This post is about the lyrebird, its meaning and why it is the spirit animal reflecting the heart of Quiet Writing.
Lyrebirds run across my path
Each day I drive through bush to the top of the hill through national park with rainforest pockets and waterfall rock faces. The road opens up at times to a cathedral of trees and sky. I sing to music or listen to podcasts on creativity and writing, finding minutes to express my self before a busy work day.
On many days I smile, as a lyrebird, tail down making a sleek black figure, darts across the road into leaves and bush. On some occasions, I’ve seen two lyrebirds in one trip. That’s when I feel especially blessed by lyrebird magic.
I wonder at its meaning. I don’t recall seeing the lyrebird in any spirit animal guides I’ve read, being an Australian bird. I’m sure it’s there somewhere. I know I will need to look into Aboriginal stories too. I commit to doing that silently. But when I get on the train for the commute to the city, I decide to start with an intuitive write of what the lyrebird might mean.
Intuitive thoughts on the lyrebird
This is what I write:
I think it means spirit, like a sprite, a visitor of wisdom saying “You are on the right track. I’m running across this road right now to tell you that.” Like the rainbows I’ve seen in the past that wrote whole narratives of my life in the sky for me to read, it’s so explicit and timely.
I think it’s a muse: a muse of Australia, a lyre, a stringed instrument, playing like a voice, saying: Tell your story, sing your song, be your voice, the sacred creative voice that you are and want too be. Tell the stories of those who did not have a voice, help those who want to have a voice to tell their stories. The suffering, the struggle, the resilience, the spirit there that teaches us.
I think it’s about hearing the voices of others, listening, absorbing and maybe sometimes referring, quoting, ‘mimicking’, singing and trying out others’ voices to find my own voice. Knowing that the uniqueness of my voice is from all these influences and experiences, my voice a conglomeration or filter, a series of lyrebird calls, the synthesis.
It was great to write out my intuitive feel of the lyrebird before seeing others’ thoughts on the lyrebird and its meaning.
About the lyrebird
The lyrebird is a ground-dwelling bird found on the south east coast of Australia. The male has a tail shaped like a ‘lyre’ or harp. The male combines the display of his beautiful tail with extensive songs and mimicry to lure the female. The female lyrebird is also skilful in being able to mimic.
The birds are capable of mimicking just about any sound including chainsaws, cameras, human voices and car sirens. However they usually focus on the sounds of other animals and birds. The voice of a lyrebird resounds through the damp, tree-ferned gullies and valleys where it mostly lives. You can often recognise its presence by a series of different types of bird calls in quick succession.
The lyrebird’s syrinx or voice box is the most complex and sophisticated of any song bird. It has three instead of the usual four voice box muscles which gives flexibility. The birds are shy in nature. They are an ancient bird, with the earliest fossil records from about 15 million years ago.
Check out this brief video from David Attenborough to see the lyrebird in action. I’ve included a few more links below because they are so interesting!
The lyrebird – what others say
I find that many have documented the lyrebird and its meaning including some Aboriginal Dreaming stories. Here are the key messages of the lyrebird honed from online sources integrated with my own thoughts:
1 Creating a unique song letting other voices move through you
The lyrebird encourages us to create our unique song, especially via other influences moving through us and making them our own. We are the unique collation of what we love and what we have experienced. Our ideas connect and integrate with the ideas of others in ways that only we can orchestrate.
Lyrebird reminds us that one of the reasons we are unique is because we can choose to create something new from the old. It is time to create our own unique song, if we do not have one, and it is time to strengthen it, if we do.
Another way to think of this might be as ‘collage’ as Austin Kleon does:
Next time you’re stuck, think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and start juxtaposing them. Voila.
The unique way we choose and combine ideas is in itself an act of creation.
2 Listening to the true meaning of ourselves and others
The shadow aspects of lyrebird are about letting our true voice out, being comfortable and facing our fears. Connecting with our feelings and influences will enable us to find our true voice.
Lyrebird encourages us to really listen beneath the surface. Just as lyrebirds make calls that include car alarms and bird songs to attract their mate, the lyrebird teaches us to see behind words and actions to the real meaning.
I’m currently working on life coaching. Learning to truly listen actively and with curiosity so we can gauge what people are really saying is a critical skill. This relates to lyrebird spirit:
Lyrebird gives us this power to see the truth in what a person is saying, no matter how they are saying it.
3 Listening to and channelling spirit
Linked to #1 above is the idea of the lyrebird symbolising letting spirit and ancestors flow through us.
As Carl Jung reminds us:
Our souls as well as our bodies are composed of individual elements which were all already present in the ranks of our ancestors. The “newness” in the individual psyche is an endlessly varied recombination of age-old components.
Lyrebird also encourages channelling. It might be via mimicry and new combinations as in #1 above. Or it could be working with spirit guides, ancestors and animal energy to help us find truth and meaning. Lyrebird is a link to ancient and ancestral voices, with a voice beyond time.
4 Valuing quietness and encouraging peace
Finding sacred places and practices to enable this connection is something that lyrebird spirit encourages. We need to find quiet places so we can listen to the true meaning within. Lyrebird particularly encourages expression of what we find out loud in some way.
