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Star Stories, part 17: Jiingwan and the Blood Star

Updated: 14 hours ago




The story of how a brave Anishinaabe man called Jiingwan (Meteor) defeated the dreaded Wiindigoo in the Winter Bringer constellation and became a Name Giver of the children of his Nation.


Baashkaakodin-Giizis/Gashkadino-Giizis (Freezing Over Moon) (November 1, 2021)

Boozhoo, aaniin! Biindigen miinawaa nindaadizooke wigamigong; enji-zaagi'iding miinawaa gikendaasong. Ninga-aadizooke noongom giizhigad! "Hello my relatives, I greet you in a good way. Welcome back in my Storytelling Lodge, a place of love and knowing. Let's tell a story today!"


WESHKAD (HOW IT ALL BEGAN)


Many strings of life ago, the wiindigoog, those giants from the marshes and caves of the northern country, were anishinaabeg (human beings) who still lived by Gichi-dibaakoniwewin, the Great Binding Law of Gichi-manidoo. This means they lived good and wholesome lives, careful to be kind and respectful to everything alive. They were satisfied to eat giigoonhyag (the fish) from the rivers and lakes. But one bad day some people forgot about the teachings. Their hearts turned into ice. They fell prey to evil ways and all the fish in the water could no longer still their insatiable hunger. From that day on, the only food that could satisfy them was the taste of human flesh! It was then that they became cannibals. Their spirit of greed and destruction infected others and drove them to unspeakable acts. ...Many of those who got infected killed their own families and ate them...


For many years these wiindigoog caused death and destruction in our communities. They were never sated after consuming another human being. They did not just kill our people, but made a habit of tearing apart the children, elders, and women and tossing their body parts here and there as they moved on. They did this to strike fear and terror in the hearts and minds of the Anishinaabeg knowing that the place called Waakwi — the Land behind the stars where our ancestors live — can never be entered without all of our body parts intact.

It was generally understood that, in the wiindigoo’s perception, it wasn’t just humans they ate; in their mind, when chewing on human flesh and bones, they were actually eating the odoodeman (clans) of the people they had killed.¹ Which posed the biggest threat imaginable to the Anishinaabeg, since the eating of our clans would, literally and figuratively, lead to dismemberment of our social structure. As a consequence the People as a whole would soon die out for sure…

Betag!” the parents and grandparents therefore used to tell their children and grandchildren, “Gaagige weweni onji ashwaabam wiindigoo! Aabanaabin bezhigo bimose’an ingoji! Be careful! Beware of the Winter Cannibal! Always look out for him! Look behind you when you walk by yourself!”


Thus, the wiindigoog became the biggest threat our People faced ever since time immemorial...



Gizhiiyaase gets eaten by the Wiindigoo

Although Gizhiiyaase ran faster than all the hare he had collected in his fur blanket, the Wiindigoo ogimaa’s legs were simply too long for him and the latter reached the finish line first. He waited at the campfire for the exhausted Gizhiiyaase to arrive. Then, in front of the terrified villagers, he snatched the unfortunate Gizhiiyaase up and, roaring “Ondaas giigoonhs (come here, little fish!)” he slayed the poor man without mercy.... Gizhiiyaase miinawaa Wiindigoo (Fast Runner and the Cannibal from the North), ©2021 Zhaawano Giizhik.


THE FISH CLAN MASSACRE AT THE GREAT SEA RIVER


Now it happened that in a summer camp near the Gichigami-ziibi, “Sea River” (present-say St. Mary’s River, Ontario) lived a proud young Anishinaabewinini (Ojibwe man) — his name was Gizhiiyaase, Swift Runner. He belonged to the Awaasii doodem (Catfish Clan) and his People knew him as an outstanding athlete. Even in summer he used to strut around camp cloaked in a waabowayaan (blanket) made of the pelts of the rabbits and hare he had outrun and killed. Since he was vain enough to think he could beat the cannibals he challenged the ogimaa (chief) of the Wiindigoo Nation to a race. They decided to run from the campfire in the center of the village to the river and back.


Although Gizhiiyaase ran faster than all the hare he had collected in his fur blanket, the Wiindigoo ogimaa’s legs were simply too long for him and the latter reached the finish line first. He waited at the campfire for the exhausted Gizhiiyaase to arrive. Then, in front of the terrified villagers, he snatched the unfortunate Gizhiiyaase up and, roaring “Ondaas giigoonhs (come here, little fish!), he bit off his head, arms, and legs and devoured his rump on the spot. When he was done the bloodthirsty ogimaa started running around camp wiping out each single person who belonged to Gizhiiyaase's doodem, women and children included. Not a single Fish Clan person in the village survived the massacre!


But as if that weren’t enough, the Wiindigoo chief ordained that from that day forward all other odoodeman — bear clans, hoof clans, bird clans, little paw clans, and so on — were to be outlawed as well. Each day, he said, a wiindigoo must visit the villages all over Anishinaabe Aki to kill a child, thus making a sport and mockery of their suffering. Geget! Because of Gizhiiyaase’s foolishness the Anishinaabeg Peoples paid a terrible, terrible price!



JIINGWAN'S DREAM



"Like a meteor he flashed through the giizhigoon (skies), four times around the sun...There, in this faraway galactic land, after an eventful journey that lasted only seconds but to him seemed like many years, his journey suddenly came to a halt; still dreaming, he landed on the surface of another aki." Illustration: "The Journey, acrylic on canvas by Manitoulin Island based artist James Mishibinijima Simon.

