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Star Stories, part 9: Ojibwe Indigenous Star Map - An Artist's Rendition

Updated: Feb 16




"Our stories are written in the stars, so we can never forget the truth of our existence...We are spirits on a physical journey, with a sacred duty to understand, respect and care for the generous gifts we receive from all the beings who inhabit the earth."

- From Bwaananaabekwe and Leonard Moose: Inhabiting the Earth 



Alpha Orionis (Betelgeuse): Wiindigoo

Alphecca (α Coronae Borealis): Nimitaaman Anang

Altair: Gichi Biidaabaan Anang ("Big Dawn Star")

Andromeda: Binesi

Asteroid Belt (1st): Biinj-ayi'ii Waawiyeyaa

Asteroid Belt (2nd): Agwaj-ayi'ii Waawiyeyaa

Aurora Borealis: Jiibayag Niimi'idiwag

Canis Major: Ma’iingan Anang

Canis Minor: Gaa-biboonikaan; Misaabe

Cassiopeia: Manoominike Anang; Gookomisinaanasabikeshiinh

Delphinius: Maang Anangoons

Ecliptica: Ma'iingan Miikana

Gamma Aquila: Biidaabaan Anangoons ("Little Dawn Star")

Gemini: Amik Anangoog

Luna (the Moon): Dibik(i)-giizis, Gookomisinaan

Lyra: Midewigaan

Mars: Ogichidaa (neologism), Akwaabikizid Aki

Mercury: Oshkaabewis (neologism), Gezhiibatood Oshkaabewis

Neptune: Gichigami Aki (neologism)

Orion: Gaa-biboonikaan; Misaabe; Wenabozho (Nanabozho)

Orion's Belt (ζ Orionis, ε Orionis, and δ Orionis): Aadawaa'amoog

Pegasus: Mooz; Binesi

Planet Solis 10 (Planet X): Naawinaagozi; Waazakonewed

Planet Solis 11 (Planet XI): Anang(o)winini

Saturn: Gitigaane (neologism); Ditibininjiibizon Gitigaanii Aki (neologism)

Sirius: Giizhig-anang

Sol (the Sun): Giizis; Gimishoomisinaan

Uranus: Waakwiing

Ursa Major, IP its quadrilateral or "bowl": Gichi Makwa (archaic)

Zodiac: See Ma'iingan Miikana


In Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Ojibweg Peoples, there is a word for life and the spirituality of life: bimaadiziwin. This word is derived from the verb bimaadizi, which means (s)he lives, or is alive. The verb breaks down as follows: bim means "along in space and time," -aad means "way of being or life" or "one's character or nature," and - izhi signifies "(s)he or it is in a state or condition."

Traditionally, we as Anishinaabe Peoples, regard Anishinaabe anang gikendaasowin (star knowledge) as part of an all-encompassing perspective of this bimaadiziwin. Everything that exists in the world – the spirits, the plants, the animals, the humans, water, sky, and the air – are seen as interwoven together in a complex web of life, understanding, and respect. Anangoog (stars) are a key part of that understanding narrative.¹

In chapter 1 of the "The Everlasting Sky/Our Clans Among the Stars" story we learned that, in the worldview of our ancestors, everything that existed on earth started with the stars. Even gidoodeminaanig (our clans) were made of stars, and, like the bigwaji-bimaadiziwinan (the natural cycles on the earth), they were represented (and mirrored) on a celestial level, in the form of star formations and planets. The above image, an Indigenous Ojibwe-oriented storytelling star map titled Gaagige Giizhig ("The Everlasting Sky"), is a free artistic rendition of the Waawiyekamig, the "Round Lodge" as the Anishinaabeg traditionally conceive the cosmos. The image highlights the connections between the odoodemag (clans) in the below-world and the anangoog and aadawa'amoog ogimaag (stars and planets) in gichi-giizhigong, the upper-world.

Below is a glossary (alphabetical list) of the names of the known planets, stars, and constellations according to the anang nibwaakaawin (cosmology) of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg. The names of these celestial beings correspond with the images depicted in the above sky star map. Emphasis is placed on the star clusters and constellations that are doodem/clan related. Furthermore, each constellation and planet is individually described through a segment of the Gaagige Giizhig map.

Anishinaabewaki miinawaa odakiimiwaan (Ojibwe homelands) are vast and have many regional dialects and stories; it should therefore be noted that the planets/stars and star constellations and asterisms have various different names and meanings, depending on the oral tradition of the community and the region in question. It is also important to understand that the list contains words and descriptions that cannot be thoroughly understood without complete experiential and contextual understanding of their (spiritual) significance. Also, there are many, many ways to tell a story. The list, therefore, is far from complete and limited in its cultural and spiritual accuracy. Still, an attempt has been made to compose the list from an ancient (pre-contact)² Anishinaabe perspective to stay as close as possible to the connections that exist with the Anishinaabe language, worldview, and places of origin in which the Gete-Anishinaabeg ezhi-nanda-gikenindizowaad (ancestral Ojibwe self-identitiy) is embedded.

In order to honor and protect the inherent wisdom of Indigenous star lore, and limit the loss of deeper subtleties and nuances of Anishinaabe meaning to a minimum, I therefore did my best to filter the narratives through a lens unstained by Christian/post-colonial influences and stay within the context of its linguistic origins where possible.

Gaawiin giwanitoosiimin gidanang-gikendaasowininaan: We are not losing our star knowledge!




A to Z:


AADAWAA'AMOOG, or ODAADAWAA'AMOOG: “They Go With Someone in a Canoe.”

The three stars in the middle of the Gaa-biboonikaan winter constellation named Orion on Western star maps.


AADAWAA'AMOOG OGIMAAG, "Chiefs Go in a Canoe with Someone" (planets). Also called: Akiwag ("Worlds").


AADAWAA'AM OGIMAANS, "Little Chief Goes in a Canoe with Someone" (dwarf planet).

Example: Naawinaagoz (Pluto)


AGWAJ-AYI'II WAAWIYEYAA, "It Is a Far Away Circle"


AJIIJAAK ("Crane")

Ajijaak is translated into English as Sandhill Crane. Another word for this 9-star constellation is Bineshi Okanin, the skeleton bird. This summer star formation is called Cygnus in Western astrology. Cygnus (a Latinized Greek word for Swan) is the official International Astronomical Union constellation name. The Anishinaabeg, however, see this summer constellation as a sandhill crane flying northward with its long legs trailing behind.

"Cygnus X-1" is a galactic X-ray source in the constellation of Ajijaak and was the first such source widely accepted to be a black hole. The black hole (made-makadedanoo-bagonegiizhig) is mentioned in several traditional Ojibwe Wenabozho and Sturgeon stories, usually told during the winter solstice. In a crane story of the Baawitigowininiwag (Ojibweg that live around the area of present-day Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) the black hole is described as an ancient wound behind the crane's head.

Ajiijaak, or Bineshi Okanin, reflects and represents the Ojibwe Crane Clan (and possibly the Binesi/Thunderbird clan) on earth. It is this constellation – together with the Maang Anang, "Little Dipper/Ursa Minor" asterism – where our leader clans come from.

The Ajijaak clan on earth, which represents leadership and communication with the outside world, has two metaphorical names: Baswenaazhi ("Echo Maker") and Animikii (“Thunder”). These names suggests a symbolical link with Binesi, the Thunderbird; it is therefore not unimaginable that there is a direct relationship between the Crane clan in the below-world and the Binesiwi-miikana in the above-world. This notion is expressed in the top image, which shows the stylized image of a Thunderbird-- a depiction of an old rock painting -- attached to an upside-down flying red crane flying north. The image below shows a detail of a sterling silver bolo tie designed by the author, depicting a Sandhill Crane flying flying high in the southern sky, heading west while showing the Anishinaabeg Peoples the way to their destination.


AKI: literally "world," or "land." The plural form is AKIIN, or AKIWAG. Used to denote, i.a, the planets.

Many moons ago, when the World was not yet born, there was only something, a Great Mystery that perhaps comes close to what we would call a Dream. This Dream, or Vision, was filled with a vast sky filled with many stars and the day-sun and the night-sun, and beneath it was the earth in the form of a giant sea turtle. One day this Dream, or Vision, was materialized into rock, water, fire, and wind.

These substances were born spontaneously, seemingly out of nothing, and into each was breathed a sacred life breath that our people nowadays call GICHI-MANIDOO (Literally: Great Mystery, or sum of all Mysteries). So it is understood that from these four sacred substances, each gifted with a different soul and spirit and nature and shadow, was created Cosmos, or Order. This brand new Order was filled with what could be called akiwag, or worlds. These akiwag were a family unit of the Sun and lesser stars, the Moon, and the Earth as well as many other planets.

All these relatives — the sun, the stars, the planets, the night-sun, and the earth — were animated by this vital life force named GICHI-MANIDOO...


