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Teachings from the Tree of Life, part 1

"Looking into the Healing Mirror"

Onaabani-giizis (Crusty Snow Moon; March 30), 2017

Wiinabozho and the Storytellers' Mirror protosketch by Native Woodland artist Zhaawano Giizhik

Illustration: pen-and-ink protosketch of the digital painting "Wiinabozho and the Storytellers' Mirror" by Zhaawano Giizhik, 2012.

"When confusion sets into your life, you have the ability to choose another branch from the tree of life and follow that branch towards discovery. When you stand back and take a good look, you have so much branches to choose from."*

- James Mishibinijima (painter)

"Sometimes the most painful lessons in life are delivered by someone masquarading as a soulmate."

- Steve Maraboli (writer)

"Intimate relationships are perilous because of the exposure and lack of control they involve. Being seriously wronged is a constant possibility, and anger, therefore, a constant and profoundly human temptation. If vulnerability is a necessary consequence of giving love its proper value, then grief is often right and valuable. It does not follow, however, that anger is so."**

- Martha Nussbaum, philosopher

Boozhoo, aaniin!

Welcome to part 1 of my brand new blog series titled Teachings from the Tree of Life, in which I connect the storytelling art of myself and kindred artists with an old Teaching that has been passed down to us by countless generations of ancestors from the time the Anishinaabe Peoples still lived in the old Dawn Land along the borders of the Atlantic Ocean. The story that I tell today features a pen-and-ink drawing, a protosketch of the painting Wiinabozho and the Storytellers' Mirror that I did in 2012. This painting marked the beginning of a life-long friendship and a fruitful artistic collaboration with painter artist Simone McLeod, originally from Pasqua Nation in Saskatchewan.

Today's Teaching focuses on dealing with abusive relationships and broken friendships and the pain that comes of breached trust, a trauma that can forever change a person's life.

In some relationships, hurting the other becomes a person's habit. It's poison, it kills. When one soulmate destroys the other because her/his inner child is broken it emotionally hollows out the one who is betrayed and left behind. The damage caused by the breakdown of the once intimate relationship is internal and goes deep; it goes to the very core of who we are. The betrayal literally kills the universe of the person who is being betrayed. It literally kills that person. The one who does the killing is only able to feel her/his own pain and moves on without feeling remorse about what she/he did to the other who had initially put all of his/her heart and trust and faith in her/him.

I truly believe that a partner constantly finding fault in his/her soulmate and systematically projecting her/his negativity and narcissistic victim syndrome on the other destroys much more than just his/her heart. Traumas and syndromes cause more traumas and syndromes and it has serious Universal implications. The pain and the hurt caused by this type of relational abuse hurts our People at large and every living thing in nature and the harmful effects reverberate and leave scars troughout all of the Universe.

We, as individuals as well as People, are in dire need of the healing mirrors our ancestors passed on to us trough storytelling and ceremony and our language, now more than ever. There is much to be learned from our Elders who are still among us and who survived many battles and storms in their own lives. We must be strong.

I must be strong.

Miigwech gibizindaw noongom mii dash gidaadizookoon. Thank you for listening to my story today. Giga-waabamin wayiiba, I hope to see you again soon.

*Excerpt from Mishmountains Blogspot, "Teachings to the Tree Of Life."

**Excerpt from Brain Pickings. Philosopher Martha Nussbaum on Anger, Forgiveness, the Emotional Machinery of Trust, and the Only Fruitful Response to Betrayal in Intimate Relationships.

Zhaawano Giizhik at Agawa offering tobacco to the spirit of the rock

About the author/artist and his inspiration

Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in North Carolina, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawitigong (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten. As an artist and a writer and a jewelry designer, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. For this he calls on his manidoo-minjimandamowin, or 'Spirit Memory'; which means he tries to remember the knowledge and the lessons of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists.

To Zhaawano's ancestors the MAZINAAJIMOWIN or ‘pictorial spirit writings’ - which are rich with symbolism and have been painted throughout history on rocks and etched on other sacred items such as copper and slate, birch bark and animal hide - were a form of spiritual as well as educational communication that gave structure and meaning to the cosmos that they felt they were an integral part of. 

Many of these sacred pictographs or petroforms – some of which are many, many  generations old - hide in sacred locations where the manidoog (spirits) reside, particularly in those mystic places near the lake's coastlines where the sky, the earth, the water, the underground and the underwater meet.

The way Zhaawano understands it, it is in these sacred places invisible to the ordinary, waking eye that his design and storyteller's inspiration originate from.

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