New Book Explores the Living
Spiritual Tradition Surrounding Birds in Native American Culture
Birds are our strongest allies in the natural
world. Revered in Native American spirituality and shamanic traditions
around the world, birds are known as teachers, guardians, role models,
counselors, healers, clowns, peacemakers, and meteorologists. They
carry messages and warnings from loved ones and the spirit world,
report deaths and injuries, and channel divine intelligence to answer
our questions. Some of their "signs" are so subtle that
one could discount them as subjective, but others are dramatic enough
to strain even a skeptic's definition of coincidence.
Pairing scholarly research with more than
200 firsthand accounts of bird encounters from traditional Native
Americans and their descendants, Evan Pritchard explores the living
spiritual tradition surrounding birds in Native American culture.
He examines in depth the birds known as the gatekeepers of the four
directions- Eagle in the North, Hawk in the East, Crow in the South,
and Owl in the West-including their roles in legends and the use
of their feathers in shamanic rituals. He reveals how the eagle
can be a direct messenger of the Creator, why crows gather in "Crow
Councils," and how shamans have the ability to travel inside
of birds, even after death. Expanding his study to the wisdom and
gifts of birds beyond the four gatekeepers, such as hummingbirds,
seagulls, and the mythical thunderbird, he provides numerous examples
of everyday bird sign interpretations that can be applied in your
own encounters with birds as well as ways we can help protect birds
and encourage them to communicate with us.
T. Pritchard, a descendant of the Mi'kmaq people, has taught Native
American studies at Pace University, Vassar College, and Marist College
and is the director of the Center for Algonquin Culture. Steeped in
bird lore by his Mi'kmaq great aunt Helen Perley, he is the author
of several books, including Native New Yorkers and No Word for Time.
A regular on radio shows such as NPR's Fresh Air and on the History
Channel, he lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.