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Star Stories, part 9: Our Clans Among the Stars, chapter 2

Updated: 4 days ago

"THE ANISHINAABE CLANS IN THE EVERLASTING NIGHT SKY "

~~ THE COSMIC LODGE AS SEEN THROUGH ANISHINAABE EYES: A PICTORIAL GUIDE TO THE OJIBWE NAMES OF PLANETS, STARS, AND CLAN-RELATED STAR CONSTELLATIONS ~~

"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 

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 Ojibwe-oriented storytelling star map titled Gaagige Giizhig ("The Everlasting Sky"), is a free artistic rendering of the Waawiyekamig, the "Round Lodge" as the Anishinaabeg traditionally conceive the cosmos. The image highlights the connections between the doodeman (clans) in the below-world and the anangoog and aadawaa'amoog ogimaag (stars and planets) in gichi-giizhigong, the upper-world.


Below is a glossary (alphabetical list) of the names of some of the 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; see below.

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 Anishinaabe 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.

"Long ago, life for the Ojibweg would follow the circle of seasons. There was a pattern in their movements which could be plotted on a map. Ojibwe people moved from place to place with a purpose and moved in a way that could be predicted. Everything was done in the proper place and at the proper season within the circle."³

The four main constellations in Ojibwe Anishinaabe anang nibwaakaawin are important aadizookaanag (spirit grandfathers; literally "makers of sacred stories."). All four story-makers are directly connected with aandakiiwinan: the circle of seasons.


The GIIWEDIN-ANANG (the "Returning Home Star": called Polaris or North Star on Western star maps) is the brilliant white star in the center of the image – adorning the tip of the tail feathers of the MAANG (Loon) constellation (Ursa Minor/Little Dipper). The loon represents the Ogimaag Doodeman (the clan group of chiefs and spokespersons). In the above illustration we see the motion in the night sky where, viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, the four main season-related constellations (Gaa-biboonikaan, Mishi Bizhiw, Wenabozho, and Mooz) rotate counter-clockwise around the motionless Returning Home Star located in the tail of the Maang.


GAA-BIBOONIKAAN, the Wintermaker constellation – see the Sky Man with outstretched arms holding a medicine bag in his left hand – rules the night skies of biboon, winter, and occupies the celestial place called Orion on the Western star maps. This winter constellation symbolizes the aadizookedjig (the traditional sacred-storytellers of our Nations) and also reflects the spirit powers of the historical waabi-makwa doodem (polar bear clan) since it was this Bear Spirit in the north who represented the medicinal powers of Creation.


Other star constellations and clusters that we can see in the winter sky are: Bagonegiizhig, Hole in the Sky (Pleiades), Ma’iingan, the Wolf (Canis Major), Mikinaak, the Turtle (Capella), and Amik , the Beaver (Gemini).


MISHI-BIZHIW, the Great Lynx, or Curly Tail constellation – depicted as a catlike being with horns on its head and a long curly tail – dominates ziigwan (spring) and emerges as a conglomeration of the constellations named Cancer, Hydra, and Leo on Western star maps. The head of Curly Tail is located in Hydra; its long tail, which curls over his back, is the head and front paw of Leo. Traditionally, when Curly Tail is overhead, it is time for the Ojibwe Anishinaabeg to go ziigwanishi gabeshi (spring camping) and begin the annual process of ziinzibaakwadokewin (making maple sugar). This spring constellation represents the Minisiinoog, or Ogichidaag doodemag (the Defenders or Warrior clan group) on earth.


WENABOZHO (often called NANABOZHO) can be seen during niibin, the summer moons. He inhabits the space named the Scorpion constellation on Western star maps. The Ojibwe Anishinaabeg know Wenabozho, or Nanabozho, as a human-spirit hero and trickster whose parentage was a human as his mother and the Thunder Being as his father.

