Eagle symbolism and meaning includes loyalty, devotion, freedom, truth, honor, the divine, hope, foresight, and psychic awareness. These magnificent birds live in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia – and wherever they are, they leave a strong impression. Many cultures see the eagle as the king of all birds, and some believe in the power of the eagle spirit animal. In this post, you’ll learn about eagle meanings and symbols, the eagle spirit animal, eagle mythology, and more.
Table of Contents
- What does the eagle symbolize?
- Detailed Eagle Symbolism and Meanings
- Eagle Spirit Animal
- Eagle Power Animal
- Eagle Totem
- Eagle Mythology and Folklore
- Native American Eagle Meanings
- Bald Eagle Symbol of The United States
- Eagle Symbol in Aztec and Mexican Culture
- Eagle Symbolism in Zulu Culture
- Eagle Meaning in Ancient Egypt
- The Eagle in Greek and Roman Mythology
- Eagle Meaning in Celtic Mythology
- Eagle Symbol in Nordic Mythology
- Eagle Symbolism in the Bible
- The Eagle in Arabic Culture
- Eagle Symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism
- Eagle Symbol to the Paiwan People of Taiwan
- Chinese Eagle Symbolism
- Eagle Symbolism in Japan
- The Eagle in Mongolia
- Eagle Symbol in Aboriginal Australian Culture
- Eagle Dream Meaning
- Eagle Tattoo
- Organizations that Protect Eagles
What does the eagle symbolize?
- Loyalty and Devotion
- Freedom and Independence
- Truth and Honor
- The Divine
- Hope and Salvation
- Foresight and Psychic Awareness
Detailed Eagle Symbolism and Meanings
Here are details on commonly shared eagle symbols and meanings and what they might mean in your life:
Loyalty and Devotion
Eagles are monogamous animals who mate for life. Male eagles stay with their female partners to help raise their eaglets. And many eagle pairs return to the same nest year after year. Consequently, older eagles who have been together for a long time tend to have large nests. One nest discovered in Vermilion, Ohio, which was over 20 years old, was 9 feet in diameter by 12 feet tall. Researchers estimated it weighed more than 2 tons.1
This dedication to their mates, maintaining their nests, and raising their young together is why eagles are symbols of loyalty and devotion.
When the eagle is your spirit animal, you believe in the idea of a soul mate and you feel a part of you is missing when your soul mate is not in your life. You may be a person whom others have called a loner or one who is afraid of commitment. But you know deep down that you are still trying to find your soul mate in this lifetime. If you are single, the eagle spirit reminds you to focus on your own self-development because when your soul mate arrives, you will be ready as the best version of yourself.
If you are already in a relationship, the eagle spirit animal is a reminder to reinforce your commitment to each other. Too often we project our own dissatisfaction on to our partners, thinking they are to blame for our unhappiness. This is treating your relationship like a dumping ground instead of something sacred. The eagle’s nest is symbolic of everything you and your partner create together, from experiences to interactions. It’s up to you to be responsible for all that you bring to the nest.
Freedom and Independence
While the eagle is devoted to their mate, they are also symbols of freedom and independence. After all, eagles can soar to 10,000 feet2 and, when diving, they can achieve speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.3 The embody an existence without restrictions, borders, or limitations.
If an eagle has made themself known to you, it may be a sign that you need to exert your own freedom and independence more. This could mean freedom or thought, striking out on your own in some way, or even the physical freedom of letting yourself move more.
Having deep commitments to your mate, your children, pets, a home, or job doesn’t mean you aren’t free. The eagle spirit reminds you that freedom begins in the mind. We all deserve some freedom and autonomy. It’s up to us to figure out a way to live so we can have freedom while still maintaining the commitments we have made to ourselves and others.
Truth and Honor
The eagle epitomizes the saying, “The truth will set you free.” Sometimes the truth and honor can feel like weighty responsibilities. The eagle reminds you that when you live in the truth, you have the power to soar higher than you ever imagined.
Living in the truth means not living in delusion about who you are and what you’re telling yourself. It means being truthful to yourself and to others. We are all capable of telling ourselves big lies of even white lies, such as:
- “He or she is really interested in me, they just don’t realize I’m the one yet…”
- “Even though they treat me badly, they really love me…”
- “I can have one more drink…”
- “If I buy this now, I can afford it later…”
- “My parents want me to be a doctor, so that’s what I’ll study, even though I’d rather be a musician…”
On and on. We owe it to ourselves to live in the truth because when we don’t, we erode fulfilling our purpose here on Earth.
