Star stories, part 10 : The Moose on Earth and in the Sky
Updated: Apr 19
Miin-giizis /Abitaa-niibini-giizis (Berry Moon/Halfway Summer Moon), July 19, 2021
Boozhoo, aaniin, hello and welcome back to my storytelling Lodge. In chapters 1 and 2 of the "The Everlasting Sky/Our Clans Among the Stars" story we learned that, in the worldview of the Anishinaabeg and Ininewak Peoples, everything that exists on earth started with anagoog: the stars. Even gidoodeminaanig (our clans) are perceived to have been made of anangoog, and, like the bigwaji-bimaadiziwinan (the natural cycles on the earth), they are represented (and mirrored) on a celestial level, in the form of star formations and planets.
Today's story features a couple of images, among which display powerful spirit drawings by Anishinini (Oji-Cree) artist Dusty Kakegamic (see the above outline drawing on paper of a moose, which hangs in the author's home) and by an unknown artisan, painted long ago on rock by a lake in present-day Minnesota State. Central to the story, however, is an Ojibwe-oriented storytelling star map titled Aandakiiwin Ishpiming ("Changing of Season in the Sky"), shown below. It is a free, artistic rendering of the Waawiyekamig, the "Round Lodge" as the Anishinaabeg traditionally conceive the cosmos, showing the four main constellations that herald the four seasons. The image reflects the motion in the night sky where, viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, the four seasonal constellations appear to rotate counter-clockwise around the motionless "Returning Home Star": the North Star depicted in the tail of the Maang constellation (Little Dipper). The four constellations depicted here are, starting in dagwaaging (fall): Mooz the Moose (Pegasus, an autumn constellation), Wenabozho the Hare (Scorpio, a summer constellation), Mishi-bizhiw the Great Lynx (Leo and Hydra, which are spring constellations), and Gaa-biboonikaan, the Bringer of Winter (Orion, a winter star cluster).
~~ THE MOOZ CLANS ON EARTH ~~
MOOZ is the name our ancestors used for the Moose constellation in the night sky. This visually and spiritually important autumn constellation is a reflection of the mooz/moose that lives in what is called ogidakamig: the below-world, in the northwoods of Anishinaabe Aki, the land of the Anishinaabeg Peoples. Historically, the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg have two clans, named Moozens or Moozoons or Moozonii (Little Moose) and Moozwaanowe ("Little" Moose-tail). Then there is the Moose clan proper, called Mooz, which the Ojibweg share with their anishinaabe neighbours, the Odaawaag.
The people of the three Moose clans, like those who belong to the Waawaashkeshi (Deer) and Adik (Caribou) clans, traditionally display a gentle nature. They are commonly categorized with the gaayosedjig: the Providers whose tasks among their communities are to scout, hunt, and gather. It is common knowledge among the Anishinaabeg that Hoof Clan People are the peaceful, soft-spoken caretakers and poets of their People.
~~ THE MOOZ IN THE NIGHT SKY ~~
In the Fall sky the shape of a running mooz (see the blue figure to the right in the above image, drawn in the style of the Medicine Painters of the Canadian Woodland School of Art) can be seen in the night sky, shining down on the Anishinaabeg full strength. The Mooz, with the autumnal equinox, dominates the night sky through the moon called Gashkadino-Giizis, or Baashkaakodin-Giizis (Freezing Over Moon; the month of November). To find it, look for the constellation called Pegasus on Western star maps. The square of this constellation forms the body of the Mooz. The Mooz's legs can be found looking for the stars below the square (see the image below). A couple of stars on the upper-right of the square (not visible in the image) form Mooz's head. Above the head a zigzag of fainter stars (barely visible in the image) mark the Mooz's antlers. These are named Lacerta on Western star maps.