AKI GIMAAMAAMINAAN, "Our Mother the Earth" (Planet Earth)

Also called Akiing: "On the Earth," Gookomisinaan: "Our Grandmother, Ogashinan: "Earth-Grandmother, Maamaanaan/Omaamaamaa "Mother," Ashkaakamigokwe: "Green Earth Woman," Omizakamigokwe: "Everywhere on Earth Woman."

Another, metaphorical, way to denote planet Earth is Minisi: "Island," or Mikinaakominis: "Turtle Island." The earth that the Anishinaabeg live on is imagined to rest on the shield of a giant sea turtle.


AKIIN ANANGOOKAANING: "Planets among the Stars."

See: Aadawa'amoog and Aki.



Amik Anangoog is translated into English as the Beaver stars, or Beaver Constellation. This winter constellation, which is called Gemini on Western star charts, is also visible in spring. Amik (see the red and white figure with the five spirit lines emanating from its back) reflects and represents the Ojibwe Beaver Clan on earth.

The diligent beaver - who is sometimes referred to with its metaphorical name, Bimaawidaasi , or "Carrier" - is known and loved for his kindness, recourcefulness, and wisdom. He belongs to the clan group of GAAYOSEDJIG (the Providers: scouting, hunting and gathering). Other doodeman (clans) that belong to the Providers clan group are Moozwaanowe (Little Moose-tail), Moozens (Little Moose), Mooz (Moose), Adik (Caribou), Mishewe (Elk), Waabizheshi (Marten), Waawaashkeshi (Deer), Wazhashk (Muskrat), Esiban ("Clam Killer"; Raccoon), and Waabooz (Rabbit).



Anang Akiiwan, or Anangokwaan, is translated into English as the Star World, or the Universe (literally: “there is a star world”).


ANANGWININI, or ANANGOWININI: "Star Man." The Ojibwe word for Planet XI.

It is still mysterious and uncertain who and where this Starman, the eleventh aki (planet) is. Today, according to the International Astronomical Union, if counting the dwarf planets as planets, the eleventh planet from the Sun would be Haumea.

However, the actual identity of this eleventh planet is really subject to the criterion for an aki, as well as numbering methodologies. In 2006 the IAU redefined the term "planet" to exclude the new category of dwarf planets (just as some planets had earlier been recategorised as asteroids). In 2006 Naawinaagoz (Pluto), Eris, Haumea, Makemake, and (in the inner Solar System) the asteroid Ceres were reclassified as dwarf planets.

Be that as it may, to our Peoples, the existence of the starman is without question. To us, the debate about what qualifies as an aki , or "planet" and what not isn't very real. Nor the criterium of what is "observative" and not. This whole defining and redefining of astronomical bodies , to us, it is just semantics. Click here to read a story about Anangwinini, told by Jonas Waisegizhig, a 62-year old man from Rama First Nation. (Link will soon be active.)


BAASHKIZODIZO ANANG: exploding star (Supernova)


BAGONEGIIZHIG ("Hole in the Sky")

Bagonegiizhig is translated into English as the Hole in the Sky. Called the Pleiades on Western star charts, Bagonegiizhig (depicted as a ring with inlaid spider-and-sun designs around which seven sister-guardians can be seen dancing) is a star cluster in the greater constellation of Taurus. This is the Hole in the Sky through which Giizhigookwe (Sky Woman) (or, according to a very old tradition, Asikibaashi, Spider Woman; see the figure in the bottom right corner) lowered the first anishinaabeg (humans) to the Earth. It is through the same Hole in the Sky that the jiibayag (soul-spirits) of deceased humans ascend and travel toward their final destination in the Jiibay-miikana (Milky Way). Two important ceremonies are related to Bagonegiizhig: the madoodiswan, or sweat lodge purification ceremony, and the jiisaakaan, or shaking tent ceremony.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Bagonegiizhig star cluster becomes visible in October and disappears in April. November is the best time to look for it, when it is visible from dusk to dawn and reach their highest point in the sky. In early October, it becomes visible a couple hours after sunset. By about February, it is already high in the sky at sunset. The Bagonegiizhig is visible in late summer and early autumn as well, but only in the middle of the night.

The 7 stars of Bagonegiizhig, besides telling the traditional story of the niizhwaaso-omisenyag (seven sisters), are believed to represent the poles used in the construction of the jiisakaan. In a spiritual context, the lodge that the jaasakid (shaking tent medicine person) build also acts as a spiritual doorway, similar to the spiritual doorway that is the Bagonegiizhig.

To those who are involved in the Sweat Lodge ceremony, however, the 7 stars of the Hole in the Sky sometimes represent Madoodoowasiniig, which are the Grandfather stones used in the ceremony; in yet another context the star cluster symbolizes Binesii-waawananoon (eggs) that lie in a Thunderbird's nest.

Bagonegiizhig sits almost opposite the brightest star in the Madoodiswan (Corona Borealis) constellation. This is the binary star called Alphecca on Western star charts. It is the third star to the right in the Madoodiswan constellation; see the inserted image. Also starting in mid-November, the Bagonegiizhig cluster appears in the east-northeast after dusk, crosses the sky during the night, then gleams over the west-northwest sky before dawn. Bagonegiizhig and Madoodiswan trade places in the sky after about 12 hours time.

What else can be said about the Bagonegiizhig? In Anishinaabeg aadizookaanan (Ojibwe stories) the Bagonegiizhig is considered to be aaniindi nitam anishinaabeg gaa-ondaadiziwaad, literally, "there where the first human beings came from"; our Origin. It is the place of Niizhwaaso gikinoo'amaagewinan (the 7 Grandfather and Grandmother Teachings). It is where our mitigwakik (water drum) originates from and where our doodem/clan system comes from and where we derived our bloodlines from. So many stories come from it. We have stories of sky woman, of the 7 sisters, and of our 13 grandmothers. In the summer the Wenabozho constellation points the way to the Bagonegiizhig. In our sacred stories, Wenabozho tells us where we come from. Our clans in the night sky make preparations to welcome the gete-Anishinaabeg, the Elders, when it is their time to leave the earth world. Geget sa, the night sky is full of stories of the Anishinaabeg... See also: Binesii-wazison, Gaa-biboonikaan, Gozaabanjigan, Madoodiswan, Madoodoowasiniig, Nimitaaman Anang, and Wenabozho.


BEBOONIKED ANANGOOG: see Gaa-biboonikaan


BIIDAABAN ANANGOOG ("Dawn-Arrive Stars")

Biidaaban anangoog, is translated into English as the Dawn Arrives Stars. The smaller star (which we will call Biidaaban anangoons) is called Gamma Aquila on Western star charts. This star, colored red with a white core on the map, is the first to rise in the east. The second to rise, and larger star, is called Altair on Western star charts. We will call this star Gichi Biidabaan Anang. It is the white star depicted directly above the red star. The Biidaaban-Anangoog are the children of Waaban-anang, the Morning Star, represented by the gold and turquoise and rose quartz pendant in the illustration, a little left of the image of the big round planet Giizhigo-anang (Venus) which is also a reference to the Waaban-anang. The Biidaaban Anangoog arrive before Waaban-anang, in the false dawn, and are aligned one above the other so that they point to where Waaban-anang will appear.

Other sources, such as reflected in the Mishomis Book by Edward Benton-Banai, say that the biidaaban anangoog are Grandmother Moon's children. Waaban-anang, the Morning Star, according to this tradition, is a female spirit and the wife of Wenabozho. She takes care of Grandmother Moon's children when she does her sacred work...

See also: Waaban-anang.


BIINJ-AYI'II WAAWIYEYAA, "Nearby Circle" (1st Asteroid Belt).


BINESI: the Thunderbird constellation

The Binesi (Thunderbird) motif (see the white bird figure at the top of the inserted image) figures prominently in several Ojibwe Anishinaabe stories, ceremonies, and depictions on rock, tree bark, and animal hide and is the overall symbol that unifies all Anishinaabeg.

It is believed that a long time ago Binesi was sent by Wenabozho – a semi spirit central in Anishinaabe creation storytelling – to bring fertility to the earth and to protect the Anishinaabeg against underground and underwater creatures, and also to teach them to organize themselves in doodeman (clans), thus shaping the bedrock of a strong society.


BINESIWI-MIIKANA, “the Thunderbird’s Path”

Binesiwi-miikana is a term used occasionally by the Anishinaabeg to denote Jiibay-miikana, the “Spirit Road.” This is the path marked across the sky by the Milky Way galaxy when it is turned westward. In autumn, when it points south, the birds follow it. In spring, it turns north and the birds follow it back again. The name “Thunderbird’s Path” reflects and emphasizes the link between the Spirit Road and the Ajijaak/Bineshi Okanin constellation (Cygnus on the Western star charts): see the two-headed red bird with outstretched wings drawn upside down. See also: Ajijaak/Bineshi Okanin and Jiibay-miikana.


