Symbols - What does heaven look like
The Duck [and other diving birds] takes on the symbolism of all birds, but it is especially related to that of Water and as such represents a shaman able to 'take the dive'. This quote by Mircea Eliade is useful in explaining this and the reason why the dive is important to shamanic cultures dependent as they were on knowledge of animals and animal movements. There is a link here also with the symbolism of the cave.
Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy
When on the verge of going into trance, the shaman makes motions as if he were diving. Even when he is supposed to be entering the subterranean regions, he gives the impression that he is diving and returning to the surface of the ocean. Thalbitzer was told that a shaman ‘comes up a third time, before he goes down for good’. The term most commonly used in referring to a shaman is ‘one who drops down to the bottom of the sea. As we have seen, submarine descents are symbolically represented on the costumes of many Siberian shamans – duck’s feet, pictures of diving birds etc – For the bottom of the sea is the abode of the Mother of the Sea Beasts, mythical formula for the Great Goddess of the Animals, source and matrix of all life, upon whose good will the existence of the tribe depends. This is why the shaman must periodically descend to re-establish spiritual contact with the Mother of the Sea Beasts.
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- The Healing Wisdom of Birds – Lesley Morris - Feather fans