Posted by: Michael Keller Woodcarving | June 2, 2011

Eagle in Woodcarving

Spirit of the Eagle

Anyone that knows me knows that I love eagles and have carved my fair share of them… relief carvings, full-round, eagles decorating knife handles, pendants, Boy Scout neckerchief slides… and on and on.  You name it; I have put an eagle on it.  I have always said there is no dish that isn’t made better by adding tomatoes to it.  Well, I feel the same way about Eagle… there is no carving that isn’t made better by adding the Spirit of Eagle to it.

Apparently, I am not the only one drawn to eagles (no pun intended).  Just look at the art surrounding the formation of this country.  There are eagles everywhere… coins, flags, buildings, and stamps.  And, I suspect there is not an artist alive or dead that has not paid honor to Eagle in his or her art at some time or another.  Eagle has powerful energy.

American Indians have always seen Eagle as a sacred messenger.  It is believed that the Eagle carries prayers to the Great Spirit and returns with gifts and visions.  They use Eagle’s feathers to connect to this majestic and powerful spirit guide as they know the Eagle feather holds cleansing and healing powers.  The Eagle is seen by many cultures as a symbol of courage, vision, strength and endurance.  When I carve them, I experience all of that.  I literally feel a fullness in my heart.

Eagles need isolation in the wild to propagate and prosper.  This teaches us that we have a singular walk in life and must face life on its own terms… same with our art.

Freedom is vital to the survival of the Eagle and this teaches us that all people must be free to choose their own paths; to do as Spirit leads them; and to respect the freedom of others.  The same holds true with choosing our own carving subjects, our methods and styles, and to respect the work of others.

As a lesson in balance and equality, both female and male eagles care for their young.  When I was young, it seemed that there few woman carvers.  It was a man’s art form.  Nancy Catford, the great UK carver/artist is one notable exception.  Today, women carvers abound and I would argue that they are better at detail and true creativity than many men. And, have you ever noticed how carvers, women and men, share freely with novices and others who may be interested in the art?

The Eagle teaches how to master the art of patience and how to move through life without material attachments from their ability to sit for long hours perched on a limb in meditation.  The spirit of the Eagle teaches me patience with my carvings and gives me the ability to see every carving through to its finish.

Eagles have excellent hearing and can hunt as much by ear as by sight. To those to whom Eagle comes, the ability to hear spiritually and psychically will awaken.  The Eagle brings me a reverence for my subject matter and the wood that I carve it in.

Eagles have sharp beaks and strong jaws that could remove a human finger with one snap.  Eagle tells us to mind our words and how they affect others; to speak kindly without any thought of malice.  The Eagle also teaches us to keep our tools razor sharp and to make strong, clean cuts.

Eagles are renowned for their superior vision, ten times greater than human eyesight.  This quality is a gift of vision and clarity that should be used to help others through dark and troubling times.  Eagles bring to seasoned carvers a willingness and desire to help those new to the craft with total generosity and care.   It is the eagle in art that brings the Spirit of Eagle to the observer.

One who seeks the Eagle Spirit views situations and other people from a broad perspective for a better understanding just as the Eagle sees the world from a its great height.

The Eagle is a creature of the air, but has strong legs to walk on the earth and often lives near the water for food.   These qualities of the Eagle teach us to maintain balance in all dimensions to achieve inner-growth.  As we soar to spiritual awareness, we remain well grounded in reality as we purify ourselves with the cleansing waters.

The Eagle teaches us to have the courage to strive for greater heights of spirituality.  The Eagle is seen by American Indians as a connection to the Great Mystery – The Creator of all things.

I invite you to put the Spirit of the Eagle into your work and share it with others.

Keep sharp and stay true to you.

Please visit my website at


  1. Michael, thank you again for your “inspiritation” in your writings from the heart of an artist in wood and words. The Eagle Spirit lives in you. Your friendship is a treasured gift as well, so thank you again for your wonderful postings. Stay Sharp, BEE Sharp and Never Dull. Don

    • Don, you are always so generous with your compliments. Thank you so much. M

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