"When the thunderbirds first came to earth there weren't any trees. So they used big rocks and made great stone nests in the highlands. From their nests they could see the whole, entire world all around them."
Commemorative Sacred Site
Located within Algonquin territory of Ontario's Madawaska Highlands in Renfrew County, "Bird Mountain" is found by hiking the Griffith Uplands Trail. This mountain-like area is protected within the provincial lands of the Griffith Uplands Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). Bird Mountain is named to recognize, respect and honour the thunderbird.
As a spiritual being the thunderbird is the largest, or greatest, bird. The thunderbird is also called the Great Bird because it represents the Great Spirit of the Creator in an avian or bird-like form. It is believed that the thunderbird is so large, so very great, it needs the whole entire universe to have enough space to fly around freely.
Bird mountain is a sacred site; it has been used by humans since time immemorial. Because medicine and holy people intentionally climbed to the top of Bird Mountain to personally commune with the Great Bird or thunderbird these people learned the practices of bird shamanism from "The Old Ones"; the spirits that fly in the Sky World. Our ancestors.
Following in the footsteps of our paleolithic ancestors from over 12,000 years ago, prehistoric “bird shamans” came here to do ceremonies and vision quests that involved direct communication with the Great Bird or thunderbird. These shamans became human thunderbirds themselves. Today thunderbirds (shamans) are medicine people and holy people who work on behalf of the Great Spirit as helpers to the people.
There is a large “bird” petroform composed of big stones at the western crest of Bird Mountain. This work actually represents the thunderbird. It is perched at the top of the mountain to acknowledge the true spiritual nature of this site. It is also there to remind us that this mountain top is a sacred Algonquin place of power known as a thunderbird nest. This stone bird petroform marks the area as a high place where all kinds of spirits, bird and human alike, come to know the good medicine of the Sky World. The stone thunderbird petroform also indicates this site has been used since time immemorial up to this very day by thunderbirds (shamans) in their good medicine work to help others.
Thunderbirds (shamans) ventured to the very top of Bird Mountain to “get high” naturally. They went to personally connect with their own nature and the power this place has to offer. More than simply a place to see a great view of the mountains and the natural union of the Earth World below and the Sky World above, thunderbirds used Bird Mountain because they knew it to be a thunderbird nest. This was a place where, long ago, the Great Bird - the thunderbird itself - had landed on earth to make its nest and lay eggs in order to make more thunderbird offspring. These offspring included thunderbirds in human form as well who would hatch from the thunderbird eggs. For medicine people thunderbird eggs hold great inherent power. Finding thunderbird eggs (to use in medicine ceremonies) is typically done where the thunderbirds make their nests.
There are Algonquin legends that say in ancient times it was believed the first birds (spirits) to come to earth were thunderbirds. These very large, gigantic, great spirit birds were the helpers of the Great Spirit in the creation of the earth (rock). Gifted to them by the Creator, these birds carried the natural powers of rain (water), thunder (sound) and also lighting (fire or electricity). They had come to earth to help the Creator make the earth’s atmosphere (air) of the Sky World, seas and oceans (the Great Water). Upon completion, the thunderbirds were to stay on earth to help spark and create life with their lightning arrows.
These very large or great birds came to earth a very, very long time ago when there still weren’t any trees. So in order for these thunderbirds to lay eggs and have chicks, the thunderbirds had to make their nests out of big stones instead. They picked up massive boulders in their talons, carried them to mountain tops and arranged them circularly to make their great stone nests; the thunderbird nests.
There are many very large stones, that geologists call glacial erratics, at the top of Bird Mountain. These big stones are positioned in such a way that, if viewed from above, they form a gigantic circle or oval over 100 metres in diameter. There is a big stone at each of the four points of the compass that form the outer perimeter of what could be interpreted as a large, circular stone nest. Also at the centre there two large stones that appear to have been placed into the center of the nest as big eggs. All together, these large stones undoubtedly form the physical structure of a stone thunderbird nest at the top of Bird Mountain. There is also a large, natural, bedrock stone serpent that is situated at the north-east side of the nest. It is laying there as if to be intentionally guarding and protecting the location of this ancient stone thunderbird nest.
In utilizing the ancient stories and teachings about sky thunderbirds, the earthly human thunderbirds (shamans) followed suit and built nests, too made of stones, in order to do vision quests. In this way they would be able to receive guidance in dreams and visions from their thunderbird ancestors residing in the spiritual realm of the Sky World. To this day Bird Mountain is still used by human thunderbirds (shamans) to attain spiritual guidance, complete personal medicine work, make gifts and offerings to manitous (spirits), complete fasts and vision quests, and connect with the spirits of ancestors. This also includes connecting with the living spirits of “flyers” like songbirds, woodpeckers, ravens, hawks, vultures, eagles and of course the thunderbirds and the Great Bird too. Bird shamanism is alive and well atop Bird Mountain!
Since the last Ice Age people have been using bird feathers and the high places where birds perch, roost, rest and nest in direct association with the ancient human practices of bird shamanism. It is believed bird shamanism originated in prehistoric Siberia around 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. It then eventually made its way here to Turtle Island (North America) at some point during the last Ice Age or just after it when the Wisconsin glacier began to retreat and melt away 12,000 years ago. It was at this time some human beings migrated by walking from Siberia to Alaska and then ever southward into North America. Others too came from eastern Asia by boat along the Pacific coastline to inhabit western North America. As proof of this, all Indigenous Nations native to North America to this very day still adorn their sacred regalia and ceremonial items with wild bird feathers – eagle, vulture, hawk, and turkey feathers are particularly respected and revered – and all still practice some form of bird shamanism which is retained as an ancestral memory passed on into the present day from our distant past or “since time immemorial.”