The eagle spirit animal reminds you that living fearlessly means living in the truth. As Henry David Thoreau said,
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
The Native Americans saw the eagle soar to unimaginable heights. Thus, they believed the eagle was an intermediary between humans and the Great Spirit. The eagle reminds us that we are far more than our day-to-day thoughts, challenges, and fears. When we allow our imaginations to soar to new heights, we can realize our true potential.
If you see an eagle, it’s a reminder that the Divine exists in everything – all that we are, all that we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel – has an element of the sacred in it.
Hope and Salvation
The wingspan of an eagle can range from 6 to nearly 8 feet wide. When an eagle dives, they are streamlined for speed, but when they soar, their wings spread wide as they allow the air currents to elevate them in what looks like effortless grace. This ability of eagles to soar towards the heavens so gracefully is why they are also symbols of hope and salvation.
It’s no coincidence that an eagle with outstretched wings was a symbol for victory in ancient Rome. Similarly, it was a symbol of the triumph of good over evil in ancient Greece.
Interestingly, human beings express a similar type of body language when they experience victory. Consider a marathon runner crossing the finish line with high, outstretched arms.
This TED Talk by Amy Cuddy talks about the how body language not only reflects how we feel inside but also how it can change the way we feel inside. What she describes as “power posing” is like the eagle with outstretched wings:
Yet beyond the personal feeling of victory that this posture can give us, it also symbolizes a level of vulnerability and openness. When you open yourself with outstretch arms, you open your heart chakra and open yourself to others. You also open yourself to your Higher Power, inviting enlightenment to come in.
Foresight and Psychic Awareness
Like owls, hawks, and other birds of prey, eagles have incredibly powerful eyesight. However, while owls hunt at night, eagles and their hawk cousins are diurnal, hunting during the daylight hours. Eagles can see eight times as far as we can. In fact, their eyes also have the ability to zoom in on prey, and they can see a small rodent from two miles away. Furthermore, they see more colors than we do.4
Because eagles can soar towards the heavens, yet see details of what’s happening on the ground, they are symbols of foresight and psychic awareness.
The term “eagle eye” to describe someone who is astute comes from the fact that eagles have such powerful vision. Blessed with such keen eyesight, the eagle sees things from a viewpoint that humans cannot. People in ancient cultures viewed the eagle as connected to the Creator. Thus, they believed the eagle could see what was going to happen on Earth before it actually occurred.
Some of my favorite videos from Red Bull are the eagle cams. In these videos, an eagle with a video camera attached to their head gives us an eagle’s eye view of what they see as the fly.
Here’s an eagle cam video above the Alps:
Here’s one over the Dolomites:
When the eagle is your spirit animal, you have the gift of strong intuition and the potential for prophecy. When you meditate, envision the eagle flying over the Earth, and ask for greater awareness. This heightened awareness can help you fulfill your purpose here on Earth as you evolve as a spiritual being in your human experience.
Eagle Spirit Animal
You may already know that the eagle is your spirit animal. Or an eagle may have suddenly riveted your attention in real life, art, or the media. Either way, if the eagle spirit resonates with you, by all means, learn as much as you can about these majestic creatures. They can help to expand your awareness and you navigate your life here on Earth.
The eagle spirit animal is powerful guide to have on your side. For one, eagle people are devoted mates who have strong values. In addition, they feel connected to a higher power and have a sense of what will happen in the future.
Eagle Power Animal
As the name implies, a power animal can empower you with their most dynamic traits. For example, you can summon the eagle power animal when you:
- Want to renew your commitment to your significant other and your vision for the long-term.
- Hope to find your romantic soul mate.
- Need more freedom or autonomy in an area of your life.
- Want to feel more connected to your higher power and renew your spiritual faith.
An eagle totem is a symbol that represents the protective powers of this magnificent bird of prey. For example, the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest carved eagles in their totem poles for protective purposes and to depict stories about their clans. So, the eagle totem is a helpful symbol of freedom, independence, and a connection to the Divine.
Eagle Mythology and Folklore
Eagles are part of the Accipitridae family, a classification of birds who hunt by day, which includes hawks, kites, harriers, and vultures.5 There are over 60 species of eagles, and, as mentioned earlier, they live in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia. Because they are such impressive birds, eagles appear in the mythologies and folklore of many cultures. Here are some of those stories:
Native American Eagle Meanings
Every Native American tribe has their own distinct set of traditions and beliefs, so eagle symbols and meanings vary from tribe to tribe. However, virtually every Native American tribe views the eagle as a powerful medicine animal who symbolizes unparalleled bravery and honor, as well as vision and intuition.
Because eagles can soar to the heavens, Native Americans view them as closely connected with the Creator. They believe eagles possess the ability to communicate with the supernatural and material worlds.
