According to one source, February for the Ojibwe is mkwe (makwa) giizis – the “bear moon.” In Cree, the same source calls the month kisipisin, “the great moon.” Moon names vary from First Nation to First Nation, depending largely on what is happening in the land to which the people belong.
For the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe/Chippewa, Odawa/Ottawa, and Bodewadomi/Potawatomi with the Cree frequently included in this in certain regions), the time of the new moon signaled the beginning of a new month. Throughout much of Indian Country, Native cultures counted not 12 months but 13 based on the lunar calendar.
The Ontario Native Literacy Coalition talks about the birth of bear cubs during this time. They write, “In February, there is one morning when there is a heavy fog in the air and the traditional person knows that this is happening.”
This year, during our unusually warm thaw in late January, a Wildwood Kid reminded us of this on one particularly misty morning. “The mists mean the bear cubs are being born,” he said. We made sure that day to visit greater depths of the forest and sing a birthday song, welcoming the new cubs to the world.
Makwa giizis is a magical time of year in other ways as well. This is when you start to notice the crows frolicking in the air, flying in pairs. Their antics and calls in what I assume to be annual courtship rites bring fresh energy to all who grow weary of winter.
It is perhaps no accident St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated at this time of year.
Other animals are pairing up as well. According to the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, makwa giizis is also the time when eagles and ravens begin to nest and wolves mate. Although we may not feel it quite yet in our more civilized bones, in February’s Northwoods, spring is most certainly in the air.
As the crows begin to stretch their wings with more vigor and as new life comes into the world with the emergence of bear cubs, we here at Spirit of the Wildwood are ready to spread our wings and bring forth a new life too. It seems a good time to launch our blog, Wildwood Notes. Looking forward to this new adventure!