BINESII-WAZISON: Thunderbird Nest

Also called Animikiii-wazison, this spring and summer constellation, depending on the perspective of the storyteller and the context of the story told, is also known as the Madoodiswan (Sweat Lodge). When this constellation (depicted here as seven bright stars) rises above the tree tops of the forest the Anishinaabeg know that ziigwan (spring) is approaching and the land comes back to life after the winter cleansing. The Sweat Lodge is depicted in the image as a silver bracelet adorned with Thunderbird feather designs and mounted with turquoise stones and a crown of red corals. The Thunderbird's Nest/Sweat Lodge appears among the same stars as the Greek constellation of Corona Borealis. The seven bright stars depicted directly underneath the bracelet -- resembling the Corona Borealis -- are the waawananoon (eggs) that lie in the Thunderbird's nest. The Thunderbird Nest and the Hole-in-the-Sky (Bagonegiizhig) constellations trade places in the sky after about 12 hours time.



Translated as the Great Chief Star, and called Vega in English. The Great Chief Star is depicted as a six-rayed, bluish white star, placed in the center of the star map. It is part of the Midewigaan constellation, called Lyra on the Western star maps, and symbolically linked to the nearby Ajijaak (Crane) constellation. Gichi-ogimaa rises some four minutes earlier each day as Aki (the Earth) moves around the sun. Although it is considered a late spring or summer star, it’s actually so far north on the sky’s dome that – from mid-latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere – you can find it at some time during the night, nearly every night of the year. Gichi-ogimaa controls all the other anangoog (stars) – and therefore also the clans and assigns them their roles, so that there is nothing on Aki that does not have a ruling spirit or star in the skies. It also controls the force of gravity and causes the water to be lifted off the lakes and rivers, and it is believed this star stores up the waters and later releases them to cause snowfalls. It is said that as long as Gichi-ogimaa wills it, the spirit of biboon (winter) covers the earth with a thick blanket of snow and the fish will remain locked underneath the frozen waters of creeks and rivers and lakes. It is also said that as long as waabi-makwa, the spirit of the polar bear, rules the north and Gaa-biboonikaan, the star constellation called Orion by the white man, rises in the east and travels across the southern night sky, the animals and the people on earth hide from biboon's icy breath in their snowed-in dens and caves and houses, and the very ground under their feet will remain hard as flint for a long, long time... (Source: Zhaawano Giizhik, The Gift of Spring.) See also: Ajijaak, Midewigaan.


DIBIK-GIIZIS: the Moon (literally: Night Sun)

Often called - depending on the dialect and context - Niibaad-giizis (sleeping sun), Gookomisinaan (our Grandmother), and Wezaawi-giizhigookwe (Yellow Sky Woman).


DITIBININJIIBIZON GITIGAANII AKI: "Ring Around the Garden World." (Planet Saturn) (oshki-ikidowin/neologism)

See: Gitigaane.


GAA-BIBOONIKAAN ("Bringer of Winter")

Gaa-biboonikaan, which translates into English as “One Who Brings the Winter,” is called Orion on Western Star charts. Also called Bebooniked Anangoog, the Winter Maker Constellation. The Winter Bringer, which uses many of Orion’s stars and whose arms stretch from Aldebaran (in Taurus the bull) to Procyon the Little Dog Star, embraces the whole of the winter sky. The presense of Gaa-biboonikaan heralds winter; when spring appears, Gaa-biboonikaan sinks into the west.

The Gaa-biboonikaan constellation is also called Misaabe by some Anishinaabemowin speaking people, which translates into English as “the Giant.” Some Anishinaabeg use the term Nanabozho Anang (Wenabozho Anang) for the Orion constellation during the summer moons; as soon as the first snow falls Nanabozho Anang sinks in the west and the Gaa-biboonikaan takes his place again. Wenabozho points the jiibayag (soul-spirits of the deceased) the way to our source and our origin: the Bagone-giizhig –“Hole in the Sky,” a constellation the ancient Greeks named the Pleiades –, represented in the image by the white gold ring featuring a sun and spider design.

Gaa-biboonikaan is depicted in the above image as a sky-medicine healer, holding a mide-nigig-wayaan (an otter-skin medicine bag used at Midewiwin ceremonies, which shoots curing Migis shells into people who are ill) in his left hand. From his head is a direct lightning-like connection to the Amik (Beaver) winter constellation. The Winter Bringer figure is stylized after a painting by Miskwaabik Animikii, which in turn is a modern rendering of an old rock painting located along a shortcut canoe route from Obizhigokaang (Lac Seul) to Wiinibiigong Zaaga'igan (Lake Winnepeg), along Misko-ziibing (the Bloodvein drainage).

A – widely acknowledged – Ojibwe theory about the rock paintings denoting star constellations is that the position of the pictographs is oriented toward viewing the constellations in the winter sky. In the case of the Misko-ziibing pictograph (see the inserted image to the left) it is suggested that the man holding a medicine bag, besides being a graphical reference to a Midewiwin healer seeking contact with the spirits of the Universe, represents the Gaa-biboonikaan constellation.

According to Ojibwe tradition, Gaa-biboonikaan – who, like Wenabozho, is a supernatural trickster hero – arrives in the southwestern sky around the moon when the spirit is born (December). In another old rock painting, located on a cliff at present-day Hegman Lake in Minnesota, Gaa-biboonikaan is depicted as a giant whose awe-commanding arms stretch across Gaagige-giizhig, the Forever-Sky (the Universe), enveloping the sky while each year keeping Aki (the earth) in an icy grip until the moon of boiling maple sap (April) arrives. See also: Aadawaa'amoog, Amik Anangoog, Bagonegiizhig, Wenabozho, and Wiindigoo.


GAAGIGE-GIIZHIG: "Forever (Everlasting) Sky": The Universe


GAA-MAAWAWOBAABIKIZID, "Multiple Stars Creating One Constellation": a star constellation. Plural: GAA-MAAWAWOBAABIKIZIDJIG.

See also: Niikaanag.


GENONDAWE' ANANG (“Long-Tailed Climbing Star": possibly Biela's Comet).

A long time ago, a Genondawe'anang hit and scorched the Earth long ago. GICHI-MANIDOO, the Great Mystery, warned the Anishinaabeg ahead of time about the approaching comet, and so they fled to a bog and rolled themselves up in the moss and mud to protect themselves. Only the Anishinaabeg who maintained their spiritual beliefs heard the warning of GICHI-MANIDOO. When the comet hit, its fiery tail spread out over the entire landscape. Nothing survived the heat. The giant animals and trees were all killed off. Only those Anishinaabeg who rolled up in the moss and mud lived to tell this story. Source: Michael Wassegijig Price.


GICHI-ANANG: "Halley's Comet." See Jiingwanan.


GICHIGAMI AKI: the "Great Sea Land" (oshki-ikidowin/neologism)

Called Neptune (Solis planet 8) in Western astronomy, Gichgami Aki is the 8th and second farthest-known aadawaa'am ogimaa (Solar planet) from Giizis, the Sun. Depicted second from the right to Gitigaane Aki (Saturn) in the image. The aadawaa'am ogimaans (dwarf planet) Nawinaagoz (Pluto) is depicted to the right of Gichigami Aki. GICHIGAMI AKI is not visible to the unaided eye and is the only planet found by mathematical predictions rather than by empirical observation. Being composed primarily of gases and liquids, it has no well-defined solid surface. Its weather is characterized by extremely dynamic storm systems. The ancient Romans named the planet after Neptunus, the god of freshwater and the sea. The Ojibwe name GICHIGAMI-AKI is therefore an oshki-ikidowin: A neologism. See also: Gitigaane (Saturn) and Ogimaa (Jupiter).


GICHI-GIIZHIG: "The Great Sky"

In modern Anishinaabe cosmology, Gimaamaanaan Aki, the Earth, has a dome over it, or in Western terms, a Vault. From Earth to the Vault is sometimes called ishpiming. In fact, ishpiming is anything above you. The Vault layer is called giizhig, sky, or giizhigong, in the sky; it is on the giizhig that the sun, moon, and the stars hang off of. The realm beyond the giizhig, on the other side of the giizhig "layer," is called waakwi, the land of the deceased, or waakwiing – which is the locative form of waaki. The collective of the ishpiming, giizhig, and waakwi is summarized as gichi-giizhig, "the Great Sky," or gichi-giizhigong, In the Great Sky."



Gichi Makwa is translated into English as “Great Bear” (or "Bear") and is part of a group of seven stars called “Big Dipper” on the Western star maps. The dipper's seven bright stars form a portion of the constellation called "Ursa Major" in Latin. Two hundred and thirty-three stars within the Ursa Major constellation borders can be seen with the naked eye on a clear night sky.

“Gwaaba’igan” (Dipper), “Aadawa'amoog Anang” (They Go With Someone in a Canoe Star), and "Ojiig Anang" (Fisher Star) are Ojibwe names for the Big Dipper. The Fisher Star/Big Dipper has seven stars with four in its bowl. It is the bowl, or quadrilateral, of the Fisher Star/Big Dipper that was called Gichi Makwa by the pre-contact Anishinaabeg (depicted in the form of the silver belt buckle with the bear design). The Fisher Star/Big Dipper, in turn, is an asterism, and the brightest part of the larger constellation commonly called Ursa Major (literally: Greater She-Bear). An asterism is a group of bright stars that are part of a larger constellation.

