top of page
The Symbolic Meaning of Lighting an Ossinagon
by Mary Seeseep Geniusz

A man or woman holds an ossinagon in an outstretched palm.  Within the stone is kinnickinick.  Flame is applied to the herb mixture, and the resulting fire is fanned and encouraged by human breath.  The smoke ascends.

This act is a physical rendition of a mental process of a metaphysical reality.  It is a prayer made physical. It is communication with the Divine rendered into a form in which it is perceivable by all five senses.

The hand of the person who makes this gesture is outstretched, palm open, fingers slightly curved, cradling the ossinagon.  The outstretched open hand is in the position of blessing, both giving, and receiving.  The cradling fingers are the person's flesh encircling the stone, taking the very act of prayer within the space of the body.

The ossinagin is a dish of stone.  The stone is the Abiding Rock, the rib of our Mother, the Earth. It is the bedrock of our physical reality.

The kinnickinick is a mixture of pleasant-scented herbs, the most pleasing of the abundant flora, the most pleasing to humans, and therefore hopefully, the most pleasing to the Divine.  The content of the herbal mixture may vary to suit personal taste, cultural dictates, or to meet the perception of a particular ceremonial occasion, but two specific herbs will be utilized: bearberry (arctostaphlos uva-ursi), and cedar (thuja occidentalis).  Bearberry is included because it is sanctified by the tradition that it is the special gift of the Bear, the great totem animal, to sustain the life of humankind.  Cedar, Nokomis Giishik because it is the sacred Tree of Life of the Anishinaabe.

The fire that lights the herb is symbolic of the Sun, which in turn is symbolic of Gitchi Manitou, the Great Mystery.    Through fire, the herbs become an offering most pleasing to Creator and to the accompanying Spirit World. 


The breath of the supplicant that fans the fire is the Prayer, but the continued blowing of the breath is dependent on the person inhaling.  Thus the blessing is both blown in and returned to the person to be inhaled and expelled again in the circle of Honor and Love, Creator for Person, and Person for Creator.

All five of the senses of the one involved in the act are engaged once the kinnickinick is lit.  The eyes see the smoke.   The ears hear the crackling of the fire.  The hand and the face both feel the warmth of the fire and the gentle breeze of the persons own breath.

By the act of lighting an ossinagon and burning the Sacred herbs,  the person makes physical and mental prayer and sends it off and out to the metaphysical, the world of the Spirit, and ultimately, to the Great Mystery.

Guidance as taught by Nokomis Keewaydinoquay by way of Dan Creely. Locate a Flat stone with a divot creating an indent: Layer One: inside of cedar bark Layer two: tobacco Layer three: a combination of ground cedar petals and sweetgrass

Ossinagon Prayers Facing each direction say a prayer out loud:

East: the color of white – New Beginnings - WA-BA-NON-GAE (use own words)

South: the color of Green – Growth & Abundance – SHA-WA-NON-GAE (use own words)

West: the color of red – Gone Before Us (Our ancestors) NIN-GA-BE-ON) (use own words)

North: the color of Black – Strength & Endurance, Dreams & Visions KA-BI-BA-NODN (use own words)


Silent prayer:

Touching Earth Mother – WEG-A-MIN-AKEE (use own words)

Reaching upward to the Creator – GITCHE-MANI – DOU (use own words)

YAY O WAY – Call out loud to directions Individual Blessings

Touch the stone Pipe to:





Finish ceremony:

Blessing and Balance, Balance and Blessings for from balance come all blessings


bottom of page