Cooper’s hawks are medium sized raptors, between 24 and 32 inches in length with a wingspan of roughly 6.5 to 8.5 feet. They are also known as short-tailed hawks, and their underparts are flecked with rusty brown with dark streaks on the breast, and occasionally white marks on belly and legs. The upperparts are densely covered with rust-colored bars; the tail has two blackish bands and is broadly tipped brown. They also have a broad rufous band around the neck and a darker crown.
The Cooper’s hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey in the family Accipitridae. It is closely related to other hawks of the genus Accipiter, which are commonly referred as goshawks (not be confused with the kites and eagles of the same name). The Cooper’s hawk is a native of North America, though it has been found elsewhere.
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The spiritual meaning of the Cooper’s hawk is that we should be like the bird: patient, observant, and focused.
Cooper’s hawks are known for their watchfulness and are sometimes called “owls” because they hunt while most other birds are sleeping. In addition to being patient and quiet, these birds are also extremely observant. They have been known to watch an animal for hours before making their move. The Cooper’s hawk is also very focused on its prey—it will not let anything distract it until it has made its kill.
In our everyday lives, we can apply these qualities by being more patient with ourselves and others. We can also focus more on what is important to us instead of getting distracted by things that don’t matter as much. And finally, we can learn from Cooper’s hawk by being more observant of the world around us so we can make better choices based on what we see happening around us rather than just reacting without thinking first about what could happen if we made different choices today instead!
Cooper’s hawk is a bird of prey that can be found throughout the United States. It is also known as the American sparrowhawk, but this name is misleading: the bird has no connection to sparrows and prefers other birds for its diet.
The Cooper’s hawk has a dark brown body with white spots on its wings, a black tail with two white bars, and rust-colored legs. The female is larger than the male and has a broader breast. The bird hunts by flying into trees and snatching prey from the branches before carrying it back to its nest or dropping it on the ground. It eats small mammals such as rats and squirrels, as well as birds such as woodpeckers, jays, thrushes, starlings, robins, crows and bluebirds.
Spiritual Meaning of Cooper’s Hawk
I dig the hawk. In fact, this regal bird hangs out in my consciousness as both a guide and messenger. But I am certainly not a special “chosen few” by the hawk. I know this because I get a staggering number of emails from folks around the world telling me they’ve been graced by the hawk either physically or energetically. In these emails, the question always follows: What is symbolic hawk meaning?
These emails go on to report the hawk consistently exhibits a bold presence, leaving a lasting impression upon all those they’ve visited.
It makes sense. The hawk is a prevalent raptor, with widespread populations and a diverse array of preferred habitats. With an average 3+ foot wingspan, measuring in at two feet tall, piercing eyes and lethal looking claws, the hawk is an impressive figure. To be visited by it is bound to stir awareness, get one’s attention and make one start asking questions about symbolic hawk meaning.
The hawk is a symbol of intelligence and focus. As a totem, the hawk’s motto might go something like this quote:
“Intelligence without ambition is like a bird without wings.”
I can’t attribute the hawk’s healthy populations and frequent appearances as the exclusive reason for so many stories emailed to me about profound encounters with the hawk. There’s more to it than numbers. I mean, there are millions of squirrels running around the world, but I don’t get weekly emails about meaningful encounters with them like I do the hawk.
So what is it about the hawk that touches so many people? I suspect part of the reason is the hawk’s companionable partnership with humans as early as the 600s, BC. This relationship is falconry, an ancient art of symbiotic synchronicity between human and raptor.
It’s not just falcons that are used in falconry; hawks were, and still are trained today. In fact, there’s a big debate in the realm of falconry about hawks vs. falcons. Which raptor is the best? Hawks have been championed as the best in the sport due to their off-the-charts intelligence, and wicked-keen eyesight.
Debate aside, there’s no argument about the hawk’s intelligence, eyesight, and a natural partner to mankind.
I’d like to explore the idea of partnership in connection to the symbolic hawk meaning.