Now, in a village across the Gichigami-ziibi, in a beautiful land of cascades and rapids, there happened to live another Anishinaabewinini (man) who wasn’t an athlete like the unfortunate Gizhiiyaase, but his gift was certainly no less powerful! He had been given the gift of inaabandamowin (dreaming). Jiingwan (Stone Falling out of the Sky) was his name and he belonged to waabizheshi doodem (the Marten Clan).


One day Jiingwan (pronounce: gene-GUN), who was in his forties, picked up his drum and pipe bag and went up a bluff overlooking the river. Once there he beat his hand drum and sang a sacred song:


Nin debaab aazhawi-anangoong, Giga gikinoowezhigoog jiingwanan.


Nin debidan aazhawi-anangoong, Giga noondagoog aadizookaanag.


Gaagige gidebitaagooz. Nizoongitaagozi, niminowe.

Baashkanang giga mizhinawe-ig. Ji-mino-dodoman, nibawaajige.


"I can see beyond the stars The meteors will guide.


I can hear beyond the stars, The spirit helpers will hear.


Your voice is without time. My voice is strong and good. Through a Shooting Star will you speak And I will have good dreams.”



He sat there for three days, and the following night he had a dream that took him from aki (our world). Like a meteor he flashed through the giizhigoon (skies), four times around the sun. Then his spirit flight led him through the hole in the sky star cluster onto the Thunderbird Path, a shadowy long-winding road that was lined by countless ode’iminaganzhiin (strawberry bushes) and boodawaanan (campfires). The beings he encountered on this road, their shapes gray and amorphous, never solid, were silent and seemingly directed toward avoidance. Some were dancing slowly as if in trance, each in a different rhythm. To his left, a ghastly river with still water the smell and color of death flowed slowly alongside this road. There was an otter, and various water creatures sat at its bleak banks, mute and motionless, seemingly waiting for something or someone. ”What are they waiting for?” he asked himself. Past countless planets and stars he traveled, the black simmer of the river, always to his left, accompanying him, and in the corner of his eye he saw the Wenabozho constellation nearing.² There, in this faraway galactic land, after an eventful journey that lasted only seconds but to him seemed like many years, his journey suddenly came to a halt; still dreaming, he landed on the surface of another aki.

THE GRANDMOTHER IN THE SKY LAND


 Nookomis miinawaa Jibay-ziibi by Zhaawano Giizhik
Illustration: Nookomis miinawaa Jiibay-ziibi ("Grandmother and te River of Souls"), © 2012 Zhaawano Giizhik.

Jiingwan walked for days through this strange sky land among the stars, and when he had crossed a vast empty plain he reached its edge. There, standing right at the perimeter of that land, he encountered a gookominaan (elderly woman) with a blackened face and eyes dulled with bottomless sadness. She sat on her knees at the bank of what seemed to him a huge mishiginebig (Horned Underwater Snake). This river had black, ominous water flowing wide and far through the Galaxy. It was so wide that he could not see the opposite side! Jiingwan intuitively understood that it was the same ghastly river he had encountered before: it was Jiibay-ziibi, the river of souls!³


The elderly woman was rocking slowly back and forth and wailed of sorrow and despair. After Jiingwan had greeted her with what he thought to be the proper deference and protocol, he asked her in a soft voice, aaniin dash wenji-mawiyan, nooko? Why are you crying, grandmother? After a long silence, her blank gaze — obviously caused by a terrible pain — directed at the cold river, the grandmother started to speak in a quavering voice. She told Jiingwan about the Wiindigoo ogimaa who had wiped out Gizhiiyaase’s Clan People.


“From the day the Wiindigoo ogimaa killed Gizhiiyaase and wiped out all the fish clan members in his community, we, the survivors, run. They pledged to wipe out all our other doodeman as well! Once there were many, many villages filled with many Anishinaabeg, but now only I and a handful of abinoojiinyag (children) are left! We had to flee to this land beyond the sun and the moon and the stars and we run and we run and we run, but there is no hope for us. The chief of the Wiindigoo Nation, having the ability to move through time and space to get to his prey, has caught up with us and reached this sky land that is our hiding place. Now he continues to prey upon us. I am only a mindimooyens, an old woman; what can I do? Soon our People will be extinct, but until then we must go through the ritual of makadekewin (fasting) and waaseyaabindamowin (questing for dream). Until that day arrives we have no choice but to petition the aadizookaanag (spirit helpers) and bawaajiganag (dream visitors) for solace and relief, and to just keep running. I will be the last of my People, and this knowledge weighs heavy on my old heart.”

THE CHILDREN WHO WALKED UPON THE WATER


Jiibay Ziibi

"And when he looked closer he to his shock saw eleven small ghostly figures, their tiny feet running upon the surface of the river. Image: Journey To the Spirit World, acrylic on canvas by M. Kinoshameg.

Just when grandmother had finished her story, Jiingwan, still dreaming, saw from the corner of his eye a motion in the river. He heard the muffled cries of what seemed to him abinoojiinyag, and when he looked closer he to his shock saw eleven small ghostly figures, their tiny feet running upon the surface of the river. Like the grandmother in front of him their hollow-eyed faces were painted black, the color of death! The echoes and re-echoes of their tiny footsteps on the river, reverberating between its foggy banks and black sandbars, sent shivers along his spine.

