Today – December 26, 2019 – the new moon following the winter solstice marks the beginning of the #Abenaki calendar: it is the New Year. On this day, it is customary to ask for forgiveness of our family, friends, and community as we enter a new cycle together. And so, I say to you all “Liwlaldamana (please) anhaldamawi kassi palilawlan.”
Join Abenaki Community members on December 26, as the Vermont Indigenous Heritage Center celebrates the beginning of the New Year. The first New Moon after the Winter Solstice “sets” the traditional Abenaki agricultural calendar year. However, this astronomical event is more than a simple calendrical observance, it is also a time to pause and reflect about our relationships with others. Bring yourself, family friends and a small piece of scrap of untreated wood, cardboard or organic tree trimming, to the “Tavern” at the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum at 4:00 PM on December 26 to learn how it is done.
After a few words of welcome and greeting, we take and silently hold those small pieces of clutter and quietly think about the scraps of physical and emotional disorder that have accumulated in our lives through the dying year. This gentle meditation is the Anhaldamôwadimek, the “forgiveness time.” Through thinking sincerely, we may begin forgiving ourselves and others for hurts given and received. In doing so, we transfer a year’s remembrance of pain and disorder to the scraps in our hands. Then, as the sun sets, we bring those scraps to the Pileated Woodpecker Dance Ground, where the Sacred Fire has been lit and tended by the fire keeper. At precisely 4:52 PM, the moment when the sun sets on the year, we throw the scraps into the fire — to represent giving ourselves and others the grace of forgiveness. As the scraps are burning brightly at sunset, the Round Dance celebrates our collective hopes for a clean emotional and physical slate for the upcoming year. After the symbolic clutter in our lives is consumed by cleansing fire, we retire back indoors for the New Years’ greetings ceremonials. We pass around the Alnôbaiwi wampum belt of mourning; for people to share, if they wish, stories of loved ones who have passed. This witnessing ritual carries memory safely into the infant year. And, in a new wrinkle to the old Alamikkôwadin (“people greet each other time”) tradition, we go through our cell phone contact list, then text a greeting to old, but neglected friends and colleagues. Drumming, singing and greeting old and new friends punctuate and complete the ceremony. It is now up to us to live up to the ancient promises, covenants and relations among, sun, moon, and our feelings — and in so doing, set the stage for a wonderful New Year.
Where: Ethan Allen Homestead Museum
1 Ethan Allen Drive
Burlington, VT 05408
(802) 865 4556
Time: December 26, 2019
PROGRAM: Forgiveness Day Celebration Program
- Welcome by EAHM and Heritage Center
Welcome Song, Greeting song
- Explanation of the Ceremony
- Thinking about Forgiveness
- Procession to the Fire @4:45
- Four Directions and Countdown to Sunset
- Throwing in the scraps @ 4:52 PM
- Round Dance
- Procession Back to the Tavern
- Death Song
- Passing the Mourning Belt
- Song (TBD)
- Cellphone Ceremony
- Song (TBD)
The full moon shines tonight – in the last month of the solar year – just after midnight, on December 12, 2019 (by the modern Gregorian calendar). It is the middle of the final lunar cycle that began with the new moon on November 26 and which will renew on December 26. The lunar moon again comes close to aligning with the calendrical month within this cycle, as we pass from Tagu8go, the Autumn season, into Pebon, the Winter.
The twelfth full moon of the Western Abenaki solar year is the Winter Maker, Pebonkas, following the preceding eleventh month of Mzatanos, the Freezing Current Maker. Another name for this moon is Kchikizos, the Great Moon. Within this cycle, the shortest day and the longest night of the year approaches on the Winter Solstice, on December 21st. Bare trees are silhouetted against the crystal blackness as Nanibosad, the all-night walker, crosses the sky world in all her glory.
The name of the moon is a combination of simple roots: “pebon” which signifies “winter” combined with “k-a-s” as an abbreviated form for “maker” and “moon” together. It is pronounced PEH-buhn-kahs, the Winter Maker Moon. The alternate name, Kchikizos, is a combination of the two words “kchi” for “great” and “kizos” for the “full moon.” It is pronounced kih-TSEE-kee-zoose, the Great Moon.
