Researching a Metaphor – The Eagle
By Cathy Read
Eagles are birds of prey, also known as raptors, which is a derivative of the Latin word “raper,” meaning to take by force. (1).
They belong to the hawk family Accipitridae, and are found all over the world.(2).
The word originates from the Latin word “Aquila,” which then became the word “aigle” in Old French, and then evolved into the word “eagle” in Middle English. (2).
They are heavier and bulkier than all other raptors. They have very large heads and bills, long, flat, broad, powerful wings, and large feet with huge, strong talons with which to carry their prey back to their nests.(3). The eagle is renowned for his incredible eyesight. He can spot a mouse a quarter of a mile away from his perch high in a tree top or while soaring in the air. Thus, the phrase “eagle-eyed.” The corollary meaning for a human would be “attention to detail.” To have an eagle eye means to have a keen sense of sight or insight. (4).
This phrase correlates with what the reverse speech metaphor dictionary gives as the definition of eagle:
Eagle: (structural) the part that sees ahead; intuition, insight; sees problems before they arise; Trance image; a large, noble eagle with immense wing spread up to three feet wide. The Eagle works with the Wolf to help hunt and will frequently fly ahead of the Wolf in the desert.
Eagles eat mostly fish (dead or alive), snakes, mice, frogs, rabbits, other birds, and offal. Sometimes a young eagle will eat a smaller, weaker, sibling and his parents will do nothing to stop it. Eagles are dominant and ruthless predators in their environment.
This “bad moral character” factor is purportedly the reason why Benjamin Franklin did not want the eagle to become America’s national bird. He called the eagle “lazy,” and “a coward.” Franklin said that “he does not get his living honestly.” (5).
The American Bald Eagle is the centerpiece of the Great Seal of the United States. It is depicted holding 13 arrows in its left talon (referring to the 13 original states) and an olive branch in its right talon, together symbolizing that the United States has a strong desire for peace, but will always be ready for war. (6).
And after America landed on the moon in 1969, a voice announced “the eagle has landed.” Eagles have long been associated with the highest pursuits. From the time that the Persians and Romans carried eagles into battle, they have symbolized courage, strength, bravery, power, freedom, and transcendence.
A reversal was found on someone a few weeks after 9-11. It said “brave eagle, we’re sad.” So we see how the (bald) eagle has become a metaphor for America. The bald eagle represents characteristics which many cultures have viewed as inspirational, and others have seen as despicable. What a particular thing represents to one culture may differ dramatically from what it means to another. The qualities that are attributed to a symbol may or may not be realistic or accurate. But in any case, a symbol is chosen to represent qualities or characteristics that in some sense are expressions of the ideals of that culture, and their dreams.
The bald eagle has symbolized great power, strength, freedom, elegance, and independence to many cultures throughout history. It was probably a metaphor in the collective unconscious for millennia, being used in reverse by everyone, which is probably why it influenced the founding fathers to want it as their symbol. And those qualities attributed to the bald eagle were particularly attractive to a young nation struggling for its independence. These attributes and the fact that the bald eagle is found only in North America made it a perfect candidate to symbolize the ideals of this new country.
So we see that the eagle can represent a few things: intuition and foresight, or courage, power, and strength, etc. Does it have any psychological meaning, and if so, how does that relate to the definition found in the Reverse Speech Metaphor Dictionary? From my research I find that it can represent powerful intellectual or spiritual abilities. That positively correlates with “the part that sees ahead, and insight.” That is intellectual prowess. Intuition is a form of spirituality.
I also read that for a Christian it may represent John the Evangelist (who was the Apostle John, one of the 12 disciples). (7) In Christian art, John is symbolically represented by an eagle, one of the creatures envisioned by Ezekiel (1:10). In the painting “Saint John the Evangelist” by Domenico Zampieri he is depicted as a young man accompanied with an eagle. (7).
Such images not only spring from our collective unconscious, but help to reinforce them.
Early man considered eagles to be messengers from the Sun God. In your dreams, it may be a messenger from your unconscious. Mythology often has stories of the eagle and the lion, or the eagle and the snake. These stories are dream symbols that represent psychological opposites such as spiritual/animal, male/female, conscious/unconscious, and thought/instinct.
