The eagle is very much a part of the American Indian tradition. In times past, the use of eagle feathers or other body parts were not for decoration, but represented certain characteristics or qualities that a person may wish to be reminded of or identified with while in their presence.
Some native people who have been fortunate to be honored with a name bearing the eagle know that the taking of an eagle name is not enough. One must live up to the standards and high values symbolized by the eagle.
Overall, the eagle reminds those keen to its symbols of the omnipotent Great Spirit, not seen, but felt and witnessed in all forms of life.
One of the first lessons of the eagle is when it chooses its mate; it mates for life with the same bird. It makes a full commitment, and then, sticks to it. It is said to not be "flighty" in its choice of mate!
When born, Bald Eagles have black beaks that later turn yellow in color of the sun or light as they mature. The black or darkness when in youth symbolizes the coming to clarity with one's thoughts into the light of experience or wisdom.
Not a talker by nature, it listens more than it speaks. The same should hold true for a human being, especially children. There is a reason that the Creator gave us two ears and only one mouth! They remind us that we should spend more of our time listening than speaking.
On the Golden Eagle, the prized tail feathers are generally colored by a division of white and black. Symbolically, it is the nature of all of us to have dark and light within each of us: the good and the bad; the righteous and the "evil". In this respect, the tail feather represents the yin and yang--the duality of existence.
A monarch of the sky, the eagle is one of the most splendorous forms of the bird kingdom. Due to its size alone, it is one of the largest of the bird species. But it does not act like a bully nor does it bother other birds. Its wing span can sometimes span 7 to 8 feet on an adult.
It is a known scientific fact that the eagle's eyes have 7 times the acuity as that of a human. This means the eagle can see and distinguish objects 7 times greater than mankind.
The eagle flies higher than all other creatures. From its lofty height, the large expanse of the world can be seen. Flying in a circle, it sees the unity of life. Everything is one with nature and the Great Spirit.
As an eagle, I have learned that so few of us have a panoramic view of life. Frequently, we are too busy or occupied with the relatively unimportant details. In the process, we really don't prepare for life. Sometimes, we need to see more forest and less individual trees. Thus, as with the eagle, when one rises higher, the pattern of things becomes revealed, more clear and easier to see.
The eagle symbolizes the visible shadow of the spirit. To me, the becoming of an eagle is very meaningful in its association of not only being freed from the bonds of the Mother Earth, but spiritually cut loose from the ties to ego bondage and slavery. To be free is to break the bonds with something, which makes common sense. If you think about it, growth can only occur when emotional as well as physical bonds are broken. Isn't that what the fall season is all about in nature?
A spirit, once escaped from the bonds of the Mother Earth, can soar like an eagle. As with the eagle, the higher we climb, spiritually, the lonelier we sometimes feel. Such is the feeling of spiritual growth at times. It is a feeling of leaving others behind who have not spiritually progressed.
The eagle also teaches us about faith. When the young eaglet first attempts to leave the nest, it balances on the edge of the nest building its confidence. It takes courage to make its first plunge into the expanse of the sky domain. So many don't because of fear. Fear holds all of us back from "leaving our nest", or doing what we would like to do.
Weighing the risk of failure, taking into consideration that it may drop or fail like a rock from the safety of its resting place, it overcomes fear with acceptance and the faith that the Great Spirit will provide and take care of it.
It knows that it must move beyond the confinement and spatial limitations of its nest, its self-imposed boundaries, if it is to seek the wind currents (the guidance of the Creator). Finally, through faith, it decides to be open in its life; spreads its wings and trustingly takes to the air freeing itself to soar to heights never dreamed before.
Perhaps one of the greatest teachings of the eagle is the life principle of flying versus soaring.
The difference between flying and soaring is the same as between one seeking the Truths of life versus staying prepared and being guided by the "wind currents" under the Great Spirit's direction.
Too many of us daily "flap our wings" instead of learning how to gently soar like the eagle. In order to grasp this principle in more detail, let's first examine one's purpose.
If the objective at hand is to stay in the air, there are two ways to accomplish that goal. The first is to fly and the second is to soar.
Flying is feeling nothing will happen unless he or she does it or makes it happen under his or her own power and energy. An ego that "flies" is determined to make it on its own without help. Consequently, much energy is expended which may temporarily lift one aloft, but not sustain one in the air for very long. Eventually, the eagle who only flies must return to perch, rest, and rebuild its strengths or energies.
The other method is to soar or to release oneself to faith and guidance. Even the eagle, greatest of all winged, mighty and strong, cannot manage to stay aloft under its own power, its own doing.
If it were to flap its wings continually to stay aloft, it would soon grow tired and weary from its self-exertion. But it knows the secrets of how to stay aloft without tiring by merely extending its wings and letting the wind currents carry and sustain it with the guiding wind currents.
So, my eaglet friends, if you wish to soar through life . . . do as the eagle! Overcome your ego and fears through faith in the guidance of the Creator. Soon your heart will soar like an eagle. Aho! I have spoken.
"You, great symbol of freedom,
Guardian of the Mother Earth,
Seeker of high places,
You are one with the sky.
Your bonds are free
. . .and your spirit soars.
On flights among
Nature is happy.
Nature is happy."
"Soaring on high
is the brother eagle--
with no trail
to be seen."