Let’s begin with some
lore, shall we?
In the earliest of times, the sun
lived very close to the earth—so close, in fact, that life upon the earth was
becoming unbearable. The animal world got together and decided to do something
about it. They wanted to move the sun further away. The fox was the first to
volunteer, and he grabbed the sun in his mouth and began to run to the
heavens. After a short while, the sun became too hot, burning the fox’s mouth,
and he stopped. To this day, the inside of the fox’s mouth is black.
Then the opossum
volunteered. He wrapped his tail around the sun and began running toward the
heavens. Before long, though, the sun became too hot, burning his tail, and he
had to stop. To this day, the opossum has no hair upon its tail.
It was then that
vulture stepped forward. Vulture was the most beautiful and powerful of birds.
Upon its head was a beautiful mantle of rich feathering that all other birds
envied. Knowing that the earth would burn up unless someone moved the sun, the
vulture placed its head against it and began to fly to the heavens. With
powerful strokes of its wings, it pushed and pushed the sun further and further
up into the heavens. Though it could feel its crown feathers burning, the
vulture continued until the sun was set at a safe distance in the sky away from
the earth. As a result of this courageous and benevolent act of kindness,
vulture lost its magnificent head of feathers for eternity. ~ Animal Speak
With that said, I invite you for a moment, to close your eyes and ponder this
imagery…this selfless act of love.
Vulture is probably the most misunderstood and misaligned
bird that we know of. Modern society sees them as gross and associates them primarily with
being scavengers of death; but, myths and tales abound reflect the exact
opposite. A cursory look is all that is required to see vulture as a truly
In Greek tradition, vulture was a symbol of heaven and
earth, spirit and matter, good and evil, guardian and avenger. It was
considered the avenger of the nature spirits and a guardian to the mysteries of
life and death.
The Pueblo Indians honored vulture as a symbol of
purification. Its medicine was used to restore harmony that had been broken. Its feathers were used in rituals for grounding after shapeshifting ceremonies,
facilitating the return to self.
In parts of Egypt, the vulture was a mother symbol. Because
it devours corpses, it enabled other life to sustain itself. This is another
benevolent aspect of vulture: its purpose of disposing of that which would
otherwise be dangerous to the life and health of its animal brethren. Although
their role as scavengers is often considered repulsive, it serves an extremely valuable and necessary function. By
limiting infections and bacteria from corpses that could then spread to other
animals who do not have the same immunity, vulture serves to keep the
environment clean and in balance.
So now that we’ve uncovered the power vulture holds in
ancient societies, let me ask you this: have you ever watched vulture ride the
thermals and windborne updrafts with such ease and grace…for hours…without
flapping its wings? Have you ever seen vulture perch firmly on a high tree
branch with such utter dignity—a kind of unspoken confidence in itself, regardless of its appearance? Have
you ever observed a gathering of vultures at dawn, outstretch their
magnificent wings to dry the overnight dew, literally giving the appearance of
honoring the rising sun?
What might vulture be teaching here?
These are the aspects of vulture that are magical—that
affirm their true beauty and majesty.