Wawasayg: The Northern Lights

Northern Lights            During the Long Snows Moon, in the time of the Turtle Spirits, a family patriarch’s time on Earth had come to an end.  Gisheekandug had lived a long life of 90 years, which was filled with both sorrow and great joy.  When he was a young man, Gisheekandug had been gifted with great strength and stamina.  As he grew into a man, he became skilled in making all things from canoes to carvings.  He had seen the passing of two wives, many of his friends and relatives and a son into the Spirit World.  He proudly watched as his surviving son became an orator and teacher of the cultural traditions of his clan.  Gisheekandug’s three grandchildren were honored to carry his seed and legacy.  When he passed into the Spirit World, Gisheekandug was surrounded by those who loved him most.
            The family began four days of mourning and fasting.  People in the village rubbed ashes on the heads of their young ones, which was the tradition. The youngest grandson lit a fire, which was to be kept alive through four days of mourning.
            “How will grandfather find his way into the Spirit World through the long night and deep snows?” asked Nijig, his youngest grandson.
            “This is true,” replied Baybeemisaysi, his granddaughter.  “I fear grandfather will get lost if he cannot find his way.”
            Animikeeg, his oldest grandson raised his arms and face into the night sky and prayed and chanted to Gitchee Manitou, to send a guide for grandfather Gisheekandug.
            Gitchee Manitou sent Keeper of the Heavens, his greatest scout to speak to Gisheekandug’s clan in a vision.
            “It is right that those who pass over the abyss should more readily find their way into paradise.  The path is easily missed which leads into the land of brightness and plenty, where disease and pain are no more, and where foods of all kinds wait in abundance.”
        “From the fire of four days, the spirit will light a torch to find that pathway which leads into paradise.  From a great distance, those that wait patiently in paradise will encourage his approach and begin to chant.  When he arrives at the council fires of his ancestors, they will feast, chant and dance with great joy to welcome one of their own. So must you feast on the fourth day, so that you can share a meal with him and those that welcome him into paradise.”
        “Look into the night sky on the fourth night and you will know that Gisheekandug has safely arrived.”
            On the fourth night, after all had shared and discussed the vision during the time of mourning, they gazed expectantly into the sky.  On the breeze of a whisper, the night sky suddenly exploded into a blaze of swirling colors, weaving in and out only to reignite again and again.  The People were awestruck at the display.
            “Look!” yelled Animikeeg, pointing at the night sky, “Grandfather dances at the council fires!”
            So it was, and so it is, whenever we see Wawasayg, the Northern Lights, we remember our ancestors, dancing in paradise, and those who patiently wait for them at the council fires.

For my father Walter, 4-23-1920 to 12-27-2010