Superstition says that to dream of an eagle is an omen for fame and fortune. (8)
I looked up eagle in the “dream moods dictionary” online, and it said that to see an eagle in your dream symbolizes nobility, pride, fierceness, freedom, superiority, courage, and powerful intellectual ability. It also represents self-renewal and your connection with your spirituality. You will struggle fiercely and courageously to realize your highest ambitions and greatest desires. Alternatively, if you live in the United States, then the national bird could represent your patriotism and devotion to country. This definition from the online dream dictionary springs, of course, from our dreams, which act as an outlet for our unconscious mind, so we see that they match. (9)
The Native Americans felt that eagles had powerful medicine. Eagle medicine is the power of the Great Spirit. It is the gift of clear vision with which one can truly see the things one sees. Eagle feathers are revered by Native American Healers as having powerful medicine. Men in many tribes adorned themselves with eagle feathers given for acts of courage and bravery, and Indian healers wrap their eagle feather in their medicine bundle after a ceremony, such is the reverence for the bird. The definition in the Reverse Speech Dictionary does not talk about healing abilities so in that sense it does not correlate, but the American Indian view of the eagle seems to match other cultures. For example, in ancient Rome, the eagle was a symbol of power and strength.
The eagle is a “power animal” in many American Indian tribes. A power animal is a guardian or protector of a culture, place, or person. Kind of like a guardian angel. The usual meaning of the eagle power animal is: great strength, courage, leadership, and prestige. Again, this more matches the cultural symbolism of eagles, but not the reverse speech dictionary. As a power animal is a guardian and protector one could say that this correlates with the Reverse Speech Dictionary, as in “sees problems before they arise.” Which is what an unseen protector would do. In many tribes, the eagle represents spiritual protection, carries prayers to the creator, and is the “brother” who flies highest and closest to the creator. He brings strength, courage, wisdom, illumination of spirit, and a knowledge of magic. He has the ability to see hidden spiritual truths, rising above the material to see the spiritual. The eagle has an ability to see the overall pattern, and the connection to spirit guides and teachers. This view of the eagle certainly correlates with the definition in the Reverse Speech Dictionary.
Native American lore says that we communicate with the Creator by listening to the spiritual voice of the eagle. The eagle has many important teachings. Through eagle the knowledge of the Creator is channeled to the people. This is intuition and insight.
The eagle is of course seen in the history and mythology of other peoples as well.
In ancient Egypt and Babylon the eagle was the symbol of the noon sun, which signified the Great Spirit. To the Egyptians; the eagle was the messenger to the gods and the sun, a symbol of eternal life.
To the Romans; the eagle was the carrier of Jupiter’s thunderbolts and a sign of power, which was adopted as a symbol of the Roman Emperors, and was carried before the Empire’s legions.
To the Greeks; the eagle was the messenger to the Greek God Zeus, and Zeus took the form of an eagle when he carried his young lover Ganymede to Mount Olympus.
The Welsh Lleu and the Scandinavian Odin both transform into an eagle. Lleu does not die, but is transformed into an eagle and reaches the otherworld in the shape of an eagle. Odin, seeks protection and knowledge as an eagle.
To the Germanic people the eagle was representative of Wodan, the ruler of the Gods, and came to symbolize the German Kaisers.
The eagle is a prominent spiritual link between heaven and earth in many cultures. Sumerian culture refers to the eagle as a means to travel from earth to heaven. One Sumerian king named Etan rode to heaven on the back of a giant eagle so that he could receive the “plant of birth” from Ishtar. He also ascended to heaven on the back of the eagle.
In some religions high-soaring eagles are believed to touch the face of God. I don’t think that these above examples closely match the Reverse Speech Metaphor Dictionary.