Wenabozho – here sitting in a birchbark canoe – is depicted with a bow and arrow. He is aiming the arrow at the spring's constellation, Mishi-bizhiw the Great Lynx, also known as Curly Tail. The Wenabozho constellation signals the annual seasonal transition from niibin, summer, to dagwaagin, autumn. When Wenabozho emerges above the horizon, he is engaging in his annual pursuit of Curly Tail. It is believed he does this in order to limit the spring floods that happen in the Great Lakes region during springtime, but since he aims at his prey from a great distance he only succeeds in a non-fatal wounding of the sky lynx. Recovering from his arrow wounds over fall and winter, the Great Sky Lynx regains his strength in spring and redominates the night skies until Gaa-biboonikaan, the Bringer of Winter reappears on the scene. The trickster Wenabozho, who, when on earth, enjoys shapeshifting into a misaabooz or jackrabbit, represents aadizookanag (the sacred story-makers, protagonists of countless stories told during the long winter nights) and also Waabooz doodem, or the Snowshoe Hare/Rabbit clan of the Ojibweg and Bodéwadmik – which is part of the greater clan group of Gaayosedjig (the Providers).


MOOZ, the Moose, in conclusion, has his residence in the same area as the constellation called Pegasus by the ancient Greeks. Like Wenabozho, the celestial moose represents dagwaagin (the fall season) and also Gaayosedjig Doodeman (the Providers clan group on earth), whose members look after the tasks of scouting, hunting, and gathering.

AN UNILLUSTRATED LIST OF THE ANISHINAABE CONSTELLATIONS CLASSIFIED ACCORDING TO THE FOUR SEASONS:


ZIIGWAN - SPRING

Mishi-bizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe': Great Lynx, the Curly Tail (Leo and Hydra)

Madoodiswan/Binesii-wazison: Sweat Lodge/Thunderbird Nest (Corona Borealis)

BIBOON - WINTER

Gaa-biboonikaan/Misaabe: Bringer of Winter/the Giant (Orion, Canis Minor, Taurus) Ma'iingan Anang: Wolf Star (Canis Major)

Amik Anangoog: Beaver Stars (Gemini)

Mashkode Bizhiki (Bison): Perseus

DAGWAAGIN - FALL

Mooz: Moose (Pegasus)

Bagonegiizhig: Hole in the Sky (Pleiades)

Madoodoowasiniig: Stones of the Sweat Lodge (Pleiades)

NIIBIN - SUMMER

Wenabozho/Nanabozho: the Great Hare Trickster (Scorpio and Orion)

Mishi-ginebig (Great Serpent): Scorpio

Ajiijaak/Bineshi Okanin/Binesi: Crane/Skeleton Bird/Thunderbird (Cygnus)

Noondeshin Bemaadizid: Exhausted Person (Sweat Lodge Bather): Hercules Midewigaan: the Medicine Lodge (Lyra)

CIRCUMPOLAR - ALL YEAR ROUND

Maang: Loon (Little Dipper)

Gichi-makwa: Big Bear (Big Dipper) (historical; Pre-contact era)

Ojiig: Fisher (Big Dipper) (Post-contact era)

Giiwedin Anang: Returning Home Star (Polaris)

Manoominike Anang: Wild-Ricing Star (Cassiopeia)

Mikinaak Anangoog: Turtle Stars (Capella)

AN ALPHABETICAL LIST OF STARS, PLANETS, AND STAR FORMATIONS ARRANGED ACCORDING TO LATIN OR GREEK NAME, FOLLOWED BY THEIR OJIBWE NAMES


Canis Major: Ma’iingan Anang

Canis Minor: Gaa-biboonikaan/Misaabe

Capella: Mikinaak Anangoog

Cassiopeia: Manoominike Anang

Corona Borealis: Madoodiswan/Binesii-wazison

Cygnus: Ajiijaak/Bineshi Okanin/Binesi

Gemini: Amik Anangoog

Hercules: Noondeshin Bemaadizid

Hydra: Mishi-bizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe'

Jupiter: Ogimaa, Zhaawan-anang

Leo: Mishi-bizhiw Gaa-ditibaanowe'

