“The Heart Berry”

The warm weather is here and it brings a special gift, an abundance of Ode’imin, considered a sacred food to Anishinaabe people. Out on my walk, her little five petaled white flowers are catching my eye and signaling what’s to come… little juicy red berries! Ode’imin (pronounced “O-day-min” in the Ojibway language) means “heart berry” – referring to what we know as the strawberry.

Medicinal Properties

Strawberries are so good for us! They are high in vitamin C, a known antioxidant that boosts the immune system. They are also a source of potassium which lowers blood pressure. Actually, the entire plant that includes the leaves, roots and berries are medicinal. It is a mild astringent and diuretic. A decoction of the leaves and roots may be used for diarrhea or to support kidney function and detox the body. A strong decoction of strawberry leaves may be used to cleanse the skin and heal eczema.

Ode'imin polaroid Lauri

The Art in “Heart”

As an artist, painting Ode’imin brings me joy. The bright red berries just pop in colour on the canvas. This month I had the opportunity to teach teachers! A group of educators completing their AQ (additional qualifications) course in Indigenous ways of knowing joined me in a virtual paint night where we painted together and chatted about Anishinaabe art and strawberry teachings.

With my cup of strawberry leaf tea in one hand and paint brush in the other, I shared that in our culture strawberries are included in many of our ceremonies. During ceremony, we sit in a circle and a wooden bowl full of berries is passed around that has been prepared by our women. We are instructed to eat the entire berry including the little green leaves that sit on top. Although we commonly remove this part of the berry, we are told by our elder that this part is not only full of medicine but it is also part of the spirit of the plant.

I also shared that Ode’imin is considered a women’s medicine in our culture because when a young woman receives her first moon time or cycle, it was traditional to do a berry fast. During this time the young women would fast from eating berries for an entire year. During that year she would spend time receiving many teachings from her mother, aunties and grandmothers. The young woman would end her berry fast by gathering berries and holding a ceremony and feast with her community. This was a beautiful time for our young women.

Odeimin Painting By Lauri Hoeg

Our evening painting together was not only creative and informative but served everyone’s wellbeing, just as Ode’imin does. Spending time with others even virtually during stressful times is healing and good for the soul. Further, when you are creating with no expectation other than being present, you can relax and let your creativity flow and let the stress disappear.

Blog photos and art provided by Lauri!