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  • Writer's picturezhaawano

Reflections of the Great Lakes, part 15: Zhingibis and the Heart Berry

Updated: Apr 11

Manidoo-giizis (Spirit Moon), January 18, 2022


Ode'imin the Heart Berry
Ode'imin Giiwekii ("Return of the Heart Berry"), artwork by Zhaawano Giizhik. © 2022 Zhaawano Giizhik


Aaniin! Biindigen miinawaa nindaadizooke wigamigong; enji-zaagi'iding miinawaa gikendaasong.

("Hi! Welcome back in my Storytelling Lodge, where there is love and learning.")

As long as the Anishinaabeg can remember, an old and seasoned warrior lives in Giiwedinong (the North). His name is Biboon (Winter). He is also known by his more poetic name: Gaa-biboonikaan (ᐱᐴᓂᑫᑦ᙮ written in Ojibwe syllabics), the Bringer of Winter, or Winter Maker. In many stories Gaa-biboonikaan is presented as a star constellation (often called Bebooniked Anangoog) whose presence in the night sky heralds winter. The stars of the Winter Maker embrace the whole of the winter sky. The Winter Maker starts to have its presence known in the Freezing Over Moon (November) when it starts to rise from the eastern sky; by mid-winter, which would be about in the Suckerfish and Bear Moon (February), it is standing straight up in the night sky, and when spring arrives Winter Maker sinks into the West. Striding and paddling the celestial equator like a mighty hunter/bowman/canoeist, this mighty biboonikewinini (Winter Making Man) shines the brightest in the two spirit moons (December and January).

Now it happened that Biboon, who, if he had it his way, would keep the lakes and rivers of the Northwoods in his icy grip all year around with his freezing breath, was engaged in a permanent conquest with a young man called Ziigwan, for whom he harbored a special hatred. Ziigwan was an antipode of the fierce old warrior; possessing a kind and gentle nature, his abode was in the land of zhaawani-noondin (the South Wind), a place of perpetual warmth and flowers and bird song. Thus, each year around Onaabani-giizis (Snowcrust Moon), Biboon and Ziigwan tested their strength for dominion over Gaa-zaaga'iganikaag, the land of Many Lakes.

Now, this is an old story that happened in a distant past, you may say. Just an old folk tale, of a merely poetic or romantic nature at most, stemming from a long-gone time when people still believed in magic. But this is where you may be wrong! The story presented today, although told in the backdrop of the annual struggle between Biboon and Ziigwan, is one that happens in the here and now, and proves that magic is still alive deep in Anishinaabe Aki - the heartland of the Ojibweg Peoples…


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