Namely, falconry is more than a sport – it’s a bond between human and raptor. Originally, it was a means of survival and defense for humans. Hawks were trained to catch prey and return it to their handler. This enabled humans to have another source of food, which (particularly essential for the desert-dwelling Bedouins). Hawks were also trained to attack enemies, and thus served as a serious defense system.
The process of training a falcon or hawk is a process in which handler and hawk develop an intense relationship. Ideally, a mutual respect is met between human and hawk. This is not unlike the ancient relationship between humans and dogs.
Over the course of a few millennia, the relationship between human and hawk becomes an engrained evolutionary phenomenon. Hawks (more than humans, I think) retain the cell memory of their bond with humans. At least, this is my theory backing the frequent visitations of hawks to humans, and their often profound effect on us. Like dogs, hawks inherently know they’ve shared a bond with humans since ancient times. They retain this connection, and with it, they retain the concept of providing and protecting humans as a latent objective.
Symbolic hawk meaning is rich and varied, but it’s more distinguished characteristic is focus. I think focus is another reason why the hawk is such a regular visitor to humans.
At the time of this writing (2013), our world is more complicated than ever before. Every moment is plugged up with countless distractions that were a non-issue as short as 50 years ago (much less 100 years ago). I believe the hawk is aware of humanity’s modern tendency (and habit) of becoming distracted. In essence, I believe hawk visitations are a clear sign for us to become more focused. The hawk encourages us to suspend the habit of distraction, and become more aware of the present moment.
We’ve talked about two prime symbolic traits of the hawk: Partnership and Focus. Here are a few more highlights of character the hawk offers us…
Symbolic Hawk Meanings
These attributes are clearly seen throughout history. And since I’ve talked long enough about my own discoveries about hawk meaning, this is a good time to explore hawk meanings from cultural, mythological, historical perspectives.
Hawk Meaning as a Soul-Carrier
Got soul? You betcha. So does the hawk. Historically, there is a broad association with the hawk and human souls.. Specifically, its keen concern with the soul’s journey in the afterlife. Here are some examples of how the hawk demonstrates it’s got soul…
♦ Valkyries transformed into hawks, swooped down onto Norse battlefields and carried souls of fallen warriors to Valhalla (see more under “Valkyrie” entry below).
♦ Souls of Roman emperors were illustrated flying from the earth into the heavens in the form of an eagle. Hawks would fly with their souls and take them to be with the gods at the time of their death in ancient Rome.
♦ Charon, the god responsible for navigated souls in Ancient Egyptian beliefs. Charon was a hawk-headed boatman who ferried souls across the river Styx. He was originally known as Khu-en-ua, and later morphed into Charon during the Hellenistic era.
♦ Horus, sun god of ancient Egypt, was also connected with souls. As in ancient Rome, the hawk was released during at the death of important figures (like pharaohs) to show the soul being released from the mundane into the afterlife. See more about Horus here.
♦ Native American wisdom of the Plains region in North America held the belief that the hawk embodied the souls of ancestors. Ancestral soul-hawks were known to be invoked by warriors for the purpose of receiving tips on how to be better fighters and hunters. In essence, braves would receive ancestral “downloads” from spirit hawks.
♦ Aztecs in Central America held the hawk as a divine liaison. As an intermediary, hawks were like traffic cops between the gods and the souls of the newly deceased. Hawks were also messengers of the gods in Aztec wisdom.
Learning about which deities are connected to a bird, animal or insect is highly revealing about the character of that creature. I find this aspect of animal totem research to be fascinating. We can learn a lot about our totems by the gods and goddesses they hang out with.
Hawk Meaning Associated with Mythological Gods
As Greek sun-god, it makes sense the hawk is one of his sacred symbols, because the hawk is a solar bird. Meaning, the hawk is affiliated with the sun, which gives it Apollonian qualities such as: Radiance, Clarity, Intelligence, Growth, and Healing. As sun symbols, Apollo and hawk are symbolic of renewal, as the sun rising each day is iconic of daily rebirth every morning. Apollo, and his companion the hawk were also considered to have powers of protection, and were called upon to shelter Greek citizens from harm.
