“ Animal Species: Birds „
casting circles unseen
tracing secret signs upon
keeping time upon
I cry your name!
upon my back...
I awaken Creative Fires
hunt your Divine Purpose,
which leaves no track...
Body and Soul
to the Winds of Fate...
Sharpen your eye...
like lightning, strike!
Ignore the taunts of the Tricksters,
For all our many differences,
how much Creator made us alike."
"We Sioux spend a lot of time thinking about everyday things which in our minds are mixed up with the spiritual. We see in the world around us many symbols that teach us the meaning of life. We have a saying that the white man sees so little, he must see with only one eye. We see a lot that you no longer notice. You could notice if you wanted to, but you are usually too busy. We Indians live in a world of symbols and images where the spiritual and commonplace are one...We try to understand them not with the head but with the heart" John Fire Lame Deer
"The earth is common ground and we are all overlords, whether we hold title or not; gradually the idea is taking form that the land must be held in safekeeping, that one generation is to some extent responsible to the next, and that it is contrary to the public good to allow an individual, merely because of his whims or ambitions, to destroy almost beyond repair any part of the soil, or water, or even the view."~ E. B. White One Man's Meat 1950
"Those things that nature denied to human sight, she revealed to the eyes of the soul."~ Ovid
Raptors are birds of prey that are separated into three diurnal categories: Buteos, Accipiters, and Falcons. Buteos have broad wings with deeply slit wing tips, and short rounded tails. They are noted for their high soaring flight, and are found nearly worldwide in open and forested areas. These hawks tend to have stout short legs and short toes. Red Tailed Hawks are the most common of Buteos. Other examples would be Red Shouldered Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, and Swainson's Hawk.
Accipiters are forest dwelling hawks with rounded wings and longer tails that tailor their flight to their environment, making the quick turns and increased maneuverability needed for their survival a reality. Accipiters are bird eaters and often catch their meals in mid-air. Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the nearly identical Cooper's Hawks, are the most common example of this category.
Falcons are noted for their powerful wing beats and high-speed dives.
Their long pointed wings and long tails allow them to execute amazing tuck and dive maneuvers. American Kestrels are one of the most common Falcons, but the most well known is the Peregrine Falcon. Other raptors include Eagles, Buzzards, Vultures, Secretary Birds, Ospreys, Owls, and Harriers. They will be discussed in their own due time. This poem was inspired by Hawks in general, specifically the Red Tailed Hawk so common to my area. This is the Raptor I would like to discuss today.
In Native American traditions the Red Tailed Hawks, like other raptors, are closely connected to Creator. They bear Divine messages, and visions. They encourage us to pay attention to the subtle signs we are being sent and may be missing as we are all too easily caught up in day to day living.
"The old Lakota was wise. He knew that man's heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too". ~Chief Luther Standing Bear
"Whenever, the course of a daily hunt, the hunter comes upon a scene that is strikingly beautiful, or sublime; a black thundercloud with the rainbow's glowing arch above the mountain, a white waterfall in the heart of a green gorge, a vast prairie tinged with the blood-red of the sunset; he pauses for an instant in the attitude of worship. He sees no need for setting apart one day in seven as a holy day, because to him all the days are God's days." ~Ohiyesa a/k/a Charles Alexander Eastman (Santee Sioux)
"It is only the women whose eyes have been washed clear with tears who get the broad vision that makes them little sisters to all the world." ~Dorothy Dix
Hawks will also often appear at crucial moments to let you know that your prayers are being heard, and that they are they to carry your prayers to Creator, or deliver a message of spiritual awakening. There have been several times in my life where I have been in great inner turmoil puzzling over some personal dilemma, and I ask for guidance in the situation.
Several years ago I began to enter a new phase in my life. Up til this time as an adult, an inner part of myself had remained clenched in fear of being too open to my own life's purpose, and what I may be faced with loosing or having to give up in return. Finally, I made the effort to reject these fears, opening myself further to the Universe, spiritual awakening, and Creator.
In a dream that night, I stood in a familiar woodland clearing at the edge of a small lake on a perfect summery day. An enormous Red Tail appeared out of the bright corona of the sun, flying towards me over the lake. It hovered a moment before my wondering eyes, and its every fine detail is still clear in my memory. I remember that breathless moment when this awesome Teacher, that stretched from my head to my hips, brushed my face with its wingtips and landed, gentle as a newborn's dreaming sigh, upon my shoulder.
Since that dream, I have been amazed at the paths I have found myself upon, the people I have met, and the countless priceless spiritual lessons that have been uncovered. I am grateful that I finally found the courage to let go of those inhibiting fears. I believe that was the moment in which I truly began to move towards my life's purpose, and as I have learned and journeyed
I have discovered that I am, in fact, moving closer to who I was as a child! Perhaps more than any other messages, Red Tail speaks of spiritual awakenings, and finding our higher purpose. His ruddy tail reminds us of Kundalini, the yogic life force that lies coiled at the base of the spine until we awaken it, and it uncoils up our spines to the head, triggering enlightenment.
