Pejipug / Winter has arrived
The Mi’kmaq Tourist
Hello February, and to all! I’ve been on hiatus from writing the past few months. Not that I wanted to. Life at times can get extremely hectic, and how do you slow down from holidays, birthdays and cold mornings, while racing to catch up with the day? Or, is it just Apignajit creeping up on me.
In our Mi’kmaq culture and traditions, February has always been highly respected and anticipated. Why February, you ask? It’s the coldest month of the year. Also, that furry rodent we have so much faith in pops out of it’s den to tell whether winter will linger on or that we’ll actually see mayflowers in May, not June.
Before such things as groundhog days came into play, we the Mi’kmaq had our own way of coping with the fierce cold and sometimes unrelenting winds of February. That’s probably why I live in anticipation of Apignajit (February) .
I must have been around seven when my mother announced, “Mary it’s time we go feed Apignajit”. Like any seven-year-old I was excited to go yet there was this underlying fear of what was out there that we had to go feed. I remember walking out into the night as my mother carried a plate of leftover fish, potatoes and some bannock in one hand and a dimly lit flashlight in the other. I prayed silently that it would not burn out while I hung onto to her coat tail as we struggled through the deep snow to go feed Apignajit.
It was cold, and the wind was singing an eerie, ghostly howl that sent shivers down my spine. We made our way into the woods - not to far, but far enough so that Apignajit would not be disturbed as it feasted on our offering.
My mother and I packed the snow down to a hard surface and then placed the food on the snow. Then, with a creepy feeling, I heard my mother call out its name “Apignajit!” in a voice I seldom heard her use. As she spoke to Apignajit, she spoke words I had never heard before. When she finished speaking she turned to me and said, “Listen.” There we stood in silence as we listened to the wind, trees, and felt Apignajit. She then turned and took my hand as we laughed and played in the snow all the way home. That first experience has stayed with me since then. Maybe it was the fear of not knowing what to expect. Was Apignajit an animal, a bird or a spirit? I soon learned it was all three.
Even with such cold around us, Gesig/winter was also a good time for us. Families and friends would gather not around the fire but around another plate which held 6 pieces of bone placed on a blanket on the floor, alongside a small bundle of sticks. I’ll tell you more on that on my next article, I better head out and feed Apignajit. I hope it likes macaroni!