The “double headed eagle” is seen in many traditions, including freemasonry and Nazism, but it is not an eagle, but a phoenix bird. (10)
Fairy tales are found all over the world. The chief stories are to be found all throughout history and in almost all countries. Many stories can be traced originally to a very ancient prehistory people called alternatively, Indo-European, Indo-Germanic, or Aryan. These people were the forefathers of Europeans, the Hindus, and the Greeks and Romans. They eventually scattered and dispersed throughout the world, taking their stories with them. Scholars have traced many stories from the Aryans, to then very ancient Hindu legends, then Greek poetry, then to every country in Europe in different languages with a variation in the stories (local flavor so to speak). Fairy tales are still an important part of children’s literature, and they also permeate mass media. They have widespread and enduring popularity. Many symbols in fairy tales are also metaphors. By telling and retelling the stories, the symbols in the stories become unconscious metaphors that we speak in reverse. (11)
You see animals a lot in fairy tales, and the eagle appears in some. They are usually portrayed in fairy tales as magical agents transporting someone (usually a hero) someplace else. One fairy tale I read was “The Wisdom of the Eagle and the treachery of the Hyena.” It is a story much like an Aesop’s fable, where the eagle saves a monkey from an evil hyena. The eagle locks the hyena in a cage-like trap, so he can’t hurt anyone again. This can be seen as “seeing problems before they arise,” so it does correlate with the Reverse Speech Dictionary.” (12)
There is an Aesop’s fable entitled “The Eagle and the Arrow.” The eagle is flying through the air when it gets shot by an arrow that had been feathered with one of its own plumes. The moral of this fable is: “We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.” This does not match the Reverse Speech Dictionary. (13)
Some modern stereotypes of animals have a long tradition dating back to Aesops’s fables, which draw upon sources that include ancient Egyptian animal tales. Aesop’s stereotypes were so deeply ingrained over time that they were accepted as representative of the various types of an animal’s true nature. There is no doubt that humans have picked up on this unconsciously to create/change reversals.
There are not a lot of non-biblical references to eagles in Christianity. One story I read was about a sermon written by T. Rhonda Williams about why it is a tradition within the English Church to place a bible on the outstretched wings of an eagle. Her reasoning is such: “In sacred symbolism the eagle stands for that power of rising above the earth, above the physical and the literal, into the heavens of rarefied faith, a mystic intuition, and a penetrating spiritual intuition.” The last part about “a penetrating spiritual intuition” and “mystic intuition” does correlate with the eagle definition in the Reverse Speech Dictionary. (10)
I looked for Gospel songs, especially old-fashioned ones, with eagles in them and could only find one. The song is “On eagle’s wings” and it really doesn’t match the definition in the Reverse Speech Dictionary. Its meaning is that God will hold you up and protect you. (14)
There are 32 references to the eagle in the bible itself. The symbol of the eagle is a common one in the Old Testament. Many are seen in historical/political contexts. One eagle reference (Ezekiel 17:1-24) can be construed as both historical and prophetic, with the eagle symbolizing the United States. (15)
In one eagle reference (Ezekiel 1:14) the eagle was an emblem of kingly power. In Leviticus 11:13, it tells us that we cannot eat the eagle for he is on the “unclean” blacklist. Many use typical eagle symbolism in various ways. Exodus 19:4 “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto myself.” This describes the escape of the Jewish people from the power of the pharaoh. Jeremiah 49:16 is about how God tells those evil people, I believe Edomites, who “dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down…….” He will destroy the wicked!! Some passages use the symbolism in common, descriptive, or comparative ways, such as Jeremiah 4:13 “His horses are swifter than eagles.” And Proverbs 23:5 “When your eyes light upon it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle, toward heaven.” (16)
Interpreting the bible is difficult mostly due to language translating errors. The Hebrew word “nesher,” meaning “to tear with the beak,” or “to lacerate,” literally means vulture. But it appears often in the bible meaning “eagle.” (17)
The book of Revelation is believed to be all symbolism. Some say it is about the “end times,” and other people say it describes “the revelation” one has when one “discovers” one’s true divinity. I read that in a book a long time ago and I can’t remember the title. Most bible eagle references are mundane, and not esoteric. The next two examples are highly esoteric.
Revelation 4:7 says “The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle.” Each being is symbolic of some class or some quality of which it is representative. There are too many possibilities to list here.
