My youngest daughter and I were attending a Fall Ceremony in 2006 at Anishnawbe Mushkiki to feast the changing of the seasons and feast our sacred items. We were inside the round cedar lodge housed within the industrial type building accommodating the Anishnaabek[1] Health Access Centre. This is a very beautiful lodge which marks the four directions with colored tobacco ties and has a beautiful circular rug in the middle with native illustrations. We had our sacred items laid out on the rug in front of us and we were listening to the teachings of the Elder. This Elder spoke in the traditional language most of the time which was then translated by his partner. I understood some words that he said simply through the interactions that I have had from traveling to the remote communities. Through my professional work I have had the great honour of visiting the majority of the 49 communities of Nishnawbe Aski Nation[2].

All of a sudden as I was looking down lovingly at my sacred items and those of my daughter and I spotted it! It was the tiniest spider. It was maybe a sixteenth of an inch across and boy was it busy! It seemed to be checking all of our sacred items. So you can imagine what a task that would be for such a small being. I quietly pointed it out to my daughter and the two of us watched in amazement and reverence as this tiny being seemingly blessed all of our sacred items. At that instant, somehow I knew intuitively that this Elder was going to help me, help us. The reason I knew that so emphatically was because my youngest daughter had had a previous spiritual connection to spiders. I have learned that there are no such things as coincidences. Everything happens for a reason and if you acknowledge and honour all the messages that you receive from Spirit, these messages help you to follow your true essence.

After the ceremony and during the feasting time when we all enjoy traditional foods and honour the change of seasons, I approached this Elder. I told him about the appearances of the grey wolf and my vision of the bear. He sort of chuckled and said very matter-of-factly that I needed to have a bear ceremony. And that was my first encounter with Albert Mandamin of Shoal Lake. I was about to find out how influential this Elder was going to be in my life.

I later learned from Albert that the spider was one of his helpers or Spiritual guides and he had shared many amazing stories of spiders with me. After he passed, whenever I saw a spider, it brought a smile to my face and a confirmation to whatever question I had just asked to Creator (or to the universe, sort of same thing to me) before seeing the spider. I affectionately nickname every spider I see Albert.

I recall when I was young being so afraid of spiders and now these experiences and future experiences with spiders completely changed my perspective on these amazing beings. I have heard teachings about small beings in this realm having gigantic Spirits which means that large beings in this realm having smaller Spirits. Either way, I have much respect for the spiders.

[1] Anishnaabek – plural for Anishnaabe identifying a culture of people that were the First Peoples on this land that is now called Canada. In general, most Anishnaabe people do not identify themselves with the government prescribed term of Aboriginal.

[2] Nishnawbe Aski Nation is the largest political treaty area across Canada which encompasses two-thirds of the province of Ontario.

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