October 26, 2020
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The Place of the Hawk in the Animal Kingdom

hawkHawk is a common name for some birds of prey, widely distributed and varying greatly in size. The large and widespread Accipiter genus includes goshawks, sparrowhawks, the Sharp-shinned Hawk and others. These are mainly woodland birds with long tails and high visual acuity, hunting by sudden dashes from a concealed perch. In Australia and Africa hawks include some of the species in the subfamily Accipitrinae, which comprises the genera Accipiter, Micronisus, Melierax, * Urotriorchis and Megatriorchis.  In the Americas (and other areas) the term includes small to medium-sized members of the Accipitridae—the family which includes the “true hawks” as well as eagles, kites, harriers and buzzards.  Hawks have always been known to have sharp vision and to be very able hunters. This charateristic strenghten the symbolism of the hawk by putting him close of the omnipotence of the Gods (to which he is often associated) who can see everything.  Within the hawk species, the female is generally larger than the male. Hawks have four types of colour receptors in the eye. These give birds the ability to perceive not only the visible range but also the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, and other adaptations allow for the detection of polarised light or magnetic fields. This is due to the many photoreceptors in the retina (up to 1,000,000 per square mm for Buteo, against 200,000 for humans), an exceptional number of nerves connecting these receptors to the brain, and an indented fovea, which magnifies the central portion of the visual field.   Hawks usually like to habitat in places like deserts and fields, probably to make it easier to find prey. Since these birds can easily live anywhere without too much problem, they can be found in mountainous plains and tropical, moist areas. A hawk diet is very predictable in that it includes a variety of smaller animals. Some of these small animals may include snakes, lizards, fish, mice, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and any other type of small game that is found on the ground.Pse More specifically, a Red-shouldered hawk likes to eat smaller birds like doves and bugs like grasshoppers and crickets for example. [7]

The Symbolism of the Hawk

Etruscan Mural of Augurs

Etruscan Mural of Augurs

The largest of all the hawks, the eagle is widely considered as “the King of Birds.” Everywhere in the world at almost every moment of history in hundred of different culture he is the deputy of the highest heavenly godhead and of the fire of heaven, the Sun, at which it alone dares stare without burning his eyes.  There is no written or pictorial image of him in the whole history of the world where he does not figure as the companion, the messenger or the representation of the highest gods and the greatest heroes. From the time of cradle civilization, the greatness of the eagle has inspired comparaison to the sun, and to supernal deities of lightning and storm, eartly rulers and imperial nations.  The eagle is the attribute of Zeus, Jupiter and even Christ.  He is the emblem of Ceasars and of Napoleon, while on North American prairie as well as in Siberia, Japan, China and Africa, shamans, priests and seers in common with Kings and great commanders have borrowed the attributes of the eagle in order to share its power.  The eagle is the primitive and collective symbol of the father and of all father-figures. [8]  The eagle also represent the higher spiritual states and hence of angels as Biblical tradition so often bears witness.  In Ezekiel we have this depiction of eagle-like angels:

They four […] had the face of an eagle […] and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies […] whither the spirit was to go, they went. [9]

auguresWhether we want it or not, we can’t help to admit that these images expresses some sort of transcendence because even when we increase and boost the eagle’s noblest attributes, there is still nothing on this earth to match them.  Once again in the book of Revelation the image of the eagle is used to describes less pleasant transcendent beings: “And the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.” [10] The Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, in his book The Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchies, explains why eagles stands for angels:

“The representation of the Eagle [depicts] the kingly, and soaring, and swift in flight, and quickness, and wariness, and agility, and cleverness in search of the nourishment which makes strong; and the unimpeded, straight, and unflinching gaze towards the boutenous and brilliant splendour of the Divine rays of the sun, with the robust endurance of its visual powers.” [11]

