—"The eagle is symbolic of the sun or sky god." His feathers, together with those of the turkey, are the most widely used. He is the messenger to the supernaturals and soars above the clouds to take prayers
from earth creatures to the Great Ones. The eagle always represents the direction of the zenith, or above; he is the only bird used to indicate the ethereal heights. As we learn from the eagle myth: "The katcinas ... wear these feathers because the eagle is strong and wise and kind. He travels far in all directions and so he will surely bring rain. The eagle feathers must always come first." Both the long, stiff, tail and wing feathers and the downy white breast feathers (pl. 5) are important. The downy feathers belong to the Sun priest; others may use them when rain is very much needed. In this connection they are primarily worn by the kachinas. In certain curing rites the doctors take 'sorceries' from the body of the patient. They hold eagle tail feathers in each hand and by brushing the patient and striking the feathers in one hand against those in the other they throw the evil in each direction: north, south, east, west, zenith, and nadir. Eagle feathers generally enclose the sacred ear of corn; and they are used for leading persons to ceremonial places, for making certain ceremonial gestures, and for dipping medicines or sacred water from ceremonial bowls.
In the Snake Dance of the Hopi, one of the dancers follows the snake carrier and continually brushes the waving rattler with an eagle-feather wand in order to prevent him from striking. The gatherer, or guard, who picks up the wriggling snakes after their dance turn and before they can escape, controls them with eagle plumes. The brushing movement along its back prevents the snake from coiling, which it must do in order to strike. Because of this the Indian declares that the eagle possesses the power to charm the snake by flying above it and gently caressing it with his wings.
Father Dumarest describes the eagle trap used at Cochiti to catch the birds alive. The hunter is concealed in a deep and wide hole which has been covered with brush. A rabbit is placed over the opening for bait. In the bottom of the hole is a bowl filled with water in which the eagle
is mirrored as it circles overhead. The hunter can thus watch its movements, and when the bird swoops down upon its prey he reaches through the brush and makes it captive.
In the western pueblos young eagles are stolen from the nests. At Hopi there are even property rights in eagles, and clan-owned nests are watched so that one small bird can be taken from the brood and the rest left unharmed. Live eagles, and macaws also, are kept in cages on the housetops or in shelters at the side of the village. Even in Coronado's day "there were also tame eagles, which the chiefs esteemed to be something fine."