Nibaad Misaabe Dibikad
Nibaad Misaabe Anangoog

Star Stories, part 3: "A Revolving Sky Above Nibaad Misaabe"

An Anishinaabe story told and illustrated by Zhaawano Giizhik

Gichi-manidoo-giizis (Great Mystery Moon, January 27), 2018

Boozhoo! Biindigen miinawaa nindaadizookewigamigong (Hello! Welcome back in my Storytelling Lodge)!

I am Zhaawano Giizhik. By way of a blog series called "STAR STORIES", accompanied by my jewelry designs and works of art by kindred artists, I pay hommage to the Star People and to the ancient star knowledge of my Anishinaabe ancestors. Today's story is the third in the series.

The meaning of traditional-storytelling


Before we take a look at the design of the below wedding bands and the aadizookaan (traditional story of a sacred nature) that they tell, let's first dwell briefly on the literal meaning of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe word for "tell a traditional story/storytelling," aadizooke/aadizookewin. The literal meaning of the verb aadizooke is ""make life-way of something." It therefore follows that aadizookewin, telling traditional stories, or legends, is more than about just telling legends; it is about the life-way, a conduct of living. 

It literally is the meaning of life!*

Revolving Sky Ojibwe style wedding bands

The Sleeping Giant and the circular movement of the sky and planets

The aadizookan that I share with you today is embodied by this unique set of muliticolor gold wedding rings, which were constructed with the aid of the technique of overlay. The design of the rings, which belong to the Mother Earth series, is reminiscent of the pictographic outline drawing style of the Medicine painters who paint in the Native Woodland School Of Art discipline.

The dramatic outline of Nibaad Misaabe, the Sleeping Giant, an awe-inspiring rock formation that juts out on Lake Superior and forms the body of water that is Thunder Bay, is an important source of design inspiration for many of my wedding ring creations. If you like to know more about the story behind the mysterious aadizookaan (maker of stories) called Nibaad Misaabe, please see the second episode in the Reawakening of the Medicine People series

The red gold part and the oxydized (blackened) outlines of the design of the rings - which were modeled after the Nibaad Misaabe - represent the bodies and spirits of two lovers becoming one with each other and with the Earthmother herself. From her fertile womb they sprang, and unto Mother Earth they shall return.

The inlaid design elements and the circular shape of the wedding rings refer to the Anishinaabe concept of GIZHIBAA GIIZHIG, or revolving sky, which pertains to the circular movement of the planets (see the inserted pen-and-ink illustration below).

Nibaad Misaabe The Sleeping Giant inspired the wedding ring design
The revolving sky pen and ink drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik

My ancestors knew that their extensive star knowledge and the constellations they saw in the night sky related to seasonal changes, hunting, fishing, food gathering and farming, ceremonies, and storytelling. To them, seasonal changes corresponded with the movement of stellar constellations, which, in turn, were reflected in their aadizookewin (traditional storytelling) and manidookewinan (ceremonies)...

To the Anishinaabe, all knowledge and all life forms were inawendiwag, interconnected and interrelated. The term gizhibaa giizhig refers to the circular movement of the sky throughout the year, which has thirteen moons (months). In other words, the notion of "'Gizhibaa" that I incorporated in the wedding ring design refers to the circular movement of the sun, moon, stars and seasons in Waawiyekamig, the "round lodge" - the Universe/cosmos.

It is no coincidence that in Ojibwe culture, "Gizhibaa" also pertains to people dancing in a circular fashion around the drum arbor at powwows...**

Miigwech mii i'iw noongom.

Thank you, that's it for today.

* Onjida Charles Lippert for sharing with me your great knowledge of Anishinaabemowin etymology. 

** Source: Michael Wassegijig Price, Anishinaabe Star Knowledge

The Revolving Sky above Nibaad Misaabe

AndrewMcLachlan Photography

Native woodland artist Zhaawano Giizhik at Mishipicoten Bay

About the artist/author and his design inspiration

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 Baawitigong (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten.

As a second- generation Woodland artist who writes stories and creates graphic art and jewelry designs, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. For this he calls on his manidoo-minjimandamowin, or 'Spirit Memory'; which means he tries to remember the knowledge and the lessons of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists.

To Zhaawano's ancestors the MAZINAAJIMOWIN 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 that they felt they were an integral part of. 

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 lake's coastlines where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.

The way Zhaawano understands it, it is in these sacred places invisible to the ordinary, waking eye that his design and storyteller's inspiration originate from.

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