Spirit of the Seasons, part 5: When the Spirits of Summer and Winter Meet
Updated: Oct 9
Waabaagbagaa-giizis / Waatebagaa-giizis (Leaves Turning Moon) - September 26, 2022
Boozhoo, biindigen miinawaa! Hello again and welcome to part 5 of the series Spirit of the Seasons, in which I connect my storytelling art —as well as works of kindred artists— with the ancient teachings of the Anishinaabeg Peoples. Today's blog post, which features images of a painting and a bracelet made by the author, celebrates the first day of Fall in the Northern Hemisphere. This is the day when the spirits of Summer and Winter meet.
~~ THE ANISHINAABEG AND THE AUTUMNAL EQUINOX ~~
My ancestors, the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg of the Great Lakes area, did not record time by using the months of the Julian or Gregorian calendar — which is a soli-lunar calendar, or a calendar marked only by solar months. They kept track of time by observing the seasons and lunar months. One month was the period from one full moon to the next full moon.
My ancestors distinguished 13 of these cycles as the earth orbits around the sun through the four seasons. In a lunar year, there are 12 moons, but 7 times in 19 years, there are 13 moons. Although, according to Gregorian measurement, a year is typically defined as 12 months, our ancestors added an extra Moon to keep it in sync with the seasons. The term miskw-dibik-giizis or "blood moon" is frequently used to describe four total lunar eclipses that occur in a row. The Ojibweg sometimes call this moon: Miskomini-giizis or Miskwiwmini-giizis — Raspberry moon; the seventh moon of Creation, when great changes begin. This moon rises in between the moons of June (Strawberry Moon or Blooming Moon called by our Peoples) and July (which we call Halfway Summer Moon or Berry Moon). Then there is another moon that can fall in either July and August: Odatagaagomini-giizis (Blackberry Moon). This 8th moon is when we honor the blackberry which produces an abundance of fruit once every three years. Odatagaagomin (also called waaboozomin —rabbit berry— and makade-miskomin —black raspberry) was one of the first plants put on Mother Earth, and its purpose is to protect the Sacred Circle of life by allowing us to recognize and understand the teachings that come from the Spirit World.*
The Anishinaabeg occupy a vast territory (called Anishinaabe Aki) across what is today Canada and the United States. The different bands and tribes had their own naming preferences when it came to the full or new Moons and the lunar Moons. The names of a given moon were typically designated to correspond with the seasonal and/or cultural influence within a given location, such as planting and harvesting activities, natural phenomena, animal activity, and cultural practices and beliefs. In other words, each moon reflects changes in the environment. It is also important to understand that traditional teachings are attached to each of the moon’s phases, providing guidance on how to establish mino bimaadaziwin (Living Life in a Good and Healthy Way). Because the region the Anishinaabeg lived was so large, the moons may not be called the same for all areas.
Colonial Americans, who brought their own traditions from Europe, adopted some of the Native American Moon names and applied them to their own calendar system (primarily Julian, and later, Gregorian). Although the Gregorian calendar is the system that mainstream society in North America uses today, the Great-Grandmother-Great Mystery doesn't follow the Gregorian calendar. Our Peoples traditionally use their own classifications.
Around this time, we celebrate the beginning of Fall in the Northern Hemisphere. On the 25th day of the month of September that our People call Waatebagaa-giizis or Waabaagwagaa-giizis ("Leaves Are Turning Color Moon") — or, depending on the region, Biinaakwe-giizis (Falling Leaves Moon), Moozo-giizis (Moose Moon), Amanoozo-giizis (Rutting Moon), Gagakoone-giizis (Harvest Without Cutting Moon), Mandaamini-giizis (Corn Moon), and Manoominike-giizis (Wild Rice Harvest Moon)— the Sun crosses the celestial equator, and this is when we acknowledge that the spirits of the Summer's last heat and the Fall's first chill meet.
To Anishinaabeg Peoples, Sunday 25 September 2022 at 03H39m03s is the first day of Fall, while according to Western science, the fall equinox arrives three days earlier, in the Northern Hemisphere, at 9:04 P.M. EDT. According to Gregorian count, whose annual cycles are based on the solar year, September is the ninth month of the year. Although most Anishinaabeg, who follow a lunar calendar, also believe it is the 9th moon of the year, some, who follow the Generations calendar, believe the Moon of the Falling Leaves is the sixth moon of the lunar year.**
The Moon when the leaves turn color and fall on the ground falls on the same day on which the Autumnal Equinox begins. It marks the moment when Giizis (the Sun) appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward. The exact time of the beginning of the equinox is cause of much debate; some say that Monday 26 September 2022 is the actual day of the equinox, which does not occur on the Gregorian calendar date due to the Kepler Shift or a slight wobble in the orbit of the earth around the sun. The full moon for Leaves Falling to the Ground Moon is called Binaakwe-giizis, the Falling Leaves Moon, which will occur on Sunday, October 9, 2022.
