"Fear not the Shaman for he is guided by the Great Spirit, and his cures are the gifts of the Great Spirit's forest."
-- Kitchizibi Algonquin Proverb --
A Sacred Site
The following lengthy information is shared to help you understand why we go up to Bird Mountain for personal ceremonies and vision quests. For specifics about the vision quests I guide here please contact me.
Bird mountain is a sacred site. It has most likely been used since time immemorial. Shamans and holy people intentionally climbed to the top of Bird Mountain to commune with the Thunderbird - "The Great Bird." Here these spiritual people, called thunderbirds themselves, learned the ways of bird shamanism from ancestor spirits called "The Old Ones".
Following in the footsteps of our paleolithic ancestors of 12,000 years ago (this date is often disputed), when the last Ice Age began to melt away, prehistoric "bird shamans" climbed up here to do ceremonies and vision quests that involved direct communication with The Great Bird or Thunderbird. These shamans became human thunderbirds themselves. Today's thunderbirds are like medicine people or holy people who still work on behalf of the Great Bird/Thunderbird to guide people spiritually.
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's believed that the Thunderbird is so large, so great, it needs the whole entire universe to have enough space to fly around freely. But the Thunderbird can also come to Earth. Bird Mountain is one place the Thunderbird built a nest.
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. The name Bird Mountain is simply short for "Thunderbird Mountain".
The large “bird” petroform is one I created 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 here to remind us that this mountain top is a sacred, traditional place of vision known as a thunderbird nest. The stone bird petroform marks this area as a high place where all kinds of spirits (bird and human alike) come to realize the good medicine of the Sky World. The stone thunderbird petroform also celebrates the site has possibly been used for a very long time by people doing vision quests. As a thunderbird my desire is to help people do vision quests here too. Why? Because the way things are with life on Earth today it's clear we could use some help. We need vision to help create a better world.
In search of vision, we venture up Bird Mountain to “get high” naturally. We go up here to personally connect with our own human nature and the power the Earth 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, we mainly use Bird Mountain because it is a thunderbird nest. This is a high place where, long ago, the Great Bird - the Thunderbird itself - had landed on earth to make its nest and lay eggs in order to create more thunderbird offspring. These offspring included thunderbirds in human form as well who would hatch from the thunderbird eggs. Medicinally, thunderbird eggs contain inherent power. Thunderbird eggs are often found where thunderbirds make their nests.
There are intriguing 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 Creator 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 (electricity and fire). They had come into being 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 create and spark life with their lightning arrows.
These very large, 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. Yet these 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 large 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 big stones might physically form the arrangement of a circular 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 sacred location of this ancient stone thunderbird nest.
In knowing the ancient stories about the first thunderbirds that came to Earth, the human thunderbirds (shamans) followed suit. They built their nests of stones too in order to do vision quests. In this way they would be able to receive guidance, dreams and visions from the manitous and ancestors residing in the western realm of the Spirit World. To this day Bird Mountain is still used by thunderbirds (and other people) to attain spiritual guidance, complete personal medicine work, to make gifts and offerings to manitous (spirits), to 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. Old, Earth-based "bird shamanism" is alive and well atop Bird Mountain!
Since the last 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 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 Laurentide glacier began to retreat and melt away 18,000 years ago. It is believed some human beings came here by walking from Siberia to Alaska and then ever southward into North America. But also, possibly 24,000 years ago, other people called Solutreans came from prehistoric Europe by boat by following the edges of Atlantic ice to inhabit eastern North America. A cultural memory of this is that 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 most still practice aged forms of bird shamanism which is retained as Indigenous Spiritual Knowledge. This has been passed on into the present day from ancestors in our distant past; “since time immemorial” as we often say.
This is all based on the primal 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 Siberia (possibly with prehistoric yet highly intelligent and imaginative human beings called the Denisovans) began thousands and thousands of years ago – possibly 100,000 years ago. And yet bird shamanism still survives today among our modern, highly advanced and technological human cultures worldwide. Why? Because,"We're all Native to the Earth."
It is from this thinking that I believe 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 due to always traveling to rocky high places and mountain tops to build their thunderbird nests. Today we continue to practice these ancient, spiritual thunderbird medicine ceremonies. Here we also maintain these ancient "bird shamanism" practices in direct communication with the Great Bird.
Mountain of Gifts
With all this in mind is why I believe Bird Mountain to be a true “place of vision” where thunderbirds (shamans), holy people, medicine people and others can regularly come 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. 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. For in order to receive something that will 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. These spirits have the potential to feed us so we need to feed them. Only then will the spirits be willing to help us and guide us upon the trail of life here on Earth.
Star Constellation of Cygnus: The Great Sky Bird
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 thunderbird nest seem to be 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". It is believed that some 15,000 years ago the star Deneb - the tail star (N) of the Great Sky Bird - was the pole star seen in the sky at that time. Atop the mountain the tail stone (N) is the northern point of the 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 (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 t-shape is a bird's foot or a bird track which may indicate where the Great Bird touched down upon the Earth. Is this where the Great Bird lighted on the mountain?
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 just a massive “spirit bird” in the heavens – surely traveled with our Siberian or Solutrean ancestors to land on the bedrock of this continent too.
The large stone arrangement 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 occurs during sleep, dreams and visions we can attain naturally from drumming, singing, dancing, fasting and vision questing.
So we have 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 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 try 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.
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. Now we have all the medicine we need, right inside us, to focus properly on the work of bringing back balance and respect to All Our Relations here on Earth.