Black Cockatoos & The Shaman’s Path

Black Cockatoos and the Shaman's Path

LEARNING ABOUT SHAMANISM - VS - LEARNING SHAMANISM

There’s a distinction to make between learning about shamanism, and learning shamanism.

Learning about shamanism is primarily and fundamentally an effort of the mind; the intellect, whereas learning shamanism is a much more harmonious and integrated discipline; encompassing the mind-body-spirit.

Unfortunately many of us have grown up in a time and place where heavy bias is still placed on mind-based activity. Here in Australia, in the society and culture I’ve been immersed in for most of my life, the predominant mainstream ideals have left any remnants of body-spirit wisdom trailing in red dust.

The barren landscape of modern civilization could do with the great rains of realignment, with a major reharmonizing of mind-body-spirit needed for much of humanity; especially those in our contemporary times who have been called to walk the shaman’s path.

As a basic definition, shamanism is humanity’s most archaic nature-based spiritual path of direct revelation, which includes a vast assortment of techniques that induce non-ordinary states of consciousness for the purpose of receiving information from the natural world, both physical and spiritual.

While the words “shaman” and “shamanism” have essentially been taken from the Evenki language and applied as a blanket term on many cultures around the globe, when it comes down to it, beyond the dogma and (mis)interpretation, the roots of traditional shamanism all around the world carry the same essence.


WHAT IS CHALICITY & MIASMA?

The foundational bedrock for all of shamanic practice is “chalicity”, which denotes a state of being akin to an empty chalice; a clear vessel; a hollow bone; a cessation of thoughts, becoming acutely aware and consciously immersed in present moment experience, free from the burden of a lifetime of “miasma”.

You can think of miasma as the broad spectrum of conditioning - societal, cultural, familial, religious, scientific, categorical etc  - that acts as an atmospheric fog over the lens through which we directly experience the reality of nature.

Instead of the pitfall of thinking you’re learning something new in regards to chalicity, you’re doing the exact opposite. Unlearning everything that distracts you from your wild, present, animal nature, so that “understanding” can come not just on the level of the mind, like most of us are used to, but an “understanding” on the level of body and spirit.

There are many “levels” to shamanic practice, many shamanic techniques, and many initiations that one must undergo on the shaman’s path. Just to be clear, I don’t call myself a shaman, nor do I consider myself to be one, however in recent times, my time and energy spent “learning about shamanism” and “learning shamanism” has crystalized into a discipline and knowing that the shamanic path is the path I am meant to walk.

Several potent dream initiations have taken place, alongside my own initiatory sickness - one that took many years to heal myself from - both of which are classic indications of spirit calling one to walk the shamanic path. I know that to not walk this path would result in a return, and worsening, of previous symptoms of illness.

For further clarification, I don’t necessarily mean the path of plant-based shamanism either, although it’s certainly not exclusive of this. After all, South American shamanism has certainly played a large part in my own healing and expansion, and will continue to do so I’m sure.


SPIRIT BIRDS & THE MESSAGES THEY BRING

So, what do black cockatoos have to do with the shaman’s path, I hear you ask…

Part of my shamanic practice has included undertaking various exercises and practicing several techniques outside in nature. To connect with the subtleties of nature on a deeper, and much more shamanic level, it makes sense to open the closest doorway to nature. And the closest doorway we can enter, is the doorway into our very own body.  In a state of chalicity, becoming present with the natural rhythms of the breath can act as a portal into this world.

I set out into a native forest nearby my home, finding a spot underneath a tree, gazing out to the horizon where lake met sky. After practicing what on the outside, would seem like some rudimentary Chinese martial art type movements, I felt my awareness blending in and becoming one with my surroundings.

I designated the start of a walking trail to be my marker for entering sacred space. In this context, that means silence, no verbal communication, and being mindful of any signs or omens that may present themselves from the natural world.

It felt like I was being guided by an invisible silk thread as I entered one particular clearing in amongst the pine forest. Why this clearing and not any of the others? In a heightened state of awareness, the melodic call of currawong and fragrant smell of flowers directed my attention towards two trees I could see in full bloom deep in the pine forest.

Weaving my way in, I was met with sensory delight as I marvelled at two large cherry blossoms, covered in flowers, one of them bright white, the other a creamy counterpart. It was quite a moment in time to behold; two majestic trees holding sacred space in amongst the green and brown pine landscape, an intoxicating smell accompanying the faint sound of bees harvesting sweet nectar.

If that wasn’t enough already, I felt the subtle tug of spirit’s invisible silk thread pulling my head to look directly down and to the right of my feet. I smiled in gratitude as I bent down to pick up a single black currawong feather.

Arriving at my car some time later, my keys in ignition and engine humming, I heard the familiar call of another bird. Perched high up on tree top, a single yellow tailed black cockatoo called my attention. Again, that silk thread beckoned me forth. I stepped off bitumen carpark and carefully ventured into thick grass that reeked of snake territory, trusting the call to take a closer look at the small flock that had appeared.

In animal symbolism and indigenous lore, the black cockatoo is linked strongly to spirit. I’m always awe-struck when these large birds squawk and take flight, their yellow markings nestled within dark plumage fanning out amongst sunset skies and Australian backdrop.

These black birds carry a powerful energy, captivating my heart and nervous system, sinking me deeper into my body and deeper into the great mystery. They took flight to some nearby trees as I approached, coaxing me to follow. Knowing the symbolic and spiritual meaning that bird feathers can carry, I wondered if one of these spirit birds would leave one behind for me.

Tension eased as I exited the dense grass and walked into a clearing, where three currawong feathers poked up from the Earth, as if marking the path forward. The invisible pull of the silk thread had lured me to a tiny little grove where I looked up and beheld the last three black cockatoos squawk and take flight above me. I knew this was the end of my journey for the day, and with a final look down to the ground in front of me, I gawked in disbelief.

A single yellow tailed black cockatoo feather.


THE SPIRITUAL MEANING WITHIN A SINGLE FEATHER

Shamanism is a path of direct spiritual revelation, unlike religion, where an intermediary sits between recipient and truth. As far as shamanism is concerned, personal connection with the spiritual worlds can only be gained through direct experience.

Shamanism is not an endeavour for the intellect. It requires experiential learning, a shedding of all the pre-conceived ways of approaching the world, and a deepening capacity to gain understanding on all levels of being, beyond merely the mind.

Objectively, black cockatoos have nothing to do with the shaman’s path.

Subjectively, for me, the spirit of black cockatoo has made its mark through it’s gift of feather, symbolizing great messages of alignment, trusting the subtle whispers of spirit and intuition, the continued release of lingering doubts, the magic that unfolds from approaching these practices with discipline and chalicity, and the gentle blessing and nudges of affirmation for the shamanic flight and spiritual freedom that can unfold from continuing down this path.

May the subtle guidance from both the seen and unseen realms of nature continue to nurture those of you that also resonate with walking the shamanic way.


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Yellow tailed black cockatoo feather guitar
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