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Ojibway Marriage Traditions
Transcript of Ojibway Marriage Traditions
The Ojibwe were the third largest native tribe in North America and lived in the Lake Superior region. They have many names and call themselves "Anishinabe", meaning "first people". In Canada they are called the Ojibwe and in the United States they are called the Chippewa.
Typical Ages of Bride and Groom
Boys were eligible for marriage after doing a special ceremony called a vision quest. This took around four days of isolation and involved fasting, praying and making offerings. The point of this quest was to find a guardian spirit to watch over them throughout their lives.
Girls were not eligible for marriage until after their first menstruation, during which they was isolated. Girls did not usually have a vision, if they did it was considered a special blessing and the girl was thought to have healing powers.
Planning a Modern Ojibwe Wedding
1. Decide which customs and traditions to do.
2. Pick a site, usually a spiritual place or historical landmark.
3. Choose a prayer to be said at the ceremony.
4. Write personal vows or arrange for a spiritual leader to say them.
5. Set a date and time with an officiating elder.
6. Arrange for an Indian Love Flute and an Indian Drum to be played to represent the power of attraction.
Pre Wedding Customs and Ceremonies
First the man had to ask the family's permission and prove that he could provide for the girl and a family by catching an animal. The girl's family had to accept by letting him eat with them. Then the bride's brother would exchange gifts with the groom as an act of joining two families.
The couple also required four sponsors, two each. Sponsors were older, respected people in the tribe who would pledge to give guidance for the rest of their lives.
During the time period between the proposal and the wedding, the groom would have to provide food and service to the bride's family. The groom also had to obey the bride's mother at all times.
Rite of Seven Steps- The bride and groom take seven steps clockwise together. The groom will take a step then say a vow followed by the bride doing the same.
The Blanket Ceremony- Each person has a blue blanket wrapped around them which represents their old lives; loneliness, weakness, failures, sorrow and spiritual depression. Their relatives follow them to the sacred fire circle where the spiritual leader blesses them and they shed their blue blankets. Then their relatives envelop them in a white blanket, underneath which they embrace. This blanket represents their new life together; happiness, fulfillment and peace. This blanket is later put on the couple's wall.
Role of Parents in Choice of Marriage Partner
Marriages could be arranged by older family members or a man could choose the girl he wished to marry. Elders of the clan carefully watched all the unmarried girls. If a man was serious about marrying a girl, he had to catch an animal and present it to her family. If the family approved, he could stay for supper. Catching an animal proved he could provide for the girl and a family. If the family accepted the proposal, the girl could not turn it down.
Planning of a Modern Ojibwe Wedding
7. Send invitations to guests.
8. Prepare baskets, a vase, two blue blankets, a white blanket and items of a fire circle for the special ceremonies.
9. Make or buy wedding attire.
10. Arrange gifts for officiating elders, mothers or special guests.
11. Get a marriage license.
12. Receive pre-marriage counselling from elders to ensure lifelong commitment.
Ojibway Marriage Traditions
Women would wear a white dress and white moccasins made from deer and elk skins. The dress would always be made by the woman herself. In colonial times, women would tear pieces of colourful fabric to make dresses because there were no scissors. The men wore black pants and a ribbon shirt with moccasins.
Divorce and Disloyalty
Until after the 1450's divorce was not permitted among the Ojibwe and even afterwords it was uncommon. To have a divorce, the marriage blanket must be divided. A person could remarry if they were divorced or if their spouse had died and they had mourned for a year.
Marrying someone from the same tribe was not allowed and was severely enforced. If a man was disloyal to his wife, he was whipped by the women in the tribe. If a woman was disloyal, her possessions were taken and she was turned out. Spiritual leaders could not marry women who were divorced, not a virgin or of bad character.
The Fire Ceremony- A fire circle is built with sides of stone, seven specific types of wood are cut by a spiritual leader. The wood and the fire circle are blessed by song and prayer and then three fires are prepared in the circle. One large fire in the center represents the creator and the holy union of two people. Two small fires are built, one to the north and one to the south, these represent each person's individual lives before marriage. A spiritual leader sprinkles tobacco, sage, sweet grass and corn on the fires then prayers are given and songs are sung. The bride and groom each say a prayer, followed by the small fires being lit, they burn a few moments and then the couple pushes their individual fires into the big fire. This ends by singing praises to the creator.
The Basket Ceremony- This is an exchange of gifts between the bride and groom. The bride gives bread and corn as a promise to nurture and support her husband. The groom gives meat and skins as a promise to feed and clothe his wife. This ceremony is generally before the vase ceremony.
The Vase Ceremony- A jar with two spouts is filled with water or a herbal tea to toast the couple's union. First they drink from one side and then from the other ending with them drinking at the same time. If this ceremony is managed without spilling a single drop, good understanding and a cooperative spirit will always be part of their marriage.
After the marriage, the couple would stay with the woman's parents for about a year. During this time if they wished to start a family they would build their own lodge. If they did not want a family they could carry on living with either spouse's family. There were no honeymoons, yet the newlyweds were given plenty of alone time from the rest of the clan. The newlyweds were also expected to perform acts of charity for the clan. The wife was responsible for childcare, farming, cooking and making clothes whereas the husband hunted, protected and provided for the clan. Children were very submissive to their superiors and were taught bravery, patience and self-control.
Ancient First Nations Blessing- "
Now we feel no rain, for each of us will be shelter to the other. Now we feel no cold, for each of us will be warmth to the other. Now there is no loneliness, for each of us will be a companion to the other. We are two bodies, but there is one life before us and one home. When evening falls, I'll look up and there you will be. I'll take your hand; you'll take mine and we'll turn together To look at the road we traveled to reach this - the hour of our happiness. It stretches behind us, even as the future lies ahead. A long and winding road, whose every turn means discovery. Old hopes, new laughter, shared fears. The adventure has just begun."
Ojibway Wedding Prayer- "
Spouse 1: Today we give thanks for our many blessings
Spouse 2: We give thanks for the sky above and the earth below
Spouse 1: We give thanks for the rising of the sun and the moon
Spouse 2: We give thanks for the beauty of our surroundings
Spouse 1: We give thanks for our parents who brought us into this world and taught us about life
Spouse 2: We give thanks for our brothers and sisters who shared our childhood with us
Spouse 1: We give thanks for our friends who have journeyed along life's path with us
Spouse 2: We give thanks for the laughter of the children
Together: And we give thanks for the love in our hearts
Elements of Love-
May your Love be like the earth
Rich, natural, and deeply rooted
Strong as rock yet soft as sand
Always growing and always patient
May your love be like fire
Passionate, intense and energetic
A flame that never dies
As radiant as the morning sun
And as warm as an evening embrace
May your love be like water
Moving, constantly changing
Never still, never stagnant
As vast as the ocean
And as fresh as a spring's rain
May your love be like air
The sharing of dreams, thoughts and emotions
Always fragrant, always carefree
Found in the breeze of a whisper
Or in the breath of a kiss
May your love be like all four elements
Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually intertwined
To create the perfect balance
And to craft the perfect ribbon
For to bind these two hearts into one
Wedding Prayers and Blessings