Lyra: Midewigaan

Neptune: Gichigami

Ursa Major: Ojiig Anang, Gwaaba’igan, Aadawaamoog

Ursa Minor: Maang, Makoons, Ojiig Anangoons/Ojiigansikwe

Orion: Gaa-biboonikaan/Misaabe/Wenabozho

Pegasus: Mooz

Perseus: Mashkode Bizhiki

Pleiades: Bagonegiizhig, Madoodoowasiniig

Polaris: Giiwedinanang

Saturn: Gitigaane

Scorpio: Wenabozho (Nanabozho), Mishi-ginebig

Sirius: Giizhig Anang

Taurus: Gaa-biboonikaan/Misaabe

Venus: Giizhig Anang, Nigaabii-anang, Waaban-anang

AN ILLUSTRATED, ALPHABETICAL LIST OF THE KNOWN ANISHINAABE STARS, CONSTELLATIONS & PLANETS

AADAWAA'AMOOG, or ODAADAWA'AMOOG: “They Go With Someone in a Canoe.” The three stars in the middle of the Gaa-biboonikaan winter constellation (Orion) are so close together they look as if they could be a hunter’s belt. By following a straight line from right to left through Gaa-biboonikaan’s belt, a path can be traced to Giizhig-anang the brightest star in the evening sky, within the constellation Ma’iingan (Canis Major). Giizhig-anang is called Sirius on the Western star maps.


The three stars that make up Orion's Belt (the three blue stars depicted in the figure of the Bringer of Winter, portrayed here as a Medicine Man raising his right arm and holding a otter medicine bag in his left hand) are imagined to be aadawaa'amoog: spirits traveling the Jiibay Miikana in celestial canoes.

This "Path of Souls," called Milky Way in the English language, was believed to be the "spirit path" that the souls of deceased humans followed to the spirit world after death.


See also: Gaa-biboonikaan, Giizhig-anang, Jiibay Miikana, Ma'iingan Anang, and Wenabozho Anang.

AJIIJAAK is translated into English as Sandhill Crane. Another word for this 9-star constellation is Bineshi Okanin, the skeleton bird. This 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. 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 flyimng north. The image to the left 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.

See also: Binesi, Binesii-wazison, and Maang Anang.

AKI, the Earth. Also called Mikinaakominis: "Turtle Island." The earth that the Anishinaabeg live on is imagined to rest on the shield of a giant sea turtle. Depicted here as a silver turtle hair barrette featuring a stylized turquoise and red coral wolf paw. The wolf paw represents the Anishinaabeg doodeman (Ojibwe clans) on earth.


See also: Giizhigookwe and Dibiki-giizis.


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

AMIK ANANGOOG is translated into English as the Beaver stars. 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 is known and 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). See also: Mooz.

BAASHKANANGOOG: shooting stars. See: Jiingwanan.

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 Bagonagiizhig: the madoodiswan, or sweat lodge purification ceremony, and the jiisaakaan, or shaking tent ceremony.

The seven stars of Bagonegiizhig, besides telling the traditional story of the seven sisters, are believed to represent the seven poles used in the construction of the jiisakaan. In a spiritual context, the lodge that the jaasakid (shaking tent medicine person) builds 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 seven 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 our origin. It is the place of Nizhwaaswi Gagiikwewinan (the Seven 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 the Bagonegiizhig. We have stories of sky woman, of the seven sisters, and of our 13 grandmothers. In the summer the Wenabozho constellation (Nanabozho) 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, and Wenabozho.

BEBOONIKED ANANGOOG: see Gaa-biboonikaan.

BIIDAABAN ANAGOOG, is translated into English as the Dawn Arrives Stars. The smaller star 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. 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. See also: Waaban-anang.

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.

While Thunderbirds are associated with taloned birds like eagle and hawks, they are also known to appear along with all the other migrating birds as soon as the winter is over, and by the time the trees shed their leaves they are believed to return to their nests on top of table mountains to rest until spring arrives.


