Eagle Myths and Legends
No doubt we all now associate eagles with the Ravenclaw house, and the various attributes that fit the students of that house. But what about the other attributes that have been given them besides Ravenclaw's intelligence, wit, creativity, and wisdom? Did you know that many cultures have included eagles as part of their mythology? Did you know that a lot of those myths also involve a snake as the eagle's rival?
There are many different myths and legends involving eagles and snakes alike, and I could potentially write all day about both. For the purposes of this article, however, I will only be covering a few of the ones where these two creatures interact with each other.
In Norse mythology, there is an eagle (unnamed) who roosts in the topmost branches of Yggdrasil, the world tree. It is said that it lives in endless conflict with the Midgard Serpent, Nidhögg The squirrel Ratatoskr spends his days delivering messages between the eagle and the wyrm. The monstrous serpent is said to reside in Niflheim, beneath the tree, gnawing perpetually at the roots in an attempt to destroy it. There are other snakes that dwell beneath the roots with Nidhögg to assist in destroying the World Tree, including Grafvolluth, Graback, Goin, and Moin. This Story is recounted in the Poetic Edda poem, Grímnismál.
Ratatoskr is the squirrel who there shall run
On the ash-tree Yggdrasil;
From above the words of the eagle he bears,
And tells them to Nidhögg beneath.
The story also continues to say:
There is much to be told. An eagle sits at the top of the ash, and it has knowledge of many things. Between its eyes sits the hawk called Vedrfolnir [...]. The squirrel called Ratatoskr runs up and down the ash. He tells slanderous gossip, provoking the eagle and Nidhögg.
According to Sumerian legend, Etana, the thirteenth god-king, lad longed for a son but had been unable to sire one. He prayed to Shamash for a son each and every day. It is said that Shamash led him to an eagle. The eagle had eaten a snake's young, and it had attacked and trapped the bird within its coils as revenge. Etana freed the eagle from captivity by wounding the serpent. He then convinced the bird to carry him to heaven where he could speak to Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility. Ishtar provided him a herb that was to cure his wife of her infertility. Little more is known of this tale, but in the history books, Etana did go on to have a son.
There have been alternate endings to this story, in which the eagle cannot bear his weight and is unable to reach heaven, ending in both he and Etana plummet to their death.
There is an ancient Aztec tale for the creation of the world in which the eagle and the jaguar fought over who would get to become the sun. It was considered quite the honor, and both fought bravely. Finally, the eagle flung himself into a fire and became the sun. The jaguar had followed, but was only partially burned, leaving behind the spots on his fur. The jaguar in turn took his place as the moon.
It is said that it is the eagle's job to lead the sun across the sky. The snake, however, brought the darkness to the land, causing night to fall. It was up to the eagle to devour the snake and bring the brightness of sun back to the sky each day.
Although mythology consistently set eagles and snakes as mortal enemies, it is up to us to change that predilection. Certainly here at HOL we've been incredibly successful in creating an environment where all the houses can work together, and we continue to prove that fact on a daily basis. I certainly recommend any fellow Slytherin reading this to spend some time in the roost and make a friend. There are some truly wonderful people in Ravenclaw that any snake would be proud to call friend. Likewise, I hope no eagle hesitates to visit the Dungeons due to stories told of Slytherin's history. We always welcome other houses into our lair and would like to prove to you that we're not as bad as everyone likes to assume.
Despite the fact that the focus of this article was on eagles and snakes, the Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors reading this should also learn from the fact that if such mortal enemies can set their differences aside and coexist, so can we all.
The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, by John & Caitlin Matthews
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