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13 Grandmother Moons

Thirteen Grandmother Moons ... All over the world, cultures and communities have mapped the moon cycle, which happens 13 times per year, in cycles of 28 days.

The image above represents the 13 Moons of the Oneida Nation. Each Tribe has their own traditions when it comes to the 13 Grandmother Moons. I have decided to share with you the Oneida Nation moon cycle to tie it in with our Winter Solstice Storytelling event that was held on December 21, 2022.

We brought Randy Cornelius, an Oneida elder, in to share Tsiʔniyukwalihó·tʌ (our ways) with our native and non native community living within the Fox Valley Area. He spoke about the Midwinter Ceremonies. The Midwinter Moon represents a time when the Onʌyoteʔa·ka (People of the Standing Stone) renew themselves for a new year.

The Oneida people are part of the Iroquois Confederacy or what is also known as the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse). The Haudenosaunee based their ceremonies on the Thirteen Grandmother Moons. This is based on the observation of agriculture, the moon, and the cycles of the season.

Each ceremony includes an opening and closing prayer followed by dances and songs. Often various special stories of the Haudenosaunee are shared to continue traditional teachings.

The ceremonies are:

  • Tshatekˀshélha (Midwinter) – This is a time of renewing our responsibilities for the coming year. Five Days after the New Moon in January and it lasts for approximately five to eight days.

  • Wáhtaˀ kayuˀkwaʌtho (Maple Tree Tobacco Burning) – This ceremony is held after the first thunder, which wakes up the trees. A day is set aside to give thanks. The Haudenosaunee celebrate the second week in February and it lasts one day.

  • Otsyiˀkhé·ta Twanehela·tú (Maple Tree Thanksgiving Closing) - to end the maple tapping season and to give thanks for the harvesting of the maple sap.

  • Wahsá·sé (Thunder Dance) – This ceremony celebrates the return of Yothihsótha (Our Grandfathers) Latihsakayu∙téhseˀ (the thunderers), who bring the rains to replenish the water. First week in April to welcome back the thunderers.

  • Shukwahtsíha Tʌyethinuhwela·tú· (Sun Dance) – The Sun Dance Ceremony is a thanksgiving to Shukwahtsíha (he is our Elder Brother), Kwʌtekékha (Daytime), and Wehníétaleˀ (Light Giver). Beginning of May to give thanks to the sun.

  • Thuwi·sáhs (Moon Dance) – The Moon Dance Ceremony is a thanksgiving honoring Yukhihsótha (our grandmother), Kwaˀahsuteˀkékhaˀ (night time), and Wehní∙taleˀ (light giver). Second week of May to give thanks to the moon in the morning and evening respectively.

  • Twanʌ́hʌyʌˀ (Seed Dance) – The Seed Dance Ceremony is an honoring of all plant life. It is done prior to planting in the spring. Middle of May and lasts 1 day

  • Twahyahnekílha (Strawberry Thanksgiving) – This ceremony has to do with giving thanks, honoring and acknowledging the wild strawberry as well as all other berries. Kaˀniyohutésha (the wild strawberry) is the first fruit to ripen. Middle of May and lasts 1 day.

  • Oyhóhtseh (Green bean) – This ceremony is to honor the beans. First week in August and lasts 1 day.

  • Onʌ́staseˀ (Green Corn) – This ceremony celebrates the fact that the corn has once again provided us with its life sustaining spirit. Middle of August.

  • Twakhwaló·loks (Harvest Thanksgiving) – It is done to give thanks to everything that has provided us with a bountiful harvest and growing season. Middle of October and lasts four days.

  • Atelaˀkhúslaˀ (Community Death Feast) - This ceremony occurs twice a year once in the Spring and once in the Fall. This ceremony has to do with our ancestors that have passed on.

  • Twanuhsohaléhteˀ (Medicine Masks Community Cleansing) - This ceremony occurs twice a year once in the Spring and once in the Fall. Its purpose is to cleanse the community of any bad influence.

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