Binaakwe, a verb that means "(it) is autumn," (literally: "to lose leaves") corresponds with the verb binibagaa, meaning "leaves fall off," and the noun binaakwiig, a word sometimes used to denote autumn. Another word often used to denote fall season is dagwaagin — a verb meaning "it is autumn."
~~ THE HARVEST MOON AND THE CORN MOON, AS KNOWN AMONG THE DIFFERENT PEOPLES OF TURTLE ISLAND ~~
Among Anglo Americans and Canadians, the full Moon that happens nearest to the fall equinox (September 22 or 23) is called “Harvest Moon.” Unlike other full Moons, this full Moon rises at nearly the same time—around sunset—for several evenings in a row, giving farmers several extra evenings of moonlight and allowing them to finish their harvests before the frosts of fall arrive.
While September’s full Moon is usually known as the Harvest Moon, if October’s full Moon happens to occur closer to the equinox than September’s, it takes on the name “Harvest Moon” instead. In this case, September’s full Moon is referred to as the Corn Moon.
This time of year—late summer into early fall—corresponds with the time of harvesting corn in much of the northern parts of Turtle Island (North America). For this reason, several Peoples indigenous to Turtle Island traditionally use some variation of the name “Corn Moon” to refer to the Moon of either August or September. Examples include Corn Harvest Moon (Dakota) and Corn Maker Moon (Western Abenaki) .
Other Moon names for this month exemplify how September is the transitional period between summer and fall:
· Leaves Are Turning Color Moon or Falling Leaves Moon (Ojibweg)
· Autumn Moon or Freeze-Up Moon (Ininewak/Cree)
· Moon of Brown Leaves (Lakota)
· Yellow Leaf Moon (Nakoda/Assiniboine)
· Nut Moon (Aniyvwiya/Cherokee)
· Time of Much Freshness ( Kanienkehaka /Mohawk)
· Corn Is Harvested (Hopi)
Among some Indigenous Turtle Island Peoples, the behavior of animals is a common theme, with Child Moon (Tlingit) referring to the time when young animals are weaned, Mating Moon (or Rutting Moon) and Moose Moon (Ojibweg), Animal Fatting Time (Mi'kmaw), and Birds Flying Moon and Snow Goose Moon (both Ininew/Cree) describing the time of year when certain birds and animals, like geese, moose, elk, and deer, are migrating, or fatten, or looking to mate.***
~~ WHAT MAKES OUR LUNAR CALENDAR UNIQUE? ~~
As said in the above text, in a lunar year, there are 12 moons, but 7 times in 19 years, there are 13 moons. This 13th moon is called a giizisoons (little moon; leap moon/month). In this sense, the Anishinaabe calendar is like all other soli-lunar calendar systems. The Anishinaabe lunar months go from Full Moon to Full Moon; in this sense, the Anishinaabe calendar is unique, as other soli-lunar calendar systems go from New Moon to New Moon, or from sliver crescent after the New Moon to the sliver crescent after the New Moon. Leap month happens in the December-January time frame (New Year begins with the Full Moon on or after the Winter Solstice).
In Lower Peninsula Michigan and in southern Ontario, these are the names of the 12 full moons and one leap moon:
January: Namebini-giizis (Sucker Fish Moon: Full Moon on or after the Winter Solstice) (For the majority of Anishinaabeg, January 1 marks the start of the New Year) February: Onaabani-giizis (Snow Crust Moon) March: Ziinzibaakwadooke-giizis (Sugar Making Moon)(For some Anishinaabeg, March 28 marks the start of the New Year) April: Waabigwanii-giizis (Showing Buds Moon) May: Gitige-giizis (Planting Moon) June: Ode'imini-giizis (Heart Berry Moon) July: Miini-giizis (Blueberry Moon) August: Odatagaagomini-giizis (Blackberry Moon) Note: The eighth moon can fall in either July or August, depending on the year) September: Mandaamini-giizis (Corn Moon) October: Binaakwe-giizis (Falling Leaves Moon) November: Gashkadino-giizis (Freezing Over Moon) December: Gichi-bibooni-giizis (Big Winter Moon) January: Oshki-bibooni-giizisoons (New Winter Little Moon; leap month; the 13th moon or leap month is usually placed between the 1th and 2th moons of our lunar calendar)
Then there is another full moon called Ozhaawashko-giizis (Blue Moon). This is how some Anishinaabeg call the second or third full moon in a calendar month; others use it to denote the thirteenth moon of a lunar year.
Other names in use are Miskwi-dibik-giizis (Blood Moon) and Miskomini-giizis (Raspberry Moon).