The Gichi Makwa and the Fisher/Big Dipper which the Gichi Makwa forms a portion of can be seen from most of the northern hemisphere. The seven Fisher/Dipper stars are easily visible to the naked eye and they actually do look like a gwaaba’igan (dipper). Since the Gichi Makwa/Big Dipper is near Giiwedin Anang (Polaris/the North Star; see the star in the tail of the loon) it appears to swing around the North Pole throughout the year. The Gichi-Makwa/Fisher lies just above the horizon from October to December. In December, it emerges in the northeast sky.

Throughout the long winters our ancestors used to observe how the Bear/Fisher made its way across the night sky. They knew that spring was close when Gichi Makwa /Ojiig Anang was directly overhead in the early evenings. The rise of Gichi Makwa /Ojiig Anang was also an indication that it was time to prepare for aninaatig ozhiga'igewin: the tapping of the maple trees.

The reason why the Gichi Makwa is said to have the outline of a bear, is due to the way that the stars change position in the night sky. As we move from autumn to winter the stars rotate clockwise, and resemble the way a bear changes its stance, from a quadrupedal (four-legged) to bipedal (two-legged) position. The quadrilateral (or the bowl of the Fisher/Dipper) represents the body of the bear itself, while the handle, which (possibly inspired by an originally ancient Greek tradition? ) represents three hunters chasing the celestial bear, are the handle of the dipper. (It must be noted that some would argue that the hunters chasing the sky bear is really an Ojibwe retelling of the Greek Boötes the "Bear Driver" myth.)

Throughout the ages, however, the Ojibweg started to see the Great Bear as a Fisher with an arrow sticking in its tail. Thus, the Great Bear took the form of the asterism known as Ojiig Anang (Fisher Star) in Ojibwe storiews and Big Dipper on the Western star maps. This is why nowadays our aadizookaanag (traditional stories) relate the beautiful, romantic tale of how ojiig, the fisher, heroically ascended to the sky to release the summer birds from their imprisonment at the north pole and died while trying. What was once seen as a long bear tail or three hunters chasing the celestial bear, see the purple figures behind the Great Bear in the image –, thus became the tail of a wounded fisher punctured by an arrow ... See also: Gichi Miskwaabik Anang, Ojiig Anang, Ojiig Anangoons.



The Great Copper star is depicted as a white-orange star on the far left side of the image. The proto-Anishinaabeg* of the far north saw the Gichi-makwa ("Great Bear") as having a very long tail of shiny copper stars that extended to the star named Arcturus ("Guardian of the Bear") on the Western star maps – called Gichi Miskwaabik Anang ("Great Copper Star") in Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language. This tail is depicted as three "hunters" (see the purple figures, representing the stars of Alkaid, Alcor/Mizae, and Alioth ) that chase after at the Celestial Bear (the silver belt buckle featuring the bear figure line drawing). Seen from the earth the Gichi Miskwaabik Anang has a very bright red-orange color.

*It must be noted that some would argue that many "traditional" stories testify of a cross-cultural transcendence of tradition, and that the hunters chasing the sky bear is really an Ojibwe retelling of the Greek Boötes the "Bear Driver" myth.



Giiwed(in)anang is translated into English as the North Star (Polaris). Also called Gichi-anang (“Great Star”) and Ojiig Anang ("Fisher Star") in Anishinaabemowin (the Ojibwe language). The literal meaning of Giiwedin-anang is "Returning Home Star." It is part of the Maang (Loon) constellation. Giiwedin Anang — being within one degree of the north celestial pole —appears almost motionless as viewed from the ground. It was used by our ancestors in determining the four cardinal directions as well as navigating through Gichigamiin Aki (the Great Lakes region) at night. The Ojibweg have a story that two close brothers separated and one went up to the sky and became the "Returning Home/North Star" and the other stayed on earth and became Baswewe (Echo).

The Giiwedin-anang is the white star in the center of the drawing – located at the tip of the tail feathers of the Maang (Loon) constellation. The above illustration reflects the motion in the night sky where, viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, the main constellations and asterisms appear to rotate counter-clockwise around the motionless Giiwedin-anang. These are, starting from the Bagonegiizhig (Hole in the Sky, depicted as a ring with a spider-and-sun motif surrounded by seven sisters), in counter-clockewise direction: Bagonegiizhig (Pleiades, a star cluster appearing in Fall), Mashkode-bizhiki (Perseus, a Winter constellation, depicted as a blue buffalo), Mooz (Pegasus and Lacerta, appearing in Autumn; depicted as a white and blue running moose), Binesi Animikii & Ajiijaak/Bineshi Okanin (Cygnus, a Summer constellation, depicted as a red crane and a white Thunderbird), Wenabozho Anang (Scorpius, a Summer constellation; depicted as a hare in a canoe shooting arrows at Mishibizhiw, the Great Horned Lynx ), Madoodiswan (Corona Borealis, a Summer constellation, depicted as a silver bracelet mounted with a turquoise and seven red corals), Noondeshin Bemaadizid (Hercules, a Summer constellation, depicted as a dancing white and blue male figure shaking his ceremonial rattlers), Maang (Little Dipper, a Winter asterism, depicted as a brown loon), Gichi-Makwa (quadrilateral of Ojiiganang, the Big Dipper, appearing in Winter as well as in Summer; depicted as a silver belt buckle with a bear design), Mishibizhiw (Leo and Hydra, appearing in Spring, depited as a green horned lynx with a long curled tail ), Ma'iingan Anang (Canis Major, visible in the Northern Hemisphere from December-March; depicted as a wolf), Amik Anangoog (Gemini, a Spring and Winter constellation, depicted as a red and white beaver), Gaa-biboonikaan (Orion, a Winter constellation, depicted as a Midewiwin man with outstretched arms holding high an otter skin medicine bag), and Mikinaak Anang (Capella, a prominent star system in the northern winter sky; depicted as a silver hair barrette in the shape of a turtle).


GIIZHIG-ANANG: the "Day Star."

Nigaabii-anang (which shines at nightfall) and Waaban-anang (which rises the following dawn) form together one star, named giizhig-anang, the Day Star – known by the name of Venus by most non-Native people. In many an aadizookaan, sacred stories of the Anishinaabeg, Dawn and Evening tot his day live on as Grandfathers who – neither one being more powerful than the other – continue their duels, thus symbolizing the eternal conflicts and dualisms within the human soul and in human society. Another name for this planet is Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki: The Bright Planet That Spins Backward. The Giizhig Anang is depicted in the form of the round yellow-brown celestial body; the spirit of the Waaban-anang/Morning Star is symbolized by the gold, turquoise, and rose quartz pendant in the foreground. See also: Nigaabii-anang, Waaban-anang.


GIIZHIG-ANANG: the “Sky Star”

Giizhig-anang is depicted as the bright six-rayed star at the bottom left in the drawing. Not to be confused with the planet Venus, which bears the same name in Ojibwemowin (Ojibwe language). Called Sirius (nicknamed “Dog Star”) on the Western star charts, this brightest star of the night sky (due to its proximity to Giizis, the Sun) is a binary star and part of the constellation of Ma’iingan Anang; called Canis Majoris on the Western star maps. It is believed that archaic Algonquian speaking Peoples (ancestors to the Anishinaabeg) believed that the souls of the deceased started their celestial journey home at this star. See also: Ma’iingan Anang, Ma'iingan Miikana.



Above the turtle island (depicte here as a silver turtle) dances the Sky Woman who, after giving birth of the first two Anishinaabeg, had descended through the BAGONEGIIZHIG or Hole in the Sky (Pleaiades: depicted here as a ring with a spider motif on it) and put them on the island/earth to nurture them to womanhood and manhood. Once she had fulfilled her sacred task she ascended back into the sky where she found a new home, behind the moon. Once there, she changed her name in WEZAAWI-GIIZHIGOOKWE, Yellow Sky Woman, and she became known as NOOKOMIS DIBIK-GIIZIS, Grandmother Moon herself. From here on, Nookomis Moon watched over her children by night; by day MISHOOMIS GIIZIS (the Sunfather) and OMIZAKAMIGOOKWE (the Earthmother) took care of them. And Nookomis’ existence, her gift of life, and the primacy of women are still remembered by her children the Anishinaabeg each time Dibik-giizis, the Night Sun shines on their precious island-home. See also: Aki and Bagonegiizhig.


GIIZIS: "Luminary"

Giizis is any celestial body that gives off light; in particular the Sun. Technically, the Sun, since it is a star, is Giizis Anang. The Sun, in a metaphoric context, is often referred to as Gimishoomisinaan, "Our Grandfather," Giver of Life. The path of the sun, called Ecliptic(a) in Western astronomy, is called Ma'iingan Miikana (Wolf Trail) in Ojibwemowin. See also: Binesi (Thunderbird Constellation).


GITIGAANE: "Garden" (oshki-ikidowin/neologism)

Gitigaane is the sixth planet from Giizis, the Sun, and the second-largest planet in the Solar System.