Some Native American tribes tell stories of the thunderbird, a mystical eagle that has even greater powers than the earthly eagle. For one, the thunderbird is capable of creating thunder and lighting by flapping their wings. (I’ll write more about the thunderbird in an upcoming post.)
Native Americans have a clan system that’s organized around family groups, which are based on the maternal line. Clans serve as a system of community organization and division of labor. In addition, historians theorize that the system helped to keep gene lines healthy. Clans have animals that are associated with them, such as the bear, crow, fox, hummingbird, snake, and others.
Many Native American tribes have eagle clans. These include the Caddo, Osage, Haida, Kwakiutl, Tsimshian, Tlingit, Hopi, Zuni, Pueblo, and Chippewa.7
Eagle Feather Meaning
As Native Americans revere eagles, they consider their feathers to be sacred. For example, when a warrior displayed bravery in a battle, he was given an eagle feather. And if a person finds an eagle feather on the ground, it is considered a gift from the sky and the Earth. The famous headdresses worn by the plains tribes are made with eagle feathers.
Eagles are protected under U.S. law, so, only Native Americans with certified ancestry are allowed to obtain and use eagle feathers for spiritual ceremonies.8
Tribes of the Pacific Northwest
The tribes of the Pacific Northwest saw the eagle as having supernatural powers. One legend tells the tale of how the eagle delivered the people from famine. In the story, a brave warrior gave an eagle a salmon to eat. The eagle was so grateful that he showed his gratitude by bringing the warrior’s people salmon, then sea lions, and then whales to eat during times of famine.[/fn]http://www.native-languages.org/legends-eagle.htm[/fn]
Comanche Eagle Legend
The Comanche have a legend about a chief whose young son died. Heartbroken, the chief prayed to the Great Spirit to restore his son to life. The Great Spirit answered the chief’s prayer by turning his son into a magnificent bird who could fly from the Earth to the heavens. This is how the first eagle was created. Today, the Comanche do the Eagle Dance to honor this story.
Eagle Symbol in Pawnee Culture
The Pawnee People admired the large nests that eagles build. So, eagles are symbols of fertility in Pawnee culture. The Pawnee also have an Eagle Dance in which they honor eagles with songs and chanting.
Navajo Eagle Story
The Navajos have a legend about a warrior who killed a powerful monster. After he slayed the beast, he realized the monster had a nest with two babies in it. Knowing that if he left them unattended, the babies would grow up to be evil and destructive like their mother. So the warrior took the babies and raised them as his own. One of the babies grew up to be an owl and the other an eagle.9
Zuni Eagle Symbolism
For the Zunis, the eagle is one of six directional guardians. The mountain lion is the guardian of the North, while the badger rules the South. The bear is the guardian of the West, and the wolf rules the East. The mole is the guardian of the inner Earth and the eagle is the protector of the Sky.
As the protector of the Sky, the eagle possesses the power of vision, intuition, and creativity, as well as the power of the spirit. Thus, in Zuni culture, the eagle spirit symbolizes transcending your personal problems as you seek out higher truths, ultimately becoming one with the Great Spirit.10
Pueblo and Hopi Eagle Dance
The Hopi and Pueblo share the Zuni’s belief in six directional guardians. They also perform the Eagle Dance, which is one of their most important ceremonial dances.11
This video from EarthWalk Medicine, shared by Elah & AuSierra, shows the Hopi Eagle Dance:
For the Cherokee, the eagle is also sacred and is particularly helpful during battles. A feather from a golden eagle is considered so powerful that the Cherokee equated one eagle feather with the value of a horse. But while eagle feathers are valuable, it’s forbidden for anyone to kill an eagle unless they’re blessed as a designated eagle killer. Furthermore, an eagle can only be killed under specific conditions, such as in late fall or winter after crops have been harvested and snakes have returned to their dens in the ground.12
Bald Eagle Symbol of The United States
In the 1700s, after years of bickering over what would become the symbol of The United States of America, Congress finally agreed on the bald eagle in 1789. While Benjamin Franklin argued in favor of the turkey, the bald eagle was chosen for a few reasons. One, they were Indigenous to North America. And two, worldwide the eagle symbolized highly respected qualities, including courage, strength, and immortality. But probably most important – the eagles also symbolizes freedom, which was the foundation of why the U.S. was started: People wanted to live freely from persecution.13
Eagle Symbol in Aztec and Mexican Culture
The Aztecs were somewhat nomadic until the 14th century. According to Aztec legends, their patron god, Huitzilpochtli, told a priest that their wandering would end and that they would found a magnificent city in a place where an eagle rested on a cactus.14
This vision did materialize in the middle of Lake Texcoco, and the area became the center of Aztec civilization. The village of Tenochtitlan eventually became the historic center of Mexico City.