Aaniishnaa! Awenen igiwe abinoojiinhyag nookoo?” he asked the old woman. “What in the world! Who are those children, grandmother?” The old woman told Jiingwan how she, in an attempt to save her race of total extinction, had gathered around forty children who had survived the massacre by the wiindigoog and taken them to the land behind the sky dome. Once there, she made them practice running upon the black river upon whose bank she now stood, back and forth, all day long, day after day, in preparation for the return of the terrible wiindigoo. When that day comes, she said, one of the remaining children will have to run this wiindigoo. Many children had died during earlier visits of the cannibal, and now only 11 abinoojiinyag were left… each time a race occurred, she explained to Jiingwan, another child died. She was the last one to race the monster…


After a long silence, which he used to reflect on gookominaan’s story, Jiingwan asked the old woman how it was possible that the children were able to run upon water without sinking. Hereupon the grandmother explained to him that water is essentially a healing source. At this point, however, the children, because of the trauma they experienced, where only able to run on top of the water’s surface. Since the old woman, in order to hide them from the wiindigoog, had brought them together at a young age from various parts of Anishinaabe Aki, they did not know their odoodem or who their parents were. They did not even remember their own names! They were completely lost and nameless strangers to themselves and each other and the old woman — who pitied them beyond words. This is why she was well aware how important it was for them to undergo the ancient healing ceremonies of their People.


Grandmother explained to Jiingwan that going into healing ceremonies is the same as going into one’s subconsciousness, and that going in the healing water is synonymous to it. As children we form in our mother's womb surrounded by water, and for most of us this is a safe place to grow and develop, she said. With a deep sigh she continued: “But today the world the children are born in is no safe place. Wiindigoog in various guises threaten them and maim and wound their bodies and souls. Both the ceremonies and the water help them to heal the wounds and to restore their emotional balance. Only when these poor children undergo the ceremonies they learn to go under the water again, and only then they can begin the healing of their spirits and emotions.”


“I understand what you’re telling me, nookoo,” said Jiingwan, “but why then do you make them run day and night instead going into ceremony with them?” The old woman, with an infinite sadness in her hollow eyes, told him that she had no choice since the wiindigoo that had come from the earth below would only stop killing Anishinaabeg when one of them would defeat him in race. “This, ningwiise, is why we run, and run and run, until we are no more…”

Then, with a deep sigh, she added, “Not until they have defeated this wiindigoo will the abinoojiinyag be allowed to go into ceremony and heal. Only then they will no longer be doomed to walk on top of the water; only then they will be able to swim in it instead of having to walk on its surface…”



THE COMING OF THE SKY WIINDIGOO


Wiindigoo
A Wiindigoo eating Catfish Clan members. "Windigo," acrylic on canvas by the late Miskwaabik Animikii (1977).

Early in the morning the next day Jiingwan, who was a guest in the camp by the river, woke up with a start. The otherwise foggy sky bathed in a strange glow and just when he noticed the old woman and the children were already awake and standing at the river bank, their bodies rocking back and forth and their terrified voices wailing of fear and despair, he saw a dark shadow of something huge approach the land where his dream had taken him. It jumped, seemingly without effort, across the Jiibay-ziibi, the river of souls! It was the wiindigoo ogimaa the old woman had told him about!


Before Jiingwan had time to blink twice the monster’s huge shadow shrouded the sky land. The earth beneath its feet rumbled and a voice like thunder rolled across the galaxy. With repulsion Jiingwan examined the monster. The giant before him was gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tautly over its bones. With its bones pushing out against its skin, its complexion the ash gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into their sockets, the giant looked to him like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips it had were tattered and bloody. Unclean and suffering from suppurations of the flesh, the Wiindigoo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption…


With an ear-deafening sound that reverberated across the sky land, the monster, who apparently used giigoonh (fish) as a metaphor for humans, bellowed: “Shkozin, ondaashaan giigoonhwensag. Wewiib, wewiib, ambesa, ambe omaa bi-izhaan. Nimaapiji-bakade noongom. Ambe gagwejikanidiwag noongom (Wake up!! Come here, little fish! Hurry, hurry, come on, come here! I am terribly hungry today! Let’s race each other today!)


Jiingwan was a man with the quiet wisdom of the moon. But he also had the fiery temper of a comet orbiting the sun! So without thinking twice he jumped to his feet and, with his war club clenched in his right hand, raced toward the giant wiindigoo that had jumped across the River of Souls and now stood with both feet planted in the camp. But then, tayaa! the old woman positioned herself between him and the cannibal and held him back with a resolute gesture of her hand.


Gaawiin ningwiise,” she said, “gego babaamenimaaken a’aw wiindigoo. Maanoo da-ozhiitaa a’aw abinoojiinh daga (No my son. Don’t bother that cannibal. Let the child get ready, please).With tears in his eyes Jiingwan saw how one of the children painted her face with the color of death and walked toward the cannibal who stood, grinning and drooling, waiting to race her. Feeling helpless, frustrated he could do nothing to help her, Jiingwan walked away from the gruesome scene that he knew was about to unfold. He tried to console his conscience by telling himself he was just a by passer and must let fate take its course; but to no avail. He knew he had to do something to stop the senseless killing. He knew he could never outrun the wiindigoo; yet his intuition told him that he must find a solution in dream or vision rather than in physical strength and velocity…

Later that morning the children staggered back to camp, their frail shoulders drooping, their blackened faces wretched in silent agony. Jiingwan counted ten. The cannibal monster had left and he knew the little girl had been beaten in race and ripped to shreds by it, her body parts devoured without mercy. He clenched his jaw and fists. “I wish I could find a way to defeat this wiindigoo ogimaa that preys upon and decimates my People,” he said to himself, “and I wish I could save the abinoojiinyag and give back their lives and their names. I’m sure that killing the monster will make its relatives on earth stop exerting terror on my People.”

