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The Balkan Bird Goddess: Birds falling from the skies

Their extraordinary insights, capturing the immediate knowing of fertility, birth, blood mysteries and Mother Nature in connection with the migration of birds, have not been repeated again

Categorized in these topics: Baba Yaga Bioculinary Feminine Matrix and Female Culture Social Memory


This Fall Equinox-Halloween has birds falling from the skies at an alarming and increasing rate. It is this time of year that I closely associate the Balkan Bird Goddesses with the modern day costumed Baba Yagas and witches renditions flying about on Halloween.

The Fall Equinox evokes an alchemical transformation to move me from a passive stance to one of an active stance where I take notice or to observe. I took acute notice this Fall Equinox when the Dali Lama publicly voiced his concerns about the ever growing birth defects in Tibetan birds resulting from China’s nuclear programs.

Connecting strongly to the Balkan Bird Goddess, I have observed how birds today are associated as the culprit for the Spratfly Flu. This association fuels fears of another flu pandemic worse than the last one in 1919 which killed my Bosnian Serb Grandmother shortly after she gave birth to twins.

The Balkan Bird Goddess once nested in Danube River some 3,000 years ago. On January 31, 2000, the Danube was fed 100,000 cubic meters of wastewater laced with cyanide and heavy metals from tailings in the Baia Mare lagoon originating in Hungry. Tons of dead fish became the first visible signs of the disaster as birds descended to eat the rotting carcasses throughout Serbia. (http://www.public.asu.edu/~goutam/gcu325/danube.htm#cons

The Bird Goddess was known as the first witch who married the sky with the earth while nesting in the tree of life branches. At that time, (c.4700-4500 BCE) the seated Vinca Culture Bird Goddess, found in Carija former Yugoslavia, signified how “the Goddess presided over birth and death…but she also presided over all that lies between.” (Peg Streep author of Sanctuaries of the Goddess)

The Balkan Bird Goddess, birthed in the former Yugoslavia region thousands of years ago, showed a complete reverence for Mother Nature through the zoomorphic image of the bird-duck. Her iconic dress in a bolero vest with a beaked face symbolizes the regenerative cycles found in migrations.

Strongly present in the Balkan Bird Goddess and in Slavic Thaumaturgy (or “miracle making,” and if you ever witnessed a flock of birds migrating you would understand the thaumaturgy’s miracle-making process) are migrations. Peering into migration through its word origin leads us to the understanding of what memory is.

Migration, spawned from the word ‘mutation’ meaning to exchange what is reciprocal, brims with the commutable prosperities found in sacred pilgrimages. Sacred pilgrimages etched on the Balkan Bird Goddess figures and mirrored in birds elliptical migratory patterns speak of how life experiences mutate and evolve us.

Migrations and sacred pilgrimages viewed this way-manifesting new memories through migratory patterns- notes how we are no longer the same individuals who left home for work in the morning, for school or even to the grocery store moments, hours or years before.

Certainly, there is a consciousness in commemorating sacred pilgrimages and migratory patterns as being a part of nature’s cosmic rhythm. Proto-Slavs (and Slavic grandmothers today) observed the flights of birds that occurred during the equinoxes to commemorate the announcement of the migratory pattern as a part of Mother Nature’s calendar.

Halloween in October for my ancient Slavic grandmothers was a return to the earth, a deep rest that was resurrected with the return flight of migratory birds in the spring. Now that the migratory birds are falling from the skies, the loss of their migratory patterns also signals our memory loss that once announced the Fall Equinox.

The clustered meanings of symbols, archetypes and archeomythologies etched into the clay form of the Balkan Bird Goddess embodies have migrated and are mapped into ancient fables and myths spoken down through the generations, such as Baba Yaga- the Goddess of Embroideries and the forest. The birds ‘winged migrations’ during the Fall Equinox continually evoke modern day memories in us in harmony with the falling leaves.

Halloween is represented by witches on brooms, (brooms – tree trunks) signifying the end of the equinox season and the movement of the birds to escape the cold winters and seek deep rest. Have we forgotten to take our deep rest after harvesting the summer’s riches? Usually, the winter solstice season is rife with festive parties and miles-long gift lists. Rather than fueling us with its abundance, this season prompts fatigue and depression and is becoming known as the season of suicides.

In a way, the Fall Equinox and its migratory patterns trigger a deep memory within our bodies and that of most species on the Mother Earth. The etching of chevrons and triangles on the zoomorphic Balkan Bird Goddess figures perhaps describe the understanding of ancient Slavic Grandmothers that memory is stored and recorded in the body.

If Slavic Grandmothers understood how memory was stored in the body, they understood mitochondria DNA, female biology which records and holds the sacred, untouched recording of the mother line. Their library was not books; rather it was manifested into three dimensional figurines of the Balkan Bird Goddesses and their own migratory life experiences.

Many wizened old women in Bosnia have approached me with their hand-made brooms exclaiming how their brooms represent the tree trunk and branches. With their hunched shoulders, their brooms sweep the destructive Balkan war back into the rich soil of the earth. Most of these Slavic grandmothers (who actually look like witches and Baba Yagas) are barely educated in modern terms of schooling. Yet, these supposedly “uneducated” Baba Yagas pointed out how the time that it takes for a tree to grow a ring was the same length of time for a tooth to grow enamel; about nine days.

When I asked one South Slavic grandmother how she knew that, she touched my notebook and said the birds and trees always have been her notebooks. My interest piqued by her astute observation skills and her nature’s notebook, I researched and discovered that her facts were indeed accurate! I had never known that correlation before my chance meeting with this Slavic Baba Yaga, a modern Balkan Bird Goddess.

