I wanted to go into some more specifics about the Legend I spoke of in my post, “Rabbit Hole Number 2 – Quetzalcoatlus northropi.” That Legend involved the Aztec’s search for their land of paradise.
One version of this Legend tells us about how a dying Shaman, and leader of his Tribe, instructed the Tribe to seek out their new “Dream.” “Dream,” as used here, refers to the Tribe’s collective idea, or “Tonal,” or image of what their “Home” and “Society” constituted.
A number of my posts have focused on travel and the literal, “Finding Home,”and this is no different.
The Shaman directs the Tribe to shed all possessions that no longer “serve you in your life,” and leave them behind for a “Great Transformation.” I understand or interpret this to include all of those mental possessions that we all archive in our brains – all of the condemnations, the resentments, the jealousies, the hatreds, the discriminations, the grudges, the angers, the fears, the despairs – anything that weighs you down with negativity at its core.
Shed them all. Physical or mental.
He further dictates, that the Tribe shall wander in the wilderness until they see an “Eagle devouring a Snake above a Cactus Garden,” as the sign that they have found their new Home. That is the collective “Home.”
The Aztecs, after hundreds of years, eventually make it to Lake Texcoco, where in the middle of the lake they see a small island and the vision of the Eagle and the Snake unfolds right before their eyes on that island. They build a bonfire to celebrate and thank the long-ascended Shaman and, to their surprise, his Spirit appears in the flames. The Shaman informs the Tribe that they have completed their external journey, but now must take the hardest of all journeys – the inward journey.
The Shaman says, “The Eagle is a symbol for Truth, the Snake is a symbol for Lies, and the Cactus Garden represents the Garden of the Human Mind.”
“When the Eagle of Truth devours the Snake of Lies in the Garden of your Mind, then you will find a Home within yourself – you will find your own Personal Freedom.”
Now, I am quoting heavily from the book, “The Wisdom of the Shamans,” by Don Jose Ruiz, and when telling this tale, he further states:
“For me, Personal Freedom is when our Hearts and Minds are ruled by Love instead of Fear. Personal Freedom is when we are comfortable in our own skin and we love and accept ourselves completely, even the parts we don’t like. Personal Freedom is when we stop trying to be this or that, but instead are content just to be.”
Ruiz is absolutely great in choosing his words to describe the inward journey. He further elaborates the allegory that the Shaman was telling the People, that each generation must find its own “Truth,” and create their own “Dream,” and sending the Tribe into the Wilderness was the dramatic, and perhaps the only, way of teaching them how to find their Freedom.
I apologize if this is too many quotes, but Ruiz further declares:
“Sometimes Life serves as our Shaman, and sets up situations that completely destroy our old Dream. Death, divorce, the loss of job are all things that require us to go out into the Wilderness, taking with us very few of our possessions, and find a new Dream. But our Home, our Truth, is always inside us, and we take that wherever we go.”
Our Personal Truth and our Personal Dream are never the same for any two people. Neither is the concept of “Home.”
So here we have a great deal of symbolism that serves as a path to self-contentment. The realization that “Home” lies inside of us, instead of in the external world, unburdens us from searching the external world, but it shifts the burden to self-examination. To introspection. We must now unburden, or purify, our Minds and our Souls, by “Fire” if necessary, to reach our personal Dream. Our Truth. Our Freedom.
While Ruiz gives us a version of what the Eagle and Snake represent, let’s take a bit deeper look at the symbology here. And I’ll shift to some other texts.
In a more global perspective, as opposed to the personal one described by Ruiz, the Eagle represents “Illumination of the Spirit, Healing, and Creation.” The Eagle’s Medicine is Spirit, a connection to the Divine.
The Eagle flies to the heights where the Source (Great Mystery) lives bridging both worlds, the Spiritual and the Earthly. Because of this, it can carry messages between the People and the Source. The Eagle represents, “a state of grace achieved through hard work, understanding, and a completion of the tests of initiation which results in the taking of one’s Personal Power.”
The Eagle brings illumination, it can fly high and see all directions and glean all perspectives. Eagle teaches you to look within your Heart and see the beauty of all of the aspects of your Soul. The “Eagle asks you to give yourself permission to legalize Freedom and to follow the joy your Heart’s desires.”
