In Anishinaabe cosmology, the celestial bodies of the upper sky are associated with physical and symbolic light, and with enlightenment and wisdom. It is in the upper sky vault, too, that the Land of Peace is situated. It is a land of happiness reached within four days by the spirits of the deceased that travel djiibe-miikana, the trail of souls.
A dazzling blue light in the northern skies the Anishinaabeg sometimes see at night illuminates this trail: the waasnode, or northern lights.
The three principal stars are Ningaabi-Anang (the Evening Star in the west), Waaban-anang (the Morning Star of the east), and Odjiig-anang (the Fisher Star, or the constellation of the Big and Little Dipper). These and many other stars, their position and movement governed by The Great Laws of Nature, have each their own portion of the mystery of creation; each fulfills his unique role in the sacred stories that are told by the aadizoogewininiwag and aadizoogekwewag (male and female story tellers) during the long winter nights.
Ningaabi-anang, also called “Star Sinking in Waters” or “Women’s Star”, is a powerful medicine man residing in the realm of Epangishimaag (the West). He is the patron of all women and the former tutor of the younger Waaban (Dawn). Representing old age and nibwaakaawin, or wisdom, he teaches healing and patience and the need for selfrestraint.
Waaban-anang, the Morning Star, is an equally powerful medicine man of the eastern skies, embodying youth and gikendaasowin (knowledge), which makes him the eternal rival of his former teacher, the Evening Star of the east.
Although neither one has more power or medicine than the other, Dawn and Evening to this day continue their duel – thus symbolizing the eternal conflicts and dualisms within the human soul, and human society.
Odjiig-anang is a constellation of several bright stars resembling an odjiig (fisher) with an arrow sticking in its tail; called Big and Little Dipper, or Bear by the Euro-Americans. Odjiig is a weasel, or marten-like animal, small and fierce with a long body, an expert and lively hunter of the northwoods, who represents the doodem of hunters among several bands of Anishinaabeg from the Great Lakes area. He stands particularly for singleness of purpose, and good sense.
Many, many moons ago, when the fearless Kababoonka had the earth still covered with snow and ice all the year round, an agidakamigoo (a being that lives on the surface of the earth as distinguished from underworld creatures), a daring hunter by the name of Odjiig, assumed the shape of the Fisher and, with the aid of the Wolverine, ascended to the realms of the Sky Fathers in a desperate attempt to steal Niibin, the summer.
However, when the celestial beings caught Odjiig opening the wadabiimakakoon (baskets) filled with summer birds and fowls, setting them free and letting warm breezes descend to the cold earth below, they wounded him with their magic arrows.
Hereupon Odjiig, who still had the shape of a fisher, died from loss of blood from his tail. By his death, Odjiig completed the arrangement of the skies. At clear nights the Anishinaabeg can still see him, and they still revere Odjiig for having, through his death, succeeded in procuring the varying seasons. He became the everlasting signpost of the seasons. Thanks to Odjiig, the Anishinaabeg now have from eight to ten moons without snow…