JIINGWAN'S SECOND DREAM


"Jiingwan's second Dream," line art by Zhaawano Giizhik. ©Zhaawano Giizhik 2021.

Disgusted and frustrated, but determined to find power in self-reflection and dream, Jiingwan walked away from the camp and built a lean-to on a faraway hill to fast in solitude. The pulse of his hand drum reverberated across the star-dotted sky land and again he sang his sacred medicine song.


Nin debaab aazhawi-anangoong, Giga gikinoowezhigoog jiingwanan.


Nin debidan aazhawi-anangoong, Giga noondagoog aadizookaanag.


Gaagige gidebitaagooz, Nizoongitaagozi, niminowe.


Ozaawi-waseyaa giga mizhinawe-ig. Ji-mino-dodoman, nibawaajige.

.

"I can see beyond the stars The meteors will guide.


I can hear beyond the stars, The spirit helpers will hear.


Your voice sounds forever, My voice is strong and good. Through a yellow light will you speak, And I will have good dreams.”


On the fourth day he entered a new level of reality. The dream he had asked for had finally come to him — or rather, a vision within a dream! Before his very spirit eye an extremely bright star emerged. The star seemed to come from behind the moon! He stretched his arm out to touch it. Next, before he had time to blink, an even brighter light blinded him. When he opened his eyes the woman from the camp stood in front of him — but this time she did not appear to him as a mindimooyeh (elderly woman); she came to him in the shape of a oshki-ikwe (young woman) covered in star dust! She was the tallest and most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on. Her hair was no longer white as snow but a beautiful glossy jet black instead. Her bright and vibrant yellow eyes, adorning a friendly round face, were void of the sorrow and despair he had noticed in the elder woman he had met by the river bank.


Aaniin ningwiise, the woman spoke in a clear voice, "Wezaawigiizhigookwe niin nindizhinikaaz, dibik-giizis niin nindoonjibaa (My name is Yellow Sky Woman and I come from the Moon). The first two Anishinaabeg (humans) are my chidren; a long time ago I gave birth to them in the sky. Nookomis Dibik-giizis, Grandmother Moon, who is my mother and the grandmother of you and your People, sent me to you.”


After she looked him intently in the eye the dream visitor from the sky continued: “As you know, my mother the moon watches over nibi (the waters) of the Earth beneath us. Nibi always comes before new life. The waters are sacred and healing. Especially close to ikwewag (women) is my mother, because she governs the women’s cleansing cycle, the natural cycle of menstruation known as oshkizagiziwin, “first moon time.” Just as my mother watches over the waters of the Earth, the women on earth watch over the waters of the People. This moon cycle is a gift to women. It is a time to cleanse themselves mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The moon time is considered a time of power, second only to the life-giving powers of the Gichi-manidoo (Great Mystery of Life) and the Giizis (Sun). That is how strong that power is! Now, I came to you in this vision because it is time to save the abinoojiinyag from the glutton. With your help, we shall put the power derived from my mother to good use, in order to bring mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual healing to the abinoojiinyag and give them back their names, and thus, their identity.

Now, since I am the daughter and messenger of Nookomis the Moon, I give you this eagle feather. I also bring you a menstrual cloth from her. The eagle feather is the most powerful messenger there is since it represents the virtues of love, truth, power, and freedom. It represents the balance between light and dark. Grandmother’s blood is equally powerful. It the most powerful nibi (water) there is. Use both, eagle feather and cloth drenched in grandmothers blood, as you see fit in your battle with the wiindigoo of the Winter Bringer Star. But hurry, since you left the camp four sunrises ago and now only ten abinoojiinyag remain alive.


And remember: when you go to the wiindigoo, your heart will be strengthened by all the other doodeman of your People — the bird clans, the fish clans, the big claws and the little claws, the hoof clans, as well as the clans of those that live in between the water and the land.

Silently, Jiingwan watched the feather and the blood-stained cloth that his dream visitor had put in front of him, not sure what to think of it. And what did she mean when she said his heart would be strengthened by all the doodeman of his Nation? "How could anyone ever expect me to represent a doodem other than my own, one that I wasn’t born in?" he thought by himself. "Wouldn’t that be a presumptuous thing to do?"

Then, just when he was about to ask her what it was she expected of him, he noticed his visitor had left. “Was she just an illusion?” he asked himself. “Could she have been a trickster spirit trying to deceive me with the feather and mock me with this menstrual cloth? An eagle feather and a menstrual cloth, what an odd combination! Could she perhaps have been a wiindigoo in disguise? If so, is it her intention to delude me and make me go crazy, or seek self-destruction?”



THE CONTEST



Jiingwan miinawaa Ishpiming Wiindigoo ("Meteor and the Sky Cannibal,") pen and ink drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik ©2021. Jiingwan challenges the dreaded Sky Wiindigoo, depicted here with a rattle snake coiling from its bloodshot eye. Jiingwan holds an eagle feather in front of the Cannibal, sign of his power obtained in dream. Emblems of the doodeman (clans) of his People are integrated in his arms and the tip of the feather.