Etching memory using the body such as the kolos (Bosnian-Serbo/Croatian for folk dances and circles), sweeping brooms or migrations found in sacred pilgrimages mirrors female’s biology-mitochondria DNA and in reality, is a Slavic thaumaturgy practice. The wizened Slavic grandmothers of the Neolithic scratching the profound symbols on the clay body of the Balkan Bird Goddess was purposeful and dynamic, able to trigger eternal memory in our bodies some 3,000 years later.

Mother Nature’s Neolithic Old Europe notebooks are the clay Balkan Bird Goddess figurines. Her pens are our bodies, the brooms and our steps, transforming into life experiences. The Fall Equinoxes return us to these Neolithic Mother Nature notebooks orchestrated by falling leaves and migrating birds.

Of course, the birds through their equinoxes migrations have tuned into this stream of inspiration drawn upon by the Balkan Bird Goddess figures. I also know the falling leaves of trees depart into the same stream of inspiration. It can be argued that both the winged migrations and trees in the fall are conspiring for us to have memory. Many people speak of how autumn signals approaching death- winter for them.

Perhaps in this conspiracy to have Mother Nature trigger our eternal memory, Geneticists Cavalli-Sforza, Piazza, Menozzi, and Mountain (1988) were prompted to research mitochondria DNA, and the universal relationship between gene-based and language-based trees linking extant human populations. Since mitochondria DNA remains in the mother-line, if a mother does not have a daughter her genes are not carried forward. Migrations and evolution are halted for those matrilineal genes and the species.

What this implies is that with the loss of migratory birds comes the inability to evolve as a species. We were at one time in tune with Mother Nature’s cosmic rhythm, known as the seasons. When we cannot understand Mother Nature’s etching on the Balkan Bird Goddess figurines, we cannot ‘remember’ our own past migrations, let alone embark upon our Fall Equinox migration. That migration could be a sacred pilgrimage intrinsic to our creative life experiences.

Drawn to the elliptical markings on the various Balkan Bird Goddesses, as a Serbian folk dancer, I observed how the serpentine folk dance (known as kolo in Bosnian/Serbo-Croatian) steps chalk an overlay map of migratory birds’ flight patterns and most likely symbolize my own sacred pilgrimages. Applying this observation to the mapping of the genes brings us face to face with our first mother.

Essentially what the Slavic Neolithic grandmothers fashioned out of clay-earth fetal material- the Balkan Bird Goddess figures, totemic in shape which can be easily handheld was a library of Mother Nature. Their extraordinary insights, capturing the immediate knowing of fertility, birth, blood mysteries and Mother Nature in connection with the migration of birds, have not been repeated again. Well, this is not completely true, since the South Slavic grandmothers knew how tree rings growth and tooth enamel growth were the same.

The messages gathered by ancient Slavic grandmothers in their observation of the flights of birds and nests in trees were clear to them; what happened to the trees and the birds will come to be or is present in grandmothers, mothers, sisters and the future generations of daughters.

Such observations are now left to environmentalists, bird watchers and bird lovers, along with scientists. As the birds rain down from the skies with all matter of birth defects and diseases, scientific observations are muted and do not seem to advocate for feathered friends, who are the little witches of the skies and trees.

South Slavic women once intuitively knew the internal rhythm of Mother Nature’s calendar. After experiencing the horrors of WWl, WWll, and the Balkan war of the 1990’s in their homes and wombs, appear to have amnesia concerning their Slavic thaumaturgic practices. No longer able to advocate for the birds or themselves, South Slavic females are barely surviving the aftermath of yet another war.

The resurrection and remembrances of the Balkan Bird Goddess are buried under environmental disasters, fierce Balkan wars, European wars, hostile patriarchal governments and organized religions. Mostly what was seen and witnessed among the Slavic women in former Yugoslavia is a mere shell of what was once the Balkan Bird Goddess.

Behind the deaths of young and old women who fly off the balconies and windows of their apartment flats to avoid the continued torture, starvation, poverty, abuse in the Balkan war aftermath is the misguided impulse to resurrect the Balkan Bird Goddess. The deaths are not listed as suicide, but as ‘accidental’ deaths. Their wingless bodies crash many stories down to the already blood-soaked land.

Isn’t this similar to the apathy toward the extinction of migratory birds and the despairing status of women today? Do we even notice the crushed and broken female bodies on the ground anymore?

The Balkan Wars, along with the ever increasing deaths of migratory birds and rising violence towards women earth wide, communicate gynocide. Poisoned by many toxins and recently in the Balkan war depleted uranium, females are stricken with birth defects, diseases and are falling from the skies with the migratory birds.

“Last but not least there is the threat from the bombs and missiles tipped with depleted uranium, some 150 of which are thought to have been dropped on Belgrade alone. Belgrade University chemist Predrag Polic warns that the danger from radioactive dust thrown up by the bombs may be even greater in Kosovo. There, an estimated 150 such weapons were landing daily during the conflict,” reports Milenko Vasovic a journalist based in Belgrade.

We can witness through the stories of the Bosnian women flying off the poverty stricken ledges of their flats, along with the birds falling from the sky, and evoke the passion necessary to fashion another Balkan Bird Goddess with icons for peace and love for all living things feminine. Remembering Halloween and the Fall Equinox as the announcement of migrations places events we face in life within the context of our own lives.

The Balkan Bird Goddess evokes eternal memory and begins an ongoing understanding of the equinoxes into present day.







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