“When destiny comes to a man from outside, it lays him low, just as an arrow lays a deer low. When destiny comes to a man from within, from his innermost being, it makes him strong, it makes him into a god.” ~ Hermann Hesse
What is thunderbird medicine? It is the most paradoxical and mysterious of the sacred medicines. Thunderbird is the spirit keeper for the element Fire and is the seventh stone at the center of the Medicine Wheel.
Those with thunderbird medicine bring much-needed storms to dried-out norms. Their medicine is dual in nature. They bring fire to the rot and water to the wasteland, upheaval to settled ways and imagination to fixed thinking. Thunderbird is a symbol for strength as well as for change.
Those with thunderbird medicine bring both storm and renewal. They un-do complacency and wrongness and transform the energies of this un-doing into what is healthy and good. They are profound healers, but they are feared by those who resist needed change.
This kind of medicine can be upsetting and unsettling. And rightly so. Those possessing thunderbird medicine are fierce agents of balance. Not even God is immune to their ruthlessness.
Here are five signs you may possess thunderbird medicine…
1.) You’ve been initiated by the thunder gods
“We need shamans, and if society doesn’t provide them, the universe will.” ~ Joe Lewels
One way the universe provides shamans is through profound psycho-symbolic initiations. Shamanic reconditioning is as old as human conceived time. It is personified by self-actualized beings with soul-centric perspectives who are capable of perceiving the cosmos through a state of interdependence.
Whether by surviving deep trauma, ego-death, shadow reconciliation, a dark night of the soul, or all of the above, this is where the human precondition spills over into shamanic reconditioning. This is where impermanence becomes self-actualized. Where the human victim becomes a cosmic hero.
As a carrier of thunderbird medicine, your initiation was probably some variation of a profound vision of the interconnected world induced by a raging thunderstorm (Here is my experience).
Most experiences are tantamount to an out-of-body experience, where the thunder itself comes down and takes possession of your soul, transforming you into a “thunderbird.” Where you are flown to the highest heights and inflicted with the knowledge of how everything is connected to everything else.
As Black Elk explains, “When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm.”
2.) You are intuitively contrarian
“When you see your matter going black, rejoice, for this is the beginning of the work.” ~ Rosarium Philosophorum
You relate to Sacred Clown energies, mocking the sacred through high humor and embracing uncertainty while holding the tension between opposites. You are a bridge between worlds, leaving space for adventurous travel into other worlds that challenges the status quo to think differently.
You use contrarian logic and backwards thinking to jolt society into higher and healthier reasoning, blurring the line between culturally conditioned notions of right and wrong. In true Nietzschean form, you go “beyond good and evil.” You are in that field laughing with Rumi: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
Your shadow is white (initiated). Your halo is black (self-overcoming). With thunder in your blood, you transform boundaries into horizons through the unity of opposites. Guided by the Midnight Sun (sol niger), your luminous shadow shines like a beacon of darkness (reconditioning) into the blinding light of indoctrination (cultural conditioning).
3.) You are able to transform the Great Mystery into Magic Elixir
“Not everyone has a destiny; only the hero who has plunged to touch it and has come up again—with a ring.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Because of your ability to act as a bridge between worlds, you are adept at excavating sacred knowledge and then repackaging it into something that can be consumed by the “tribe.”
You use a “language older than words (Derrick Jensen)” to translate immortal truth into mortal wisdom. You are able to listen to the silence and detect the “voice that doesn’t use words (Rumi).”
Your thunderbird wings spread, becoming the sky, becoming the cosmos-as-self, giving you a bird’s-eye perspective of how all worlds are connected. From these heights you hear the voice of God, The Great Mystery, the Blooming Haha, the Dancing Nothing, The infinite Zero.
Your interpretation becomes the magic elixir distributed to heroes who have dared to navigate their own hero’s journey. A sacred gift given to those who have eyes sharp enough to read it, ears keen enough to hear it, a heart resilient enough to feel it, and a soul flexible enough to adapt to it.
4.) You practice Phoenix-like rebirth
“The cure for suffering –which is the collision of consciousness with unconsciousness– is not to be submerged in the unconsciousness, but to be raised into consciousness and to suffer more. The evil of suffering is cured by more suffering, by higher suffering.” ~ Miguel de Unamuno
Provident interdependence has liberated you despite the ignorant codependence that once contained you.
You’ve gone beyond merely surviving the cocoon, or dark night of the soul, or existential crisis, or sacred wound. You’re a thunderbird with a Phoenix heart. The burnt ashes of your heart forever animating your soul into heart-rebirth.
In true Akhilandeshvari (the Goddess of Never Not Broken) form, your heart has been broken and put back together again so many times it doesn’t know how not to be resilient.
As Goethe said, “Unless you are constantly practicing it, this dying and being reborn, you are only a guest on this dark planet earth.”
As such, you embrace higher suffering. You embrace the life-death-rebirth process. Pain is your persistent guide through the maelstrom of the human condition. And although your wounds are deep, they are sacred. Reminding you, always, that “the cure for the pain is in the pain (Rumi).”
5.) You practice ruthless love
“What one needs in this universe is not certainty but the courage and nerve of the gambler; not fixed conviction but adaptability; not firm ground whereupon to stand but skill in swimming.” ~ Alan Watts
Your heart is on your sleeve, vulnerable but fiery, open but resilient, warm but merciless. You love the way Nature loves, with neither pity nor placation. As Derrick Jensen said, “Love does not imply pacifism.”
It is dangerous being openhearted, but you understand that openheartedness is a must if love is to be true. Loving is a delicious gamble at best and a tragic gamble at worst. Either way, it’s a gamble.
But you realize that the answer isn’t to crawl into a safe, comfortable, secure hole and erect defensive walls to protect yourself from harm. Nor is it to become callous, cynical or jaded. No. The answer is to become a better gambler. The answer is to get better at being vulnerable. To be animated by the pain of love rather than burned-out by it.
As such, you are a lover who dares to love dangerously. You seek to perfect your “skill in swimming” rather than cling to the safety of the shore. Even if this means breaking hearts or having your own heart broken again and again.
Balance is key, of course. But in a world grown lopsided with too many fearful shore-clingers, we could use a few more courageous “skilled-swimmers.”
In the end, thunderbird medicine is counterintuitively healthy. It’s existentially challenging. In some ways it is a curse for those who carry it. For in order to maintain such medicine, the tug-o-war rope between life and death, finitude and infinity, darkness and light, pain and passion, mortality and immortality must be held taut between madness and genius.
Thunderbird medicine awakens. It transforms. It cleanses. It renews. It is neither easy nor comfortable. Thunderbird medicine is not ‘gentle’. But thunderbird medicine is a cure for unhealthy complacency. Probably more for others than for you.
But still, if you are able to balance like an acrobat across the rope, and if you are able to dance the shamanic dance over the abyss, and if you are able to continually reanimate your Phoenix-heart, then your thunderbird wings will keep you aloft, and your wake-up calls will be like thunder on the wind, and your wisdom will be like lightning in God’s ears, and your medicine will be like rain for thirsty souls.