Revelation 12:14 says “But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” The two wings given to the woman could possibly be “intuition and insight.” Insight being spiritual insight. This would allow her to see any problems before they arise and keep her safe.
In Hinduism the eagle is seen most prominently in a figure called “The Garuda,” a Hindu God. He is a large bird-like creature, or humanoid bird that appears in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Garuda is the mount of the Lord Vishnu. Garuda is the Hindu name for the constellation Aquila. Garuda is the “king of the birds” and often acts as a messenger between the gods and men. He has the head, wings, talons and beak of an eagle, and the body and limbs of a man.
Garuda represents the five “vayus” within us: prana, apana, vyana, udana, samana through his five forms satya, suparna, garuda, tarkshya, vihageshwara. These five vayus through yoga can be controlled through pranayama which can lead to kundalini awakening leading to higher levels of consciousness. High levels of consciousness are associated with psychicism, which include: intuition, insight, and seeing problems before they arise, which can also be called “clairvoyance.” The message to the soul appears through the higher level of consciousness. (18)
Finally, the eagle symbolism is also found in astrology. Scorpio has more than one symbol, and they include the scorpion, the eagle, and the phoenix. Scorpios tend to be like the eagle in that they are able to spot tiny details and see things before they happen. (19)
In my research I found a lot of information about eagle symbolism. Most of it related to the eagle’s physical prowess (soaring, flying etc.) rather than spiritual things. Probably all other animal metaphors are portrayed the same way. But there is enough correlation, to prove the oral tradition of Reverse Speech.
1. Bruce Montague, Birds, Bees, and Educated Fleas. An A-Z guide to the sexual predilections of animals from Aardvarks to Zebras. (London, Metro Publishing, 2015). P.74
2. Eagle. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eagle.
3. Kevin T. Karlson and Dale Rosselet, Peterson Reference Guide to Birding by Impression. A Different Aproach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, (Boston, New York, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2015). P78
4. Robert A. Palmatier, Speaking of Animals: A Dictionary of Animal Metaphors, (Connecticut, London, Greenwood Press, 1995) p.130-131
5. American Myths: Benjamin Franklin’s Turkey and the Presidential Seal. (2013, January 25). Retrieved on December 9, 2015, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/american-myths-Benjamin-Franklin’s-turkey-and-the-Presidential-Seal.
6. Great Seal of the United States. (2015, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Seal_of_the_United_States.
7. John the Evangelist. (2015, December 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Evangelist.
8. Craig Hamilton Parker, The Hidden Meaning of Dreams, e-book, (Sterling Publishing Company, Inc, 1999) n.p.
9. Dream Moods Dream Dictionary, Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://dreammoods.com/dreamdictionary.
10. Eagle Spirit Ministry. (n.d.) Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://eaglespiritministry.com/works/ese/htm.
11. John Thackray Bunce, Fairy Tales their Origin and Meaning, with some Account of Dwellers in Fairyland. (The Project Gutenberg, June, 2005, original date 1877) p6-7
12. Frans Timmermans, The Wisdom of the Eagle and the treachery of the Hyena. (n.d.), Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://fairytalesoftheworld.com/quick-reads/the-wisdom-of-the-eagle-and-the-treachery-of-the-hyena.
13. The Eagle and The Arrow an Aesop’s Fable (n.d.) Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://taleswithmorals.com/aesop-fable-the-eagle-and-the-arrow.htm
14. On Eagle’s Wings. (2015, November 25). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Eagle%27s_Wings.
15. 32 Bible Verses about Eagles. (n.d.) Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Eagles.
16. Topical Bible Verses. (n.d.) Knowing Jesus, Eagles. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/eagles.
17. Eagle (n.d.) Bible Study tools. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/eagle.
18. Garuda. (2015, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Garuda&oldid=691121932.
19. 8 Scorpio Sign Symbols You Never Knew About! (n.d.) Guy Counseling and Coaching a Bridge to Change. Retrieved December 9, 2015, from http://www.guycounseling.com/8-scorpio-sign-symbols-you-never-knew-about.