Eagles are known for the iconic imagery that accompanies them in the United States since they are the national bird, but this is also a creature that holds special religious significance in many cultures. Let’s look briefly at some of the ways eagles are depicted or seen by religions of the world.
In the Christian religion, eagles are mentioned a few times in the Bible. They are referenced as being mighty creatures that people can aspire to soar like. They are also one of the four creatures mentioned in the books of Ezekiel and Revelation that have a place in heaven, near the throne of God. Their significance the has been debated for a long time, but there is no debating that they do hold some significance for the religion.
Native American Religions
It may not be fair to lump all Native American religions together, but we have to here for the sake of brevity. In several religions associated with Native Americans, eagles are seen as a sign of good fortune or as an indicator of a good place to build. Some Native American cultures regard the eagle as a messenger for the Creator, and that means they see the bird as being sacred, ascribing it more significance than in most other religions.
There isn’t much left of the ancient Roman religion, but the eagle iconography used by the United States gets it origins from Roman religious teachings. In the Roman religion, the eagle was scare, because it was said to have been important to the highest Roman god, Jupiter. The Romans would carry depictions of the eagle into battle with them, sometimes mounting an eagle on a pole, like the way the eagle is sometimes mounted on a flagpole in US customs.
Eagles were also significant in ancient Greek religious beliefs. It was said that the eagle was the patron animal of the highest god Zeus. That same god would sometimes transform himself into an eagle to do various activities on the earth among mortals, travelling in disguise. The Greeks thought of the eagle as important and even sacred as a result. Zeus would use the eagle form to abduct Ganymede in the ancient Greek writings, and numerous artistic depiction of this occurring have been found in Greek archeological sites.
The eagle was also important to the ancient Sumerians. They were some of the first people in recorded history, and the eagle was said to have carried the ancient magical king Etana into the sky and all the way up to heaven. There are some writings about the eagle and this particular event that were significant to the ancient Sumerians.
Eagles continue to be a source of inspiration and wonder for many cultures, and even though their religious significance is not as strong as it used to be throughout the world, they are still revered, protected by laws in numerous countries and seen as majestic, regal birds worthy of awe and respect.