Photo of Rosa Arlotto

Rosa is a poet, novelist, and writer of short stories. She has published two books of poetry, Record of a Modern Heart and Flower of Poison by PublishAmerica (currently known as America Star Books). Her novel, The Maestro and Margherita has appeared as an e-book and was published by L.R. Hartley. Rosa also wrote short stories published in Moosemeat, chapbooks, and the former magazine Events Quarterly. She is currently a member of the ArtBar Poetry Series.


Trigger Warning

Ogibway women around the world sing to water. They give thanks to water in prayers in ceremonies. They give thanks to water spirits with offerings of tobacco and cedar (sacred to the Ogibway) because water is life, because water is sacred, because water is alive and guided by spirits and because water is a transporter of energy.

The ceremony in N’Chingaeg First Nation on Manitoulin Island this year took place in April. It is a simple ceremony. It begins with a procession to the lake by mostly women and children as women are considered keepers of water. The Ogibway believe women have connections and ways and prayers to bless and purify our waters as well as purify the waters of our physical body. An elder leads the procession and a woman plays the drums. In its original form, it is said that the 13 Grandmothers who first participated in the Water Ceremony played with sticks. One of the Grandmothers received a vision, underwent a spiritual process for four years thus bringing the vision to completion at the actual ceremony. The other women present are the guardians of the ceremony and have been asked to pass on the ceremony to women around the world. Sacred things should be preserved in their original form and according to the original vision the 13 Grandmothers stood on the ice in order to absorb the teachings from the water under them. On the shore, prayers are chanted in Ogibway by the elder, the prayer being an explanation of the sacred water, that it is life, that it is important to respect and honor water, that water is the giver of life, sacred especially for women. At this point, the elder rubs the womb because the womb gives and sustains life. Only women sing the song because of women’s connection with the menstrual period and blood of the earth which is water.

There is a song sung one time for each seven directions, east, south, west, north, above, below, and within. After prayers everyone is given a red cloth bundle, in it tobacco and cedar and a small gift. A little girl is given a basket full of cedar and tobacco. The little girl wades into the lake and lets go of the basket. The elder then speaks in Ogibway, giving thanks to the water and the procession leaves. The water ceremony has had it’s come back after 150 years, and it is important to remember that it is a women’s ceremony as it is fluid.

They say there are no protocols or rules for a water ceremony. Any woman can do a water ceremony and add her own touch. It can be as simple as boiling water and singing a prayer to bathing the dog and praying over water, provided that the Grandmother’s request be observed that it should be done at a certain time of the year. It must be done on the thirteen moon and a new moon when the ancient Grandmother can be accessed by all women when they are in their moon time. It is at this time that women are asked to have the ceremony whenever possible.

The old thirteen calendar is also returning and men and women are having visions. The water ceremony offers a healing cycle. Women sing to resonate vibration healing and because water assists in power. This includes a sacred fire lit before sunset. It burns for 13 hours during the night. Men, since they are keepers of the fire, can participate. The women then go out after dark on the ice to bless the water and return for a traditional feast that ends with a giveaway ceremony. It is an opportunity for women to spend time together and share knowledge and teachings. The water ceremony promotes the sacredness and sustainability of the natural world as we have come to realize that our Earth is in danger and there may not be more drinking water for the next generation, unless we act now and women make water their first priority.

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