The Southeastern Indians thought of the world as a large, circular island, or the back of a turtle, resting on the water. The circle and cross motif, seen in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex artifacts, probably represents this world, the four directions and at it?s center, the people. The sky vault, above this world, was seen as a bowl made of solid rock. This bowl rose and fell twice daily to allow the moon and sun to travel beneath it.
In the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex beliefs, there were three worlds, but originally there were only two: the Upper World which was above the sky vault, and an Under World that was beneath the Earth and the Oceans. This World, which had seven levels, was created later; it was the balance between the perfection of the Upper World and the chaos of the Under World.
The Natives divided the animals into three main categories as well. The Upper World was represented by the birds of flight, such as the eagle. The Middle world was affiliated with the four legged animals, such as the deer, and the Under World was associated with snakes, insects and vermin.
Certain plants, as well as animals, were thought to have special powers. A good example are the evergreens: the cedar, cypress, holly, laurel, pine and spruce trees. These plants were used extensively in ceremonies, as medicines and as construction materials for housed, dugout canoes, totems, and for masks.
A few animals were singled out as special because they were different and were, therefore, thought to have special powers. For instance, snakes hatch from eggs as birds do, yet they are hated by birds. Also, they have no legs, yet can travel on land or swim in water.
The Peregrine Falcon was the most important of all the falcons in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex beliefs. The hunting method of this bird, the fastest of all birds, is to fly very high, partially fold its wings, and then dive at 180 mph straight down towards its prey. Other hawks and birds of prey kill by grabbing and tearing at the prey with their sharp talons and beak, but the Peregrine Falcon kills with a powerful blow, like a warrior would deliver with his powerful war club. Warriors and hunters carried a crystal and red ochre (paint) in a buckskin pouch and used them to paint the forked eye design of the Peregrine Falcon around their eyes. They believed that this would give them the keen eyesight and hunting abilities of this falcon.
The Red-Headed, Pileated, and Ivory Billed woodpeckers were associated with war. Perhaps this was because their red heads were representative of scalping and of war.