ABOUT THE WWW LOGO
An eagle, a hand and a star. When I first saw this beautiful logo for Women Writing the West, I was delighted at the powerful American Indian symbols that had been chosen to represent the female voice of the west.
Our logo is a composite of traditional symbols filled with native numinous energy. At first glance, we see a gracefully arched, stylized eagle that seems to hover above a left-hand print. American Indians observed that eagles fly higher than any bird, and they therefore considered them to be messengers from the Creator. Most creative people that I know are quick to acknowledge that the inspiration for their work comes from a higher power, much as the eagle is thought to bring wisdom from Great Spirit.
Traditional Elders teach that at the moment of birth, when the first breath is freely drawn into the lungs, the Creator breathes the spirit or soul into each individual. This spirit then resides within the heart until released at death, and therefore the left, or "heart hand," carries special significance. When greeting one another, traditional American Indians proffer their left hand for the handshake as it is thought to come from spirit (the heart) and therefore to be more sincere. When attesting to the validity of a thing, the left hand is dipped in red paint and the resulting palm print is affirmation from the very soul. It is the essence of truthfulness.
Winter Count societies (historians) were common to most of America's indigenous people. Buffalo hides were painted with the symbol of each year's seminal event, and this then evoked the entire story or history of that "winter." The historians recording these events were chosen for this honored duty on the basis of their reputation for being truthful. No individual could petition for membership – instead, one was designated to the Winter Count society by the Elders. And now we have women writing about America's west, past and present, with our WWW logo prominently displaying the left-hand palm print of truthfulness.
Five small white circles adorn each of the fingers on this hand, perhaps reflecting the traditional symbol for hailstones. Hailstones themselves are used to symbolize the Thunder Beings, one of the most powerful spiritual energies. Thunder Beings come from the west, where all spirits reside, and carry precious water – "That which gives life."
This left palm print on our logo is further enhanced at the wrist with the symbol of mountains. American Indian cosmology teaches that "As it is above, so it is below," and the angular forms of mountains are used to represent this teaching. How many of us, when writing, have "pulled" characters and events from the "ethers?" Our storytellers, like the elders in a winter camp, pass along wisdom as they entertain with their myths and legends and tales. This is how the next generation is taught.
In the center of our logo's palm is a circle, referred to as the Sacred Hoop among traditional American Indian people. It is considered sacred for the Oneness that it represents – "We are all Related." This essential understanding mandates a respect for all people, not just two-leggeds (humans) but tree people, star people, stone people, four-leggeds, etc. And because of this Oneness, and the respect it engenders, it also represents a universe in balance. This is further enhanced by the native cross, the four directions symbol at the center of the circle. This symbol embraces all races of people, the people from all the directions of the earth, and in the center is the point indicating a meeting of the Above and the Below (heaven and earth).
What a wonderful legacy for women's voices. WWW is represented by a symbol that speaks for all the founding principles of our organization. How can anyone presume that its design was purely accidental?
– Celinda Reynolds Kaelin, granddaughter of New Mexico pioneer John Allen Reynolds, writes and lectures extensively on the American Indian. She is the author of Journey Song: A Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian and Pikes Peak Backcountry: The Historic Saga of the Peak's West Slope.