"If you find fear in your heart, go into the mountains. Stand high on the peak and watch the storm come over the horizon. See the lightning and hear the thunder and know that all this power is small compared to the power of the Great Spirit (Great Bird) to guide you upon your path."
-- Algonquin Proverb --There are intriguing old Algonquin legends that say in ancient times it was believed the first birds, the first spirits, to come to Earth were thunderbirds. These very large, gigantic Great Spirit Birds were the helpers of the Creator in the creation of rock (earth) which was the First World. Gifted to them by the Creator, these birds carried the natural powers of lightning (fire and electricity), thunder (sound), and rain (water). They came into being to help the Creator make the Earth's atmosphere (air) of the Sky World and then the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers (water). Upon completion, the Great Spirit Birds stayed on Earth to continue helping to "spark life" with their lightning arrows.
Up here the thunderbirds learned the practices of primeval bird shamanism from ancestor spirits called, "The Old Ones". Ancient beliefs came from paleolithic Siberia and entered the continent of North America (Turtle Island) as people migrated over the Bering Strait Land Bridge. Other ancient peoples, known as the Solutreans, came by crossing the Ice Age Atlantic Ocean in small boats and landed on the east coast. Eventually the descendants of both these prehistoric human migrations met each other and mixed to become some of the Indigenous Peoples of North America who have been here since time immemorial. And their ancient bird shaman beliefs eventually became the more recent "Thunderbird Medicine Society". Today's thunderbird people are essentially shamans (holy people) who work on behalf of the Great Bird/Thunderbird to help guide people spiritually.
When the Great Spirit Birds, the thunderbirds, came to Earth a very long time ago there still weren't any trees. So in order for the thunderbirds to have nests in which to lay their eggs, they had to make their nests with 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 thunderbird nests.
Well before the Ice Age people have been using bird feathers. Also 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 paleolithic Siberia around 70,000 to 130,000 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 Laurentide glacier began to retreat and melt away 18,000 years ago.
In addition to all this there is also another feature that exists with the large stones atop Bird Mountain. The primary stones of the big thunderbird nest are in direct 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 mirror the main stars of Cygnus found in the northern sky above. (The constellation of Cygnus is also called the Northern Cross.) Cygnus was revered worldwide by our paleolithic ancestors. It is believed that some 15,000 years ago the star Deneb, the tail star of the Great Sky Bird/Cygnus, was the "pole star" seen in the night sky at that long ago time. This "pole" is often symbolized as a "sacred tree" which enables a shaman to ascend from the Middle World of earth up into the Sky World and beyond through a hole into the stars and the universe beyond.
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 (namely the Solutreans) because these big boulders on the ground matched up with the actual stars of Cygnus in the sky? It is highly possible. In connecting the stones like dots in another way, the resulting shape is a bird's foot, or a bird track, which indicates where the Great Bird touched down upon the Earth; where the Great Bird lighted on the mountain top.
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, before 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 a massive "spirit bird" in the heavens - surely traveled with our Siberian and/or Solutrean ancestors to land on the bedrock of this continent too.
For all these reasons Bird Mountain is not simply a sacred site but also a place for the rite of passage of the vision quest here in eastern Canada. There are indeed many places where vision quests can be done but due to what actually exists atop Bird Mountain, this site is an ideal location for people to visit to practice their own forms of Earth-based spirituality such as shamanism. Here they can do a vision quest. Or they can come just to be there and enjoy the view. With all that Bird Mountain has to offer, it's the perfect "place of vision" for many people; seekers, healers and shamans of all kinds. Here we can practice our own spiritual work, conduct our personal ceremonies and do vision quests to help us see.
A Place for Everyone
In many wondrous ways Bird Mountain is the "Nest of the Great Bird". We can go there as spiritual human beings seeking ways to reconnect to all of our ancestors worldwide. It is here we can begin to reclaim our birthright to embrace and practice our earthly, human spirituality 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 optimistic position - this naturally high, bird's eye point of view - that we can fly ever higher. By questing for, and then seeing, the very vision we need to act upon we have a great potential to better our world. With a vision to guide us we become creative and empowered. Then we'll have all the power we need, right inside us, to focus properly on the mission of bringing back balance and respect to All Our Relations here on Earth.