Many people wouldn't consider the vulture a power animal - who would want an animal that eats dead things for a living to be theirs? After all, they're nasty and ugly, right?
Vultures have long been considered important power animals. The ancient greeks considered them to be descendants of the mythic griffins while the Egyptians saw vultures as 'mother' symbols - symbolic of the dead enabling the living to sustain itself. The Egyptians went so far as to use the vulture on their royal headgear - combined with the cobra, it symbolized the unity of the Upper and Lower Niles - and the goddess Ma'at is depicted many times with a vulture feather in her hand. In other cultures, such as some Native American tribes, the vulture is representative of purification - literally 'stripping down to the bone'. Vulture feathers were also used after shapeshifting ceremonies, in order to help ground to participants as well as dispelling evil. It was also thought that Vulture would help break contact with the dead.
Alchemists believed the Vulture to be a symbol of the relationship between the fixed aspects of life - the psychic and cosmic energies - and the chaotic aspects of everyday life. It seemed to promise that whatever suffering occurs here on earth is temporary and and necessary.
Although vultures are members of the raptor family, they must rely on others to kill their prey because they have relatively weak feet and short talons. Their role as scavengers keep a balance in nature for without them, carrion - born disease would be rampant. Vultures themselves are virtually immune to the nasties found in carrion but will still bathe frequently. They have bald heads in order to keep bacteria from collecting there and the sun also helps disinfect it as well. Their digestive tracts contain chemicals that kill the bacteria. They also eliminate over their own feet in order to spread those chemicals and kill whatever bacteria that has collected there. This also serves to cool the legs and feet down.
This is helpful to remember when Vulture comes into your life. (No, this doesn't mean that you're suddenly going to have smelly feet.) Your own digestive system may change. Things you used to enjoy without problem may suddenly cause trouble and vise versa. You may have to start paying attention to how you feel - physically; mentally, spiritually and emotionally - after you eat and modify your diet. If you have trouble handling the heat (I hope you're not in charbroiled Tennessee right now! sheesh!), try soaking your feet in cold water.
It is thought that one of the vulture's - especially the turkey vulture - most powerful senses is that of smell. Sometimes it can find food by smell alone. Smell has long been metaphysically associated with higher discrimination. Turkey vulture can show you how to decide whether or not a situation doesn't quite 'smell right'.
I remember spending long hours watching the turkey vultures glide through the air when I was a child. I am firmly convinced that they are one of the few species of bird that fly for the sheer joy of it. When they hunt for food, they fly in tight circles at about twice treetop level so that they can survey the ground for carrion. Otherwise, they can cover the entire sky - flying so high they can hardly been seen and swooping back down, nearly grazing the treetops, all without seemingly moving a feather.
Their ability to soar comes from their ability to see and use thermals rising from the earth's surface. Some people compare this to the ability to see auras - Vulture totems help one sense and use the subtle energy that surrounds everything powerfully and efficiently.
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