Also called: Ditibininjiibizon Gitigaanii Aki: "Ring Around the Garden World." Called Saturn in

Western astronomy. Depicted in the image to the right of the large planet called Ogimaa (Jupiter).




GOZAABANJIGAN is the Shaking Tent constellation. See also: Bagonegiizhig, Madoodiswan


GWIINGWA'AAGE: "The One Who Came from the Shooting Star"; the Wolverine.

The aadizookaan (sacred story) about how the wolverine came to earth goes as follows: "A long time ago, there were four star spirits soaring through the night sky. One of the four spirits was belligerent and ill-tempered. While soaring through the night sky, the contentious star spirit, in an attempt to startle and scare everyone on Earth, flew too close, lost control, and collided with the Earth. The spirit left a huge crater in the Earth where it hit. The Anishinaabeg, who were familiar with the antics of that particular star spirit, cautiously examined the crater and continued to observe it for several years."

"Over time, it filled with water and became a lake. Eventually, trees and grasses began to grow on its banks. One day, an unusual animal emerged from this lake; an animal that the Anishinaabeg had never seen before. It had a vicious and ill-tempered disposition. It was said that this animal was the star spirit that hit the Earth long ago. So, the Anishinaabeg called this animal "Gwiingwa'aage" ("Gwiigwan"—comet; "aage"—originating from). Contained within the Anishinaabe name for the wolverine is the occurrence, recorded in oral tradition, of a jiingwan (meteorite) colliding with the Earth long ago. That crater still exists today in northwestern Quebec, Canada.” Source: Michael Wassegijig Price. See also: Jiingwanan.


IKWE-ANANG: the Women's Star



Jiibay-miikana, or jiibay-ziibi, is the celestial passage to the Spirit World: a path that extends the length of the night sky all the way to the summer constellation Wenabozho Anang (Scorpio). Jiibay-miikana, which is translated into English as the Spirit Road, is the path, or river, marked across the sky by the Milky Way galaxy when it is turned westward. (The association with a river is reflected by the name Jiibay-ziibi, River of Souls.) The turtle, known for its wisdom, and Oshki Kwe, a female spirit who at one time went to earth and transformed into a Giizhik (cedar tree), walked the night sky, etching this river path while leaving a shimmering trail of stars behind them. This celestial pathway is a testament to the eternal bond between the Cedar Tree and the Anishinaabeg people and still serves as a guiding light for the departed souls, leading them safely back to their eternal home. The line of flying geese at the bottom of the illustration represents the journey of the jiibayag (souls of the deceased) travelling along the Spirit Road/River toward their final destination: the deceased's celestial clan. In the Anishinaabe language, another word for the Milky Way is Binesiwi-miikana, the Bird’s Path. Some Anishinaabeg call it Nanabozho Miikana: Wenabozho's Path. Other names in use are Giizhik Miikana, Mashkiki Miikana, and Mashkiki Ziibi: Respectively Cedar Trail, Medicine Trail and Medicine River. The above illustration shows the Jiibay-miikana/ziibi in the month of January and depicts, by means of the purple arrows, the Path of Afterlife as conceived in ancient times by the Algonquian speaking Peoples of the Northern Hemisphere. The jiibay or ziibi of a deceased person begins its celestial journey in the south, at Giizhig-anang (Sky Star; Sirius), then follows the Binesiwi-miikana/Thunderbird Path through the three belt stars of Gaa-Biboonikaan/Nanabozho Anang (The Bringer of Winter/Wenabozho’s Star; the Orion constellation) to the Bagonegiizhig/Hole in the Sky, then turns to proceed to the snout of the Gichi Makwa/Ojiiganang (Great Bear or Fisher). From there the jiibay turns again to end at the north celestial pole; to be precise, at Giiwedin Anang (the North Star, or Returning Home Star). See also: Binesiwi-miikana.



Jiibayag Niimi'idag is translated into English as "The Spirits Dancing." This phenomenon is also called Waawaate by the Anishinaabeg from present-day Minnesota and from some parts of Canada. In the English language this phenomenon – which is not depicted in the star map image – is called the Northern Lights, or by its Latin name, Aurora Borealis. According to Ojibwe and Ininew (Cree) tradition, the Northern Lights are the jiibayag/cheepayak (Soul-Spirits) dancing as they proceed westward through the star world to their final destination. When these lights dance, they have come to take the jiibayag of the newly-departed to the Spirit World. When you view the sky at night and see the lights of the spirits dancing, you know they have come to our world to collect the souls of the newly-departed and take them home. In other stories, the polar lights are the campfires lit by the grandmothers and grandfathers who left the earth and who sit alongside the Path of Souls in the Milky Way to guide the spirits of the recently deceased to their final home. To read more about this phenomenon, see Star Stories, part 25.


JIINGWANAN: comets, meteors.

Also called gwiigwanan; baashkanangoog (shooting stars); waazoowaad anangoog (long-tailed stars); wiiyagasenhmood anangoog (dust-tailed stars); onwaachigewin/niigaanaajimowin anangoog (foreboding/prophecy stars) and enwaachiged anangoog (prophet stars). These names are sometimes used to denote Gichi-anang, or Halley's Comet. The Prophecy Star takes about 76 years to orbit Giizis (the Sun) once. The Orionids that typically appear each year around October/November are believed to come from this comet. This meteor shower is named after the Gaa-biboonikaan (Orion Constellation) as the shower appears to originate from the point in the sky where the constellation is located.

Many traditions and stories of the Anishinaabeg and Ininewak Peoples originated from actual observations that occurred centuries ago, but are still preserved in aadizookaanan, our oral traditions.

The comets and meteors travel across the skies and stories about them are told today and passed on by ayaadizookedjig, our storytellers. Some of these aadizookaanan (sacred stories) tell us of impacts that caused mass explosions in the past.

It is understood that these celestial bodies that contain rock, ice, and dust, are sent down by GICHI-MANIDOO to deliver a message for all who are open to it. Some Elders say that the great miigis (sea shell) was a meteor and that the Anishinaabeg followed this star to the west. This was the first seven fire sign. The story of the prophecy star tells that, when nature becomes out of balance and the People lose their spiritual path and purpose, a star spirit will return and either restore life from a new beginning or help the People to survive and thrive again.

One tradition relates how the great bay Azhashkiiwaaboo-wiikwed ("Muddy Bay," nowadays Hudson Bay) was created by a maji-ishkoden (fire ball from the sky).

"Many moons ago, young thunderbirds roamed the skies freely. They were troublesome birds always causing great, destructive storms in their rambunctious play. One day their fathers held counsel and agreed that the troubled young thunderbirds needed an activity to keep them out of trouble. The Elder thunderbirds decided that they were going to teach them how to play baaga'adowewin (lacrosse).

Instead of baaga'adowaanag (lacrosse sticks), the young thunderbirds used their wings to wield a ball that their fathers had made from lightning. However, their furious play and flapping of wings caused a great storm and the ball fell to earth. The lightning ball hit the earth and the impact created what is known today as the Hudson Bay. The smaller pieces of the lightning ball created all of the smaller lakes in Northern Ontario. The stars fell from the sky and broke into thousands of pieces that blink off and on. The rest of the falling stars changed into fireflies and the young thunderbirds promised to never cause trouble again..." (Source: Mishkiki.)


MAANG ("Loon")

Maang is translated into English as "the Loon." It is this constellation – see the loon with the North Star in its tail – where our leader clans come from. The same goes for Ajiijaak/Bineshi Okanin,“Cygnus,” depicted as a red crane flying northward. In several traditional Ojibwe stories the Ojiig-anangoons represents the brightest seven stars in Maang; see the image shown below. The Maang constellation/Ojiig-anangoons asterism (called Ursa Minor and Little Dipper on the Western star maps) are notable for marking the location of the north celestial pole, as it is home to Giiwedin-anang (North Star/Polaris), which is the bright white star in the loon's tail.

On earth, Maang doodem, along with Ajijaak/Baswenaazhi (the Ojibwe Crane Clan), embody ogimaawiwin (chieftainship). Maang is ogimaa in the sky, and ogimaa on the Earth and in the lakes. This notion perfectly illustrates the mirroring of Earth/Water and Sky. Maang, which is visible all year round, dives in dagwaagin (the fall) to spend time with the water clans throughout biboon (the winter).

The teachings of Maang are many. In Ojibwe cosmology, Maang dwells in the nebulous zone between the water and the land and, symbolically, sits on that intangible border between the spiritual and the material. Since maang has a very close connection to the water, he avoids going on land, except to nest. Physically, maang has the stars of the night sky reflected on its back; the stars show as white dots on his black plumage (see the above image, an acrylic on paper by Simone McLeod). Even today, this very old notion of earth-water-sky mirroring is respected and maintained even after a loon dies; traditionally, when an Ojibwe hunter kills a loon, it is never to be turned upside down since, in analogy with the maang constellation, the backside of the loon must always be facing the sky.