auguresThe eagle starring at the Sun is once again the symbol of the direct perception of mental enlightenment. “Fearlessly the eagle looks the sun in the face,” wrote Angelus Silesius, “as you  can stare at eternal brightness if your heart is pure.” In this perspective, the eagle also become a symbol of contemplation, which is why it became an attribute of St John the Evangelist.  In some medieval works of art the eagle is identified with Christ, expressing thereby his Ascension and his kingship.  This latter interpretation is to transpose the symbol of Imperial Rome, which was also to be that of the Holy Roman Empire.  In Artic and northern mythology the eagle is a substitute for the Sun. [12] The same is true in American Indian mythology and conspicuously among Plain Indians. Hence it is easy to understand why an eagle’s feather and a pipe made of an eagle’s bone were indispensable adjuncts for whoever underwent the ordeal of the Sun Dance. [12a]  In Japan, the kami‘s messenger or supporter was an eagle known as “the Eagle of the Sun.”  Western tradition endows the eagle with extraordinary powers which remove it from earthly constraints.  Thus, although mortal, eagles possess the power of regaining their youth by exposing themselves to the Sun and, when their plumage catches fire, diving into a pool of clear water.  This may be compared with the rite of initiation and the practices of alchemy, which include passing through the fire and water.  Its keen eyesight makes the eagle a seer as well as a psychopomp.  Even in the  heyday of Christianity eagles were believed to carry the souls of the dead upon their wings and return them to God. Their downward stoop symbolized the downpouring if light upon the Earth.  Medieval mystics often invoked the eagle to depict the vision of God and compared prayer with the eagle’s soaring flight into the sunlight.  At this point it was an easy step to go from clairvoyance to augury and divination. As we know, augury in Classical mediterranean civilizations was the art of interpreting the will of the gods in the flight of eagles. “Like the Germano-Celtic raven, the Roman eagle was essentially a messenger of the will of heaven.” [13]  Pindar says that the King of Birds roosts on Zeus’ sceptre and makes his will known to mankind.  Before setting out to beg Achilles for the body of Hector, Priam poured a libation to Zeus.  He prayed the god “to send a bird of omen, even the swift messenger that is to thy self the dearest of birds and is mightiest in strength […]  And he appeared to them on the right, darting across the city.  And at sight of him they waxed glad, and the hearts in the breasts of all were cheered.” [14]  On the other hand an eagle flying from the left would have been considered as an evil omen.  In Persian tradition the eagle was a bird of augury but, just as in Ireland, it was often confounded with other birds of prey and especially with the falcon.  By the period of the Medes and the Persian it has come to symbolize victory.  According to Xenophon, when the armies of Cyrus (560-529 BC) came to the aid of Cyaxares, King of Media, in his war with the Assyrians, an eagle flew over the Persian troops and this was taken as a favourable omen. [15]  Even Aeschylus describes how the Greek defeat of the Persians was predicted to Atossa in a dream of an eagle chasing a flacon. [16]  Herodotus recounts that just as Darius and the seven Persian nobles were hesitating as to whether to march on the palace of the userper, Gaumata, they saw seven pairs of falcons chasing two pairs of vultures and tearing the feathers from them.  This they took as an oman favourable to the success of their enterprise and thet set out to attck the palace. [17]  The symbolism of the eagle was unaffected by the rise of Islam.  In many Arabian tales we see a magicians proving their superiority over another by changing himself into an eagle.  In dream and eastern divination eagles symbolized powerful kings, while kings presaged misfortune. The symbolic quality is preserved in folklore.  In “The Secret of Hamza,” King Anushiravān (Chrosroes I) emperor of Persia (531–579) dreamed that he saw a flock of raven flying towards him from the Khyber.  The leading bird snatched off his crown.  At the same instant three royal eagles which has flown from Mecca fell upon the raven, took the crown away and returned it to Crosoes.  His vizier Buzarjomehr, interpreted the dream as fortelling that one of the king’s enemies would be defeated by the Emir Hamza, his squire ‘Amr, and Moqbel, his archer.  The title of royal eagle is often used to designate these three, who are also called saheb-qaran, “Lords of the Age,” their victories over the infidel earning them the right to be compared with royal eagles.  The Oglala Sioux considered the eagle  as holding priority over all non-human living bieng.  It is said that they felt the presence of the Great Spirit in the eagle because it sees everything and soars higher than any other bird and because he does it in the sacred form of the circle. [18]  Interestingly enough, they also considered the cry of the eagle as “representative of the thunder.” [19] North Borneo treated the hawk as a god, but it was technically the messenger of the people’s Supreme God. [20] There were rituals that involved the hawk when the natives wished to make decisions about certain events, such as journeys from home, major agricultural work, and war. [21] In North Borneo we seem to see the evolution of a god in the three stages of the cult of the hawk among the Kenyahs, the Kayans and the sea Dyaks. The Kenyahs will not kill it, address to it thanks for assistance, and formally consult it before leaving home on an expedition. It seems, however, to be regarded as the messenger of the supreme god Balli Penyalong. The Kayans have a hawk-god, Laki Neho, but seem to regard the hawk as the servant of the chief god, Laki Tenangan. Singalang Burong, the hawk-god of the Dyaks, is completely anthropomorphized. He is god of omens and ruler of the omen birds, but the hawk is not his messenger. For he never leaves his house. Stories are, however, told of his attending feasts in human form and flying away in hawk form when all was over. According to Florance Waterbury, hawk worship was universal. [22] This particular bird was “a heavenly deity; its wings were the sky, the sun and moon were its eyes”. [23] The hawk is commonly associated with the Egyptian god Horus. The souls of former pharaohs were the followers of Horus and therefore, the hawk.  [24] Horus was depicted by the Egyptians as a human body with a hawk head after the Fourth and Fifth Dynasty, but before that he was represented as a hawk. [25] Egypt was not the only location of hawk worshippers. There were several other cultures which held the hawk in high regard. The hawk was a deity on the island of Hawaii and symbolized swift justice.  [26]Along with the lone island from the Hawaiian archipelago, the Fiji islands also had some tribes who worshipped a hawk god. [27] In Sikhism, although Animal worshipping is not a part of Sikh Culture but a White Falcon Bird is mostly regarded in Sikhism as it was associated with 6th Guru and especially 10th Sikh Guru who would always carry White Falcon perched on his hand when going out for Hunt and the 10th Guru was known as Master of White Hawk.Many people believe that the Bird carried by Guru Gobind Singh was Hawk but according to Historians Predictions made they believe that the bird was Gryfalcon OR Sakerfalcon

