The Bald Eagle: An American Symbol Before America Existed
Before it was a US national emblem, the Bald Eagle held special significance within the religious beliefs and legends of several Indigenous cultures.

Before it was a US national emblem, the Bald Eagle held special significance within the religious beliefs and legends of several Indigenous cultures.

Eagles are commonly regarded as majestic and powerful creatures. As birds of prey, they’re members of the order Accipitriformes, which also includes many other types of raptors such as hawks, kites, and ospreys. They have captured humankind’s imagination for millennia, as proven by myths from around the world as well as the bald eagle’s place as a recognizable symbol for the United States. Yet before this bird was chosen as a US national emblem, it held special significance within the religious beliefs and legends of several Indigenous American cultures.

The Eagle’s Significance in Pre-Colonial America 

Eagles can be found in the stories of many civilizations all over Turtle Island. Most bestowed honored tasks and roles upon these birds, crediting them as divine messengers or chiefs among the birds. In an article discussing the bald eagle’s recovery from near extinction, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service offered a short list of these legends:

  • One Navajo story depicts a warrior changing one of a slain monster’s offspring into an eagle to prevent it from growing up and adopting evil ways.
  • Among the Dene peoples of Alaska and northwestern Canada, the eagle embodies gratitude in its offerings of food during lean times to a prince who’d fed it salmon when sustenance was plentiful.
  • The Pawnee regard the eagle as a fertility symbol thanks to its tendency to nest high above the ground and its attentive watch over its young.

An archived 2003 piece from Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center details even more evidence. Various artifacts have been discovered showing how Indigenous cultures venerated eagles, including their features in headdresses and other clothing items.

An Endangered Species Returns to Greatness

Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” called attention to the devastating effects of careless pesticide use on our ecosystems. Writing for American Bird Conservancy, Rebecca Heisman discusses how Carson’s emphasis on DDT’s impacts on bird populations helped launch environmental activity and new government policies. The bald eagle was one species that benefitted from these activities, as it was granted legal protections in 1978. Thanks to the growth of its populations, it was removed from the endangered species list in 2007.

Modern Use of Eagle Feathers

Eagle feathers are still considered sacred today by many Indigenous people. As one Mohawk man explained to independent historian Glenn Welker, wearing or holding these feathers is thought to honor, and gains attention from, the Divine. Feathers are also included in ceremonial regalia and used in the Sun Dance rites of Great Plains cultures to carry prayers of the sick to the Creator. The Pawnee Nation’s website explains the significance of eagle feathers in how its flag is displayed. This banner is customarily attached to an old Pawnee lance with a spearhead at its tip. Affixed to it are four eagle feathers, representing the four bands that comprise the entire nation.

Currently, U.S. federal laws govern the possession and use of eagle feathers. However, they restrict ownership to individuals who can prove that they’re members of federally recognized tribes. Continued controversy surrounds these statutes, especially because those unable to document their Native ancestry are shut out of the process. A June 2015 Arizona Public Media piece also divulges that the waiting list for eagle feathers is lengthy, with potential recipients getting their requested feathers after several months.

A Magnificent Bird With Timeless Symbolism

The American bald eagle holds a distinctive place in many Indigenous American cultures. Once threatened with possible extinction, this species has made a major comeback over the last several decades. Contemporary legal realities pose challenges for Native people wishing to use their feathers for ceremonial and religious purposes. Nevertheless, reverence for the creatures continues into the 21st century.


The Serpent That Eats Itself? Understanding the Ouroboros
The ouroboros, and ancient symbol, has endured until modern times while powerfully embodying many physical and esoteric concepts.

The ouroboros, and ancient symbol, has endured until modern times while powerfully embodying many physical and esoteric concepts.

As purveyors of wisdom, representations of fertility, or masters of deception, serpents have evoked both fear and awe from human beings for thousands of years. Unsurprisingly, they’ve also gained an association with hidden knowledge, transformation, and renewal. One ancient symbol, the ouroboros, has endured until modern times while powerfully embodying these and other esoteric concepts.

What Is the Ouroboros?

The Encyclopedia Britannica offers a short explanation of the ouroboros’s history and meanings. With roots in ancient Egypt and Greece, this emblem depicts a serpent coiled in a circle with its tail inside its own mouth. A Greek-English lexicon hosted by the Perseus Digital Library reveals that our modern version of the word comes from an ancient Greek term that translates to “devouring its tail.”

Ironically, this symbol with a Greek name didn’t originate in any ancient Hellenistic cultures. BBC Culture writer Joobin Bekhrad clarifies that the oldest representation of an ouroboros appeared on a golden shrine located inside Tutankhamen’s tomb. Its contents, including the shrine, have been dated to the 13th century B.C.E. German Egyptologist Jan Assmann added that the ouroboros stood for the “mystery of cyclical time.” Ancient Egyptians would have seen these tendencies reflected in the Nile’s flooding cycles and the movements of the sun.

Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey Stuff

Egyptian views on the nature of time aren’t surprising, given that many other older civilizations believed that it operated in cycles rather than a strictly linear path. The “wheel of life” and “wheel of time” concepts arose within Indian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, and both the Mayan and Aztec cultures regarded time as cyclical.

Curiosity writer Reuben Westmass discloses that modern thinkers refer to this concept as “eternal return.” Supporters of the idea include German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and proponents of the “Big Bounce” theory who insist that the universe blows up, expands, and contracts in continually repeating cycles.

Not only that, discourse on these ideas is common in pop culture. One example comes from a 2007 “Doctor Who” episode in which the protagonist exclaims, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.”

Time, Space, and Alchemy

Bekhrad also explains that the ouroboros symbol was adopted by Greek alchemists during the Alexandrian era of Egyptian history. Within alchemic practice, it retained its original connotations of endless cycles and eternity. This emblem also possesses connotations of rebirth and renewal, considering how snakes regularly must shed their skins.

The Symbol Dictionary’s visual glossary discloses that it became associated with the spirit of Mercury, which is thought to be the essence that infuses all matter. A double ouroboros, or two snakes swallowing each other, stands for volatility as well as a balance between the higher and carnal selves of each human being.

Modern esoteric believers borrowed from and expanded upon these and other older alchemic traditions when using the ouroboros in their practices. Thelemapedia illuminates some of these additional meanings, referring to it as both a paradox and a “purifying sigil.” For some, it can stand for the unification of one’s primary presenting personality and the shadow self. Others may see it as an endless process of destroying and regenerating aspects of the self. In turn, it can become a representation of immortality.

An Existence That Never Ends?

Symbols can take on many different meanings, depending on who’s using or interpreting them. Contemporary worries about climate change, political turmoil, and economic instabilities lead some to wonder whether humanity will survive past the end of the 21st century. If nothing else, the ouroboros may be a sign of hope. Perhaps by prompting us to seek renewal and change, it can inspire us to face these challenges.


Choosing Flowers Based on Symbolism
Many flowers have different meanings.

Large bouquet of different colored flowers, specifically tulips.

At one of the most prominent weddings of the 21st century, the flowers for the bridal bouquet were carefully chosen. Kate Middleton selected the ones that were important to her family and to the Royal Family. Myrtle was chosen as an emblem of marriage and love, and specifically, the sprigs of myrtle came from a plant grown from the myrtle used in the bouquet of Queen Elizabeth II. Kate chose ivy, the symbolization of fidelity and affection. The hyacinth was representative of “constancy of love.” Sweet William was for gallantry, and the lily of the valley for the return of happiness.

You don’t have to be royal to make a wedding bouquet that’s representative of your partner and yourself. Flowers aren’t only for weddings, either. You may want to use this list when you need to choose a spray for your grandma’s funeral.

The Meaning of Roses

You probably know that red roses are for love. Practically everyone gives these flowers for Valentine’s Day, but roses come in many different colors. Say what you mean by choosing different colors for the bouquet you bring to your loved one:

  • White – innocence and purity
  • Yellow – joy and friendship, or a new beginning
  • Orange – enthusiasm
  • Dark red – unconscious beauty
  • Light pink – grace and gentleness
  • Coral – friendship and modesty
  • Lavender – love at first sight
  • Dark pink – gratitude or appreciation
  • Pale peach – modesty
  • Yellow with a red tip – falling in love

More Flowers With Meanings

Here are some other popular flowers and greenery that you can choose to say something special:

  • Bachelor’s button – blessedness
  • Bay – glory
  • Chrysanthemum – cheerfulness
  • Daffodils – regard
  • Daisy – innocence
  • Ferns – sincerity
  • White jasmine – sweet love
  • Lavender – devotion
  • Mint – virtue
  • Red poppy – consolation
  • Sage – wisdom and mortality
  • Yellow tulips – hope and cheery thoughts, friendship
  • White tulips – an apology
  • Pink tulips – confidence and happiness
  • Purple tulips – the color of royalty, used to express admiration for someone’s accomplishments
  • Violets – faithfulness

The white carnation symbolizes pure love. Pink carnations are symbolic of a mother’s undying love. Legend suggests that the pink carnation first appeared from the Virgin Mary’s tears. Purple carnations are for unpredictability. Light red carnations are for admiration; dark red carnations are a sign of deep love and affection.

Another suggestion for symbolic flowers is to host a garden party with your friends and have each one bring a flower or plant that has meaning to the person. Make a pretty flower garden or create a mixed bouquet to remember each other. It would make a nice housewarming gift or a memory for a new bride.

Make a Special Message

Flowers aren’t just for weddings, funerals and special holidays. Take home a bunch of flowers to your loved one anytime to make a special memory. Know the language of flowers to send the right message any time you choose.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a flower bouquet worth? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “the earth laughs in flowers.” Christian Dior believes, “after women, flowers are the most lovely thing God has given the world.” Say something special with flowers.