See also: Ajijaak, Makoons, and Ojiig-anangoons.



Maang Anangoons is called Delphinus on the Western star maps. Visible in late summer, it is one of the smallest constellations in the sky and recognizable for the diamond-shaped pattern formed by its brightest stars.

The Little Loon Star is a smaller version of the Maang constellation, where our ogimaag (leaders) come from. It is depicted here as a red loon, next to the summer and autumn constellations Moose and Crane/Thunderbird (called respectively Lacerta and Pegasus, and Cygnus on the Western Star maps). The image below clearly shows the diamond-shaped pattern of this constellation.

In archaic times the Maang, or Big Loon, was seen as the Little Bear. The latter was seen as the celestial partner of Gichi Makwa, the Great Bear. The story of the Great Bear and Little Bear changed throughout the ages into the more modern story of the Fisher and his celestial bride, the Little Fisher. Nowadays the Little Bear/Little Fisher constellation is also often called Maang (Loon).

See also: Ajijaak, Maang, Makoons, and Mooz.


MADE-MAKADEDANOO-BAGONEGIIZHIG ("Distant-keeps-dark-in-place-makes a-hole-in-the-Sky): A Black Hole. See: Ajijaak.


MADOODISWAN: “Sweat Lodge”

The Madoodiswan, or Madoodison constellation is depicted here as a silver bracelet adorned with Thunderbird feather designs and mounted with turquoise stones and a crown of red corals (representing seven fires). The Sweat Lodge appears among the same stars as the Greek constellation of Corona Borealis.

The Sweat Lodge plays a sacred role in many Native cultures throughout Turtle Island (North America). The basic design for a madoodiswan is a low canopy of wooden poles covered with animal skins or canvas cloth. Participants gather within the sweat lodge as heated stones -– madoodoowasiniig, sometimes addressed as nimishoomisaabikoonor Grandfathers – are brought in and placed in a depression in the center. Water is poured over the nimishoomisaabikoon to create steam. The sweat lodge, which was gifted to the Anishinaabeg when a great sickness fell upon them, is a place to cleanse and heal the spirit, mind, body, and emotions.

The seven bright stars drawn directly underneath the silver bracelet form Madoodoowasiniig (the Stones of the Sweat Lodge). These stars – which some storytellers link to the poles used in the construction of the Sweat Lodge, or to the seven poles used in the construction of the lodge that hosts the Jiisaakaan (Shaking Tent ceremony) – can be viewed in a circular pattern with the door of the sweat lodge opening to the north/northeast. Madoodoowasiniig rise in the northeast sky in March, are directly overhead during the early evenings of June, and disappear on the horizon in September. The Madoodiswan and Bagonegiizhig constellations trade places in the sky after about 12 hours time.

To the Anishinaabeg, the constellation right next to the Madoodiswan (portrayed as a bluish white figure dancing and shaking zhiishiigwanan, or rattles) is the Noondeshin Bemaadizid or Exhausted Person, who is an exhausted participant ("bather") after the ceremony. Depicted here is his spirit, revived and reborn after the fatigue of the purification sweat. The Noondeshin Bemaadizid is the constellation that was called Hercules by the ancient Greeks.

The seven stones that are heated for the Sweat Lodge ceremony have also been observed in the Bagonegiizhig star cluster (called Pleiades by the ancient Greek ); see the image to the left. The Madoodiswan and Bagonegiizhig trade places in the night sky after about 12 hours time.

According to Anishinaabeg izhitwaawin (our cultural belief) and Anang Nibwakawin (our star wisdom) the Madoodiswan constellation, besides representing the sweat lodge on earth, is sometimes also regarded as a Thunderbird's nest among the stars. Alongside the Sweat Lodge/Thunderbird constellation are the seven bright stars that either represent madoodoowasiniig (sweat lodge stones), Binesii-waawananoon (Thunderbird eggs), or the poles of the sweat lodge or shaking tent in the night sky. The 7 stones/eggs represent many things to the Anishinaabeg... there are many stories. One aadizookaan (story) tells of Ode'imin (Heart Berry), the boy who founded the Midewiwin, who upon his death traveled the Stars and visited the Elders in the Celestial Sweat Lodge. It is said that when he returned to Earth, Ode'imin ogii-waawiyetoon iwe omadoodison: he taught his People to make the sweat lodge round. See also: Bagonegiizhig, Binesii-wazison, Noondeshin Bemaadizid, Madoodoowasiniig, and Nimitaaman Anang.



These stones are represented by the seven bright white stars forming a semi circle around the silver Madoodiswan/Sweat Lodge bracelet; see the image to the left. The seven red corals, forming a crown to the turquoise stone mounted on the bracelet in the image, are also references to the stones of the sweat lodge, which are red hot when used in the Sweat Lodge ceremony. Sometimes the madoodoowasiniig are observed in the seven stars of the Bagonegiizhig (Pleiades), as well. See also: Bagonegiizhig, Madoodiswan, and Noondeshin Bemaadizid.



Ma'iingan Anang is translated into English as the Wolf Star. Ma'iingan, the wolf, is brother to Wenabozho and walks the star world with him. It is called Canis Major on Western star charts. Ma’iingan Anang, a winter constellation, represents Ma’iingan Doodem (the Ojibwe Wolf Clan) on earth.



Ma'iingan Miikana is called Ecliptica in Makadewikonayemowin (Latin) and Ecliptic in Zhaaganaashiimowin (English). The Wolf Trail is the yearly path Gimisoomisinaan Giizis (Grandfather Sun) follows on the celestial sphere, as seen from Earth. This path includes the Zodiac star constellations.

Ma’iingan Miikana was 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 Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki (Venus) and Oshkaabewis (Mercury) 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.

Up until today, this phenomenon, of aadawaa'amoog azhe'osewag (planets seemingly traveling the opposite path), is known as Ma'iingan Giizhig Miikana: the Wolf Sky Trail.

The above image shows a silver belt buckle designed and handcrafted by the author, featuring an Ojibwe Anishinaabe hunter addressing the spirit of the great hunter-teacher Ma'iingan, who walks his earthly trail all the way up into the sky. See also: Binesi, Ma'iingan Anang, Oshkaabewis.


MAJI-ISHKODEN ("Fireballs")

The maji-ishkoden are the comets that come close to us; said to bring about sadness and misfortune if seen. A maji-ishkode is a falling star which is presumed to be an ancestor who may have not made their journey. We are taught to look away. See also: Jiingwanan.


MAKOONS: the “Little Bear”

Makoons is called Little Dipper on the Western Sky maps. In archaic times the Little Bear was seen as the celestial partner of Gichi Makwa, the Great Bear. The story of the Great Bear and Little Bear changed throughout the ages into the more modern story of the Fisher and his celestial bride, the Little Fisher. Nowadays the Little Bear/Little Fisher constellation is named Maang (Loon).


MANOOMINIKE ANANG: Wild-Ricing Star constellation. Also called Gookomisinaanasabikeshiinh: Our Grandmother Spider.

This constellation is called Cassiopeia on Western star maps. Depicted in the image as two ricers in a white jiimaan (canoe) outlined by a cluster of many stars. The canoe is modeled after the ancient Anishinaabe mazinaajimowinan, or rock paintings that can be found on cliff walls scattered throughout the Great Lakes and Canadian Shield areas. In our culture, while harvesting manoomin (wild rice) in autumn, the poler traditionally stands in front of the knocker while pushing the canoe through the shallow water of a rice bed. By standing in the front of the canoe, the poler pushes the canoe through the rice bed, while the knocker sits in the back knocking the ripened grains into the jiimaan.

In the night sky, the celestial canoe revolves in a circular motion in the circular area of the night sky – commonly known as the circumpolar region. As it slowly revolves around Giiwedin Anang (Returning Home Star, or North Star), Manoominike Anang can be seen in different regions of the sky throughout the year. This constellation never sinks below the horizon.

During Manoominike-giizis (the Moon of the Wild Rice Harvest), which is visible in the month of August, Manoominike Anang sits just east of Giiwedanang in the early evening and, like all other stars and star clusters in the night sky, makes its way around it in a counterclockwise direction. On clear nights, numerous stars can be seen outlining the canoe; and if you look closely you will notice one bright star in particular, representing the poler in front of the canoe pushing it forward through the rice bed. As the celestial canoe is located in the Pathway of Souls, it serves as a constant reminder of those who have gone before us on the journey to the Spirit World.

Some Anishinaabe stories speak of Gookomisinaanasabikeshiinh, or Gookominaagesh ("Our Grandmother Spider") when referring to this constellatiion. See also: Giiwedin Anang, Jiibay Miikana.



Mashkode-bizhiki is translated into English as the Bison. This is the constellation in the northern sky known as Perseus on the Western sky charts. It can be found in a direction away from the center of the galaxy into the outer reaches of the Bison Arm, the second major spiral arm that emanates from the core of the Path of Souls (Milky Way). The bison is the guardian of the Gozaabachigan, or Jiisikaan (Shaking Tent ceremony). In the winter, the Bison Star (depicted here as buffalo the color of turquoise blue) can be easily seen, but in the summer she is barely visible because she is on Earth, feeding and helping the Anishinaabeg – who, by the way, do not have a bison clan. See also: Bagonegiizhig, Madoodiswan.