Huitzilopochtli is the Aztec god of the sun and war and he is represented by an eagle. The Aztecs believed that eagles played a role in leading the sun across the sky.
Today, the eagle is a symbol of Mexico and is depicted on the Mexican flag.
Eagle Symbolism in Zulu Culture
For the Zulu People of South Africa, the Bateleur eagle, whom the Zulus call “Ingonghulu,” is sacred. They believe that when the Tree of Life gave birth to all living beings, the Ingonghulu was the first bird to emerge from the Tree. When the bird flapped his wings, he announced his birth. Thus, the eagle in Zulu culture is a symbol of creation.15
The Zulu also view the black-chested snake eagle as sacred and a symbol of God’s power.
Eagle Meaning in Ancient Egypt
For the Egyptians, the eagle was a symbol of protection. The goddess Nekhbet was depicted as an eagle with outstretched wings.16 She was the protector of the Pharaoh and is often shown behind the Pharaoh’s crown. Indeed, the Nubian eagle appears on the wall art of many of the temples in Luxor,17 underscoring the importance of this special bird in Egyptian society.
The Sumerians have a legend about the founding of the great city of Kish. According to the legend, the gods created the city and they choose a man named Etana to rule it. Etana built a shrine there, which he dedicated to the god Adad. A poplar tree grew nearby, where an eagle made her nest and a serpent lived in the roots.
The eagle and the serpent were good friends and even looked after each other’s children, However, one day when the serpent was out, the eagle had a change of heart and ate the serpent’s children. When the serpent returned and saw what had happened, she cried out to the solar god Shamash, who punished the eagle by clipping her wings and putting her in a pit.
The eagle begged for help. Shamash eventually took pity on her, mentioning her to King Etana. Etana had previously come to Shamash for help because he and his wife were not able to have children. When learning of the eagle, Etana rescued her and nursed her back to health so she could fly again.
The eagle was able to interpret Etana’s dreams and told him that she could fly him to the heavens to beg the god Ishtar for a child. On the second ascent, the eagle and Etana reached the heavens and Etana and his wife eventually had a son.18
The Eagle in Greek and Roman Mythology
In Greek mythology, the eagle is associated with the mighty god Zeus, who controls all of the forces of nature, including thunder and lightning. The Greeks saw eagles as messengers for the gods, as they were depicted in the Iliad and Odyssey.19
Similar to Zeus in Greece, the eagle were special to the Roman god Jupiter. The Romans saw the eagle as a storm bird who could create violent winds by flapping their wings. In addition, the Romans associated the eagle with war. Eagles were often depicted carrying thunderbolts like weapons in their talons. Eventually, the eagle became a symbol of the Roman Empire.20
Eagle Meaning in Celtic Mythology
The Celts saw the eagle as one of the oldest creatures on Earth, second only to the salmon. While the eagle was not as prominent in Celtic mythology as the raven, in the tale of Blodeuwedd, the character Prince Llew Llaw Gyffes is turned into an eagle. You can read about this story in my post about owls.
Eagle Symbol in Nordic Mythology
In Nordic stories, a hawk sits between the eyes of an eagle in the the Norse Tree of Life – the World Tree Yggdrasill, which is a magical tree that connects the world of humans to that of the gods. The hawk is called Veðrfölnir, but the eagle is unnamed. Thus some historians surmise that the hawk and eagle are one, and that the hawk represents the wisdom and knowledge of the eagle.
Eagle Symbolism in the Bible
In Revelation 4:7, John, the apostle, describes four creatures who surround God’s throne. The first is a lion, the second an ox, the third is a human, and the fourth an eagle. As the eagle is capable of flying above the other creatures, biblical scholars theorize that the eagle is a metaphor for Jesus’ level of enlightenment beyond other humans. And likewise, his ability to come to Earth to help his fellow humans become enlightened and then ascend to Heaven.21
The Eagle in Arabic Culture
Arabic folklore tells tales of a giant eagle-like creature called a roc. The roc is so mighty that he is able to lift and carry an elephant in his talons. In the story of the fifth voyage of Sinbad, a roc seeks revenge by destroying ships because her egg is disturbed.22
Archaeologists believe the legend of the roc has its roots in the crowned eagle of Madagascar, which weighs around 15 pounds.23
Eagle Symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism
In Hinduism and Buddhism, the Garuda deity is depicted as a divine eagle. The Garuda possesses supernatural powers, including the ability to stop the spinning of the Earth, Heaven, and Hell. The Garuda is also the mount for the Hindu god Vishnu. In addition, the Garuda personifies power and courage.
