Thursday, October 27, 2011

25 - Messengers

I am being visited by hawks. I see them everywhere. It started a few weeks ago when my daughter and I were driving to pick up my son at his school. We saw a huge red tailed hawk sitting on a fencepost very close to the side of the road. The place where he was sitting was in farm area, cows included. It had a small pond, changing leaves and weathered stone and wooden fences. It was beautiful New England in the fall. We pulled over and watched him for quite a long time. He looked at us, turned his head back and stared so we could watch him side on. It was almost as if he had acknowledged our presence for a moment. I was amazed that he didn't move. In fact, we had to leave before he did.

Red Tailed Hawk, Source Wiki media Commons
I have never had the opportunity to see a hawk so close in the wild. Since that day, they have returned along my drive regularly and often in groups of two and three. Sometimes close by on the side of the road only to swoop up beside us. I often catch a glimpse of white and the red tail behind it as it climbs into the air. Other times, I see them circling above the trees. They are magnificent.

I live about 25 minutes outside of Boston, but in an area that boasts a lot of conservation lands. It is not uncommon to be visited by deer, turkey, foxes, coyotes, owls and the occasional bear as has passed through the past two springs. None of this is strange. It was what my daughter said that day that got me thinking. After looking for a few minutes in complete silence, she said, "Is he protecting me?" This small statement floored me for a second. My daughter is one of these children that regularly says these things that give me pause to think. She has been doing it since she could speak. It immediately brought to mind images of eagle and turkey feather bustles at powwows and it started me thinking about the significance of these great birds in Mi'kmaq and Native American tradition. So, I did some research.

Bald Eagle, Source Wiki media Commons
Birds, it turns out, are messengers.The most important of them being the eagle. These great birds are sacred in most First Nation cultures, and I was able to find a Mi'kmaq connection specifically to the eagle. Just as in Christianity, the Mi'kmaq have a God who was sent by the creator to walk the earth. His name was Kluscap. (Glooscap). I have often wondered after hearing these stories of Kluscap, if this is in part why the Mi'kmaq could be converted to Christianity so early on in their relations with the Europeans. There is a similarity to Christ in this fact.

In the Mi'kmaq creation story, Kluscap is formed out of the elements of the earth by Kisu'lk (Gisoolg), the creator. The word Gisoolg means , you are created and is a verb. When Kluscap was created from a bolt of lightening, he lay in the earth unable to move. After the third winter, he was freed and travelled the four sacred directions across the entire continent until he saw grandfather sun and returned to the place of his creation in the east. He looked up at grandfather sun and a bald eagle descended and landed. He was called Kitpu. He said."I am the bird who flies the highest in the sky and I am the messenger for Kisu'lk." He told Kluscap that he would be joined soon by the rest of his family who would  help him understand his place in the world. As he flew away, a feather floated down and he caught it in his hand. Kluscap touched it and held it. He felt strong holding it. Since this day the eagle feather is a symbol of strength and symbolizes connection to the creator , grandfather sun and mother earth.

Wild turkey, Source Wiki media Commons
As for my new friends the hawks, I was unable to find much specifically from Mi'kmaq teachings that I searched. There are many stories involving birds and it appears that all of these great birds of prey are important and had significance. As messengers, they carried messages from the creator and the ancestors. From what I can understand, the birds were not worshiped as many believe, but were respected because they embodied strong spirits. Kisu'lk, the creator, who made these great birds and everything on the earth was worshiped.

In some Native American cultures they do represent the protection of the creator and the ancestors, which is very reassuring. The hawk is known for its keen eyesight which is eight times greater than a human's. In many of these cultures, the hawk is believed to offer greater insight into one's talents or self, sometimes also representing gifts of prophecy.

Mi'kmaq dancer wearing Eagle feather regalia
Tribes of the northeast were known to adorn themselves with feathers of these great birds. The turkey, which is a game bird and not a bird of prey, is also sometimes known as the earth eagle and represents a connection to mother earth. These feathers were often used for arrow fletching as well as headdresses, decorations and capes. Today, these feathers are still used to adorn powwow regalia and are considered to be powerful and important symbols. I am not sure what my hawk sightings mean, if anything as of yet, but I know that when I see them, something in my soul stirs. I will be watching as long as they appear.

If you are interested in hearing more of the Kluscap creation story in greater detail, I learned this information from Mi'kmaq Stephen Augustine's teachings. He is a fantastic storyteller and well known in the Mi'kmaq community. The version I present here in my blog is very basic and omits a great deal of the story. There is a wonderful video at which explains each of the seven levels of the creation story. You can find many of Stephen Augustine's teachings on line and on you tube as well.

Dancer wearing turkey feather regalia

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