Miskwi-dibik-giizis is a moon that is fully eclipsed, especially during the summer moons.
The term "blood moon" is also frequently used to describe four total lunar eclipses that occur in a row. The Ojibweg sometimes call this moon Miskomini-giizis or Miskwiwmini-giizis — "Raspberry moon"; the seventh moon of Creation, when great changes begin. It is a time for focusing on healing and restorative activities.
~~ THE OJIBWE STORY OF ZHEZHOOBII'IGED, THE SPIRIT PAINTER ~~
Ahaaw ningad aadizooke (Now, I will tell you a sacred story).**** Zhezhoobii’iged, the Spirit Painter, works at night with his friend Ningiigwagi, the Frost. They splash color on the leaves preparing Ogashinan (Mother Earth) when she wears her finest most beautiful clothes. Ogashinan performs her annual dance for GICHI-MANIDOO the Great Mystery and all the children of the Earth. Everything is ripe at this time. Leaves reach their medicine time and are picked or dug up and stored for ceremonial use. Zhezhoobii’iged and Ningiigwagi work to bring color to the dried leaves and plants. The beautiful colors are taken from the juices of roots, plants, and fruits. Once the colors are mixed, Zhezhoobii’iged brushes them onto the plants with corn tassels. Their reward is the joy they bring to Creation and all people. As the leaves began to turn, Zhezhoobii’iged, the Spirit Painter, is busy brushing these brilliant colors onto the plants. Ogashinan is getting ready for the final dance, which happens every year at Binaakwe Giizis, Leaves Falling Down Moon. Wearing her finest and most colorful dress, Ogashinan dances until all the beautiful leaves have fallen. Ogashinan has then finished her sacred, annual work, and is now ready to rest, to sleep peacefully and quietly, with dignity, happiness, and satisfaction; for she knows that she has fed, nourished, and provided the food for all her children... Such is the sacred story of Zhezhoobii’iged, the Spirit Painter.
Ahaaw sa. Mii sa ekoozid. Miigwech gibizindaw noongom. Ok, that is the end of the today's story. Thank you for listening to me. Gigiveda-waabamin wayiiba, I hope to see you again soon! Mino bimaadizin! Live well!
> Read the next episode of the Spirit of the Seasons series: Mother earth and the 13 Moons of Creation.
Mother Earth and the Spirit Painter, art print by Zhaawano Giizhik (2022)
Circle Dance of the Corn Plants, sterling silver bracelet designed and handcrafted by Zhaawano Giizhik.
*Source: Muskrat Magazine
** Those who follow the calendar called Generations Calendar or "Medicine Lunar Calendar" believe that Monday 26 September 2022 is the actual day of the equinox, which does not occur on the Gregorian calendar date due to the Kepler Shift or a slight wobble in the orbit of the earth around the sun.
Followers of this calendar are of the opinion that the Nookomis/Grandmother calendar as known by the Anishinaabeg Peoples has been severely altered by the impact of the European invasion as far back as 900 CE when the Norsemen first arrived, then the full-scale invasion of the Americas starting in the 15th century. According to this theory, which is different from the lunar calendar followed by the majority of traditional Anishinaabe Peoples that dictates that a month has 28 days, the Grandmother-Moon circles the Earth-Mother every 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds. 13 months of 28 days is 364 days which is one day shy of the the Earth-Mothers dance around the Sun-Father. According to the Generations Calendar theory, this would put the Nookomis/Grandmother calendar out by half a month in 14 years and advance until Gashkadino-Giizis or Baashkaakodin-Giizis (The Freezing Moon) would start on the summer solstice. The Generations calendar recognizes this disparity. It dictates that 12 moons/months of our calendar equals approximately 354 days, which is 11 days short of the solar year. Every three years this equals 33 full days, so the 13th moon/month is added. The calendar cycle, according to the Generations theory, starts and ends with a 13th moon, so the excess time is accounted for having two 13 moons in a row. Then every 76 years (an average lifetime) the 10th year of the cycle is given a 13th moon. This moon, according to the Generations Calendar theory, is known as "Great-Grandmother-Creator Moon." In contrast with the traditional Anishinaabe belief that our calendar starts in Gichimanidoo-giizis or Maajii-bibooni-giizis (Great Spirit Moon/The Beginning of Winter Moon/the Month of January), the lunar year, according to the followers of the Generations or Medicine calendar, begins when the Earth-Mother is reborn, usually in the moon when the Vernal equinox occurs (in Zaagibagaa-giizis, the Budding Moon, or the Month of May). This, of course, would define the Moon of the Falling Leaves as the sixth, not the ninth, moon of the lunar year.
*** Source: Almanac
**** Narrative loosely based on an aadizookaan (traditional story), taken from the Anishinaabe Almanac by Edward Benton-Banai.