The Way of the Heartbeat, Part 3

"Mino-bimaadiziwin: the Blessing of a Long Life"

Onaabani-giizis (Hard Crust on the Snow Moon); March 9, 2018

Bimaadiziwin Miikanaang/Dibishkoo Minikaan Abinoojiinh Anishinaabe necklace designed by Zhaawano Giizhik

Boozhoo, aaniin!

Welcome to part 3 of the blog series titled The Way of the Heartbeat, in which I connect my storytelling jewelry, occasionally along with artworks of kindred artists, with the ancient Teachings that my ancestors have passed on since they still lived in the Dawn Land in the East - and probably as long as our People have been walking the face of our beloved Aki, the Earthmother. 

Today's Teaching is woven around a one-of-a-kind choker necklace created at my workbench in my studio in the Netherlands. The necklace is titled Bimaadiziwin Miikanaang/Dibishkoo Minikaan Abinoojiinh, which is Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) for "On the Path of Life; Like a Seed, the Child." The piece, which is an edition of one, is constructed of hand-hammered sheet and wire of sterling silver. The necklace features a free-form larimar stone set in 14K gold and, adorning the right side of the necklace, a stylized eagle feather, also made of 14K yellow gold.

Like the Seed, so the Child

On the Path of Life Ojibwe necklace designed by Zhaawano Giizhik

Belonging to the Path of Life series, this modernly fashioned necklace, which is typical of recent ZhaawanArt design in its handsome simplicity and the clean and precise handling of silver, gold, and stone, was hammered into its shape as an elegant tribute to a dear Anishinaabekwe friend of mine - to be more precise, to a powerful and sacred quality that I see in her. This manidoowiwin (spirit quality) that my friend possesses and which could best be described as lust for life, or joy of life, I visualize, and metaphorize, as a minikaan (seed) of great generative powers touching and blessing and inspiring all living things and beings around her.

Naturally, looking at it from a broader perspective - or to be more precise, seen in the very context of traditional Anishinaabe outlook and thought -, one could also say the necklace honors and celebrates bimaadiziwinlife itself.

Gichi-ayaag, the Anishinaabe Elders, teach the young that life is like miinikaan: a seed of a plant. A seed is hidden inside the earth until it emerges in spring. When it bursts forth, it grows into a plant fed by the earth, warmed by the sun, and watered by the rain. It is cared for until it is ready to bear fruit. Therefore a seed is regarded a manidoo, a mystery.

Like the seed, so the child. Abinoojiiyag too must be fed and clothed and sheltered and be given guidance into adulthood. Just as a seed of a plant must be planted in good soil, an abinoojiinh must be shown a path that he or she is to follow.

The round shape of the necklace depicts the path of bimaadiziwin. The bluish green color of the angular, asymmetrical cut larimar stone set in 14K gold symbolizes the mystery of a seed that begins within the bosom of the earth. This I would like to call Earth Healing. The color of larimar also stands for water, and air. Water represents human emotions; air stands for spirit. The three elegantly curved silver wires that pass into the broad silver plate of the collar necklace - the stone functioning as a binding element between the two halves  - stand for the life-giving powers of Ogashnaan (the earthmother), Giizis (the sunfather), and gimiwan (the rain), sources of abundance, warmth, and growth. 

The stylized gold migizi miigwan (eagle feather) attached to one side of the necklace, and which can be glided into any desired position along the silver wires, represents the spiritual path a human being must follow from childhood. Only those who manage to resist the many dangerous traps of life and the countless temptations of comfort and abundance, and manage to keep to their path as revealed in vision – only those persons will be granted mino-bimaadiziwin, the blessing of long life…


A ritual chant of Thanksgiving

Detail of the choker necklace On the Path of Life

Manidoowi miinikaanense.

Niigiwin manidoowin.

Miinikaanense w'da-gikinaawajinowaan abinoojiin.

Miinikaanense manidoowi, w'da-mashki-akiiwi.

The seed is a mystery.

Birth is a mystery.

The seed symbolizes a child.

The seed is mystical; it will heal.


- Ancient ritual chant of thanksgiving, of the Waabanoowiwin, the Anishinaabe society of the Dawn.*


Mii sa ekoozid. Miigwech gibizindaw noongom. And that is the end of the story. Thank you for listening to me today. Giga-waabamin wayiiba, I hope to see you again soon.

Migwechewendan akina gegoo ahaw! Be thankful for everything!

*Source: Basil Johnston, Ojibway Ceremonies, p.124 - University of Nebraska Press, Bison Book Edition 1990.

About the author/artist and his inspiration

Zhaawano Giizhik at Michipicoten Bay




Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently residing 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 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, 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.