MIDEWIGAAN: the Medicine Lodge constellation

Depicted in the image as a parallelogram of four bluish white stars right below the very bright Chi-ogimaa (Vega). According to modern (post-contact) Ojibwe tradition, Ajijaak, the Crane constellation, was flying a long time ago through the Jiibay-miikana (Milky Way) when Gichi-manidoo (the Great Mystery) asked the crane to tell all the animals in the below-world that the Anishinaabeg would soon be lowered from the skies to the earth. Once grown up on the island-earth called Mikinaakominis (Turtle Island), the Anishinaabeg would be gifted a Medicine Lodge on earth, called Midewiwin, its rectangular structure called midewigaan. Also, Ajijaak showed a large group of Anishinaabe migrants the way to their destined land and soon after that told the animals that they would become the Anishinaabeg's clan families, with the crane and the loon representing the principal Leader clans.

As soon as the celestial Midewigaan – which is positioned close to the Chi-ogimaa and coincides with the constellation that the ancient Greeks called Lyra – rises in the spring, the Anishinaabeg know it is time to gather for ceremony. The constellation is visible in the stars throughout the winter season along with Ajijaak, the clan leader who brought the lodge to the Anishinaabeg.

See also: Ajijaak, Maang, and Chi-ogimaa.



Mikinaak Anangoog is translated into English as the Turtle Stars. This group of stars – represented in the image by the silver hair barrette beneath the North Star depicted in the center, which is attached to the tail of the loon – is called Capella on Western star maps. Although it appears to be a single star to the naked eye, Mikinaak Anangoog is actually a quadruple star system organized in two binary pairs, made up of four different stars. The Mikinaak is the bright "star" depicted at the top of the hexagon named Auriga on Western star maps. It is visible halfway between Gaa-biboonikaan (Orion's Belt) and Giiwedin Anang (North Star).

Mikinaak in the sky represents the Ojibwe (Snapping) Turtle Clan on earth. The word "mikinaak" is translated "snapping turtle," but its literal meaning is "Making a Roadway" or rather "Making a Spirit Roadway." Snapping turtles are known as important spiritual messengers between different layers of the earth, water, and sky. They live in the domain between earth and water; as they live in the lakes, rivers, and wetlands they lay their eggs on land buried in a nest.

Mikinaakwag are spiritually associated with the Jiisakaan or Shaking Tent ceremony, where they are the teachers and interpreters of those who participate in the ceremony. The aadizookanag (spirit grandfathers that are being addressed) speak in their own language, and the turtle interprets what they are saying to the jaasakiidjig (Shaking Tent Seers).


MISAABE: the Giant

Also called Gichi-misaabe, he is a giant from the forest who teaches the Anishinaabeg to be honest with yourself. Often visualized in the night sky as Gaa-biboonikaan, the Winter Bringer constellation (Orion).

The Misaabe constellation embodies the virtue of Gwayakwaadiziwin, meaning Honesty or Righteousness, which is the fifth of the Grandfather Teachings of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg Peoples. Our ancestors looked at the giant named Gichi-misaabe for the one who models this Teaching. Gichi-misaabe, a friendly, four-legged giant from the forests who, when he is among humans, walks on two legs, reminds us to be honest to the Great Mystery of Life and to ourselves and not to be someone we are not. An honest person is said to walk tall like him... See also: Gaa-biboonikaan, Wenabozho.



The first constellation of spring is Mishi-bizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe’ (Great Lynx, the Curly Tail). Bizhiw, the terrestrial lynx, traditionally plays an important role in the Anishinaabe cultural, spiritual, and physical landscape. This agile hunter from the deep spruce and fir forests of the northwoods is known and admired for its solitary and fierce character. In addition, Bizhiw doodem (the Lynx clan) is one of four Ojibwe warrior clans (the other three being Nooke/Bear, Ma'iingan/Wolf, and Waabizheshi /Marten) and its members are known for their steadfast and resolute nature. Lynxes are both represented in the night sky and the underworlds of the earth and the lakes. See episode 1 to read more about the Lynx in the Sky.

See also: Gaa-biboonikaan.


MISHI-GINEBIG: the Great Serpent

This constellation, located in the Southern celestial hemisphere, is believed by some to be the same as Wenabozho constellation — called Scorpius/Scorpio on the Western star charts. It is located at the end of Binesiwi-miikana, “the Thunderbird’s Path”, which is how the Anishinaabeg call the Milky Way Path. Mishi-ginebig, the horned guardian of the underworld of the lakes and patron of wisdom and healing, is the main antagonist of upperworld entities such as the Binesiwag (Thunderbirds). The Mishi-ginebig constellation is the celestial manifestation of the Mishi-ginebig of the lakes’ underworld. In this capacity he is the guardian of the Realm of the jiibayag/souls. The jiibay/soul, once it was was successful in its encounter with the Mishi-ginebig, would join the clan ancestors in the Land of Everlasting Happiness.

In several Anishinaabe adizookaanan (sacred stories) Mishi-ginebig is also visible — in the shape of a great Underground Lynx (Mishibizhiw) — as a meteor or can be seen during summer moons flying across the night sky, from one watery entrance to the Underworld to the other.

The image shows a depiction of the Great horned Underwater Serpent that has its abode in the waters of the Great Lakes as well during meteor showers in the night sky. See also: Binesiwi-miikana, Wenabozho Anang, and Mishi Bizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe’.


MOOZ: the Moose constellation

In the Fall sky the shape of a moose (see the blue figure at the bottom of the image) can be seen in the night sky, shining down on the Anishinaabeg full strength. The moose, 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. See Star Stories, part 10 to read more about the Mooz in the night sky.


NAAWINAAGOZ: "Appears to Be Far Away" (Pluto)

Also called Awasinake Aki, or Awasinakaag ("Planet Beyond"). This "dwarf planet" was named Pluto by the ancient Romans. See the orbit depicted to the far right. See also: Aadawaa'am Ogimaans.


NAAWINAAGOZI: "It Appears to Be Far Away" (Planet X)

Also called Waazakonewed: "It Gives Off Light." See also: Aadawaa'am Ogimaans.


NANABOZHO ANANG: see Wenabozho Anang


NIGAABII-ANANG: the Evening Star; literally, "Star of the West"

Nigaabii-anang (which shines at nightfall) and Waaban-anang (which rises the following dawn) form together one star, named Giizhig-anang, the Day Star – known by the name of Venus by most non-Native people. Nigaabii-anang, also called Gozaabii-anang (“Star Sinking in Waters”) or Ikwe-anang (Women’s Star), is a powerful aadizookaan and medicine man who resides in the land of E-bangishimog (the Spirit of the West) and Ningaabii’ani-noodin (the West Wind). Since time immemorial he is used in navigating at night; he is the patron of all women; and was once the elder and tutor of Waaban (the Dawn). Representing old age and wisdom, Nigaabii-anang teaches healing and the need for moderation and patience. He symbolized a force contrary to that of Waaban, and the conflict that resulted from this images the lasting human conflict between knowledge and wisdom, between youth and age on earth.

The spirit of the Nigaabi-anang/Evening Star is symbolized here by the 18K gold, sterling silver, ricolite, turquoise, and red coral pendant floating in the western night sky. See also: Giizhig-anang, Waaban-anang.



The singular form of Niikaanag is Niikaan. Also called Madogaanan: "(Cone-shaped) Lodges."

Other Ojibwe names for a constellation are Anangoog ("stars") and Gaa-maamawowaabikizid, plural Gaa-maamawowaabikizidjig: "multiple stars creating one constellation."



A white binary star (called Alphecca on Western star maps) that is the brightest star in the Madoodiswan constellation (Corona Borealis). The name refers to a young Ojibwe man who traveled great distances and was given the water drum, along with a gift of a ceremony, to help his People. A bowsprit points the way, so the name of this star confirms the metaphor of a man, a navigator, who puts himself in the front of a canoe to show the way in difficult places. The Nimitaaman star sits directly opposite the Bagonegiizhig star cluster, with which the Madoodiswan trade places after about 12 hours time. See also: Madoodiswan, Bagonegiizhig.



Commonly translated as "Exhausted Bather," this star formation is an early summer constellation and part of the lower foot of the Greek constellation of Hercules. The shape of a person undergoing a sweat lodge purification ceremony can be seen among the stars next to the Madoodiswan and helps to complete the Sweat Lodge story. The person – portrayed here as a bluish white figure dancing and shaking zhiishiigwanan, or rattles – is an exhausted participant ("bather") after the ceremony. Depicted here is his spirit, revived and reborn after the fatigue of the purification sweat, but full of life and renewed on the inside... See also: Madoodiswan, Madoodoowasiniig.