This concept, called x-ray view or vision, depicts inner structures of people and animals; they are representations of inner spiritual life. Above Jiingwan a red orb is depicted with blood drops oozing from it; this represents the wiindigoo anang, or the star popularly called Betelgeuse. ©Zhaawano Giizhik 2021.

Suddenly, his attention was attracted toward the river. From it, he heard the wailing voices and frenzied cries of the children, drowning in the sound of heavy footsteps that made the earth shake. Feeling refreshed by his vision, which he suddenly understood to be full of meaning and power, Jiingwan fastened the eagle feather to his braid. Quickly he jumped to his feet and, with his war club in one hand and the blood-stained cloth in the other, ran toward the river bank.

There he saw the giant cannibal standing in the center of the camp, filling it with its stinking breath, growling and bellowing his usual mantra “Wake up!! Wake up Liitle Fish!! Hurry, hurry, come on, come here! I am terribly hungry today! Let’s race each other today!” The children, ten in total, their eyes widened in shock shrieked of terror as they tried to hide behind the old woman who stood in front of the monster, her face painted black and shaking her turtle shell rattle while singing in a trembling, high-pitched voice. Then the grinning giant, baring his repulsive teeth, took one step in their direction. The children broke away from the camp screaming, hiding in bushes, gullies, behind trees and rocks — wherever they could find cover.

Tayaa ookweg! the monster roared, “ You cannot hide you maggots! Ondaashaan omaa bi-izhaan giigoonhwensag! You cannot hide from me little fish! I will find you and I will kill you all!”

Without hesitation Jiingwan, holding the eagle feather high in the air above him, positioned himself between the trembling grandmother and the cannibal, and staring the agitated monster straight in the eye he said in a calm voice, “Bizaanabin. Amii ninik (Stop. That’s enough).” Seeing the eagle feather — a symbol that represents everything a wiindigoo loathes and scares, such as courage, nobility, respect, humility, and, above all, love — made the Giant flinch and even shrink back for a moment but quickly he regained his hostile demeanor.

Awenen giin? he demanded, shaking its head of such folly. “Who are you?” And what are you doing with that bineshiwigwan (little bird feather)?

Nindizhinikaaz Jiingwan (I am Meteor),” the brave Anishinaabe in front of him replied. “Waabizheshi nindoodem (the marten is my clan). This migizi miigwan (eagle feather) I hold in front of you came to me through a dream.”


Aa!” the monster retorted, “Ambe sa. Ambe waabizhens. Biidii biidii. Geyaabi nimbakade. Nizhiga’jibii. Ambe gagwejikazhiba'idiwag (Come! Come here then little marten! Come here chicky chicky! I am still hungry and tired of waiting. Let’s race each other!)”

“You will be defeated” Jiingwan said.

Tayaa! How dare you believe that you can beat me in contest!” bellowed the cannibal, and, inspecting his opponent from head to toe, he sneered, “how can you even begin to believe that you can triumph over me? You are no more than a memegwesiins, a little goblin!”

“I dreamed I would beat you,” Jiingwan calmly replied, hiding his war club and the bloodied cloth behind his back. “Tayaa!” his opponent spat out. “A dream? Whatever it was you dreamt of, it can never surpass the vision I had. I have fasted for as many days as there are children left, and in this dream my challenger was none other than the mighty trickster Wenabozho who, by the way, was no match for me! He had not even climbed out of his little rabbit hole to race me before I had arrived at the finish line! As soon as his sorry butt reached the finish line I slayed him and skinned him alive!”

“Ha!” the giant, who was obviously bragging,¹⁰ continued, looking at the Anishinaabe in front of him. “I wonder what futile dream you had? How many days have YOU fasted? What do you have to show for it? Do you have proof of this dream you speak of so vainly, other than that pitiful feather of a nestling that you are waiving in my face? Where is your medicine? Where is your amulet?” And he triumphantly pointed at a large gashkibidaagan (pouch) he wore around its neck. The pouch, made of the skins of many jack rabbits, was obviously a show of his magical speed.

“I do not wear one,” Jiingwan simply answered. “All I have is this feather, and my dream. My dream is my power.”

Aanish ambe gagwejikanidiwag memegwes, then let’s race dwarf,” the giant cannibal retorted, snorting with contempt, and they ran, from the river bank to the other side of the land they were on, and back. Jiingwan, the eagle feather fastened to his braid, his war club stuck in the back of his belt and the bloody cloth of the grandmother in his medicine pouch around his neck, ran easily and in long, loping strides yet he allowed the giant to take the lead from the start. His dream and the honor that he now knew lay in representing not just his own but all of the doodeman of his People, gave him formidable courage and running strength. He sensed that his ancestors ran with him! He ran like a lynx, making no sound, staying close to his contestant, but he made sure to restrain his speed in order for the Giant to reach the finish line first. Once there, the wiindigoo, clearly wearied by the race he had run, stood leaning forward hands resting on his knees, panting.




