Body & Soul, Nature & Spirit -
Celebrating the DANCE of Eagle
by Rabbi Miriyam & Parashakti
For both of us, Eagle has been a vital reality, a magnificent power animal, an embodiment of spirit, and a significant symbol.
Rabbi Miriyam, for example, will never forget the sight.
Along with her sister Alyne, Parashakti's mother, Rabbi Miriyam had flown by helicopter onto one of the magnificent ice-blue glaciers of southern Alaska...
We had seen breathtaking waterfalls; pods of orcas, porpoises, sea lions, sea otters; forests of glorious red cedars, called by Alaskans the “tree of life”; beautiful alders, and towering Sitka spruce...
But of all the sights we saw on our visit to Alaska, the one that moved us most was what we saw as we stood on the deck of the ship making its way, that early autumn, through Alaska’s Inner Passage.
It was the sight of a bald eagle soaring with its noble wingspan – at the least, seven feet across -- through the vast Alaskan sky, alighting atop the tallest tree in sight, and pausing and posing on its own enormous aerie, itself the most massive bird nest we had ever seen.
Eagle. Noble. Powerful. Fierce.
And, just as Parashakti had long taught us, profoundly, utterly spiritual.
It is no wonder that the eagle is sacred to so many Native American peoples, says Parashakti -- that eagle is seen as a messenger between the Creator and human beings, the world of earth and the world of spirit.
Nor is there any wonder that the feathers of eagle, gifted to Parashakti, are believed to be sacred tools of healing, used by shamans for centuries.
No wonder, indeed, that over a thousand years ago, the biblical prophet Isaiah drew on the image of an eagle to describe the transformative power of redemption:
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
... the everlasting Creator of the ends of the earth
never grows faint, never grows weary -- those who trust the Creator
shall renew their strength, mounting up with wings like eagles. (Isaiah 40)
In the biblical book of Exodus, the experience of transformation – from slavery to freedom, from alienation to spiritual awakening – is also described as being like being borne by the Divine "on eagle’s wings":
You have seen...how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. (Exod. 19:4)
In the Bible, the eagle is also as a metaphor for the Ultimate, for the Creator, Redeemer, the Holy One, God:
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions,
so did the Holy One lead [the people ]... (Deut. 32)
For Native American, shamanic and Jewish traditions, symbols of the significant spiritual life are born from the world of nature, the palpable world, where every creature is recognized and experienced as an embodiment of holy energies, the masterwork of the Creator. In these ancient faiths, there is no split between body and spirit, nature and soul. As the Psalmist says, "The world and all that is in it belong to YHWH," the unpronounceable, ineffable Energy that created and dwells in all the universe. But the very ineffability of the Divine drives us to seek for metaphor, and just as the Native American people and shamanic traditions recognized the divine energy inherent in Eagle, so, did the ancient Hebrews.
Thus throughout shamanic practice, as well as throughout the Jewish Holy books, from the earliest books of Torah to the most mystical of all texts such as the Zohar, the eagle is a profound, evocative symbol. Think of eagle’s amazing qualities, after all:
Eagles, the largest, most soaring, birds of the sky, mate for life. That is, there is no contradiction between the sense of individual freedom embodied by the soaring eagle with its vast outstretched wings and lifelong loyalty to another.
Though they can soar over mountaintops and seas, Eagle returns to the same nest year after year, each year building it higher. In that sense, we can imagine a profound "rootedness" in Eagle, who teaches us a lesson so many of us have yet to learn: there is no contradiction between traveling vastly and possessing a deep sense of "home".
Unlike all other birds, eagles carry their young on their wings, to protect them.
Indeed,the medieval biblical commentator Rashi, a vintner from Troyes, France, explains the biblical line, "Like an eagle who rouses its nestlings...so did God spread God’s wings and bearing Israel along on God’s wings," by writing that whereas all other birds place their offspring between their feet, fearful of other birds who fly above them, the eagle is afraid only of hunters shooting an arrow at her, for there is no bird who flies above her. "The eagle places her babies on her wings, saying, "Better that the arrow enter into me and not into my nestlings."
Just as the wings of eagles symbolize divine protection, so archeologists have uncovered images of eagles in ancient synagogues from the Galilee to the Golan, where they seem to symbolize the connection between human beings and the heavens, just as they do in Native American tradition.
Some time ago, in her own shamanic journey, Rabbi Miriyam discovered Eagle bidding her to overcome fear and to soar spiritually and emotionally. But Eagle has for over a decade been at the core of Parashakti's spiritual experience.
Eleven years ago Parashakti was invited to the Naraya – A Native American Dance for All People. A tradition of the Great Basin/Plateau peoples, led by Clyde Hall. With the hope of generating healing for the earth, the offering of the dance is to focus one's heart, mind, and prayers on inner transformation, based on the belief that we must become in our inner lives what we choose to create in our outer world.
In Parashakti’s first dance, when the eagle song was chanted by her Elder, Nancy Eagle Spirit Woman, the very first vision she received was that of the eyes of the eagle. In response, Parashakti set out on a path to understand what seeing on more than the physical plane means and how to integrate spiritual vision with the world of the senses.
That experience, too, led her to create the Dance of Liberation, with its characteristic blindfold, forby blindfolding our physical eyes, we begin to free ourselves to see with our "inner" eye -- to see what for us had been unseen,.
After years of participating in Spirit Dance, apprenticeship, study, and nourishing her shamanic practice with Eagle, Parashakti acknowledged her connection with Eagle by having eagle wings tattooed on her back, as an external symbol for an inner process that has allowed her to fully feel her weight – to fly free and spread her wings and profoundly share her own wisdom teachings with the world. The wings also represent, to her, a way of reaching her goal: always opening and recommitting to Spirit.
SO: we'd like to suggest to our readers that, if Eagle appears for you in a sweatlodge, in your prayers, in meditation, in your song or in Dance of Liberation, it is a call for an awakening that is urging you to soar up to the next level of your life. The eagle flies closest to the sun – so when you align yourself with the energy of the sun there is a deep connection of power, warmth and of shining your true colors. Says Parashakti: "Aligning yourself with eagle is saying yes to that higher call that you signed up for before you even entered this lifetime, and that you have been in preparation for your entire life."
For many of us, Eagle appears when you are ready and takes you through tests, journeys, growth opportunities and spiritual work. Eventually, you will discover a more authentic expression of who you are where the wisdom of how to fly your own true flight in the world.
Whether through prayers, meditation, or ceremony in your own faith tradition, or Parashakti’s sessions in shamanic journeying and medicine cards, deep meditation, the Dance of Liberation,™ you may come upon Eagle as your power animal. In the words of Jamie Sams and David Carlson, "take heart and gather your courage, for the universe is presenting you with an opportunity to soar above the mundane levels of your life":
you may recognize the places within your soul, personality, emotions, or psyche that need bolstering or refinement. By looking at the overall tapestry, Eagle teaches you to broaden your sense of self beyond the horizon of what is presently visible... for "eagle medicine is the power of the Great Spirit...the ability to live in the realm of spirit, and yet remain connected and balanced within the realm of earth.
Soar high into the heavens, travel vastly within your soul, take care of your offspring (whether creative, physical, spiritual, aesthetic, intellectual), and celebrate the glory of your nest!.