Eagle Symbol to the Paiwan People of Taiwan
For the Indigenous Paiwan People of Taiwan, the mountain hawk-eagle is a sacred bird who symbolizes bravery, beauty, and the sacredness of ancestral spirits. The Paiwanese believe in four states of the afterlife. In the first state, a person’s soul transforms into a viper. Then, it transforms into a mountain eagle. The eagle then transforms into water, and then the soul is set free. As in Native American societies, only certain people can wear eagle feathers. For the Paiwanese, this includes chiefs or other nobles.24
Chinese Eagle Symbolism
In Chinese culture, an eagle and a bear together symbolize strength. And for the Huns, the eagle was symbolic for a ruler. Thus, as in Native American culture, the Chinese consider eagle feathers to have powerful qualities. Eagles are also associated with thunder in China, as they are in other cultures. Furthermore, Lei Gong, the Daoist god of thunder, is depicted as half-man, half-eagle.25
Eagle Symbolism in Japan
For the Japanese, eagle sightings are considered to be auspicious signs. In one Shinto tale, the sun goddess Amaterasu hides herself in a cave, thus casting the world into total darkness. As she hides, evil spirits overrun the Earth.26
To lure Amaterasu out of the cave, Amenohiwashi-no-kami plays a beautiful stringed instrument. As he does, an eagle comes and perches on the end of the instrument, and light is brought to the world again.
The Eagle in Mongolia
The Mongols have a long history of falconry. The famous explorer Marco Polo told a story about the Emperor Kubai Khan. He put on a display of his eagles to 70,000 attendants. The eagles were so massive, reported Marco Polo, that they could carry away wolves. For the Mongols, eagles symbolized courage, boldness, and clear-headedness.
Eagle Symbol in Aboriginal Australian Culture
The Aboriginal Australians also revere the eagle. They have a creator deity called
Bunjil who is an ancestral being and a cultural hero. The Aborigines describe Bunjil as a great eagle.
One Aboriginal creation story about Bunjil reminds me of the state of the environment in the hands of modern-day humans:
Years ago, the people hunted kangaroos and cultivated yams. All was well until the world began to fall into chaos. The Boonwurrung and the other Kulin nations were in conflict. During this conflict, they neglected their children and the land. Animals were killed but not eaten, and fish were caught and killed during spawning season. Even the yam crop languished. As the chaos escalated, the sea began to rise and flood the land.
So, the people went to their spiritual leader, Bunjil, for help. Bunjil told the people that they would have to change their ways to save the Earth. The people agreed, and the sea receded.27
Eagle Dream Meaning
If you dream of an eagle and wonder what the dream means, it’s important to first analyze the emotions you felt in your dream. For example, dreams where you feel anxiety or fear can mean that you have to address a situation that you may be avoiding when you are awake. On the other hand, an exhilarating dream about an eagle can mean your spirit feels free.
If you dream that you are an eagle in flight, it can mean that your soul is temporarily leaving your body. These dreams can be incredibly invigorating, serving as a reminder that we are more than our physical bodies.
Dreams are personal to each dreamer, so an eagle dream for one person may be interpreted very differently from one that another person has. However, delving into the emotions you felt in the dream in context to eagle symbolism can provide better insights into what your subconscious is trying to tell you.
An eagle tattoo is a beautiful symbol that demonstrates your values, such as your devotion to your partner or your country. Or it can mean you value freedom as a sacred right. It can also signify your connection to your Higher Power. Tattoos are personal to each individual, but hopefully understanding more about eagle symbolism and mythology can bring deeper meaning to your tattoo.
Organizations that Protect Eagles
In the U.S. in the ‘60s and ‘70s, bald eagle populations plummeted due to the use of the dangerous pesticide DDT. When the substance was banned and bald eagles were placed on the newly created Endangered Species List, they began to make a comeback. Eventually, their numbers increased to the point where they were taken off the Endangered Species List in 2007.28
Despite successes like this, eagles and birds of prey are still very vulnerable. For example, it’s estimated that there are only around 200-500 Philippine eagles left on Earth. The main culprit for their decline is deforestation.29
The publication Mongabay provides a list of birds of prey who are endangered.30 Threats to eagles include conflicts with humans, habitat loss, starvation, toxins in the environment, and the illegal wildlife trade. If you care about eagles, please do what you can to protect them. Here are some organizations that are working to protect eagles and other birds of prey:
- The American Eagle Foundation
- National Eagle Center
- American Bird Conservancy
- Bird of Prey Foundation
- Audubon Society
- Defenders of Wildlife