Catching his breath, his eyes for a moment wide with a mixture of terror and disbelief, then squinting angrily at his tormentor who seemed not tired at all, he snarled “Tayaa ookwe, gibejibatoo sa (Psaw, maggot! Aren't you slow!)” With contempt in his bloodstained eyes and death in his heavy breath he raised himself up, but before he could lash out with his claws at Jiingwan, the latter, taking the menstrual blood cloth from his pouch, jumped forward and upward with a whoop. With all of his might he threw the cloth in the face of the monster. The blood of grandmother Moon instantly blinded him. He stood there covered in blood, his blinded eyes looking around in horror, growling and wailing, his arms desperately windmilling about. A huge zhiishiigwe (rattle snake) coiled out of his right eye and jumped toward Jiingwan's throat, but the latter vigorously clubbed at it with his bludgeon. Quickly the dizzied reptile, rattling its tail, slithered away attempting to seek refuge in the undergrowth at Jiingwan's feet. Grunting the wiindigoo sat down, mumbling in himself, his hollow eye sockets dripping with blood staring in nothingness.


"Zhawenimishin daga!" grunted the Giant. Disoriented and beaten he pleaded Jiingwan for mercy, pledging to let the remaining abinoojiinyag live and to leave to never to return. Jiingwan however, determined to for once and for all end the wiindigoo terror and strengthened by the presence of all the odoodeman of his People, clenched his war club in his right hand tightly and careful not to step on the writhing snake in front of him, jumped forward in one flowing motion. Before the monster knew what hit him Jiingwan split its head with one mighty blow of his weapon. As The Giant’s skull cracked open the soil of the sky land colored red with a river of blood…


Mii go gichi-wiiyagaaj, but alas! The Wiindigoo, although bleeding severely, wasn't dead! How could he be? After all, he wasn't human. Jiingwan realized he must do something more drastic than just club him. So, before the maji-manidoo (evil spirit) could regain its strength he asked the grandmother to help making a very strong medicine cord and help tie him up. Together they built a dome-shaped structure low to the ground, called madoodoowigamig (sweat lodge), a place of purification and healing. They dug out a shallow fire pit in the center of the lodge, which was completely sealed off with blankets. A fire was made in front of the lodge and seven grandfather stones — which they and the children hauled from areas more inland since river rocks would be too wet for the purpose — were heated in it, then pushed inside the lodge.


As the Grandfather stones glowed inside the fire pit Jiingwan dragged the tied up body of the wounded wiindigoo inside the damp darkness of the lodge. He poured a mysterious liquid that the grandmother had given him on top of the heated stones and sprinkled giizhik aniibiishan (cedar leaves) from his medicine pouch on them; chanting and shaking his turtle shell rattle, not taking his eyes from the wiindigoo, he kept pouring and smudging until told by the spirits to stop. In the steaming hot vapor and intense scent released by the magic liquid and the herbs the wiindigoo started to vigorously twist and squirm its tied-up body. All of a sudden, gagging, the monster threw its head back and tayaa! a huge block of ice fell right out of its ghastly mouth! That was when Jiingwan knew the wiindigoo in front of him was not only defeated; it had turned into an anishinaabe (human being) again...


Jiingwan dragged him outside and untied him. "Na," he said with a cynical look in his eyes, "gidandawi'aaganiw noongom (Look, you are cured now).” “Oo gaawiin! Gaawiin! Gaawiin! (Oh no! No! No!)" the man in front of him shouted, his bloodied and eyeless face distorted with agony. "Geget!" Jiingwan retorted, “Oh yes! You have been possessed by a heart of ice, look what you have done with it! You and your kind killed your own families and ate them, and then you became the ogimaa (chief) of all the cannibals and ate many children. You even followed the poor children up into the sky world and continued exerting terror over them. Now that I expelled the ice from your evil heart you cannot harm the children any longer. Now the children are safe from your crimes you will have to forever live with the consequences of your terrible actions. You are doomed to stay here for always as a ghost in the twilight realm, forever passing through the ghostly banks of the Jiibay-ziibi, the River of Souls.” The man, not even a shadow of the giant monster he used to be, got up and left. Jiingwan's eyes followed his silhouette, quietly slipping away into the night, until it was out of sight... He sighed deeply, suddenly feeling very tired.


THE RETURN


Jiingwan awoke from his dream. Sitting on his bluff overlooking the great sea river, he looked around him. It was still summer — which puzzled him since it felt as if he had been away for many moons! He realized the dream that had taken him to the sky land had probably lasted only a short time — perhaps seconds, even. It was still night. The moon smiled, and the Wenabozho in the Thunderbird Path still pointed at the hole in the sky through which he had been transported in his dream, to the sky world, and then back to earth. This reassured him. Aapiji mino-dibikad ("tonight is a very good night"), he said to himself, his gaze directed at the stars, and then, smiling, "Grandfathers, I sense your quiet mystery behind the moon and sit here knowing you are near." He strained his eyes in order to see the faraway land his dream had taken him to, but then, as he studied the starry pattern of the Wenabozho constellation, he got distracted by a comet flashing by.

He thought of the wiindigoo Chief he had defeated and the purification ceremony that had turned him into a human being again. His thoughts went back to the children, and the grandmother whom the Giant had forced to run on top of the water. Where would they be now? What would have become of them? Were they safe now? And then he remembered the vision within the dream he had had, about the sky woman who had given him the eagle feather and the bloodstained cloth of her mother the moon. And he thought of the courage these items had given him to defeat the terrible cannibal monster and, in doing so, break the cycle of violence. He looked at his hands but saw no trace of blood on them. Then, as he touched his hair, tayaa! he noticed to his relief the feather was still there, which reassured him the dream had been no illusion. Once again he looked up at the moon; she still smiled at him.

