There were two main and significant animals which informed the ancient Toltec nagual shaman. The first was the Jaguar, the second the Eagle. In both cases these two animals offer a depth of understanding about a path of awareness which could be most interesting. In context these two animals live in the two layers, or distinct bands which the ancients were very sensitive to.
The jungle is thick, anyone walking through it, knows that it is easy to get lost if we are not sensitized to its surroundings and signs. The ancients of Mexico practiced a form of tracking or hunting which included the jungle’s unique territory. And that territory is loaded with trees, dark patches and wells light which pierced the canopy. This is the realm of the Jaguar. To hunt in the jungle is to be constantly surrounded by sound. To disappear is to merge with the surroundings that are right there. It takes skill to “see” in the jungle. It is not the seeing of just visual input. The dappled light and the thick vegetation meant that mistakes were often made with the eyes… but we do not “see” with eyes alone.
The Jaguar as she walks the jungle sees with her whole being. She smells with the pads of her feet. She perceives with her tail when things are out of balance. She looks with the spots on her fur. She understands the shifts of pressure and wind with hairs on her back. While she has large eyes and takes in significant amounts of dim light, she actually uses her head to smell more than see. The result is she can move through the jungle silently while seeing everything around her. She was thus honored for her ability to be merged with the middle world that the ancients lived and breathed every day.
As Toltecs when we talk about the tonal, it is this ancient reference to the thick jungle surrounded by animals and plants that vibrates with constant sound. This place is loaded and here it is that we can hunt power, food, and see and perceive with our whole being. Because modern man is so far detached from the real place of the tonal, he places more significance on the lofty spiritual and abstract knowledge which is dominated by the ration. This fracture in the jungle and natural order of things is what causes him to believe he is superior to his surroundings.
The tonal animals which were studied and revered by the indigenous ancients are different around the world depending on the location and nature of their immediate surroundings. For my ancestors it was the deer which moved through the forests of the upper eastern side of America. The deer was the tonal animal teaching the people how to live a good life and hunt power through greater awareness. For the plains people it became the buffalo, for the desert people it was the coyote. These animals were revered as the first teachers. But everywhere there is a four legged which is directly connected to tonal teachings.
The ancient Toltec also honored the Eagle. The eagle is the animal associated with the nagual, or spirit world. The eagle can move through the layers, and connected to places beyond our normal perception. The eagle dreams and sees far distances. When the ancients studied eagle and came to know this teacher, they began to shift their attention to places outside the jungle forest. They could “travel” and “see” places not in the immediate surroundings. It may seem like a stretch, but they were, more often than not, right about what they saw. These dreamers saw into other worlds. Don’t conceive of these “other worlds” as far distant or detached from our own. Far from it, they are worlds that are next to our own. To the ancients, other worlds were simply a description of territory that they did not live in. For instance, the tops of the mountains are other worlds, the ocean shore or the vast stretch of the sea is “other worlds.”
Dreaming in the nagual was the ability to see and perceive these other worlds and connect to and with those that lived in the other worlds. The ancient naguals actually communicated along a great stretch of territory through dreaming. They literally had dreaming lines like phone or internet lines. They communicated with each other too. The skills associated with the eagle were the skills of seeing and visioning far distances and gathering information along those lines. It was thus, that eagle naguals would “know” when another tribes or people were advancing towards them, or they would “know” where to hunt for rare medicines or necessary food. They shifted their perception and became the eagle to see the bigger picture.
It is thus, a very practical thing that connected the ancients to the nagual and tonal worlds though the practices associated with animals. And it was for practical reasons that they forged these connections. There are many bird tribes which hold knowledge. In the northwest, the raven was the creator and seer across distances. There are many more ravens in that area than eagles so it goes to show the influences of our natural surroundings impact our skills and talents. The raven went out over the sea as well as up to the mountain tops. For some it was the condor (the southern eagle) or it was the hawk in the desert. For some it was the buzzard, yes, a noble bird of vast vision that could hunt necessary food from afar.
The balance of these two lines of teachings for the Toltec, was the balance between the tonal and the nagual. They work in constant harmony with each other. There is a flow of information from one world to the other, to the many and to the now. And this flow, this dance is what is missing in our modern culture. We don’t pay attention they way these animals taught. We rely on the pictures and words in our heads to guide the knowledge and flow of time. We are disconnected from the root source of our skills and talents to say nothing of the earth. To sit, and be connected to these two animals is to be connected to the earth and to all of life. Seeing is with the whole being, whether like the jaguar, with all our senses tuned to the music presenting in the now, or with the vast internal/external greater view of the eagle able to know the unknown which is over the horizon.