The Four Stages of Life

Life consists of infancy, youth, the middle years and old age. Each stage is an important and beautiful time of growth, learning, caring and sharing in a special and unique way. Four fires representing these stages are lit in the center of the sacred circle at ceremonial gatherings. Children are taught to relate these ages to the fingers and thumb of one of their hands in the following story:

Look at your little finger. It is weak and hard to do anything with unless the other fingers help it. It is like a baby and represents the first stage of life.

The second (ring) finger is taller and stronger representing the teen-age years and young adulthood.

The middle finger is the biggest and strongest of all - it stands above all the others and has greater responsibility. These are the years of raising families and caring for parents and grandparents. The middle years should be long and full, drawing upon the strength and experiences of youth while gaining wisdom and patience in preparation for old age.

Now! The pointer. Don't you know how elders seem to shrink a little as the years go by? That's why the finger representing the later years is shorter and has a bit less strength than the middle and ring fingers. But, still, this is the finger that points the way and helps to support the grip of the others when we pick something up or use a tool.

All we have left is the thumb. And what good are any of the fingers without it? It's awfully difficult to use our hands for anything without depending on the thumb for help. That is why the thumb stands for the creator. Throughout all the stages of life we need the help of Manitoo-oo.

Notice something else about your hand. The index finger, representing the elders, is next to the Creator! This is why we are always respectful and kind to older people.....they, too, stand close to the Creator.