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A central motif found in all of ancient America is the combination of bird (usually eagle) features with human form; often with bird wings and human arms, or a bird mask over a human head . Whatever form this Eagle Man may take, the intended symbolism is the representation of human flight beyond this world into the next. This flight is associated with several mythological activities associated with the Creator and with human ability to transcend earth in various forms.
As the Bird/Creator personage arrives on earth after his flight from the world above, he experiences a transformation into an earthbound serpent. After his death, he descends into the underworld for a time. The Creator eventually ascends back toward the sky in the form of the feathered serpent again. Upon reaching the upper world, the transformation from feathered serpent to great bird is accomplished., as the Creator returns to the realm of the deities.
The journey from sky to earth, and then back to sky again is symbolic of the path taken by the Creator. First, he set the way for those who will follow (including spiritual leaders/shamans in an altered state or out-of-the-body journey) and second, as an ancestor spirit who has gone ahead where the rest of mankind will eventually go.
The Creator is believed to descend from the sky world as a great bird, usually an eagle in North America, and is known by many names: Eagleman or Knifewing, to name a few. In Mesoamerican, the bird is typically the gorgeous quetzal bird, and the Creator figure is known as Kukulcan or Quetzalcoatl- the Feathered Serpent.