~~ THE TERRESTIAL MOOZ HUNT IN FALL ~~
The Anishinaabeg traditionally hunt ("harvest") mooz in fall when the herd is at their fattest and strongest. This is when bull moose are in rut and search for a noozhe-mooz (cow moose) to mate with. Traditionally, after the kill, a hunter will offer asemaa (tobacco) to the spirit of mooz. Each single part of mooz, the meat, bones, the nose and even its toes, is used. Gete-ayaa'ag (the old ones) never neglected to hang the mooz's beard or "bell" from a tree, thus paying respect to the spirit of the mooz and at the same time acknowledging the presence of the mooz in the sky. The reason they hung the bell from a tree branch is because to them, the stars seemed to hang from the sky vault – as if they were attached with invisible strings to Gichi-manidoo, the Great Mystery of the Universe that sits on top of the sky lodge.
~~ IMAGES OF MOOZ ON THE ROCK ~~
To our ancestors, the fate of the people was intrinsically linked to that of terrestial mooz. There is an old saying that says that when there are no more moozoog, there will be no more Anishinaabeg.Some of the Anishinaabe constellations can be seen in the ozaamanan mazinaajimowinan (red ochre pictographs) at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in what is now northern Minnesota and Ontario.
For example, high up on the granite cliffs at present-day Lake Hegman, the Mooz constellation is painted on the rock face, complete with a heart line of stars indicated. To the left of Mooz is a figure that is popularly interpreted as the Gaa-biboonikaan or Wintermaker constellation (Orion). The seven short horizontal lines just above the Gaa-biboonikaan might represent the Bagonegiizhig (Pleiades) while the three canoes are linked to the Jiibay-miikana or “Path of Souls” (Milky way); the cross painted at the top of the panel, in conclusion, could represent Ajijaak, the Crane (called Cygnus on the Western star maps), flying north. At the bottom, Mooz is followed by what some Ojibwe sources claim is Mishi-bizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe’ – the Great Curly Tail Lynx constellation (Leo and Hydra); other sources suggest the four legged animal painted behind Mooz represents Ma'iingan the wolf which is hunting the moose. And then there are ayaadizookedjig (sacred-storytellers) who interpret the animal with the long tail to be Ojiig (the Fisher Marten) following Mooz; a reference to the Ojiig Anang, or Fisher Star summer asterism (Big Dipper), which ascends high overhead in summer...
~~ WOLF AND THE CELESTIAL MOOZ HUNT ~~
In Anishinaabe cosmology and the aadizookanan (stories) reflecting it, Mooz is intrinsically connected with Ma'iingan, the Wolf on earth, and with Maiingan Miikana, or the “Wolf Trail” in the sky: called Ecliptica in Makadewikonayemowin (Latin) and Ecliptic in Zhaaganaashiimowin (English). The Wolf Trail is the yearly path Gimisoomisinaan Giizis (Grandfather Sun) follows in the celestial sphere, as seen from Earth.
Ma’iingan Miikana is also used to describe the phenomenon of the retrograde motion of aadawaa'amoog ogimaag (planets). Our ancestors observed that a few times a year certain aadawaa'amoog – such as Oshkaabewis (Mercury) – seemed to travel retrograde (westward in relation to anangoog, the stars).
As keen observers of nature, they noticed that, although ma'iinganag (wolves) usually travel in packs, sometimes a lone wolf rebelliously sets off in a different direction for a while to hunt for moozoog (moose) before eventually rejoining the pack. This is why they saw Ma’iingan’s presence on earth mirrored in the night sky as Azhe'ose: a moose-hunting Contrary walking the backward path as it is disobeying the rules of the other Sky Beings. In the above image we see a stylized figure of a waabi-maiingan (white wolf) chasing a moose through the star world.
Up until today, this phenomen, of aadawaa'amoog azhe'osewag (planets seemingly traveling the opposite path), is known as Ma'iingan Giizhig Miikana: the Wolf Sky Trail.
For more reading about this phenomenon, please visit: He Who Walks Around the Turtle Island.
Miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidibaajimotoon wa’aw moozogikinoo'igewin. Mino bimaadizin! Debwen apane! Thank you for listening to me today, for allowing me to relate to you this moose teaching. Live well! Speak the truth always!