Egyptian sun god, the peregrine falcon is often associated with Horus, but so too was the hawk. Hawk and Horus have specific connections with death ceremonies. According to historical accounts, a hawk was released at the time of interment to illustrate the flight of the soul through the realms of the afterlife. This hawk-release was typically performed for royalty, and definitely for pharaohs. In this facet of cultural belief, as with Norse, the hawk is a representative of the soul.
Although not goddesses, they were immortals. Beautiful, bold, warrioresque women of Norse mythology, Valkyries gave vital assistance to Odin. Their primary function was to return the souls of fallen warriors back from the battlefield and into the Norse ‘homeland’, Asgard. The hawk is connected to Valkyries because these immortal women were reputed to be shape-shifters. Valkyries preferred to take on the form of swans, crows, horses and…you guessed it…hawks when morphing from human to animal. They transformed themselves mostly to disguise themselves and slip through enemy lines in order to gather up the souls of their brethren in arms who had been slain. In this light, the hawk is symbolic of transformation, and by association with Valkyrie shape-shifting, receives the title of “protector of souls”. We also pick up on that strong element of partnership with the hawk allowing these Norse beauties to take their form and return fallen warriors back to Hall of the Slain (Valhalla).
Hawk Meaning as an Animal Totem
Hawk totems are extraordinarily effective at protection. They are kind of like raptor-angels. They keep watch over those who hold an affinity for them (and vice versa). They tend to arrange energy in such a way so that danger or bad choices are either made known to their people, or are avoided altogether.
If the hawk is your totem, you are extremely perceptive. You see things others miss. Your vision goes beyond the physical too – you have a knack for seeing into the souls of people you deal with. You might call it a gift of intuition. You just have a sense, or an ‘aerial view’ into what is going on in the hearts of people. This is a great trait, but the downside to hawk people with this gift is that you tend to be way too forthcoming with your observations. Being naturally direct and candid personality types, hawk-people will make pointed statements about very sensitive issues that they’ve picked up by their powers of perception. Word of advice: Be delicate and diplomatic with your deductions.
Perhaps it is their unyielding honesty that makes hawk-people admirable partners. People who have hawk as their totem make outstanding mates, friends, co-workers, lovers, sister, brothers etc. They are loyal, honest and direct. Typically, you always know where you stand with a hawk-person, and others find this refreshing in a world of mind-gamers. Hawk-partners are also very protective, and will defend their compatriots to a fierce degree.
Those with the hawk as their totem are also visionaries. They look above the problem (another ‘aerial view’), for solutions. They are expert problem solvers because they aren’t part of the problem – they aren’t stuck in the issue. Rather, they rise above it, and in an elevated state they are able to see answers most might overlook.
Hawk-totem-people are very sharp, witty and intelligent too. This of course helps in addressing daily challenges, and further secures them as a ‘great catch’ in partnerships. There’s a downside though. Sometimes hawk-folks get big for their britches, and have a bit of a superiority complex. It’s easy to understand. These are regal people with confidence, acuity, drive and focus. They are often over-achievers, and accomplish amazing tasks. Nevertheless, if you identify with these traits, it might behoove you to come down from the heavens and spend a little time on land. Being humble, and practicing humility is one of hawk-people’s greatest challenges.
Hawk meaning as a totem also deals with vision. Because your totem is an air-affiliated bird, you might find you are highly imaginative. You may be accused of having ‘your head in the clouds’ too often. Hawk people can be major dreamers.
This isn’t a bad thing – often you are the architects of new worlds, builders of amazing things. Engineers, teachers, inventers, writers and artists are common occupations for those who claim the hawk as their guide.
Whether your associate the hawk as your totem or not, it’s a good idea to spend some time observing the hawk in Nature. The hawk has tremendous lessons to teach us, and communing with this bird in Nature is a fast-track to tapping into profound hawk meaning.
I hope you have enjoyed this article on symbolic hawk meaning. I’ve written more about symbolic hawk meaning on my blog if you’re interested. Be sure to check out the links at the end of this page for more articles on animal symbolism and totem meanings.