He got up, gathered his ceremonial belongings, and walked into the direction of the river. As he walked a trail alongside the river that lead him to the village, tayaa! he heard the happy sound of children playing in water. Then, as he walked around a bend in the path, he saw them! Ten children bathing and playing in the moonlit water. He recognized their faces. They were the same abinoojiinyag he had left behind in the sky land that he had visited in his dream!

When they saw him, their faces, no longer covered with the color of mourning and death, lit up upon seeing him. They crowded around him, addressing him with mishoo, “grandfather,” and took his hand to express their relief and gratitude. They informed him that the wiindigoog that had invaded the land of rapids and waterfalls and slaughtered and consumed their parents and grandparents had fled to the far north where there is snow and ice all year around, wailing and mourning their leader who had been slain by Jiingwan in the sky land amid the stars. When he asked them where the old woman was, the children answered that she had vanished into a column of stardust as soon as she had made sure the children were safe. Smiling, Jiingwan took out his drum and he chanted an old song, to which the abinoojiiyag listened intently. He looked each of the abinoojiinyag in the eyes and he told them, gizhawenimik nookomis dibik-giizis, “Grandmother Moon is generous with you all.”

Ambe izhaadaa oodenaang, ambe wiisinidaa miinawaa nibaadaa, Come on, let’s go to the village, let’s eat and sleep,” he then said to the children, and they followed the trail that led to his village. Once there he saw to his relief that most of the villagers had escaped the terror of the wiindigoog. Everyone was happy to see him and very grateful the wiindigoog had left the country. His wife welcomed him and his protégés with a smile on her face and love in her eyes. They invited the children, who were hungry and tired in their wiigiwaam. As soon as the children had eaten and fallen asleep, he told his wife about the dream he had had and that hat led him to the sky land — and back.

THE SIGN



"Tayaa! that is when he saw the big sky hunter shoot an arrow across the firmament. It was an onwaachigewin anang (prophecy star)!"

Summer turned into fall and fall turned into winter. Now the wiindigoog had left life had returned to normal. Peace and stability had returned to the land. One night in Manidoo-Giizisoons (Little Spirit Moon) Jiingwan walked outside and looked at the Gaa-biboonikaan (Winter Bringer constellation) in the southwestern sky and tayaa! that is when he saw the big sky hunter shoot an arrow across the firmament. It was an onwaachigewin anang (prophecy star)!¹¹


Suddenly the star came to a halt straight above him, its flame growing to a climax before it diminished and died away in the distance. Straining his eyes he could faintly see the slight blue shimmer of its tail going as it seemed to him in the direction of the frozen river. He knew it was a sign, that the meteor was a message wrapped in flame and dust. He got his drum out and walked into the direction of the bend in the river where he had encountered the abinoojiinyag, who now lay peacefully asleep in his wiigiwaam.


Once there, he noticed the beach and the silver aspen trees it was lined with were bathing in a brilliant blue light. He sat down on the sand and made a campfire. Next, he took his hand drum out of its case. Suddenly the light turned from blue to a very bright yellow. It almost blinded him. He sensed the flames of the campfire dancing on his cheeks and forehead. With eyes closed he started to drum and, in a high-pitched voice, he chanted his song.


Niin jiingwan.

Jiingwan nindizhinikaaz.


Nin debaab aazhawi-anangoong, Giga gikinoowezhigoog anangoog.


Nin debidan aazhawi-anangoong, Giga noondagoog aadizookaanag.


Gaagige gidebitaagooz, Nizoongitaagozi, niminowe.


Gookomisinaan giga mizhinawe-ig, Ji-mino-dodoman, nibawaajige.


"I am a meteor.

Stone Falling out of the Sky is my name.


I can see beyond the stars The stars will guide.


I can hear beyond the stars, The spirit helpers will hear.


Your voice sounds forever, My voice is strong and good. Through Our Grandmother shall you speak, And I will have good dreams.”

As he sang his song a shadow from behind the moon appeared in his mind-vision, dancing toward the earth. Before he could count to two a woman stood beside him. It was the grandmother who had visited him in his dream in the land among the stars! No more was her face painted the color of death, no more was it mangled from terror and grief. Although this time she did not appear as a young woman, she was as he remembered from the dream he had had in the sky land: beautiful, kind, and loving.


Her eyes twinkling with stars of light and hope, the mindimooyeh spoke to him in a soft and friendly voice, telling him he had been chosen by the spirits to save and safeguard and heal the children who had survived the dreaded wiindigoog. All but ten had been killed, and these lucky ones, the grandmother explained, were crucial to the survival of the Anishinaabeg. She explained to Jiingwan that come spring, as soon as the ice had thawed, he needed to take them to the river and take them into ceremony. She reminded him once more that going into ceremony as well as into the water would help them to heal the traumas.

“Only when they, as survivors of the terror of the wiindigoog, undergo the ceremonies they learn to go under the water again,” she said, “and only then they can begin the healing of their spirits.”


After a brief pause the grandmother continued by telling him that he, Jiingwan, was given a special gift in dream: the sacred gift of giving his People spiritual names…


Before Jiingwan could ask her what that meant, the grandmother lightly touched the eagle feather in his hair and ascended, singing and dancing away in a whirling column of yellow stardust. Just before she disappeared behind the moon her voice sounded one more time:


Gizhaazh abinoonjiinyag. Abinoonjiiyag mikwendaagoziwag.


“Watch over the children! The children will be remembered.”


