blooms home to flocks of butterflies and hummingbirds, was used as a root tea for treating stomachaches, typhoid, and other diseases. It is a hardy, summer-flowering perennial which has brilliant scarlet flower spikes above deep, blue green basal rosette of foliage. Its bloom time is during the moons when miinan (the berries) are ripening, manoomin (wild rice) is harvested, and aniibiishan ( the tree leaves) are turning.*

The gold of the rings the color of the sun represents the warm south, birth place of niibin (summer). The stylized feathers adorning the rings represent the spiritual quality of zaagi’idiwin (love). Zaagi'idiwin is the second Grandfather Teaching passed down through many generations of Anishinaabeg Peoples.   This brings us to the topic of Migizi, the White-headed eagle, and what its feathers mean to us.


Gold eagle wedding rings titled A Flower of Fire


The teaching of Zaagi'idiwin tells us to love GICHI-MANIDOO, the Sum of All Mystery, because the very breath of GICHI-MANIDOO is considered the giver of human life. We acknowledge this GICHI-MANIDOO through the act of love, and it is through love of oneself that we express our ultimate love for it. Our ancestors chose Migizi to represent this important teaching because he flies high above the earth and is therefore closer to the Great Mystery than any other creature. Love is the most elusive of all virtues and no other creature is so elusive as this mighty spirit-bird, and love has the same light and airy nature as his feathers.

The sparkling red glow of the marquise-cut ruby stone in conclusion, gracefully mounted on the feather of the ladies’ ring, symbolizes the love fire that, brilliantly scarlet like a cardinal flower, burns simultaneously in the hearts of two partners for life.

The stone's off-center placement on the feather is my artistic reference to the interconnected notions of love and outwardness — which, in turn, are expressed through the verbs zaagi’ and  zaagigi, which respectively mean, “love someone,” and "sprout, grow out." As if the ruby were a summer flower sprouting spontaneously from uncertain beginnings and blossoming into a stunning spectacle of scarlet beauty...

Nahaaw. Mii sa ekoozid. Gimiigwechiwininim gii-izhaayeg omaa igo gaye gii agindameg gakina gegoon gii zhibii’amaan. Abegish ge ga waabaminagog miinawaa ingoding wayeba.

Well, that is the end of today's teaching. I thank you all for coming here as well as for reading this story. I hope to see you all again sometime soon!

Wedding rings image: photo by Zhaawano Giizhik
Hummingbird image: photo by Joshua J. Cotten

* July to September


My name is Zhaawano Giizhik. My clan is waabizheshi, the marten.

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. It is these age-old expressions that provide an endless supply of story elements to my work; be it graphically, through my written stories, as well as in the context of my jewelry making.


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