Published on July 14, 2013 by Casey
Gitche Manitou (Gitchi Manitou, Kitchi Manitou, etc.) means “Great Spirit” in several Algonquian languages. The term was also utilized to signify God by Christian missionaries, when translating scriptures and prayers, etc. into the Algonquian languages.
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Manitou is a common Algonquian term for spirit, mystery, or deity.
In more recent Anishinaabe culture, the Anishinaabe language word Gichi-manidoo means Great Spirit, the Creator of all things and the Giver of Life, and is sometimes translated as the “Great Mystery.” Historically, Anishinaabe people believed in a variety of spirits, whose images were placed near doorways for protection.
According to Anishinaabe-Ojibwa tradition, what became known as Mackinac Island in Michigan was the home of Gitche Manitou. The people would make pilgrimages there for rituals devoted to the spirit.
In Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, Gitche Manitou is spelled Gitche Manito.
Other Ojibwa names for God incorporated through the process of syncretism are Gizhe-manidoo (“venerable Manidoo”), Wenizhishid-manidoo (“Fair Manidoo”) and Gichi-ojichaag (“Great Spirit”). While Gichi-manidoo and Gichi-ojichaag both mean “Great Spirit”, Gichi-manidoo carried the idea of the greater spiritual connectivity while Gichi-ojichaag carried the idea of individual soul’s connection to the Gichi-manidoo. Consequently, Christian missionaries often used the term Gichi-ojichaag to refer to the Christian idea of a Holy Spirit.