The Caged Bird – A Journey to the Lower World

A caged bird that refuses to fly free… 

A journey to the lower world…(an excerpt from the upcoming novel in the Awakening Series)

My first shamanic session commenced with the resonant heartbeat of a drumming circle. It was my first course in Shamanism that focused on journeying, soul retrievals, chord cutting and drumming. I was always interested in the spiritual world and shamanism called to me after a time in my life when everything had fallen apart and I was starting all over – yet again.

Ann, (our shaman facilitator) graciously, had a few extra drums on hand, and I chose one that seemed to beckon me personally. Strangely it had an image of an elephant painted on it which was one of my power animals. A feeling of synchronicity washed over me. I was where I belonged and a deep feeling that this new shaman group was an answer to my life’s current state of chaos. I finally felt like I had found a community that resonated with me and could help me find some balance.

The rhythmic pulse of the drums, echoing through the room, set the tone for the journey that lay ahead. The shared beats created a harmonious vibration, binding our energies into a collective force, and I felt a sense of unity with the group and the ancient rhythm that coursed through us. It was magical and I could feel my sadness quickly being lifted away with every beat of the drum.

Once the drumming was over we each introduced ourselves and our intentions for the session. When it was my turn I suddenly felt shy. I wasn’t quite sure what my intention was. I just wanted to heal. Whatever that meant. The class flew by as we learned about the Lower Middle and Upper worlds. In shamanism cosmology, this often involves the concept of these three distinct realms or worlds. These realms are not physical locations but rather different dimensions or states of consciousness that shamans explore during their spiritual journeys.

The Lower World is often associated with the subconscious, the Earth, and the realm of spirits residing beneath the surface. Shamans access the Lower World by journeying through visualizing natural entry points like caves, tunnels, or other openings. In this realm, practitioners may encounter spirit animals, ancestral spirits, and other beings that offer guidance, healing, or wisdom.

The Middle World corresponds to our everyday reality and is considered the realm of ordinary consciousness. In this space, shamans interact with the physical world and the spirits that inhabit it. Journeys into the Middle World may involve communication with nature spirits, deceased ancestors, or other entities existing in the earthly dimension. Healing work and divination often take place in the Middle World.

The Upper World is associated with the celestial or spiritual realms. Shamans access the Upper World by ascending through various means, such as climbing a celestial ladder or flying. Here, they may encounter divine beings, spirit guides, and entities offering transcendent wisdom, insights, or guidance. The Upper World is often perceived as a place of higher consciousness, where universal truths and cosmic knowledge are revealed.

Each shamanic tradition may have different interpretations of each world but their essence remains the same. Shamans navigate these realms through shamanic journeying, dreaming, trance, or ritual practices, often to gain insight, healing, or guidance for themselves or others. This cosmology is a common framework in shamanic practices, emphasizing the interconnectedness of different planes of existence and the ability to traverse these realms for spiritual exploration and healing.

In my first class in shamanism, we journeyed through to the Lower world. We laid down on our yoga mats, closed our eyes, and visualized ourselves entering into the Lower world.  As Ann began drumming I imagined myself descending a staircase where I eventually came to a doorway. It was a thick wooden door with a large golden handle. I slowly opened it and hesitantly walked through. When I looked at my surroundings, much to my horror I saw myself sitting in a cage. It didn’t look like me, it was a white bird that was sitting calmly inside. The cage of the door was open but the bird kept flying around in circles. It wouldn’t even attempt to fly away. Intuitively I knew this bird was me. I suddenly began breathing heavily and felt a panic attack coming on. I opened my eyes as Ann came over and waved an eagle feather over me which surprisingly calmed me down. I couldn’t believe how real my journey had felt.

Each of us shared the experience of our journey together and we were asked to offer insights so that we could understand the meaning behind what we had seen. As I shared mine with the group my anxiety began to lessen even more.

The image of a bird in an open cage that refuses to fly carries a rich symbolism, often reflecting deeper metaphors related to freedom, fear, and personal choices. Melanie, (one of the class’s participants) offered me her interpretation that, to my surprise, resonated as if she had known my life’s story. I had no idea that I was keeping myself trapped in an unnecessary cage of my creation.

“I see the bird as a symbol of your self-doubt and fear. You’re alone in the cage and afraid to fly on your own. The open cage represents opportunities and a world of possibilities, while the grounded bird signifies a self-imposed limitation – afraid to dare to step out into a new world that has opened up before you. Instead of exploring, you choose to remain within the confines of your self-created comfort zone. I feel that the bird’s or rather your, refusal to fly, is that your emotional baggage is preventing you from embracing life’s opportunities. I think the bird is resisting flying due to your past reliance on others rather than your inner power and strength. You hold on to men as your reason to be rather than discovering that you don’t need a man, or anyone for that matter to fly.”

I looked at Melanie stunned. In just a few sentences she had summed up the entire problem that had been my life. 

“I hope I didn’t offend you.” Melanie quickly added when she saw the look of surprise on my face.

“Oh no, not at all. I just can’t believe how accurate you are. You’ve explained the past mess of my life and why it’s been a mess.” I smiled to give her some reassurance that I was very grateful for her words. I had a lot of reflection to do. 

Journeying is pretty powerful stuff and for anyone on the Path, I highly recommend exploring shamanism. 

Petra Valica

This blog is an excerpt taken from my upcoming third book and is from the perspective of where I was seven years ago in my life. I was studying shamanism while taking a course with Ann Adam, who still runs retreats and courses today. If you’d like to learn more about her courses please visit her website:

Through Ann, I learned everything I know about transformational and healing shamanism. I studied under her for one year while I was living in Houston, TX.  

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