Tree of Life Attributions

According to Aleister Crowley’s tables, the sacred animal correspondence for Kether is GOD.  [1] It is just in the explanations of the columns of the tables deeper in his book 777 that he talk about the hawk as being an attribution for Kether: “The hawks pertain to Kether, as poised in the ether and beholding all things. Remember that Kether is primairily the individual point of view.  The Soul beholds all things.  Remember that Kether is beholds all things and changes the place according to its going.  Thus in Egyptian tradition the Hawk is the symbol the the highest type of Godhead.” [2]  Israel Regardie, in his book A Garden of Pomegrenates, says essentially the same thing: “Kether is the Monad, the individual point-of-view, we can understand that the hawk is so attributed because it has the habit of remaining poised in mid-air, looking down from the blue aether to Earth and beholding all things with the eye of utter detachment.” [3] Hawk is a common name for some birds of prey, widely distributed and varying greatly in size. A war hawk, or simply hawk for short, is a term used in politics for someone favoring war in a debate over whether to go to war. War hawks are the opposite of war doves. The terms are derived through analogy with the birds of the same name: hawks are predators which attack and feed on other animals, whereas doves mostly eat seeds and fruit, and are historically a symbol of peace.  Another reason that may explain this attribution is the fact that the Hawk is an animal closely related to Zeus and Jupiter which are both attribution to Kether.  Pliny indicated that Jupiter’s  sacred animal was the eagle, [4] which held precedence over other birds in the taking of auspice [5] and became one of the most common symbols of the Roman army (called the Aquila). The two emblems were often combined to represent the god in the form of an eagle holding in its claws a thunderbolt, which is frequently seen on Greek and Roman coins. [6] Augury is the practice from ancient Roman religion of interpreting omens from the observed flight of birds. When the individual, known as the augur (priests of Jupiter), interpreted these signs, it is referred to as “taking the auspices”. ‘Augur’ and ‘auspices’ are from the Latin auspicium and auspex, literally “one who looks at birds.” Depending upon the birds, the auspices from the gods could be favorable or unfavorable (auspicious or inauspicious). Of course, it sometimes happened that bribed or politically motivated augures would fabricate unfavorable auspices in order to delay certain state functions, such as elections for example.  Pliny the Younger attributes the invention of auspicy to Tiresias the seer of Thebes, the generic model of a seer in the Greco-Roman literary culture.  As the sky-god, he was a divine witness to oaths, the sacred trust on which justice and good government depend.  Another aspect that fits well in this attribution is the fact that the eagle (the largest of the Hawks)  is considered as the King of Birds.  Kether already have the Kings of Gods in its attribution (Zeus and Jupiter) it only make sense that it must be attributed the King of Birds as well. In all recorded history, the hawk alway have represented and symbolized the highest gods and the greatest heroes.  Another thing is that the Hawk is also a designation for the Thunderbird which seems to reunite the two mian attributes of Zeus/Jupiter: the Hawk and the Thunderbolt.  The thunderbird is a legendary creature in certain North American indigenous peoples’ history and culture. It is considered a supernatural bird of power and strength. The thunderbird’s name comes from the common belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind. Across many North American indigenous cultures, the thunderbird carries many of the same characteristics. It is described as a large bird, capable of creating storms and thundering while it flies. Clouds are pulled together by its wingbeats, the sound of thunder made by its wings clapping, sheet lightning the light flashing from its eyes when it blinks, and individual lightning bolts made by the glowing snakes that it carries around with it. In masks, it is depicted as multi-colored, with two curling horns, and, often, teeth within its beak. Among the Winnebagos, it is said that a man who has a vision of a thunderbird during a solitary fast will become a war chief. [6a]