As “spirits of the sky realm,” Thunderbirds are considered the most pervasive and powerful beings of all the aadizookaanag – Spirit Grandfathers, Supernatural Makers of Stories – that guard the four cardinal points of the Universe. They are related to the south and the summer – which is the time of year when the storms rumble over the Great Lakes. The peal of thunder echoing from every side of the lakes – which are surrounded by dense forests and bordered by rocks – makes it impossible to be unaware their powerful presence. The Binesiwag leave their homes on high cliffs and mountain peaks in the west in the beginning of spring and come to Earth in different forms and guises and sizes – as winged beings, or sometimes even in human form – to visit the Anishinaabeg and also to drive off the (possibly malevolent) underground spirits from the Earth and the waters of lakes and rivers. They are in charge of the warm weather and procure and maintain the warm seasons on Earth, which is why they migrate with the birds that appear in spring and disappear in the fall. Their thunder claps herald the presence of powerful manidoog or Spirit Beings, and their lightning arrows carry strong Medicine.


The Binesi constellation is the stellar reflection of the binesiwag that visit the below-world in spring and summer. It is believed that some of the old paintings and inscriptions of the Thunderbird figure that can be found on cliff walls all across the Great Lakes and a vast territory to the north and northwest are artistic depictions of the celestial Binesi constellation.


It has also been suggested that some depictions of the Binesi star formation are equivalent to the constellation of Ajijaak, the Sandhill Crane. (To the Anishinaabeg, both Binesi and Ajijaak are ogimaag or leaders; where crane is the first in council, the Thunderbird is a leader in the spiritual and ceremonial domain.) The Binesi/Ajijaak star formation (see below image) is called Cygnus (the Swan) on Western star maps. It is also possible that our ancestors regarded the nearby constellations of the Pegasus/Andromeda as a Thunderbird. There is no reason to think that there could only have been one Binesi constellation; to our ancestors, the region of the night sky was filled with Thunderbirds. As for the rock paintings, the many artistic depictions of binesiwag might well represent different constellations in the night sky. See also: Ajijaak, Binesii-wazison, and Madoodiswan.

BINESIWI-MIIKANA, “the Thunderbird’s Path”: 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 star 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 plays a sacred role in many Native cultures throughout Turtle Island (North America), including that of the Anishinaabeg. The basic design for a madoodiswan – as is the Ojibwe word for the sweat lodge – is a low canopy of wooden poles covered with animal skins or canvas cloth. Participants gather within the madoodiswan as heated stones -– sometimes addressed as nimishoomisaabikoon, "Grandfathers" – are brought in and placed in a depression in the center. Water is poured over the stones to create steam. The madoodiswan is a place to cleanse and heal the spirit, mind, body, and emotions.

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 and the Hole-in-the-Sky (Bagonegiizhig) constellations trade places in the sky after about 12 hours time.

In the old days, Anishinaabeg weshkiniigijig (youth of both genders) underwent a ritual complex called makadekewin, or “Vision Quest.” They received preparatory instructions for the makadekewin from their grandparents or trusted community Elders. Final preparation required gii'igwishimowin, or spiritual fasting, which typically lasted eight days. The waaseyaabindamowin, or dream-vision (literally: "being in a state of being light, or clear") was usually sought after in remote, mystic spots where there was a large density of spiritual presence. Isolated fasting and plaintive contemplation, usually for four days and nights, were necessary to reach such a state of spiritual enlightenment which, once realized, ideally provided for guidance for life. In times of confusion, stress, or trouble, the owner of a waaseyaabindamowin could reflect on the most minute elements of the dream-vision or upon the broadest cosmological symbolism of the dream-vision. The waaseyaabindamowin was usually of a bawaagan: a guardian spirit in the form of an animal or a bird. The subject of the waaseyaabindamowin could be an awe- inspiring thing, animal, or natural phenomenen, such as Thunder, which had profound cosmological significance.