Also known as Serpent energy, I find this connection between hawk and serpent interesting as Snake would be one balancing energy for Hawk, and this particular relationship emphasizes the interconnection so important to Red Tail people.
Other balancers might be mouse, frog, great horned owl, blue jay, rabbit, or crow. Red Tail Hawk combines the elements of Air and Fire, thought and creation. Red tailed hawks do not achieve their red tail feathers until they are mature, and this is also true of Red Tail people.
As a child not born into the traditions that would teach me about Totems, I was never the less delighted with all aspects of the natural world. As soon as I could read, I read everything I could about animals, plants, stones, stars, and any other aspect of nature. I was particularly drawn to the world's ancient myths and legends, and was consistently intrigued by the many similarities even between vastly different cultures.
I spent as much time as I could outside and with animals; listening, watching. In my innocence, I understood and accepted many of the lessons held by our various Relations without any great debate. I carried much from that time with me into my adult life, but in shedding my childhood I also left much behind. Only after unclenching, and dreaming of the Red Tail did I begin to research and study the stories and teachings of the Native Nations; adding these teachings to similar lore from cultures around the world. They more I learn, the more I see how everything interconnects and relates.
"Where there is no vision a people perish" ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Vision with action is a daydream; action without vision is a nightmare." ~Japanese proverb
"I would give all the wealth of the world, and all the deeds of all the heroes, for one true vision." ~Henry David Thoreau
All raptors have keen sight, and Red Tails can see eight times better than a human. If we could see as this hawk does, we would be able to read a newspaper on the ground from the seventh floor of a building! As they soar great heights and hide in the glare of the sun, they use their great vision to spot prey. Their outstanding eyesight and close connection to Creator means that they are often appealed to by those who seek visions. Red Tail people need to remember to stay aware of the big picture, and not get distracted by mundane life or narrow their field of vision. If we don't keep an eye on the big picture, we may miss our target!
Balanced Red Tail people are also keenly perceptive, picking up unconsciously on subtle clues and body language, and are often gifted with acute psychic visions, and precognitive dreams. They can often tell truth from lie, and unnerve others with their steady gaze. Unbalanced Red Tails will be deceived in their perceptions, visions and dreams which could lead to real trouble!
"When the people are ready, the master appears", and our spiritual awakening will not begin until we have reached our proper moment. We have to earn our feathers.
"Listen or your tongue will keep you deaf." ~Native American Proverb
"God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please - you can never have both." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I never dreamed of being Shakespeare or Goethe, and I never expected to hold the great mirror of truth up before the world; I dreamed only of being a little pocket mirror, the sort that a woman can carry in her purse; one that reflects small blemishes, and some great beauties, when held close enough to the heart." ~Peter Altenberg
Truth is very important to Hawk people, and they often make terrible liars or even become physically ill when attempting to lie. Hawks are consistently harried by Crows and bold Jays as they hunt. Hawk people would be wise to remember this, because they too will find that others will attempt to dissuade them from their course, will harass them, deride their visions, dreams and keen perceptions causing doubt in the person called by Red Tail. Independent and yet fiercely loyal, red tail hawks mate for life, and Red Tail people tend to follow this example. Not easily won, but they are they tend to stick.
Like other raptors, Red Tails have razor sharp talons and curved beaks with which to grasp, strangle and then rend their prey. One of the big lessons for Red Tail people is learning that their sharp intellect and ability to communicate powerfully can either be used either constructively or destructively. We must learn when to be silent, even when we would really like to open up our mouths and let fly, and when to use our razor tongues to good purpose. It is important that we mind how tightly we hold onto things, people, ideas, etc. Knowing when to let go and how to use our metaphorically sharp beaks delicately rather than destructively are important lessons for most Raptor people.
We can cut cleanly through a lot of bull and speak with the passion common to the fire and air nature of Red Tail, and we can also shred someone's self-esteem, hopes, or confidence if we aren't careful. If you feel called by this Teacher, be mindful of your ability to provide great insight or cause great destruction, and act always with integrity.
Truth is not an easy thing, even when we convince ourselves that we want nothing more. Truth cannot help but bring sorrow, and sometimes Red Tail people see the world so clearly that they cannot help keenly feeling the wounds they see around them. Naturally bold and not easily overtaken by fear, we need to remember not to fly too close to the sun or we may end up like Icarus! Balanced Red Tails make great investigators, lawyers, inventors, and researchers.
"I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?" ~Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985
"We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." ~Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
The ever vigilant Red Tail also speaks to us about Guardianship. It is important for those called by Red Tail to protect the Earth. Such people are acutely aware of our interconnectedness with all things, and the desire to protect our mother Earth, to promote awareness of these issues is as sharp, strong and fierce within us as the grip of a red tailed hawk!
It is important to us to work towards making the world a better place on whatever level we can, local or global. We encourage others to recycle, to conserve, to walk gently upon this Earth, and treat All Our Relations with respect. Balanced Red Tail people seek always to live in harmony with the World.
