Athena's Web Weekly Column
Week of Nov 11th - Nov 17th, 2005
The Sun is now making its way through the sign Scorpio. Life, it's seasonal focus and essence is now concentrated in this eighth sign of the zodiac.
Over the last three weeks, we've been following the mythological evolution of the various symbols of Scorpio, beginning with the scorpion, and then moving on to cobra, with his flared hood. Last week we discussed the Phoenix, a mythological creature that represents transcendence over death; a bird magically rejuvenated through his own ritualistic suicide.
This week we examine the last of the four images associated with Scorpio; the Eagle. This is the evolved soul, who has moved beyond the trial by fire and flies above many of the earthly tribulations (eagles can fly at 10,000'), subscribing and paying heed to a higher ministry.
Scorpionic determination is so strong in the eagle that they rarely yield their ground. They have been known to drown because they attempted to lift fish out of the water which were simply too heavy for them to carry. If they do get pulled into the water, they are excellent swimmers, 'swimming' with their wings to get to the shore where they can once again take flight. Once immersed in the water, they cannot take off until they reach land. They also have incredible eyesight. Like all birds, they possess color vision. While their eyes are almost as large as a human's, the sharpness of their sight is four times our own. This means that an eagle flying at an altitude of 1000 feet over open country can spot prey over an area of about three squares miles.
Many Native Americans believe that the thunderbird, a mythical super eagle (which Don believes to be our dragon) was responsible for creating thunder and lightning by beating its wings. Like the image of the dragon, the eagle has a world wide following. In many diverse cultures the eagle is associated with death and the soul's ascent to heaven. Death, regeneration, recycling and transcendence (resurrection) are all Scorpionic themes. When eagles pair, they remain faithful to each other until death. While in the nest with young offspring, parents move about with their talons balled into fists so as not to accidentally kill the little ones. Although two or even three chicks may be born to a nest, older chicks will often kill younger, smaller ones. Should this happen, neither parent will make a move to stop it. Nearly 40% of young eagles do not survive their first flight, and of course, all of this is even before they have left the nest and must deal with the shrinking natural environment as a result of man's labors. Traditionally the eagle has been highly honored around the world, whether as the bird of the King of the Gods or as our national symbol.
In spite of allowing Cainism, eagles tend to be very devoted to their families. Many eagles build their nests in trees, in the rocks of cliffs, or even on the ground close to rivers or the coast and their food supply. Typically, the nest is about 5 feet in diameter, but eagles will use the same nest over and over again, with some nests growing to 9 feet in diameter and weighing as much as two tons. The incubation period runs for about 35 days, with both the male and female taking turns keeping the eggs warm.
When eagles migrate, they ride columns of rising air called thermals. As they circle within these air streams, they are lifted to considerable heights, and then glide for great distances until they locate another thermal and repeat the entire process. A stream of migrating eagles (known as a 'kettle of eagles') can be twenty to thirty miles long, with individual birds spread out about a half mile apart. The Aztecs told how during the creation of the present world, the eagle and the jaguar fought over who would have the honor of becoming the sun. The eagle settled the matter by flinging himself into a fire and thus became the sun. The jaguar settled for becoming the moon. The Aztecs also believed that as an eagle, the Sun rose on the warming 'thermal' air of the morning and swooped down out of sight at night in the pursuit of prey.
The Navaho have a myth which relate owls and eagles. A great warrior by the name of Nayenezgani slayed a monster who lived at Wing Rock. Nayenezgani then turned to the two offspring of this monster, who were now alone in the nest. Rather than have them grow up evil, he turned the youngest into an owl and the oldest into an eagle, who would then be a source of feathers for rites and bones for whistles.
Welsh legend told of how the souls of brave warriors flew to heaven in the form of eagles. Giraldus Cambrensis described an eagle sitting on Mt. Snowdon in Wales as a prophetess of war who fed on the dead and had "almost perforated the stone by cleaning and sharpening her bill." In ancient Sumer the eagle brought new souls (children) to this world and carried departed souls to the underworld. In Syria, the eagle carried souls to its master, the Sun. The Zulus linked the bateleur (an African eagle) with battles and the ensuing carnage.
Finally, when the Roman emperor Augustus died in 14 AD, his body, with appropriately imposing decorations and accompaniments, was carried to the Campus Martius (Mars Camp). There a towering pyramidal funeral pyre had been built, and the emperor was placed upon it. As the torch was applied to the base of the pyre, men in the surrounding crowd cast their adornments into the flames. The flames crept upward and an eagle was released from the summit of the burning mound, symbolizing the ascent of Augustus's soul to the gods.