The higher the altitude of the location and the more powerful the subject of the dream, the more spiritually powerful the dreamer would become in his later life. A dream-vision of Migizi (Bald Eagle), or a Giniw (Golden Eagle), or an Eshkamegwenh (Osprey), and, particularly, a Binesi (Thunderbird), was gichi-mashkawendaagwad (deemed extremely powerful). A possible stage for such a dream-vision could be a bird's nest at the top of a tall, limbless zhingobiiwaatig (pine tree) at the edge of a steep cliff. But such elevated places, filled with dangerous levels of the spiritual energy of the raptorial birds that inhabited them, were only reserved for the bold; no humble or timid youth would seek such a dream since they would likely fall to death ... Lesser visions that were less demanding on the dreamer were never a cause for shame. Yet there are instances known of Anishinaabe teenager vision-seekers who were bold enough to go out to a rocky area to build a nest of sticks in a tall tree; some of them even stayed seven or nine days or whatever it took to achieve a vision. Needless to say that if they received a vision and could make it back to their community alive, their future would be marked with gichi animikii-manidookewin (great thunder power).

The Binesii-wazison constellation in the night sky is a reflection of the Thunderbird nests that can be found at higher altitudes on Earth. Persons who laid eyes on these nests and were lucky enough to live to tell about it, returned with stories of how they spotted Binesii-waawananoon (Thunderbird eggs) in the nests; it is these eggs that we can still see in a clear night sky in the form of a constellation of seven bright stars close together, it's bowl-shape suggesting the shape of a Thunderbird nest. See also: Ajijaak, Binesi, and Madoodiswan.

CHI-OGIMA(A) ANANG, or GICHI-OGIMA(A) ANANG, is translated as the Great Chief Star, and is 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 Gookomisinaan, our Grandmother. See also Gichi Makwa.

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.” In Ininew (Cree) language, it is called Mistapiw, also translated 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 changes into Gaa-biboonikaan, “One Who Brings the Winter.” Wenabozho points the jiibayag (soul-spirits of the deceased) the way to 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 Winte 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 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 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.

GENONDAWE'ANANG (“Long-Tailed Climbing Star"). 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.

GICHIGAMI: the "Great Sea." Called Neptune (Solis planet 8) in Western astrology, Gichgami is the eighth and farthest-known Solar planet from Giizis, the Sun. See also: Gitigaane (Saturn) and Ogimaa (Jupiter).

GICHI-GIIZHIGONG: "In the Great Sky." In Anishinaabe cosmology, Aki, the Earth, has a dome over it, or in Western terms, a Vault. From Earth to the Vault is called ishpiming. The Vault layer is giizhigong; it is on the giizhigong that the sun, moon, and the stars hang off of. The realm beyond the Vault is called waakwiing. The collective of the ishpiming, giizhigong, and waakwiing is summarized as gichi-giizhigong.

GICHI MAKWA (or 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. The Ursa Major contains 15 stars in total.


“Gwaaba’igan” (Dipper), “Aadawaamoog” (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 commonlly 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 resembles 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 in ancient times represented three hunters chasing the celestial bear,are the handle of the dipper.


Throughout the ages, however, the Ojibweg or rather, their forebears 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, and Ojiig Anangoons.

GICHI MISKWAABIK ANANG: "Great Copper Star," 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.

GIIWEDIN ANANG, or GIIWEDANANG, is translated into English as the North Star (Polaris). Also called Gichi-anang (“Great 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 (who shines at nightfall) and Waaban-anang (who 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. 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,” 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.


GIIZHIGOOKWE: Sky Woman. 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: the Sun. Often called Gimishoomisinaan, our Grandfather.

GITIGAANE: the sixth planet from Giizis, the Sun, and the second-largest planet in the Solar System. Called Saturn in Western astrology. Depicted here next to the large planet called Ogimaa (Jupiter).







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

GWIIGWANAN: comets, meteors. See Jiingwanan.

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. See: Niigaabi-anang.

JIIBAY-MIIKANA: the Milky Way. Jiibay-miikana 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 marked across the sky by the Milky Way galaxy when it is turned westward. 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 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.

The above illustration shows the Jiibay-miikana 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 of a decasesed 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'IDIWAG 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. 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.