The Eagle was associated with the Sun to the Aztecs, Pueblo Indians, and the Plains Indians. The Sun’s rising and setting represented the Eagles Flight. The Eagle, as the Thunderbird, is the servant of the Sun and the awakener of the Earth. The Golden Eagle is the “War Eagle.” And the Aztecs adopted the Eagle as a symbol of one of their most powerful warrior groups.
Similarly, when examining Snake symbolism in the global context, it represents, “Rebirth, Resurrection, Initiation, and Wisdom.” It is a symbol of Transmutation.
The transition of life-death-and rebirth is represented by the Snake shedding its skin.
The Snake’s Medicine teaches us that we are Universal Beings that have the power to purge ourselves of any mental, physical, emotional or spiritual poisons. Just as the Shaman prescribed to the Aztecs with his instructions to shed all things that no longer serve you. This expulsion of internal venom sparks passion, mental clarity, and physical vitality.
This transmutation represents a fundamental shift or change in consciousness. A rebirth of the powers of creativity and wisdom.
The Caduceus, the emblem adopted by physicians to represent the practice of Medicine, is composed of two Snakes winding around a Winged Staff. Representing healing powers and the speed of flight.
You can see how this combined symbology of the Eagle and the Snake is literally blended with the Aztecs’ manifestation of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered-Serpent God, and how many other Native Tribes, with their own representations, regard them and the powerful “Medicine” they bestow.
I personally love this symbolism and the lessons they convey. Storytelling. The passage of Legends by word of mouth. From generation to generation.
The Oral Tradition.
Isn’t it amazing how these centuries’-old-stories can be so pertinent in the present? The timeless wisdom conveyed. To assist us with the many challenges here in our “modern” world.
Let us all light that ageless Lamp of Knowledge to find our Home and gain our Personal Freedom.
PostScript: First off, if you haven’t seen my explanation for this before, and if you were wondering, I capitalize words that I believe are important, whether they be proper nouns or not. I adopted this practice from the author Jamie Sams, who I respect and appreciate very much.
Next, with regard to the Ruiz quote, “Sometimes Life serves as our Shaman, and sets up situations that completely destroy our old Dream. Death, divorce, the loss of job are all things that require us to go out into the Wilderness, taking with us very few of our possessions, and find a new Dream. But our Home, our Truth, is always inside us, and we take that wherever we go.”
Wow, just Wow! So I’ve met this situation more than once in this lifetime and have gone to the Wilderness. When I was a child dealing with a severe and little understood illness; when I ran afoul of the law and was busted, losing job and Home; with both of my divorces, losing pretty well everything; with the loss of my pinnacle job, and with the developing of yet another disease. The last round in particular, I was hit with all these, divorce, death, and loss of job leading to loss of Home.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining. I see the silver linings. It has been so important in my life to realize that “Home” is really inside of us. 🙂
Photos: I was incredibly lucky to catch this pic of a Bald Eagle on the Canadian border. And the Rattlesnake was in southern Arizona.
Footnotes, i.e., Rabbit Holes:
From the Title: The Lamp of Knowledge (Life) “was derived from the ancient Egyptian ankh, a tau cross with a loop at the top. Originally, the ankh was regarded as a sacred symbol of life. The Lamp of Knowledge is the official symbol of the nursing profession and of higher education.”
Lamps have the symbolism of Light, Life, Divinity, Wisdom, and Intellect, and can be the gateway to another plain. It can provide protection from demons and represent the spirit’s illumination.
At the Ending: The Caduceus was adopted as the symbol for Medicine in the early 20th century. As it turns out, the symbol was adopted as the result of the mistake of confusing the Caduceus of Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), a mischievous Greek God with the Rod of Asclepius.
The Greek God Asclepius is the Patron God of Medicine and Healing, and the Rod had a single Snake winding around it. Whereas, the Caduceus has two intertwined Snakes winding around a winged-staff. As I noted in the post, the Caduceus merges the symbolism of the Eagle and the Snake.
And I thought it was pretty cool that I was able to incorporate the symbols of both Nursing and Medicine in this single post. 🙂
Resources for Further Reading:
The Book: Animal-Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews
The Book: Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson
Prior Posts about Finding Home: