Animal Totem #65

Bird Symbolism of the Vulture

Symbolic Bird Meaning of Vulture. Photo by Avia Venefica

Bird Meaning of the Vulture

Bird symbolism deals with the element of air, and air is symbolic of the mind, thoughts, and intelligence. That the vulture is a master navigator of the winds reminds us we might need to “go back to the mental drawing board” before acting in projects.

The vulture also asks us to be patient with ourselves, and think things through. They encourage us to be quite sure of how we feel before we enter the arena of our plans.

This symbolism is underscored by the magnificent level of patience the vulture exhibits. I’ve seen vultures coast air currents for hours, waiting for the perfect time to descend upon a tasty treat.

We all know vultures are scavengers. This holds keen symbolism for us, in that the vulture represents resourcefulness.

Bird symbolism and attributes of the vulture:

  • Loyal
  • Serious
  • Patience
  • Tolerance
  • Renewal
  • Equalizing
  • Cleanliness
  • Perceptive
  • Protection
  • Impervious
  • Unconventional
  • Resourcefulness

We can take its cue by being the same way: Resourceful and wise with the resources we have at hand. Rather than working hard, we can open our senses to the opportunities already available to us. The vulture does not hunt, it seizes the resources available to it.

 Of course, this calls for a fair amount of flexibility and perception. The vulture is all about higher awareness. Those who are called to this bird are equally perceptive – maybe even coming into a time of higher awareness.

Vultures can spot fresh meat from miles away. In fact, its vision is vastly advanced. Vultures also have an uncanny sense of smell.

This kind of bird symbolism prompts us to use all of our senses to navigate in the pursuit of our highest benefit.

Bird symbolism of vultures also deals with renewal. Specifically, the solar aspect of the newness brought about by the dawning day.

Perhaps the most eerie image I have of the vulture was when I was a kid visiting my Uncle Dan in West Texas.

He lived on sprawling acres of sun-baked dirt with crazy craggy trees jutting wicked looking fingers into the cyanic skies.

It was here I saw dozens of vultures perched on these gnarly trees. Each bird had their wings spread wide open in the bright morning sun.

I asked my uncle why they did that. He told me they were welcoming the day with open arms.

I thought that was very cool (and even emulated them the following morning by opening up my own arms, greeting the day with as much mysterious reverence as those buzzards did).

Technically, they open their wings to the sun to dry evenings dampness from their feathers. The sun also cooks off any bacteria and guts lingering after eating – a natural cleansing process. Again, very resourceful and the vulture reminds us to call upon our natural resources to get the job done (don’t work hard, work smart and work with the elements).

One other observation. I noticed the buzzards at Uncle Dan’s peed on their feet. Later I learned this is a way for them to keep clean. Their excrement keeps acts like a bleach, and keeps bacteria on their feet at bay.

This is an unorthodox method that achieves remarkable results. In fact, if we think about it, bird symbolism theme of the vulture is all about opportunity and resourcefulness brought about through unusual and clever methods.

So, as it turns out, there are a myriad of reasons why the vulture presents itself proudly (and the do strike a regal figure. Observe them at rest – they’re kings and queens in their own right). Independent and beautiful in exotic ways, the vulture is the spokes-bird for nonconformity and intelligent design.

Some historical and cultural facts about bird meaning of the vulture:

Some cultures like the ancient Iranians, Zoroastrians and Tibetan Buddhists participated in “sky burials” in which they would leave their deceased to be picked over by vultures. This was an honorable process, as the vulture was a symbol of renewal and so, in a creative way, the deceased were given new life by their remains being consumed by the vulture.

Egyptians recognized vulture mothers as fiercely protective, and amazingly nurturing to their young. They also keep their babies much longer (about three months) than most birds.

So, the vulture is often seen depicted with Nekhbet the goddess of childbirth and feminine energies. Mother bird symbolism is also seen in the mother goddess Mut who claims the vulture as her familiar.

Both Nekhbet and Mut are protective figures (particularly protective of the young and innocent), so then, logically the vulture is a symbol of protection too.

In Roman mythology the vulture was the steed of the god Saturn (dominion over justice, agriculture, harvest and strength via control). The vulture was also associated with the god Mars (representative of strategy, military, masculinity, initiations, and protection).

The vulture was also sacred to Apollo, and picks up symbolism of higher knowing, prophecy and oracular understanding (which plays nicely into the bird symbolism linked to the mental element of air).

In fact, Native American seers held the vultures flight pattern as an augury. Shamans of great skill could interpret the language of vulture flight to reveal important weather signs and omens.

Native Americans also deemed the vulture as a symbol of renewal and linked it with renewal themes seen in the rising of a new sun every day . Solar renewal symbolism is due to the same reasons my Uncle Dan cited (opening their wing to greet the new day).

The Mayans had their ideas about bird symbolism. To the Mayan mind the vulture was observed as a death eater.

As a consumer of death, the Mayan felt the vulture could also convert death to life. So, the vulture was considered a symbol of cleansing , renewal and transformation. It’s also associated with water and the vulture controls the rain.

This connects that theme of spinning the revolving wheel of life. In their region, droughts were death and water meant life. Vultures were viewed as fearless of death – they stared it in the face and ate death for breakfast (literally).



One thought on “Animal Totem #65

  1. for the past month or maybe longer..(and last year too)
    I have had a young turkey vulture come spend time with one of my gosslings…they walk around together ..and usually spend about an hour on a birdbath jabbering…he/she also got in the swimming pool with the gossling( not deep, it is a kiddy pool, I have several for the geese when they show up each day)
    I get lost watching them… is such a wonderful site, you just have to smile and it stays with you …
    Thanks for sharing this
    Take care…

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