This is all based on the ancient human idea that a bird itself represents, or symbolizes, the “spirit” or the “spirit flight” of a human being; when their spirit, or soul, travels into a different realm in dreams while asleep or upon death and entry into the Spirit World of the Ancestors. As such, the actual practices of ancient bird shamanism which started in Asia and Siberia (possibly with prehistoric yet highly intelligent and imaginative human beings called the Denisovans) began thousands and thousands of years ago – possibly 70,000 years ago. And yet bird shamanism still survives today among our modern, highly advanced and technological human cultures worldwide. And that is truly impressive in itself!
It is from these old truths it is believed Bird Mountain - a modern name rooted in the ancient past - was indeed located and utilized by ancestor “bird people” shamans who were seen as the thunderbirds themselves. Much later in time it was found again by medicine and holy people still known as thunderbirds today due to always visiting rocky high places and mountain tops to build their thunderbird nests. Here they continue to practice their ancient, spiritual thunderbird medicine ceremonies and maintain their thunderbird ways in direct commue with the Great Bird.
Mountain of Gifts
With all this in mind Bird Mountain is believed to be a traditional “place of power” where thunderbirds (shamans), holy people, medicine people and others can all regularly go for a variety of practical, earthly reasons in relationship with more spiritual, Sky World, reasons. The top of Bird Mountain is still utilized today by spiritual people, medicine people and shamans in their search or quest for good medicine and the acceptance of it while atop the mountain. Yet one does not need to be a shaman in order to get something of personal worth from its picturesque top. In this way, Bird Mountain is also known as the “Mountain of Gifts”. Proof of this can be seen by the many gifts people have made and brought with them as an offering to hang on a branch of the Medicine Pine tree at the top. In order to receive something medicinal to help us – be it emotional, physical, spiritual or mental – we must first give something to the spirits so they’ll be aware of our need. Only then will the spirits be willing to help us upon the trail of life here on earth.
Star Constellation of Cygnus
In addition to all this there is also another incredible concept existing with these large stones atop Bird Mountain. The primary stones of the big stone thunderbird nest are also in alignment with the primary stars of the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. When all of the large stones on the ground are connected, they line up to represent the main stars of Cygnus found in the northern sky above. (The constellation of Cygnus is also called the Northern Cross.) Cygnus was revered by our ancestors. In the site sketch below the stones of Cygnus are black dots (N,S,E,W) connected with black lines. E and W stones are the wingspan, N stone is the tail and the S stone is the neck and head of the "Great Sky Bird".
Is this just a coincidence? Are these big stones just naturally in the right position so when they are connected like dots, or rather like stars, they form the constellation of Cygnus which is also known as the “Great Sky Bird”? Cygnus is generally seen as representing a large bird in the form of a swan, goose, heron or crane. If indeed these big stones are simply in their natural, post glacial positions was this mountain top recognized honoured and utilized long ago by our paleolithic ancestors because the boulders on the ground matched up with the stars of Cygnus in the sky? It is highly likely.
Here's an intriguing question: Were all these big stones perhaps moved into place, on purpose, by our thunderbird (shaman) ancestors to align directly with the stars of Cygnus the Great Sky Bird? And yet another important question to ponder is this: Do the stars of Cygnus actually align to create yet another visual depiction of the Great Bird in the form of a thunderbird on the ground instead? It could be so. Going back to prehistoric Siberia during the time of the last Ice Age 70,000 years ago and the dawn of bird shamanism there, this ancient idea of a Great Bird in the form of a celestial swan, goose, heron or crane – or perhaps just a massive “spirit bird” in the heavens – surely traveled with our ancient Siberian ancestors to land here on the bedrock of this continent too.
The large stone alignment upon the earth atop Bird Mountain clearly representing a "Great Spirit Bird" from the sky that landed on earth is, I do believe, a rock-solid reason Bird Mountain came to be found, revered and respected in the first place. It was then utilized for bird shamanism ceremonies. These ceremonies are essentially all about drawing human attention to the natural, avian flight of one’s very own spirit – flying free like a bird – that often occurs during dreams and visions attained during practices such as drumming, singing, dancing, fasting and vision quests.
So here are two solid justifications that the “high place” thunderbird nest site atop Bird Mountain was recognized and used for specific bird shamanism medicine work and ceremonies by people who were “bird people” shamans themselves – the thunderbirds. One; there is a large stone thunderbird nest on the very mountain top where the Great Bird comes to nest upon the earth. Two; there is a big natural stone replica of the sky constellation of Cygnus, or rather the Great Sky Bird, right there upon the mountain top too. The location of these big stones first mark the Great Bird's nest, and secondly the Great Bird itself!
A Nest for Everyone
For all these reasons Bird Mountain is not simply a sacred site but also a place for the intentional revival of bird shamanism here in eastern North America. There are indeed many places where this could be done but due to what geographically exists to this day atop Bird Mountain, this is an ideal location for today’s medicine people and thunderbirds to go to practice. With all that Bird Mountain has to offer, it is the perfect “place of power” for people, healers and shamans of all kinds to practice their spiritual work, conduct personal ceremonies and do vision quests.
In many wondrous ways Bird Mountain is the “Nest of the Great Bird”. We can go there as spiritual human beings, bird people, shamans and thunderbirds to reconnect to all our ancestors worldwide. It is here we can begin to reclaim our human birthright to embrace and practice bird shamanism once again. In this way we will become stronger, better and wiser people. Here we will heal to become healthier and happier human beings. It is from this positively optimistic position – this naturally high bird’s eye point of view – that we will fly ever higher. Here we'll become prepared and empowered to help other people by bringing conscious balance, harmony and peace to all our relations among human kind.