The animal appropriate to the first path of th tree of life – Aleph is the eagle, the king of the birds, since we learn from classical mythology that the eagle was sacred to Jupiter; whose sacrifices, generally consisted of bulls and cows. It is also an adequate totem choice since the eagle is the incontested master of all the creatures dwelling in the airs because of his strong predatorial nature and his ability to fly in high altitudes. The eagle symbolized strength, courage, farsightedness and immortality. It is considered to be the king of the air and the messenger of the highest Gods. The eagle was a symbol born by men of action, occupied with high and weighty affairs. It was given to those of lofty spirit, ingenuity, speed in comprehension, and discrimination in matters of ambiguity. The wings signify protection, and the gripping talons symbolize ruin to evildoers. The eagle is held to represent a noble nature from its strength and aristocratic appearance, as well as its association with the ancient kings of Persia, Babylon and the Roman legions, having been the official ensign of those empires. Since then, other empires and nations have also adopted the eagle as their symbol, such as the German third reich and the empire conquered by Napoleon. The eagle is also associated with the sun. As a Christian symbol, the eagle represents salvation, redemption and resurrection. Parts of the eagle such as the head, wings, legs or talons, are also often symbols in heraldry.


[1] Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writtings of Aleister Crowley, p. 10.
[2] Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writtings of Aleister Crowley, p. 89.
[3] Israel Regardie, A Garden of Pomegrenates, p. 40.
[4] Pliny Naturalis Historia X 16. A. Alföldi Zu den römischen Reiterscheiben in Germania 30 1952 p. 188 and n. 11 as cited by G. Dumézil La religion reomaine archaïque Paris 1974 2nd ed., It. tr. Milan 1977 (hereafter cited as ARR) p. 215 n. 58.
[5] Servius Ad Aeneidem II 374.
[6] Dictionary of Roman Coins, see e.g. reverse of “Consecratio” coin of Emperor Commodus & coin of Ptolemy V Epiphanes minted c. 204–180 BC.
[6a] Burlin, Nathalie C. (1907). The Indians’ Book: An Offering by the American Indians of Indian Lore, Musical and Narrative, to Form a Record of the Songs and Legends of Their Race. Harper and Brothers.
[7] Heitzelman, Donald S. (2004). Hawks & Owls in Eastern North America. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 98.
[8] Jean Chevalier & Alain Geerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, p. 323.
[9] The Bible, Ezekiel 1:10-12.
[10] The Bible, Book of Revelation, 4:7.
[11] Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, The Celestial and Ecclesiastical Hierarchies, translated by Rev. John Parker, London 1884, p. 48.
[12] Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religions, Translated by Rosemary Sheed, Londo and New Yprk, 1958, p.  130.
[12a] Joseph Epes Brown, Animal of the Soul. Sacred Animal of the Oglala Sioux, p. 34.
[13] Durand, Gilbert, Les Structures Anthropologiques de l’Imaginaire, Paris, 1963, p.134.
[14] Homer, Illiad 24:308-21.
[15] Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 2:4
[16] Aeschylus, Persae 205ff.
[17] Herodotus 3:76 cited in Jean Chevalier & Alain Geerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, p. 326.
[18] Joseph Epes Brown, Animal of the Soul. Sacred Animal of the Oglala Sioux, p. 33.
[19] Joseph Epes Brown, Animal of the Soul. Sacred Animal of the Oglala Sioux, p. 34.
[20] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 62.
[21] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 62.
[22] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 26.
[23] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 26.
[24] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 26.
[25] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 27.
[26] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 62.
[27] Waterbury, Florance (1952). “”Bird-Deities in China” Artibus Asiae. Supplementum, 10(2)., p. 62.


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