Teachings of the Eagle Feather, Part 15
"Seeing in a Spirit Way"
Binaakwe-giizis (Falling Leaves Moon; October 8), 2018
Gi-ga waabandan zaaga’igan.
(The eagle, the eagle
Patient like him.
From the forks on high
You will perceive a lake.)
- Ojibwe Medicine song for good hunting¹
The flight and the mighty spirit powers of the white-headed eagle
Today, I am pleased to present part 15 of a blog series connecting my jewelry and graphic art as well as artwork by kindred artists with the Seven Grandfather teachings of the Ojibwe Anishinaabe People.
These Grandfather Teachings, kept safe for thousands of years by countless generations of Medicine People of the the Anishinaabe Peoples, are passed down orally and from the sacred birch bark scrolls that still exist today.
Today's blog story features not only two silver eagle feather ring sets of my own making but also a powerful canvas of the late Odaawaa-Ojibwe artist Randy Trudeau from Manitoulin Island, Ontario. The painting, which he created in 1990, is titled "The Young Warrior and His Vision."
Randy Trudeau (Randolph Clement Trudeau - April 30, 1954 – November 2, 2013) was a second generation Woodland/Anishinaabe artist of Odaawaag-Ojibweg background, born on Manitoulin Island in Ontario. His traditional name was Shkaabewis, which means Ceremonial Helper, or Messenger/Pipe Bearer. His lyrical artistic style was unexampled and he had his own unique method of depicting spirit beings. Randy Trudeau was a storyteller very strong in his history and in Anishnaabemowin (the language). Randy was a lifelong teacher and will be forever remembered through his art and trough his students.²
> Click here to view details of the above ring set
Migizi, the Bald Eagle, symbolizes in our culture virtues like courage and pre-knowledge and is therefore emblematic of leadership. The Anishinaabeg regard Migizi as gimishoomisinaan, our Grandfather, and a special messenger of GICHI-MANIDOO, the Supreme Spirit Being of the Universe. His sacred feathers, which are animated by his vision, strength, and courage, have always been used as offerings and as decorations for ceremonial costumes and regalia. To be given an Eagle feather is one of the greatest honors to receive because it recognizes achievement and great acts or deeds.
According to Anishinaabe tradition, Gimishoomisinaan Migizi (Our Grandfather Bald Eagle) was a long time ago chosen by GICHI-MANIDOO (the Great Mystery) to represent the Teaching of Zaagi’idiwin (Love).
The reason for this is that Migizi flies high above the earth and sees all that is true. Since he is closer to GICHI-MANIDOO than any other creature he was touched and even infused by GICHI-MANIDOO's love for all creatures. Our ancestors also understood that Love is the most elusive of all virtues...no other creature is so elusive as this mighty spirit-bird, and love has the same light and airy nature as his feathers...
Spirit flight, quest for a life-guiding vision
GICHI-MANIDOO, after creating Aki, the World, spoke about the importance of mino-bimaadiziwin, living a life according to the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Gimishoomisinaan Migizi became inspired and told Great Mystery that he, since his feathers symbolized the intermediate region between things of the spirit world and the earth, would like his feather to be gifted to the Anishinaabe person who’s the most brave and guided the most by the Teachings.
Migizi’s generous offer prompted GICHI-MANIDOO thereupon to tell the Anishinaabeg of the Teachings of the Feather. It instructed the Elders of the Nation about the power of spirit flight and the importance of young adolescents engaging in what would become the most vital of human ventures: waaseyaabindam, the quest for life-guiding visions - paricularly during the passage from boyhood into manhood. It also instructed them that no Eagle be harmed for their feathers were manidoog (spirits) in themselves, and that whenever a person saw an Eagle fly overhead, this mighty spirit-bird must be honored with asemaa (sacred tobacco) in hand. GICHI-MANIDOO added that any person, no matter what age, living their life according to the Seven Teachings would be gifted with a feather...
As the eagle is anami'ewin mizhinawe, a prayer carrier of messages and giving thanks, healers who belong to the Medicine Lodge of the Anishinaabe Peoples sometimes envision themselves turning into eagles as they pray for another person and to GICHI-MANIDOO, the Great Mystery, asking the eagle to carry the sickness up to GICHI-MANIDOO in order to heal the patient.
So highly esteemed were his spiritual powers that in the old days, an Anishinaabe person would never gaze up to a flying eagle without offering a prayer with asemaa (the sacred tobacco) in his or her hand!
The inlaid, respectively appliqued, wing feathers of the above sets silver wedding rings, which I titled Waaseyaabindamowin Miigwan (Vision Feather) and Manidoo Waabiwin (Seeing in a Spirit Way, literaly: spirit-seeing), symbolize manidoo (spirit), reminding the wearers of the rings that eagle feathers, regardless if they are from the bald eagle or the golden eagle, have the power to convey human thoughts and feelings and provide persons with an opportunity to speak directly to the spirits with debwewin (a straight mind) and bekide’ewin (a pure heart).
The marquise-cut, sparkling blue sapphire adorning the feather of the Manidoo Waabiwin ladies' ring represents the eagle's vision, emphasizing that he flies high above the earth and sees all that is sacred and true.
Click here to view details of the Waaseyaabindamowin Miigwan ring set.
Click here to view details of the Manidoo Waabiwin ring set.
So the story goes...
Giiwenh. So the story goes about the eagle feather wedding ring sets that are featured here today and about the symbolic meaning of the eagle feather. Miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidaadizookoon. Thank you for listening to me today. Giga-waabamin wayiiba, I hope to see you again soon.
Click here to read the first story in the Teachings of the Eagle Feather series, which centers around a set of wedding rings titled "Growth is a Mystery."
About the author/artist and his inspiration
Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in NC, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawitigong (Sault Ste. Marie, MI) 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 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 that they felt they were an integral part of. Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are 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.
Photo courtesy Simone McLeod.