Symbolic Thunderbird Meanings
Messages from the Otherworlds
There are several variations in Native traditions about the Thunderbird.
Some tribes view the Thunderbird as an omen of war. When quaking peals of thunder rattle the heavens, it's a sign the spirits are warring in the skies. This was also a foretelling of victory for tribal wars fought on the ground - particularly when ritual ceremonies and dances were reverently adhered to.
When the cry of the Thunderbird was heard (in the form of thunder in the skies) war huts were constructed to begin ceremonial processions. These huts were always made with the wood of the cedar tree, sacred to the Thunderbird. War dances by the Iroquois and Shawnee must be performed to exact precision in order to appease the rousted Thunderbird and insure victory in battle.
Tobacco (also sacred to the Thunderbird) would be smoked in intricate ceremonial order. The effects of the smoke would lift Native souls to the heavens where braves would encounter the Thunderbird in spirit-journeying; further bolstering the warrior's heart and insuring triumph against foe.
Other, more peace-keeping tribes viewed the Thunderbird as supreme Nature Spirit and a solar animal. It's eyes were said to be made from the sun, and upon waking in the morning, the Thunderbird issued the dawning day. Alternatively when Thunderbird retired at night, its sleepily closing eyes marked the solar dusk.
Another Native tale indicates lightning jetting out of the eyes of the Thunderbird when angered (during storms), and deafening cracks of thunder were produced when it flapped its mighty wings.
As a Native American symbol of creation, the Thunderbird marks the separation between the heavens and the earth. Moreover, in Northwestern tribes the Thunderbird is known as the Skyamsen, and is the dominating force of all natural activity.
In this perspective, the Thunderbird is the Creator, Destroyer and Controller of Nature and must be honored and appeased at all cost. This is where we see a connection to rain as the Thunderbird is the bringer of life-giving waters (so agriculture may thrive and provide to the tribe). Countless ceremonies are conducted in honor of the great rain-bringer as a way to insure continued food supply.
The thunderbird's name is said to originate from the belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind. The Lakota name for the thunderbird is Wakį́nyąn, from wakhąn, meaning "sacred", and kįyą, meaning "winged". The Kwakwaka'wakw have many names for the thunderbird, and the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) called it Kw-Uhnx-Wa. The Ojibwa word for a thunderbird that is closely associated with thunder is animikii, while large thunderous birds are known as binesi.
The singular thunderbird, such as found in the stories of the Nuu-chah-nulth people, was said to reside on the top of a mountain, and was the servant of the Great Spirit. It was also told that the thunderbird controlled rainfall. Plural populations of thunderbirds, such as taught by the Kwakwaka'wakw and Cowichan people, could shapeshift into human form by tilting back their beaks like a mask and by removing their feathers as if they were a feather-covered blanket. There are stories of thunderbirds in human form marrying into human families; some families may trace their lineage to such an event. Families of thunderbirds who kept to themselves but wore human form were said to have lived along the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The story goes that other tribes soon forgot the nature of one of these thunderbird families, and when one tribe tried to take them as slaves, the thunderbirds put on their feather blankets and transformed to take vengeance upon their foolish captors.
Sioux stories tell that in "old times" the thunderbirds destroyed dangerous reptilian monsters called the Unktehila. The Menominee of Northern Wisconsin tell of a great mountain that floats in the western sky on which dwell the thunderbirds. They control the rain and hail and delight in fighting and deeds of greatness. They are the enemies of the great horned snakes - the Misikinubik - and have prevented these from overrunning the earth and devouring mankind. They are messengers of the Great Sun himself.
The Anishinaabe, part of the Council of Three Fires, have many stories about thunderbirds. During the Sun dance, ceremony a thunderbird nest is put near the top of the tree of life. The dancers often face the nest while dancing, and their hands and arms reach up towards the nest at times. A thunderbird pipe is used during the ceremony, and thunderbird medicine is prepared as well. The area of Thunder Bay, Ontario, is related in some ways to the Anishinaabe stories of thunderbirds. A famous story of the thunderbird is "Thunderbird and Whale". Among the Winnebagos, it is said that a man who has a vision of a thunderbird during a solitary fast will become a war chief
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Zodiac - Gemini
Element - Air
Typical colours - cream or white, with fine grey or black veins in a web-like pattern
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Healing Turquoise Gemstone ♥ Purification ♥ Serenity ♥ Protection ♥ Wisdom ♥ Balance ♥ Strength ♥ Friendship ♥ Love ♥ Positive thinking ♥ Sensitivity
Turquoise is a mineral that is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminium. Turquoise is an 11th Anniversary gemstone and vibrates to the number 1.
Chakras - Heart Chakra, Throat Chakra, Third Eye Chakra
Birthstone - December
Zodiac - Scorpio, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Pisces
Planet – Venus & Neptune
Element – Earth/Air/Fire
Typical colors - turquoise, blue, green, yellow-green
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