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Bird Medicine

The Sacred Power of Bird Shamanism

Evan T. Pritchard

Bear and Company, 2013
With index and bibliography

Reviewed by Margaret Bartley

I liked Bird Medicine because it has an interesting approach one doesn't often encounter. When Pritchard uses the term "Medicine", he is not referring to a pill or tea, he means an approach to living and understanding the world in a way that is healing for the body and soul, a traditional way of life. The flight of birds in the sky can have personal meaning, if you have the eyes and the training to understand.

Omens and messages are common occurrences in indigenous teachings throughout the world. It is not often that people with those sensibilities and trainings are also writing in a scientific and modern setting, as Pritchard does.

He discusses the meanings of many birds in cultures throughout the Americas, with a special emphasis on the tribes around the Great Lakes region, although he also brings in teachings from Alaska, Mexico and the Southwest. He lists the birds one by one, focusing especially on the four major birds of the four directions, the eagle, the hawk, the crow and the owl. He also covers many other birds as well. He talks about the connection between birds and humans, as shamans leave their bodies to travel in time and space, as the birds do.

I loved the stories he told of his friends and relatives' experiences with the birds, as they were messengers from loved ones, or omens. These are magical stories of prayers answered and amazing "coincidences".

He also gives a good scientific description of each bird, and informs about the dangers to the birds of our contemporary ecological practices and the dangers of development.

This is a good balance between the subtle world of people who choose to work with the Great Mystery, and the curiosity of people who just want to know more about how things work and the ways of the world around them.