OBIKWANISH: see Ojiig-anangoons




OGICHIDAA: "Warrior" (Planet Mars) (oshki-ikidowin/neologism)

Also called Akwaabikizid Aki: "It-Is-a-Certain-Length-World." See the small planet depicted left of the large planet called Ogimaa (Jupiter). See also: Aadawaa'amoog Ogimaag.


OGIMAA AKI ("Chief World"): planet Jupiter (oshki-ikidowin/neologism)

See the large planet in the inserted image.

Ogimaa, or Zhaawan-anang (Southern Star) as it is often called, is the fifth planet from Gimishoomisinaan Giizis (Our Grandfather Sun) and the largest and oldest of the akiin anangookaaning (planets) that orbit the Grandfather. Another name for this planet is Gichi Ogimaa Waasamod Aki: "Great Chief Lightning World." This is a reference to a place in the sky where the Thunder Beings come from.


OJIIG ANANG: the “Fisher Star”

Ojiig Anang is an asterism called Big Dipper on the Western sky maps. Also called "Ojjig" (Fisher), “Gwaaba’igan” (Dipper; possibly a neologism), and “Aadawaamoog Anang” (They Go With Someone in a Canoe Star). The Fisher ascends high overhead in summer. There are many variations of the aadizookaan (sacred story) of the Fisher Star, one of which will be given here. See also Gichi Makwa, Ojiig-anangoons.

Image: the rotation of the Ojiig Anang (Fisher Star/Big Dipper) asterism around the Giiwedin Anang (North Star). In ancient times this asterism was seen as a bear (the quadrangle) chased by three hunters and their dogs (the "tail of the fisher/bear). The quadrilateral (or the "bowl" of the asterism) represents the body of the bear itself, while the handle representing the three hunters are the tail/handle of the fisher/dipper. Source: Stories in the stars / Pride in our hearts.


OJIIG-ANANGOONS, the Little Fisher

De Ojig-anangoons is depicted here as a reddish brown loon. The literal meaning of Ojiig-anangoons – a constellation that has seven stars with four in its bowl – is “Fisher Little Star.” Also called Ojiigansikwe (Little Fisher Woman), Maang (Loon), Makoons (Little Bear), Gwaaba’igaans or Gaaba’iganens (Little Dipper; these names are possibly neologisms), and Obikwanish. Called "Ursa Minor" (literally: "Lesser She-Bear") and "Little Dipper" on the Western star charts. Giiwedin-anang, the North Star, is part of the Little Fisher. In the inserted image it forms the end of the Loon’s tail. The Fisher, along with the Marten, represents the Ojibwe Waabizheshi Doodem (Marten Clan). See also: Gichi Makwa, Giiwedin Anang, Maang, Makoons.


ONAAGOSHI-ANANG: the Evening Star


OSHKAABEWIS: Mercurius (neologism)

Called Mercurius or Solis planet 1 in Western astronomy, Oshkaabewis is the smallest aadawaa'am ogimaa (planet) in the Solar System and the closest to Giizis, the Sun. See the small mercury-colored planet drawn to the left of Giizhig Anang (Venus). Oshkaabewis has several meanings, such as waiter, ceremonial helper or messenger, and pipe bearer. The term is a neologism as it refers to the name the Romans gave to this planet. The Romans named the planet after the swift-footed Roman messenger god, Mercury (Latin Mercurius), whom they equated with the Greek Hermes, because it moves across the sky faster than any other planet.


WAABAN-ANANG: the Morning Star

Waaban-anang is known by the name of Venus by most non-Native people. From of old, the Anishinaabeg and Ininewak (Cree) honor the Morning Star, the one star/planet that remains visible after the sun rises on the horizon. For them the Morning Star remains a sacred object and an ancestral home. It is said Wenabozho, the beloved trickster-hero of the Anishinaabeg, came from Waaban-anang originally. In some stories Waaban-anang is a medicine man and the antipode of Niigaabii-anang, the Evening Star. According to other sources Waaban-anang is a female spirit and the wife of Wenabozho. See also: Giizhig-anang, Niigaabii-anang, Wenabozho Anang.


WAAKWIING: "In the Land of the Deceased"

Waakwiing is the realm beyond the giizhig (sky vault). Also the name for Uranus (planet 7) as well as for the star that the Arabs named Alnilam. Waakwi, the Land of the Deceased, has been associated with a far-away place where all life began. Also called Gaagige-minawaanigoziwining: "The Land of Everlasting Happiness."



Waaseyaa, which is Ojibwemowin for "Light," is a reference to the planet named Venus (Solis planet 2) in Western astrology. Also called Waaseyasiged Azhebaashkaabizod Aki: "the Bright Planet That Spins Backwards."


WAAZAKONEWED: "It Gives Off Light" (Planet X)


WENABOZHO ANANG or WIISAGEJAAK ANANG is the Nanabush Star Constellation

It is located at the end of Binesiwi-miikana, “the Thunderbird’s Path,” also called Jiibay-miikana/zibii, “the Path/River of Souls” (the Milky Way). It is depicted in the top left corner of the above image as a hare (which is one of Wenabozho's physical manifestations) in a white canoe shooting an arrow at Mishibizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe’ (the Great Lynx constellation, called Leo and Hydra by their Latin and Greek names). The Great Lynx is depicted in the bottom left corner as a green catlike figure with horns and a long tail.

Wenabozho, or Nanabush/Nanabozho, also called Wiisagejaak (Crane Spirit) by the Anishininiwag (Oji-Cree), a beloved trickster-transformer often pictured as a hare, is the elder brother and teacher of the Anishinaabeg, and closely related to Ma’iingan, the Wolf (see Ma’iingan Anang). There are many Wenabozho stories; according to tradition, they are orally told when there is snow on the ground.

Wenabozho is visible in the southeast in June and includes the constellation called Scorpio in Western astronomy. This constellation is often depicted as Wenabozho shooting an arrow at the Mishibizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe’ (Great Lynx, the Curly Tail).

Some Anishinaabeg use the term Nanabozho Anang (Wenabozho Anang) for the Orion constellation during the summer moons; as soon as the first snow falls Nanabozho Anang changes into Gaa-biboonikaan, “One Who Brings the Winter.” Wenabozho/Gaa-biboonikaan – depicted at the bottom of the image as a blue and white medicine sky man holding an otter medicine bag in his left hand – points the jiibayag (soul-spirits of the deceased) the way to our source and origin, which is Bagoni-giizhig –“Hole in the Sky,” a constellation the ancient Greeks named the Pleiades. The “Hole in the Sky” – depicted as a silver ring with gold spider and sun motifs – gives access to Jiibay-miikana, the Path of Souls. See also: Gaa-biboonikaan, Jiibay-miikana, Misaabe, Mishibizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe’, and Wiindigoo.


WIINDIGOO (alpha Orionis)

Wiindigoo, a cannibal winter monster from the North, does not only live in the below-world; old Anishinaabe star stories relate of a celestial being with the same name that lies in ambush along the Jiibay-miikana (Milky Way) to snatch those unprepared for the celestial journey. Wiindigoo, which is part of the Gaa-biboonikaan (Bringer of Winter, Orion) winter constellation, is called alpha Orionis on Western star maps.

From basic Anishinaabe star lore we know that Wenabozho was represented in the belt of Gaa-biboonikaan; close to Gaa-biboonikaan sits the Ma’iingan constellation (“Wolf”: called Canis Major on the Western star maps). Between them and Gichi Makwa (the “Great Bear” or “Big Dipper”) is the bright red star Ishpiming Wiindigoo or "the Wiindigoo in the Sky"; depicted here right above the right shoulder of the Bringer of Winter (beneath the red and white Amik/Beaver constellation).

An Anishinaabe aadizookaan (traditional story) explains Wiindigoo’s bright red color. A long time ago, Wenabozho (Nanabozho) and his brother Wolf once fought a wiindigoo by taking a menstrual cloth from Nookomis, their grandmother, and throwing it at the wiindigoo, covering him in blood. Nookomis, in Anishinaabe cosmology, has always been associated with Dibiki-giizis or grandmother moon who, as we know, controls the menstrual cycle of women on earth. See also: Aadawaa'amoog, Giizhig-anang, Gaa-biboonikaan, Wenabozho, and Ma’iingan.


WIISAGEJAAK ANANG, or Crane Spirit Constellation


ZHAAWAN-ANANG, Southern Star (Jupiter)

See: Ogimaa.



² Pre-contact: of or relating to the period before contact of the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg with the Mooniyaag (European colonizers). ^ ³ Source: Teachings of the Eagle Feather, part 7 by Zhaawano Giizhik. ^

On the southern shore of Naadowewi-gichigami (Great Rattle Snake Lake, nowadays called Lake Huron), in a place called Kikonaang, “the place of the kettles,” mysterious round stones lie scattered about; in the old days these stones were believed to be the eggs of the Thunderbirds that nested on the jagged, high point of land jutting into the lake. Source: "Gibwanasii and Thunder Eagle Woman" by Zhaawano Giizhik. ^

A teaching by Ogimaawab Joseph Sutherland. ^

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