Artwork by Simone McLeod ("Night Watchers," ©Simone McLeod 2018 ).

JIINGWANAN or Gwiigwanan: comets, meteors. Also called baashkanangoog, shooting stars, wiiyagasenhmood anangoog, dust-tailed stars, and enwaachiged anangoog, prophet stars.

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 (symbolized by the gold-and-turquoise disk necklace in the image) 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 would return and either restore life from a new beginning or help the People to survive and thrive again.


See also: Genondawe'anang, Gwiingwa'aage, and Mishi-ginebig.

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/Ojiig-anangoons asterism (called both Ursa Minor and Little Dipper on the Western star maps) is 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.

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 spiritial 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: Little Loon Star, 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.

MADOODISWAN: “Sweat Lodge.” Depicted 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 above image. 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, and Madoodoowasiniig.

MADOODOOWASINIIG or MADOODOOWASINAN: “Stones of the Sweat Lodge,” 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. 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 and Anishinaabeg have many things in common. The virtue of humbleness is one of the similarities, as we have seen earlier. But there is another habit of wolves that our ancestors seem to have emulated in their approach to the world of the spirit beings. In winter wolves, when running on the ice, sometimes stop and face the east, the south, the west, and the north, just as we face these four cardinal points in turn when we perform our spiritual ceremonies.


Another (post-contact) aadizokaan about the legendary, spiritual companionship between Anishinaabeg - particularly Wenabozho/Wiisagejaak - and Wolf that is similar to the above told stories goes as follows: "One day, a long time ago, Wenabozho, the semi-human spirit and benefactor of the Anishinaabeg, befriended a Wolf, whose name was Gekinoo’amaaged Ma’iingan, The Teacher Who Makes Strange Noises. The latter became also known as Zhewenimaad: "He Who Has Great Compassion to Help Others." Wenabozho and the Teacher became brothers and together they walked naming all of the other creatures on Aki, the earth, such as the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the trees, the plants, and the animals, the insects, the birds, and the fish. The two brothers had many adventures together on Aki and they took great pleasure in tricking each other. Both had the power of shapeshifting; this means that they often transformed into any animal or human form. Although it was Wiinabozho who was the most daring and imaginative of the two, it was Mai’iingan, who showed great compassion and often guided Wiinabozho and taught him valuable lessons of wisdom. So, since he was the elder and wiser brother of Wenabozho, Gekinoo'amaaged Ma’iingan taught Wenabozho many things. First, he taught Wenabozho to hunt moose - which the latter then taught the Anishinaabeg. Then he gave Wenabozho one of his teeth - the first arrowhead -, which Wenabozho then used to make fire with. Thus Wenabozho shared with the Anishinaabeg many teachings and survival techniques obtained from Teacher Wolf. When Ma’iingan was finished teaching he and Wenabozho went different ways, and Ma’iingan was sent by GICHI-MANIDOO to jiibay-miikana (the Spirit Trail; the Milky Way) to await all Anishinaabeg who pass on so that he could show them the way to the Land of Souls...and at clear nights we can see Wolf's dwelling place hanging in the sky, the trail that he guards illuminated by the countless campfires of the ancestors who moved to the Spirit World before us..."


Again, stories like the ones above reflect how much humankind is indebted to the wolf. All stories told here shed light on how much our ancestors were aware of the humanlike characteristics of wolves and the social, basically non-violent personalities they possess and on why we regard them as our educators and important spiritual teachers. See also: Gaa-biboonikaan, Giizhig Anang, Mooz, and Wenabozho Anang.

MA'IINGAN MIIKANA, “Wolf Trail,” 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.


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 Oshkaabewis (Mercury) seemed to travel retrograde (westward in relation to anangoog, the stars).

As keen observers of nature, they noticed that, although ma'iinganag (wolves) usually travel in packs, sometimes a lone wolf rebelliously sets off in a different direction for a while to hunt for moozoog (moose) before eventually rejoining the pack. This is why they saw Ma’iingan’s presence on earth