THE CEREMONY


Jiingwan sat for a while in the calm of the starlit night, reflecting on the vision he just had. Suddenly he understood what was expected of him! He got up and returned to the village. Three moons went by. One day in the Pokwaagami-giizis (Broken Snowshoe Moon), he woke up his wife just before daylight and reminded her about the vision he had received in the summer of the previous year. He instructed her to wake up and assemble the abinoonjiinyag and take them to the river. There, he explained to her, she must perform a women’s water ceremony in order to honor ogashinan (the earth grandmother), nookomis dibik-giizis (the moon grandmother), and aanikoobijiganan (the ancestors).

His wife, understanding the importance of what was expected of her, did as she was told. A madoodoowigamig (sweat lodge)¹² was built by the water. Asemaa (tobacco) was offered to the fire; nibi (water) was prayed for. Sacred foods were shared and offered to the fire. Prayers were being said, teachings were being shared. Now, the healing of the children finally had begun!

As the story ends, Jiingwan started to hold ceremony and give names to the abinoonjiinyag — the names by which the spirits of the Universe would know them. They no longer had to run on top of the water. They began to know themselves as Anishinaabe.


BIRTH OF THE BLOOD STAR



"To his surprise he noticed that from the right shoulder of the Winter Bringer hung a very bright star he had never seen before. The star was red as blood! With a shock he realized it was the sky land his first dream had taken him..."

Seven moons had passed since Jiingwan had taken the children into ceremony and given them names. The children, who had begun mending their emotional wounds and finally remembered who they were and where they came from, had returned to their respective villages where they were lovingly taken under the wing of the few uncles and aunties who had survived the massacres by the wiindigoog. One night Jiingwan stepped out of his wiigiwaam to watch the flashing of jiingwanan (meteors) in the winter sky. His gaze strayed toward the River of Souls; he saw that the Wenabozho constellation had sunk behind the western horizon, giving way to the Winter Bringer, the mighty hunter whose arms would soon stretch wide and far across the northern region of the galaxy.


To his surprise he noticed that from the right shoulder of the Winter Bringer hung a very bright star he hadn't noticed before. The star was red as blood! With a shock he realized it was the sky land his first dream had taken him. It was colored red by the blood of the moon with which he had defeated the wiindigoo ogimaa! He smiled...


Jiingwan and the Wiindigoo
Jiingwan miinawaa Ishpiming Wiindigoo ("Meteor and the Sky Cannibal,") pen and ink drawing by Zhaawano Giizhik ©2021.

EPILOGUE: THE WIINDIGOO AS A METAPHOR


And now, many years later, the Anishinaabeg still honor Jiingwan for saving the children by defeating the wiindigoo ogimaa and becoming their name-giver. The Chief of the Cannibal Nation whom he defeated is still remembered through the red star called Wiindigoo Anang (The Cannibal Star),¹³ on which, as is assumed, his tormented and restless spirit still dwells.


But listen! Although Jiingwan managed to overcome the ogimaa of the Cannibals and banished the rest of his tribe to the far north for good, the wiindigoo is still among us in spirit! His footprints are still very much around us! Today, wiindigoo aadizookaanan (wiindigoo stories) are essentially cautionary tales about isolation, self destruction, greediness, and selfishness. They teach us the importance of community spirit, of a strong sense of responsibility toward the collective.


The wiindigoo is nowadays a metaphor for many bad things that threaten and poison us as a People such as forced removal to new lands and the intergenerational trauma caused by the boarding/residential school experience, racism, unbridled consumerism, cultural appropriation, large-scale and systematic exploitation and pollution by multinationals of our lands and waters, the rampant violence and substance abuse in our own midst, and, last but not least, the widespread child abuse and sexual agression against our young women and men, committed by outsiders as well as by our own people. Underneath all that, the wiindigoo very likely symbolizes the deep-felt fear of the loss of self and land ...


Haw sa, let there be no mistake about it. Wiindigoo’s bloodthirsty ghost still lies in ambush, and not only along the Jiibay-ziibi in the night sky where it preys on the souls of deceased humans in order to prevent them to reach Gaagige Minawaanigozigiwining, the Land of Everlasting Happiness… Although physically no longer among us, its toxic spirit of greed, gluttony, and excess continues to live here on earth as well, always lying on the prowl. It has a way of manifesting itself subtly as it disguises in innocence, deceit, detachment, rationalization, and self-denial. The wiindigoo spirit still infects otherwise healthy people or communities with the evils of gluttony and weakness. Some of its victims suffer from a mental or behavioral disorder, or commit suicide. It is even said that humans corrupted by greed, laziness, or religious zeal will themselves sooner or later turn into a wiindigoo, only to infect others who, sooner or later, will follow the same pattern of abuse, delusion, and destruction.


Enh, gaagige weweni onji akawaabam wiindigoo! Beware of the dreaded wiindigoo, always be on the lookout for him as he invades our homes and hearts and minds, bringing depression and anxiety and threatening to harm our children, our culture, our survival as a People …


Ahaaw sa. Mii sa ekoozid. Miigwech gibizindaw noongom. Well, that is the end of the today's teaching. Thank you for listening to me. Giga-waabamin wayiiba giishpin manidoo inendang, I will see you again soon, if the Great Mystery wills it. Mino bimaadizin! Live well!



Jiingwan sees the blood star in the Winter Bringer constellation
Jiingwan and the Blood Star, illustration by Zhaawano Giizhik ©2021