"The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future." ~Marya Mannes, More in Anger, 1958
"Because we don't think about future generations, they will never forget us." ~Henrik Tikkanen
"It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment." ~Ansel Adams
For all that I have talked about Hawk in relation to some Native Traditions, they certainly aren't limited to just that culture. Ra and Horus were both depicted as hawk or falcon-headed beings. These were powerful deities of the Sun and Sky, greatly esteemed in Ancient Egypt. The symbols Eye of Horus and Eye of Ra endure as potent symbols of protection, natural harmony, power and leadership.
Harmakhet, a variation of Horus, was the god of the dawn, keeper of secret wisdom. It is thought by some that the Great Sphinx is a depiction of Harmakhet. In other renderings, Horus is represented by a winged sun or as a lion with the head of a hawk. Frigga, Cerridwen, Circe, Apollo, Bran the Blessed, and King Arthur have all been associated with hawks. The Hawk's association with the power and creativity of the sun, secrets, wisdom, leadership, latent powers, dominion over the sky, temperance, protection, illumination, justice and truth goes back a long way! How does this Teacher appear in your life?
"We do face the sun and pray to God through the sun, asking for strength to complete the Sun Dance, and that our prayers will be heard... and in the sun we see visions." ~ Frank Fools Crow, Lakota Sioux
"The Sun, the Light of the world.
I hear him coming.
I see his face as he comes.
He makes the beings on earth happy
And they rejoice.
O, Wakan Tanka, I offer to You this world of Light."
-Black Elk, The Sacred Pipe
"There is a word meaning "All My Relations."
We will live by this word.
We are related to everything.
We are still here!
We shall live!
This poem and the discussion of Hawk which follows are excerpts of a larger work, loosely entitled "Who Sings Now?". Each poem is inspired by a Nature Teacher... a plant, stone, animal, etc found in Nature which carries totemic lessons and sacred wisdom for us.
On other sites, we've made a game of it. I would post the poem and everyone would have fun guessing who was singing/inspired the poem. Then I'd post the article on the Wisdom of that Teacher. I have learned a great deal from playing this game with people from all over the world.
The concepts that we are all One, have a purpose in the eyes of our Creator, and are all deserving of respect are very old ones. Now, more than ever, we as a People need to reconnect to the World around us, and, in my opinion, begin to be more concerned with our Responsibilities than our Rights. Mitake Oyasin means All Our Relations in Lakota, and is used to close prayers and ceremonies as a reminder that we are all One and have a place on the Wheel of Life.
In the mid 1970's to early 80's, my husband and I owned a tropical fish shop specialising in the sale of freshwater and marine fish, reptiles and amphibians. One day, when I was working in the shop, a customer enquired "Do you take birds?" Well, it was quite obvious we didn't; there were snakes, spiders, frogs, lizards and of course fish, but not a bird in sight. Politely, I replied "No, sorry - try the pet shop in the High Street". On his way out, I enquired "By the way, what sort of birds are you selling?" (thinking he would say budgies or canaries). "A tawny owl" he replied. So Buzby arrived. He was 2 years old and close rung i.e. a ring on his leg denoting that he was bred in captivity. His previous owner had lived on a housing estate, had kept him in an aviary and the neighbours had complained about all the noise he made. We built an aviary in our garden, adjoining a small shed, so that he could go in and out as he pleased. And then one day he laid an egg - so now we know he is a SHE. She ate day-old chicks that we obtained from a local chicken farmer, also mice and occasionally pieces of rabbit. She was extremely tame. Call Buzz and she would fly to you; and she loved to have her head scratched. She liked to take a bath - place a bowl of water in the aviary and she would hop into it, shaking water all over herself and all over us if we were standing nearby. At one point, we were given an injured male tawny owl. We tried putting the pair together, but Buzby had always been on her own, and bullied him. I gave a talk on tawny owls at one time to a local Brownie pack (yes I know, very appropriate) and of course took Buzz along. She was extremely well behaved (much more so than the children!), not at all frightened, and let the children gently stroke her. I must admit, she took to my husband much more than she did to
me. In fact, when we split up, he got the bird, and I got a 17ft long reticulated python .... (but that's another story). In later life, she lived in an indoor flight to protect her from draughts and bad weather. She died earlier this year aged almost 22 years. She had not been ill, although in the last few months of her life, she had begun to look like a little old lady (in as much as an owl can look like a little old lady), so possibly heart failure or just old age. There are laws now about the keeping of birds of prey in captivity - a license is required to keep certain species. Birds of prey bred in captivity must be close rung. Birds taken from the wild can only be kept in captivity if they cannot be returned to the wild eg. unable to fly properly through injury etc. or unable to fend for themselves eg. hunt for food. In the wild, the average age of a barn owl (so I expect that this would apply to tawny owls) is seven years - they are killed by pesticides, overhead power cables, but mostly by vehicles on the road. Personally, nowadays I feel that owls should only be bred in captivity as part of a release programme, as has happened to the barn owl when they became scarce in the wild. I hope Buzby lived a long and happy life with human company, but nowadays I wouldn't advise keeping a tawny owl as a pet. In memory of Buzby, April 1978 - February 2000 PS Writing this made me quite tearful, she was very much part of our family.