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Winter solstice brings change of seasons ceremonies full circle

One more change of seasons ceremony at Awen this month will be the fourth and final of the year, marking the change from fall to winter and a shift of focus to the north

Soon the seasonal circle will be complete for Inuk and The Blue Mountains resident Muckpaloo Ipeelie, who is preparing for the fourth and final change of seasons ceremony of the year. 

Ipeelie has lead the organization of the ceremonies at the Awen Gathering Circle starting with a spring event in March, a summer event in June, and a fall event in September.  On Dec. 21, the year comes full circle with a Winter Solstice, change of seasons ceremony. 

"It's been a wonderful journey for me to be able to spent time with the community from spring, summer, fall, and now to winter," she said. 

She's uncertain if there will be similar ceremonies organized next year. 

"I'm very excited for the fourth and final one," said Ipeelie. "James Carpenter is coming again for the Winter solstice, and that's important because he was also here for the spring change of seasons. So it's kind of like recreating a circle where we're starting and finishing the year together. We're coming together in a full circle now, and it's really wonderful that James is helping bring that circle to finish." 

In addition to a teaching from traditional healer and oshkabewis (helper) James Carpenter, Ipeelie will be speaking at the Dec. 21 event, a task she sees as her part of the medicine wheel.

The medicine wheel is also a circle divided into four parts. The white quarter can symbolize winter and the north, which are the traditional lands for Ipeelie and other Inuit. 

"I'm bringing more to this gathering than I have in the past. What I had done for previous change of seasons ceremonies was search for local Indigenous people from to share Indigenous ways of being from around here," said Ipeelie. "These are not my traditional stomping grounds, but in honour of the medicine wheel, which is used by many Indigenous people, winter and the white part of the wheel, represents the north. It's a time for sharing stories and a time to focus on Arctic people and the direction of the north." 

The Dec. 21 ceremony will include Indigenous games run by Jennifer Mcfarlane, an educator with the Simcoe Muskoka Disitrct School Board and Métis. There will also be a sacred fire kept by Opichi Commanda as well as a warming fire. 

"The sacred fire is kept by a trained fire keeper," explained Ipeelie. "Fire keepers need to do a certain amount of study and have guidance before they become fire keepers." 

She said all are welcome to interact with the sacred fire, and suggested people ask the fire keeper for direction on how to interact with the fire. The warming fire does not come with any protocols. 

Also part of the winter change of seasons this year will be Three Sisters Soup, which is a recipe using the three sisters vegetables of squash, beans, and corn. They were named the three sisters for the way they grow together as crops. Anyone attending the ceremony can enjoy some of the soup, which will be prepared by the Collingwood Youth Centre under the leadership of Jillian Morris who is Kanien’kehá:ka, turtle clan and band member of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. 

"The purpose of the Collingwood Indigenous Circle gatherings is to help Indigenous people have access to their culture and to also bring the community together between Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members," said Ipeelie. 

And on that note, she is reminding the community that the teachings given at the ceremonies are meant for Indigenous people to connect with their culture and stand on sturdy ground. They are not to be taken and re-taught or otherwise distributed by others who attend the gatherings. Those who give the teachings have spent time learning and training with other Indigenous teachers and their lessons are meant to be delivered from that context only. No photos may be taken or videos recorded during the ceremony. 

The change of seasons ceremony will take place outdoors at the Awen Gathering Circle from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. While traditionally an indoor ceremony, Ipeelie said they have opted for an outdoor gathering because of the ongoing pandemic. 

In the days leading up to the Winter Solstice, Carpenter will also be offering the opportunity to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony. There is no cost to participate but space is limited so pre-registration is recommended. Visit for full details and to register.

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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