(THE OFFERING OF TOBACCO)
From his father’s custom of burning tobacco at the onset of storms, of offering tobacco during journeys in those places deemed dangerous or sacred, and of implanting tobacco in the earth while gathering medicine,
Mishi-Waub-kaikaik (Great White Falcon) learned that his people were always conscious of the presence of Kitchi Manitou. Where that presence was greatest- at the top of a mountain, in a whirlpool, in a cave, on a small island, or in a cavern in rooks at the waters edge. The Anishinabe would offer tobacco to the mysteries who abided there. The offering was given partially to appease, and partially to acknowledge a presence. For whatever reason the act was performed, it was always done with reverence and holiness. No one knew when the practice began. No one could tell why it was tobacco that was used. But the practice was very old, and Mishi Waub Kaikaik learned a story about its origins.
Once there was a village, and beside the village was a mountain whose summit was always hidden by clouds. Even on sunny days the cloud remained, and thunders echoed around the mountaintop while lightning flashed in the skies. Thunderbirds were said to live on the mountains’ crest.
In the village there lived a young man who longed to see the thunderbirds, or even capture one; and he dared to think of scaling the mountain. He had no fear of thunderbirds or the deities, and little regard for traditions that forbade anyone to climb the mountain and enter the domain of the spirits.
He persuaded another young man to accompany him, and in preparation for the dangerous adventure both went into fast for eight days.
On the ninth day, they began their ascent up the steep sides of the mountain. During their entire journey the rooks shook with thunder while lightning flashed and flickered. Near the final curtain of fog and mist the second young man refused to go any further. Voices could be herd chanting above the mountains rumblings.
Waegonaen maenaepowunt ? Who dares without tobacco?
Waegonaen wauh pagidinigaessik? Who dared without offering?
Saemauh bizaundae / aekaugae. Tobacco will allay our anger.
Saemauh waussaeyaukaugae. Tobacco will clear the cloud.
Boldly the first young man continued to go forward. As he disappeared through the mist he shouted” I see them! I see them!” At the same moment there was a mighty roar and a blinding light. When the thunder died into the distance and the light faded, the mist that had covered the mountain was no longer there. In the next instant, the young man who had seen the thunderbirds lost his footing and fell to his death at the bottom of the mountain.
Never again were the thunders herd or lightning’s seen on the rocky crests. The people said that the thunderbirds had abandoned their nesting place and would no longer return.
Their abode had been desecrated and they had taken revenge. The same mountain sloped into a lake. Where it entered the water it formed a point; and this point, too, was covered by an ever-present mist. Whenever anyone ventured near it, winds would suddenly rise and whip the waters into a mass of curling waves and currents. Many fishermen disappeared near the point and were though to have drowned.
One day, the second young man who had climbed the mountain was paddling his canoe not far from the point when he was suddenly caught in a storm. The wind blew him directly towards the point.
In his struggle to keep from capsizing he heard someone chanting sadly above the roar of the wind.
Apaegish abeedaubung. Oh! For the light of day.
Apaegish abeedaubung. Oh! For the light of day.
Apaegish ginopowauhingobun. Oh! For the taste of tobacco.
Apaegish zugussowauhingobun. Oh! For the smell of tobacco.
K’d powauguninaunind tikiziwuk .Our pipes are cold and empty.
K’d powauguninaunind tikiziwuk. Our pipes are cold and empty.
Through the fog the young man observed a small canoe bearing several little people no taller than windflowers. Each passenger had a pipe, and it was their voices he heard singing.
K’gah baugwaushkaugameechigaemim. We will stir the waters.
Beenish mukwaenimikohing. Until one remembers.
Saemauh beendae / aeshkaugae. Tobacco cleanses my heart.
Saemauh beeninaendumishkaugae. Tobacco cleanses my mind.
Saemauh bizaundae / aeshkaugae. Tobacco brings calm.
Then the young man remembered how he and his companion had heard the chanting about tobacco on the top of the mountain; and even though he was in danger of floundering, he quickly put his paddle aside.
He took the tobacco that he had with him and threw it into the waves. As the tobacco floated away, he chanted.
Saemauh n’weekaunaehn. Tobacco is my friend.
Saemauh k’weekaunaehnaun. Tobacco is our friend.
Saemauh k’weekaunissimikonaun. Tobacco makes us friends.
The little people had not seen him, and they were startled by his chant. But they gathered the young mans tobacco from the waters and filled their pipes.
As if by magic, their canoe glided away towards the steep cliffs where they and their canoe disappeared into an opening that closed behind them. Immediately, the fog lifted, and the storm subsided.
And even though the little people were never seen again, the Anishinabe never forgot to offer tobacco to them in the places they were thought to abide.
Thus began the custom of offering tobacco to the deities in their domains.