Onaabani-giizis (Crusty Snow Moon; March 31), 2017
Teachings from the Tree of Life, part 2
"The Hawk and the Owls: a Vision of Healing"
Illustration: The Tree of Life by M'Chigeeng Ojibwe painter Blake Debassige. Read about the symbolic meaning of this iconic painting.
James Mishibinijima Simon on the Teaching of the Tree of Life
"Our spiritual path was designed way before we were born on Mother Earth; many times you'll be tested and many times you'll fail. "Spiritual Paths" or "The Tree Of Life" is a simple teaching to understand and all you need to do is to take a good look at yourself and see what you truly need. When we try to get things that our neighbours have, this is where our Spiritual Path and design gets confused and ultimately fail. This is where people get confused and create problems in their life.
When confusion sets into your life, you have the ability to choose another branch from the tree of life and follow that branch towards discovery. When you stand back and take a good look, you have so many branches to choose from."*
- Wikwemikong Anishinaabe Medicine Painter James Mishibinijima
Welcome to part 2 of my new blog series titled Teachings from the Tree of Life, in which I connect the storytelling art of myself and kindred artists with an old Teaching based on the ancient Anishinaabe spiritual/philosophical principle of mino-bimaadiziwin that countless generations of ancestors handed down to us from the time they still lived in the old homeland along the Atlantic coast. The story that I tell today features artwork by the late Miskwaabik Animikii, the Father of the Native Woodland Art, and Second Generation Medicine (Woodland) painters Simone McLeod and Blake Debassige.
Today's Teaching focuses on a lesson inspired by a vision that a friend of mine, whose family is originally from Gete-gitigaaning (Lac Vieux Desert Indian Reservation), recently shared with me. Like all Tree of Life Teachings, the healing message that lies hidden in my friend's vision is in itself easy to understand - that is, if we choose to open up to it. The hard part, however, is to follow it...
Last night, in the early morning around 3 am a good and trusted friend (I call her Misaabe) woke up as she heard her grandchild cry! She went in his room, held him, and rocked him. Then laid him back down and as she was walking away she heard wings. My friend looked outside and there, in the tree in the front of her house, was a hawk sitting on a branch flanked by two owls. (It was the same hawk that my friend had seen many times in her dreams and she has always associated me with it.) The owls were looking right at her; as she said to them "talk to me," she heard many different languages that she could not understand. My friend told me about this vision and asked me what I make of it.
Miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidaadizookoon. Thank you for listening to my story today. Giga-waabamin wayiiba, I hope to see you again soon.
*Excerpt from Mishmountains Blogspot, "Teachings to the Tree Of Life."
** Michael Pomedli: Living with Animals - Ojibwe Spirit Powers, University of Toronto Press 2014, p. 109.
About the author/artist and his 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 an artist and a writer and a jewelry designer, 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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