I’m writing today on a very personal matter. To share with you my whirlwind experience in reaching my second degree of the Midewiwin.
Yes, I completed my walk and made it to the doorway for the second time.
My son Zoon Gaabow completed his walk with me, being initiated into the first degree of the Midewiwin. I’m so proud of him. He’s a wonderful Midewiwin boy who will grow up to be a strong Midewiwin man.
My experience was like no other. It was moving. It was surreal. It was deeply spiritual.
For the first time in my life, I truly seen the Spirit – visually.
I had briefly seen this before at the Midewiwin Lodge in Kettle and Stony Point back in October. It was then that a red-coloured swirling showed me the work of the second degree during a few fleeting moments on the rain-soaked grounds along Lake Huron. That same feeling came to me a hundred-fold as I leaned back against my pole during Spring Ceremonies in Bad River, Wisconsin on June 3, 2007.
My tale starts with my walk on the trail. As an initiate, you walk the length of the Lodge, around, and back again. During the first part of the walk, you contemplate your life to this point. All those things that you’ve done and brought you to that point in your life. The second part of the walk is to look ahead. It is during that second part of the walk that I looked at my family life – my children, and what life may have in store for us. I am truly committed to that next part of my life’s journey.
Following the run for my life and being placed against my Mide-ahtig (Midewiwin tree or pole) and settle in to the next part of the ceremony. As Bawdwaywidun speaks, I begin to see movement. The movement appears to be coming from the Eastern Door where I am intently focused. At first the movement is kind of distracting. But I soon realize that the movement is coming from the Spirit World around me. Do I dare concentrate on that movement? Should I look at the Spirit? For me, that was a resounding ‘yes’!
Sitting in the lap of Mother Earth, against the sacred pole – as my eyes concentrate on the Eastern Door, I begin to visualize small beads of light. They remind me of fireflies. They move all around me. They come in and out from the Eastern Door. One particular “firefly”, comes in through the Eastern Door and flies right up into my face. Literally, only a few centimetres from my eyes in full “3-D”. Then it stops dead in front of me and just as quick – flies off towards the southeast side of the Lodge. It was wicked!! It was moving.
During the presentation of the Megis shell by Mary Deleary, I am fully immersed visually actually looking for these Spirit beings. During the Megis presentation dance, the track of these “fireflies” are no longer random around the lodge. They come straight up from below. Many of these beads of lights… Straight up – then leave… Straight up – then leave… In retrospect, I figure there was a Spirit Being for each Megis dancer: six dancers, times four initiates, for twenty-four distinct Spirit Beings that I can actually see in the Lodge. Talk about “firefly city”!
Meanwhile, as the Western Doorway ceremony is beginning, I begin to envision my Dad and my Grandmother. Together? I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Dad and my Mom’s mom together, ever! But they were calling me from the Western Doorway during that time. They were there.
As the dancing begins, silhouetted in the white haze of the Eastern Door – I begin to see shapes of the Clans. First, the fish clan. Fish? Then a sturgeon. Sturgeon? Really? Following that: the Crane, Loon, Deer, Bear, Wolf, Martin. A snake squiggles by, moving upwards from left to right of the Eastern Doorway. The Thunderbird flies straight up. I can feel N’gig (otter), who appears to me later in the form of A’Zhowshko Binaishee Kwe’s Midewayaan (pelt). As the dancing continues for the other initiates, I ask myself: Where’s my Clan?
I realize the clans who visited me were preparing to dance:
Cindy Henry: Sturgeon
Nick Deleary: Loon
Mary Deleary: Wolf
Janice St. Germaine: Bear
Merle Pegahmagabow: Deer
Jim Dumont: Martin
Snake: who has special meaning for A’Zhowshko.
My Grandmother: Thunderbird
My Mom: Crane
Finally, as my dancers begin dancing for me – Migizi (the eagle) arrives in the upper left part of the Eastern Door. In the upper right part of the Eastern Door, is my Dad. I feel the flood of emotion open up in me, as the swirling visuals of the Spirit World intensify. I don’t even see dancers or their colourful masks. I can see nothing but Spirit. (Except for Murray Sinclair, who walks straight across my line of sight.)
I remain focused on the Eastern Door. I decide that when a dancer interrupts my gaze on the doorway, I’d fix my attention on their Midewayaan. Great strategy!
It all starts out well, until my brand new Mideweyaan arrives and my Megis is injected with life. Mary Deleary whisks by me – and I clamp my hand shut tightly.
My second shot was quite memorable. After Janice hit my left hand and whispered my name, my left hand fell off my lap. My instant reaction (actually a spiritual reflex) was to grip that shot, follow-through and return my hand to my lap, just like an NHL goalie would snare a puck with his glove.
What I noticed about my third and fourth shoulder shots, was the visual of the Midewayaans. Both Merle and Jim’s pelts glowed with an intense spiritual aura that is described to us in our teachings. Their high status as upper degree is evident by their intense aura. It was very evident in their manipulation of their animals and the delivery of the Spirit. I am just about “out of it” by this time.
By the time, I return my focus on the next dancer.
Finally, the swirling begins around me. I can see a huge glowing animal high above the Lodge. My Uncle Nick’s five foot Otter pelt. It’s hard to concentrate on the Eastern Door as I am being bombarded with life, with Spirit, dancing Spiritual beings, beautiful Midewiwin pelts, the song of the Grandfather water drums all around me. As he gets closer, my gaze moves toward the right side of the Lodge. The red haze, the swirling, is now a vapour trail moving quickly. Anytime now. It’s going to hit me. I follow the red Spirit trail as it moves toward me. In a sudden, accelerated rush of Spirit – the red trail envelopes me whole. Gifts that were once on my lap scatter across the trail. My Uncle Nick, all six foot-six of him (and his five-foot long pelt) are on top of me. He’s fallen into my lap and shot me in the heart. The sudden unexpected fall catches everyone else off guard – except me, the Spirit and Migizi-inini. It is just as it was meant to be.
I lie back in a daze. Cindy, my tail dancer settles the Spiritual work around me bringing me back into this world. Someone gives me water and I take a sip. Someone has put my new Midewayaan around me and I cradle it.
(The day before, my son Griffin got his new Midewayaan, which I commented was the most beautiful one I have ever seen. It had a first degree teaching beaded into the foot pads. It was Midewiwin blue with beautiful ribbons and adornments. He looks like a handsome, proud Midewiwin man ready for a pow-wow or a dance or something. It is so beautiful.)
When I finally looked down at my Midewayaan – I see that it looks almost exactly like Griffin’s. Like son. Like father. I embrace by new life, my Megis, my pelt. The first and second degree teaching is beaded on the foot pads. Affixed is an eagle feather to represent my clan on my beautiful mink’s shirt. Ears are sewn in, so I can hear her better. I break down again, sobbing like crazy. What an amazing and beautiful experience.
I slowly gain my composure, put two hands on the ground and push myself up.
“We’ve got a new brother!” screams Midemiigwan in the Lodge soundsystem. I’ve been given beautiful, new Midewiwin Life. Again. Chi-miigwetch G’zhemnidoo. G’chi-miigwetch Midemnidoo.
Thank you, Bob, for sharing that wonderful experience. It is very moving. I do not now much about Midewiwin yet but I am looking forward to learn more.
Miigwetch for sharing your experience! The spirit world is full of our ancestors and other good things. I’ve seen very little of it, you have seen much yet still so little. I have wondered how Midewewin may have changed since it’s resurrection – your experience tells me it has changed very little. I look forward to learning more.