Sky Woman

Many years later when the first Anishinabeg had grown up and spirit woman was certain of their survival, she called her children to her. She told them that she was returning to the Land of Peace, to her proper place of abode.
Sarah Schroeder

Sarah Schroeder

Nourish the Word

One thing I have noticed and love about Native American culture is that a lot more about female divinity has been preserved than in European and Middle Eastern religions. There is more to this than I currently understand, but look forward to knowing over time. The significance of woman has almost been eradicated from modern Christianity. So this is a great pleasure to explore. I know I won’t do justice to this subject, but I’m going to try anyway.

If you missed part 1 of this series, I suggest you read it. The Recreation tale I am addressing is contained there.

One thing I noticed is that the nature of the story is of a secondary creation. I will soon go over the primary creation story that involves Gitchi Manitou (the Great Mystery). The initial creation ended in failure, and only with the participation of Sky Woman in this tale and this secondary creation is the vision of Gitchi Manitou realized. Basil Johnston in his books refers to Gitchi Manitou as “he,” a male Creator. Putting these stories of creation together shows an image of a creator/s as described in the scriptures as both male and female, the same image Adam and Eve were created in.

“And this was the book of the generations of Adam, saying, In the day that God created man (in the likeness of God made he him), in the image of his own body, male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created, and became living souls, in the land, upon the footstool of God.” RE Genesis 3:8

I came across this explanation that reinforces the male/female relationship of the Creator apart from the nature of both primary and secondary creation stories:

“In my teachings, I have been taught to refer to the Creator within female context as I am a woman and the Creator represents the duality of all things. In creation, both the male and female are needed to reproduce, so we respect the Creator through our own spirit and bodily form.” Tiffany McCue, a.k.a. Naanookashiins N’dizhnikaaz (the link for this quote can be found here).

In the scriptures a similar story of a pregnant woman and a flood is told in John’s Revelations:

“And after these things I heard another voice, saying, Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, yea, and they who dwell upon the islands of the sea. For the devil has come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time; for when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman who brought forth the male child. Therefore, to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might flee into the wilderness, into her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent casts out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helps the woman, and the earth opens her mouth and swallows up the flood which the dragon casts out of his mouth. Therefore the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, those who keep the commandments of God and have also the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
 RE Revelations of John 4: 5

There are some different themes here than those in the tale of Sky Woman, but striking similarities as well. There are even some tellings of the Ojibwe tradition that include a Horned Serpent who causes the flood. One specific similarity is the first verse of the same chapter that describes the woman of John’s revelation as also coming from the sky/heavens.

“And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman, clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. And the woman, being with child, cried, travailing in birth and pained to be delivered. And she brought forth a male child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God and his throne.”

I will note, that the rod of iron is less about having something to beat someone in submission with, and more about having the truth/word of God to humbly lead with.

The symbolic meaning of the scriptural woman and child from John’s revelation is described in the 3rd verse of the same chapter:

“And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought against Michael. And the dragon prevailed not against Michael, neither the child, nor the woman — who was the church of God — who had been delivered of her pains and brought forth the kingdom of our God and his Christ; neither was there place found in heaven for the great dragon who was cast out, that old serpent called the devil, and also called Satan, who deceives the whole world; he who was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” RE Revelations of John 4:3 

The woman represents the “church of God.” The child she delivers is the “Kingdom of our God and his Christ.”

From one of the previous quoted 5th verse we have something that clarifies the role of her seed, the Kingdom of God. It says, “…the remnant of her seed, those who keep the commandments of God and have also the testimony of Jesus Christ.” If this is the criteria for those that were/are/will be the Kingdom of God, then does that make the woman, the Church of God, the means through which the commandments are taught to be kept, and the means through which a person can receive the testimony of Jesus Christ?

As an aside, I know there’s a tendency to think of a building when hearing the word church. There is also the tendency for various organized churches to consider themselves the Church of God. But… I want to suggest the possibility that church has less to do with a building with a cross or steeple, fancy windows, pews, etc. than it does with a group of people who believe, teach, and strive to become like the teachings of God as given through God’s son. Fitting this criteria doesn’t require a church house. It also doesn’t require belonging to a legal entity referred to as a church. It depends far more on our hearts and actions.

In RE 1 Nephi 3:27, we learn that there are only two churches as far as heaven is concerned: the one founded by Christ, and the one founded by the devil. Therefore, in any building with a cross or without one, there could potentially be gathered some who belong to one of those two churches, and some who belong to the other. If we think about church as a group of people fitting specific criteria rather than a building, I think this better fits the words of God in scripture. This is the way I’m going to be using the word.
 
It is from this woman (aka the church of God), that the Kingdom of God is born. And it is born of those who keep commandments of God (which could also be referred to as the Word of God, or vision of God) and who have the testimony of Christ. This emphasizes to me how important nourishing the Word is… I also see reinforcement of the duality of the Creator as revealed in the Anishinaabe creation stories, that is mostly lost in modern Christianity.
 
Both are needed, Mother and Father.
 
As in the tradition of the creation by Kitche Manitou, the Father beholds the vision, speaks the Word, and the Mother, as in this tradition of a flood, nurtures and realizes that vision into being. I currently understand this as meaning that the Spirit of the Father is present where the Word is given, and the Spirit of the Mother is present where the Word is lived and taught. And where these reach fulfillment, by receiving the testimony Jesus Christ will give of them to God, is where the Kingdom of God is born.
 
I’m going to do something a little crazy now, and apply the same symbolism from John’s revelation to the Anishinaabe tale. Sky Woman then also represents this church or group founded by the Lamb of God. If this symbolism remains true over both traditions, then the implications are amazing! It means that the people who hold this tale in tradition were established and taught by the Lamb of God. They were His church! Sky Woman’s placement on turtle island is then telling of the Lamb’s teachings and people being established on this land, before European Christians ever reached it. The birth of Sky Woman’s children on this land then symbolizes that the Kingdom of God existed here at some point in the past as well, through those upheld and supported by the sacrifice of the muskrat/Savior/Christ.
 

But that’s just assuming the symbolism can accurately be transferred from John’s Revelation, to the Anishinaabe re-creation story… Their similarities could only be coincidental, or not.

(Edit: Addition below added 3/27/2018)

The account of Sky Woman continues:

“Many years later when the first Anishinabeg had grown up and spirit woman was certain of their survival, she called her children to her. She told them that she was returning to the Land of Peace, to her proper place of abode. She also told them that when they had lived out their term of life and had done sufficient good in life, they too would leave their bodies in the Land of the Living and go to the Land of Peace as soul-spirits, and live there in another way. 

“Then the spirit woman ascended into the sky to return to her home. Thereafter the Anishnabeg remembered the first of Mothers, Nokomis (Grandmother) whenever the moon gave light. At the same time, they remembered the primacy of women, who bore the unique gift of life, for it was through woman that the cycle — creation, destruction, re-creation — was completed.” Ojibway Heritage, by Basil Johnston p.16-17

The symbolism here bears striking similarity to the symbolism in this recent Christian discourse on Divine Parents, which was delivered after the initial publishing of this post. It seemed relevant enough to add it here.

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