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Connecting with Grandmother Moon

[Vanessa McCourt]
Vanessa McCourt, Aboriginal Adviser at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, stands in front of the teepee where the Women’s Full Moon ceremonies are held. (University Communications) 

There is a saying in Anishinaabe culture of “all my relations.” It's a nod to the Indigenous tradition of honouring one’s relationship with all of nature. Women in particular, they believe, generate a positive energy from Grandmother Moon. In order to honour this relationship, Women’s Full Moon ceremonies are held each month.

At Queen’s, women are welcome to attend these ceremonies at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre.

The ceremonies, which began on Queen’s campus in 2011, invite all self-identifying women to participate in a circle of support, unburdening, and gratitude, and give their respect to the Grandmother Moon. The centre estimates that between 15 to 20 women participate each month, with numbers on a growing trend.

“We might need to expand our teepee,” laughs Vanessa McCourt, Aboriginal Adviser at Four Directions.

Ms. McCourt explains the Indigenous belief in the reciprocal relationship between people and nature. Women, she says, have a special relationship with the water and their Grandmother Moon, who regulates the tides and controls the life giving cycle of birth.

The ceremonies, which begin with a thanksgiving address in the native language of the facilitator, include many teachings and educate the women on the significance of the ceremony and their connection to Grandmother Moon. Among the events is a talking circle, wherein each woman has a chance to unburden what she might be going through each month. 

“It’s a chance for rebirth, strength, and renewal. A time to come together as women and rebalance our own self and pick each other up,” Ms. McCourt says.

However, she adds, gratitude is also a big part of the ceremony.

“As much as we all have negativity in our lives, we also have many things that we are thankful for. That’s also a part of the re-grounding.”

After giving an offering of thanks and respect to the earth and the moon, the women return to the teepee to join in song.

“The singing is about reclaiming our voices as women,” explains Laura Maracle, Aboriginal Cultural Safety Director at Four Directions, “And not only as women, but as Indigenous women, too. As Indigenous people, our voice was taken. We weren’t allowed to do our songs or ceremonies, so we’re bringing that back. We get strength from that. But also as women, our voice has been taken in the past as well. So it’s a chance for us to get together and support each other and be proud and grateful.”

The ceremonies end with a potluck-style feast, an important part of the ritual, which includes setting out a feast plate for the ancestors.

At the Full Moon Ceremony, women are taught on the significance of the
• Skirt
• Strawberries
• Fire
• Medicines
• Connection to Grandmother moon

“The feast is about nourishing yourself,” says Ms. Maracle, “But as well, everything that is set out is because of what our ancestors put in place for us, and the sacrifices that they made, so we always feed them first to honour and respect them.”

Participants are asked to bring their own long skirt for the ceremony, as well as water, tobacco, and a potluck dish to share. The women are encouraged to grow their own food or bring something healthy from the earth; however, no contribution is too small. The centre is dedicated to making the ceremonies inclusive, stressing that they have extra skirts, food, and medicinal tobacco for those who need it. “No one will be excluded based on what they can bring.”

The next Full Moon Ceremony takes place at Four Directions on July 10 at 7 pm. The centre welcomes all women, Indigenous or otherwise, to come out and participate.

“There is a perception among the students, faculty and community that you need to be Indigenous to visit Four Directions and participate, but that is not the case,” says Ms. McCourt. Ms. Maracle adds, “By having both Indigenous and non-Indigenous women come out and participate together, it helps us to have a better collaborative and empathetic relationship with one another.”