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Teachings of the Eagle Feather, part 29: Look Within Yourself for Love

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Binaakwe Giizis/Falling Leaves Moon (October 26, 2021)


Zhaawanart Migizi miigwan wedding rings


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

Today's story features a set of wedding rings created at my workbench and reflecting a lesson about probably the most essential ingredient of life: love. Zaagi'idiwin, or Mutual Love, is the second Grandmother/Grandfather Teaching of the Anishinaabeg peoples. But why is it so essential and what does it mean, to love someone or something?


Norval Morrisseau Tree of Life
"Tree of Life," acrylic on canvas by the late Miskwaabik Animikii



To our ancestors, Love (or zaagi) was meant to be an outward expression. But nowadays we have turned love into a self-centered act; it’s all about me and what I love... I love money, I love food, I love pleasure, et cetera. And we need it NOW. However, according to the second Grandfather teaching, we should return instead to the selfless, outward expression of love that our language teaches us, to give our love out to others, our relatives, all earth's and water's and sky's creatures.

Below we see a few examples in Anishinaabemowin, our language, of this outward expression of zaagi:*

Zaagidenenaniwetaw: "stick out one's tongue at someone"

Zaagidin: "put someone out" Zaagidoode: "crawl out"

Haw sa, yet the notion of outwardness is probably the most beautifully expressed through the verbs 'zaagigi,' 'zaagibagaa,' and 'zaagijiwan': respectively, 'sprout, grow out,' 'leaves bud,' and 'flow out.' As if love were a tree shoot growing spontaneously out of the human heart-mind, or a river that flows toward its mouth, meandering through the countryside and blessing its banks with floods, leaving behind lakes and bringing fertility to the land...



Ganawaabandizon zhawenigewining, awiyag.

Gaawiin gidaa-zhawenimaasii awiya baamaa giishawenidizoyan.

Onjida ji-nisidotaman aanind ningodwaaswi gagiikwewinan jibwaazhawenjigeyan.

Gidaa-anokiitaan zhawenjigewin.

Gidaa-baabiitoon zhawenjigewin.

Zhawenjigwe mino-bimaadiziwin.

Gaawiin wiikaa gidaa-wiimaashkaziin gizhewaadiziwin gaye.

Gaawiin gigakendanziin gizhewaadiziwin zoongendaman.

Gaawiin gigakendanziin gizhewaadiziwin gwayakwaadiziyan.

Gizhewaadiziwin ayaa gwayakwendamowining weweni ji-nisidotaadizoyan gaye.

Inaadiziwin ji-nisidawinaman zhaagwaadiziwinan gaye gichi-apiitenidizoyan.

Gizhewaadiziwin naawisin gagiikwewinan.

Gaabizhiwaadizide’e gidizhibimiwidaasomin.

"Look within yourself for Love. Love yourself, and then love others.

You cannot love another until you first learn to love yourself.

You must understand and live the other six Teachings before you can love.

Love is worth working for.

Love is worth waiting for.

Love is the key to life.

There is no short cut to achieving the state of love

You cannot know love unless you are courageous.

You cannot know love unless you are honest.

Love is based on the wisdom to understand one’s self and the humility to accept weaknesses as well as being proud of one’s strengths.

Love has as its very core the other Teachings.

The loving heart center of each true-hearted person lies within each of us."**


Gelineau Fisher
Mitigoog Miinigoowiziwin (Gift of the Tree Nation) ©2022 Zhaawano Giizhik



Gete'ayayaag, our ancestors, have taught us that to feel true zaagi'idiwin is to know and love Gichi-manidoo (the Great Mystery) because the very breath of Gichi-manidoo is considered the giver of human life. It is through love of oneself, they said, that we express our love for the Great Mystery of Life. Migizi, the Bald Eagle, represents the Teaching of love because (s)he flies high above the earth and is therefore closer to the Great Mystery than any other creature. Love is the most elusive of all virtues and no other creature is so elusive as this mighty spirit-bird, and love has the same light and airy nature as its feathers.



Migizi miigwanan, the eagle feathers adorning the above wedding rings, therefore embody gookomisinaan/gimishoomisinaan migizi our Grandmother/Grandfaher the Bald Eagle — itself. The marquise-cut diamond mounted on the feather of the the ladies' ring symbolizes the purity of Migizi's knowledge and his/her wise lessons regarding love and introspection. The stone's off-center placement on the feather, in conclusion, is my artistic reference to the above-mentioned notion of outwardness — which, in turn, is expressed through the verb zaagigi, which means, "sprout, grow out." As if the diamond were a blade-tipped leaf sprouting spontaneously out of a tree branch in springtime...

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


* Courtesy of Stephen Saelens

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