As the Solstice marks the reversing of the sun’s path, the daylight very slowly begins to grow in length – the beginning of the new year. The winter weather, however, continues to grow colder, due to the delay caused by the earth’s thermal mass. It continues to lose the heat it soaked up in summer, until the sun’s rays become strong enough to counter the loss with life-affirming Spring. In the cold and dark, stories are told around the fire as a reminder of how everything changes, over and over. And as this cycle ends, another begins.
This month the full moon falls on November 12, 2019, if one consults the modern Gregorian calendar. It is the middle of the lunar cycle that began with the new moon on October 27 and which will renew on November 26. Once again, the lunar moon comes close to aligning with the calendrical month within this cycle, as we progress through Tagu8go, the Autumn season.
The eleventh moon of the Western Abenaki solar year is the Freezing Current One/Maker, M(e)zatanos, following the preceding tenth month of Penibagos, the Leaf Falling Maker Moon. The days are growing much shorter, the vibrancy of summer has come to the end of its cycle. The trees are bare, the geese are gathering to move toward the south, and at the edges of the water ice crystals begin to form. As all things on the surface slow down to sleep, thoughts turn inward.
With the usual Algonquian compounding format, the name of the moon is a combination of smaller roots: “mza-” which signifies “freeze” or “frozen” combined with “ta” as an abbreviated form for “current”, and at the end we have “-os” for “the one who”. These individual morphemes combine to create the sequence “mza-ta-nos,” pronounced meh-ZAH-tah-nohs, the Freezing Current One.
As winter draws nigh, with the certain shortening of the sun’s daily journey across the sky, we ready ourselves for the final moon of the year: Pebonkas, the Winter Maker.
The full moon of this month fell on October 13, 2019, using our contemporary Gregorian calendar. This is the middle of the lunar cycle that began with the new moon on September 28 and which will renew on October 27. The lunar moon comes close to aligning with the calendrical month on this cycle, as we progress through Tagu8go, the Autumn season.
The tenth moon of the Abenaki solar year is the Leaf Falling Moon, Penibagos, following the preceding ninth month of Skamonkas, the Corn Maker Moon. The harvests have been gathered in, the last of the berries, nuts, and herbs are being gathered and put away, and the frosts are bringing the tree’s summer cloaks down to wrap the Earth in a rustling blanket.
The name of the moon is a straightforward combination of two separate root words: the first is “pen-” which signifies “down” or “downward’ combined with “-bag[w]” which denotes a “leaf.” At the end we have “-os” as a shortened form of “kizos,” the moon itself. These morphemes combined with the connector “-i-” creates the sequence “pen-i-bag-os,” pronounced pen-EE-bahg-oos, the Leaf Falling Moon
And so, we ready ourselves for the approaching dark and the cold of Pebon, the Winter, and the last two moons of the year, yet to come.
A very significant cultural component: ritual adornment, mortuary practice, healing properties, ornamentation… the importance of red ochre to the Abenaki, and to many indigenous cultures, cannot be overemphasized. The word in Aln8baiwi is olamanjagw, red ochre mud; when mixed with grease, it is simply olaman. In Anishinaabemowin, the word is very similar: onaman. Ochre is derived from natural iron oxide compounds, in mineral deposits, clay, or iron seeps , where iron oxidizing bacteria augment the chemical conversion.
Publication of Royal Society of Canada, 1885.
Local people sought nearby sources of this valuable material; if they were not fortunate in this respect, they were obliged to trade for it. Here in Sokwakik there is an abundance of iron in the local geology. An iron seep just north of Wantastegok yields an abundant flow of ferrous oxide mud, carried with the groundwater through a mineral-rich ledge of Waits River schist and emerging on the east face. In the summer, the iron-oxidizing bacteria colonies form amazing cellular structures. In the winter, these lose their shape and form a hard, crumbly crust. The pigmented mud accumulates in the crevices of the rock and can be collected simply, with a little careful examination of the best pockets.
The seep in summer.
The seep in winter
By collecting this dark red-brown mud, heating (oxidizing) ’til it reached its maximum color (too much heat will result in a darker, browner hue), and then sifting it, I was able to produce a nice amount of orange/dark red/brown pigment on an initial trial. This could be further pulverized with a mortar and pestle, before mixing with a grease or oil and used for painting the body, or another use.
More to come…