Just as the lyrebird’s habitat is often secretive and hidden, so we need to go within to find space to reflect and gather. This is valuable for introverts especially as they draw energy and insight this way.
With their ability to speak in other ‘languages’ or voices, lyrebirds also symbolise peacemakers. In an Aboriginal Dreaming story, Lyrebird is given the role of the peacemaker in the first great dispute between all creatures:
As a reward, the Spirits gave Lyrebird the ability to be the only animal able to communicate to all the other animals. The other animals were punished by losing this ability, and Frog, the cause of all the trouble, was given a croaky voice to replace his once beautiful voice.
From Native Symbols info
5 Keeping sacred spaces clean and decluttering
The lyrebird also encourages keeping our sacred spaces clean so that we can create a clear space for spirit, influence and voice. Lyrebirds are elegant and tidy, scraping leaf litter and dirt to create a beautiful space within the forest to attract a partner.
This can be seen as a metaphor for attracting energy and creativity in our lives. The decluttering, the scraping away, can be physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It’s essentially about getting clarity in our lives. This might be around issues of grieving and letting go of what no longer serves us and is weighing us down.
6 Being a teacher to help others to find voice and sing
Another Aboriginal Dreaming story links a few of the above strands together around teaching voice:
…there was a stream in which little bubbles contained spirits. One spirit wanted to become real when he heard Lyrebird’s beautiful song. While singing, Lyrebird noticed this bubble moving and dancing in rhythm with his voice. The Great Spirit told Lyrebird to remain singing until the creature was born. Finally, and it took Lyrebird time, effort and concentration, out popped a little green frog. Lyrebird’s purpose was then to teach this creature to sing.
From Native Symbols info
The spirit of teaching others to find their voice is another message of the lyrebird. The Dreamtime story suggests that it is through singing our own song that we help others come to life. This might take ‘time, effort and concentration’ and it may feel like we are not getting anywhere. I think of blogging, and how we can feel like we are howling into the wind. Or how when we are creating larger pieces of work that need crafting over time, it feels like they will never be finished. When sent out into the world, our creativity can help others in ways we do not even realise.
7 Symbol of the bard
The lyrebird is also seen as a symbol of the bard and of our poetic souls. It has a long repertoire of different songs and uses auditory memory to learn these songs and string them together. The lyrebird is a symbol of poetry, song, auditory skills, a love of language and poetic inspiration in all of us.
Lyrebird and Quiet Writing
So for all these beautiful reasons including its appearance many times running across my path, I have chosen Lyrebird as my spirit animal for Quiet Writing. Or rather Lyrebird has chosen me.
The value and skills at its heart are:
- Creating a unique song and letting the voices of others move through you – acknowledging and working with our passions, influences and the voices of others to find our uniqueness.
- Listening to the true meaning of ourselves and others – working in a process oriented way to get to meaning and voice – through understanding the self, listening and writing.
- Listening to and channelling spirit – working intuitively to listen to and access spiritual energy including archetypes, symbolism, tarot, oracle and healing work.
- Valuing quietness and encouraging peace – knowing that quiet places and quietness within are sources of strength and peace to be valued, celebrated and cultivated. Introvert preferences and skills such as introverted intuition are especially vehicles of vision to be strengthened.
- Keeping sacred spaces clean and decluttering – working to clear space for the new by clearing out the old and unnecessary. There’s a spirit of being open and a work in progress where coaching, writing and other intuitive skills might clear energy and make way for the new.
- Being a teacher to help others to find voice and sing – Quiet Writing has at its heart the focus of helping people find their voice in the world. Whether it be career or creativity, the aim is to help people find expression to be able to sing their unique song, loud and clear.
- Symbol of the bard – Quiet Writing is fuelled by a poetic spirit, by words and a love of language as a form of expression. Writing – both process and product – is a tool to self-understanding and self-expression that helps us connect with ourselves and others.
So I am so glad I paid attention to the lyrebirds running across my path. I’m so happy too there were resources available to help me understand further including Aboriginal Dreaming stories. This combination of intuition, research and thinking is valuable.
I can summarise this manifesto of sorts now but it’s taken time to coalesce and is still evolving. That first piece was written on the train nearly 6 months ago now. I am grateful for lyrebird energy focusing my attention and pointing out the signposts so I could bring them together. This vision for Quiet Writing is something I likewise offer in focused attention to you as we move into the future.
Thought pieces and acknowledgements
Austin Kleon’s 25 quotes to help you steal like an artist captures thoughts on collaging and coalescing influences. This includes the Jung quote above. I love this way of thinking about influence and uniqueness. We are our own curated version of our passions, experiences and ways of expressing. I believe though that we should acknowledge our influences and sources and make them explicit. This enables others to share in them and learn from them in their own way.
Lyrebird videos: Do watch some of them, so beautiful and fun, some wild and some captive birds, but all fascinating:
My thanks to these sites and books for their insights on the lyrebird to integrate with my own intuitive insights:
Readers’ Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds
Images used under Creative Commons licences with thanks to the creators:
Superb lyrebird photographs from CSIRO Science Image (awesome image bank!)
Photographer : John Manger
Lyrebird as Totem by artist Ravenari via Deviantart
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