As with many designs developed by Americans Indians, this one is based upon the
circle and the number four. The circle symbolizes life, the cycle of life, and the shapes of
living things. It is wholeness, completion, the all embracing, the people, the great hoop of
the nation, and the Universe all in one. The circle appears in this painting as the rainbow,
the Sun, the eye of the eagle, and the eyes, nostrils, scales, and entire body of the turtle,
the number four symbolizes the four seasons, four times of the day, four races, and four
ages of humankind. It manifests here as the four entities which we see- the turtle, the
sacred tree, the white eagle, and the sun.
The turtle represents the turtle island, the ancient native name for this continent
now called North America. It also represents the entire earth, for many traditional
cultures here and elsewhere in the world refer to the earth as a giant turtle-like being or of
riding the back of a great turtle.
The sacred tree symbolizes all life, and it grows at the center of the Universe.
Its condition is a reflection of the health and happiness of living things in general.
The left and right sides of the sacred tree mirror each other, yet they are also opposite, but
they are one in the oneness of the tree. This principle, which appears throughout this
drawing, and everywhere in the outer world, is represented by the number, being both
the duality of the one and the unity of the two. Thus, this sacred tree has nine (three times
three) tiers, or levels of leaves. The White Eagle is a Spirit Eagle, a traditional American
Indian symbol of sacredness, transformation, and watchfulness or the well-being of the
Coming generations. Some people even say that there was once a great Native American
Leader and spiritual teacher named White Eagle, who traveled across this turtle Island
bringing a message of peace and unity to the people. As with the turtle and the Sacred
Tree, the White Eagle is a Universal symbol found in many cultures, representing
physical life taking spirit form and soaring skyward. Here we see the scales of the turtle,
which represents the physical world, evaporating through the trunk of the Sacred Tree,
which is rooted on this Turtle Island, to become the Spirit being of the White Eagle,
who's head is turned sunwise as it looks towards rebirth.
The fourth entity is the Sun, perhaps the most universally prominent of all the
symbols which in unity with the Earth is a giver of life. Its twelve rays represent the
principles of three times four which has many applications. The Four Races are all made
up of both women and men, who's unity is expressed through the children as the third
element. Also, there are legends among the Native People here and elsewhere that tell of
the twelve clans, tribes, nations etc., that make up the whole of their kind, and great
leaders (The Sun is the great leader symbol) are often spoken of as having
Twelve Disciplines. Twelve also plays a role in the turtle's make up, with it's twelve
main scales (here we only see those visible from frontward viewing), and the one in the
center, which like the ball of the Sun, symbolizes their oneness. (Next time you see a
turtle, take a close look at its' shell. Invariably there are twelve of thirteen main scales.)
Thus we have four entities with their opposing yet mirroring qualities- Earth
(Turtle) and the Sun, plant (tree) and animal (Eagle). The turtle and tree are of the land,
the Eagle and Sun are of the sky. These four entities are also the four elements: Turtle-
water (The Turtle is also a water being), Tree- the Earth, Eagle-the Air, Sun-Fire.
But there is also a fifth entity here, the rainbow, whose seven spectrum colors
Represent the principles of three and four together, As a fifth entity, it serves to unify the
four, the duality of dualities, as the rainbow unifies the duality of Earth and sky. Five also
manifests in this painting as the five fingers of the Turtle's hand and the Eagle's wings.
The circle of the rainbow connects all these beings into one ever-flowing life stream,
universally, the rainbow is a symbol of hope, the future, the beauty of the world, and the
realization of our highest dreams. May it be so. Ho!