Updated: Jun 29
When an any-day event finds you searching for meaning through animal totems, shamanism, synchronicities, intuition and cumulative knowledge.
Indigenous cultures have respected nature and all of its aspects for thousands of years. In fact, every facet of the natural world is sacred.
When we look at any moment in our life, we can look at it through the eyes of our ancestors, and find deeper meanings and sometimes even profound insights.
And then, there are times when the mystic alludes us. Life is tricky that way. Here's one day that got me:
A Friend Arrives #PonderingMortality
One evening during a celebration of my
mom's friend who had just turned 80 years old, a large raptor appeared on the lawn behind the house. When I was called to look, immediately I knew it was a vulture. And although the bird was too far to positively identify, many continued to ponder its nature. Until, it died. A person went out to confirm the bird had, in fact, passed away, and had chosen our location to take its final breath.
My mother lives in a gated retirement community in Florida. Aging is on everyone's minds here, everyday. One person was dealing with heart issues and looking to have a pacemaker replaced. Another friend was living with a bag on his side collecting fluid that was draining after a recent gallbladder removal surgery. Yet another friend walked partially bent over due to a bad back. Yes, living with aging bodies and watching friends suffer is a constant occurrence here. So when the bird "died," the party went on as if nothing had happened. Since mom lives with a pond out back and across from a nature preserve, I found myself wondering what we would find in the morning once the sun rose to spotlight who may have come to check our dead visitor out.
Black Vulture Energy Medicine #VultureAnimalTotem
Immediately I took to the internet to find some meaning to the bird who had come to see us. I knew that vultures represented death and ate dead things. I also knew it was very odd to have such an animal visit so close to the house. Instinctively, I understood this to be a harbinger of death, which in my circles always has represented transformation, and honoring the stage of life from death to rebirth.
I found a page with quite a bit of information on black vultures. I was correct in my assessments, but learned much more. According to this source, in Native American mythology the black vulture is associated with shamanic healing practices, and also believe that when a shaman dies, he/she is reincarnated as a black vulture.
I found this to be deeply meaningful to me, as the bird was most certainly acting more human than fowl. As I held my hands up to do energy work, the vulture walked directly towards our lanai. When I spoke star language, as I sometimes do when I am conducting energy work, he cocked his head sideways. Eventually he walked all the way up on the concrete outside the lanai, and took some time there where we had the opportunity to get quite close to him and feel his energy.
Our feeling was that it was either sick or had been suffering. I could not tell if he was able to fly or not and even questioned if he still had eyes. The bird had been through something and was not feeling vital. Had he come to me for healing? Of all the porches and condos, why had he chosen ours? Was my daily mudras and energy work drawing him in? I had so many questions, but tried to focus more on spending time with the animal, as this somehow felt quite important.
"The black vulture is also associated with the goddess Morgan le Fay. In Arthurian legend, Morgan is a sorceress who kidnaps knights and takes them to her underwater kingdom. She can transform herself into a black vulture when she wants to fly above the clouds." – Kristen Hawkins, spiritanimalsandsymbolism.com June 27, 2022
My Relationship with Black Birds #ShamanicPractitioner
As an energy-worker/shamanic practitioner, one of the things I have learned is that shamans have the capacity to shape-shift into animals for journeying, and can also channel their energy when needed. I find my personal gifts to be more of the later kind, as channeling has come very easy to me since I was a child. For some time, I have had a deep connection to black birds, who seem to follow me wherever I go. I have done a lot of work with Crow Medicine, and they are by far the one type of black bird that seems to always be with me when I travel, similar to Odin's two ravens from the Norse mythology.
Looking back, my experiences with these birds seem to pop up when I am meant to use my intuition more astutely, and usually when there is something awry in the energy field around me. I feel that the birds are calling me to seek what is being untrue in the moment, as a sort of natural truth filter for me to use. And of course there is the reoccurring theme of what needs to go that I am still holding onto?
I found it quite interesting when I came across the links to the black vulture and Morgan le Fay, particularly because I had just finished up the final touches on the voice-over narrative that I was about to record for the documentary on Glastonbury, UK that I have been working on for just shy of a year. For several reasons, I couldn't nail down the content until this week. And on the eve of a huge step forward in the film, the vulture came to visit me. For those who do not know, Glastonbury is full of Arthurian legend, said to be the final location of the Holy Grail, and resting place of King Arthur himself, who was rescued by Morgan le Fay, and who many say is the sister of the King as well.
In my gut I felt that it was a good sign for the raptor to appear that night, and not a bad omen, as some might believe. And although many others were there that night for the party, there was an undeniable connection for me and the bird, and I deeply felt she had come to bring me a message.
A Shocking Turn of Events #CyclesofLife
The next day, mom decided to join her friends at the pool, and although it had been unbearably hot and humid, on this day there was a nice breeze blowing with seemingly no humidity, so I was able to hang on the lanai with my new bestie, Veronica the Vulture (Vinnie if you think he's a boy).
I watched her walk behind the bush, perhaps looking for a bite to eat. She made strange hissing sounds from time to time, and then would stop and rest for a bit, before moving on to more hunting in the bush. Her black feathers brushed against the screen of the lanai, and I knelt down and sat beside her just on the other side of the screening. She would sometimes look at me, other times look away, and eventually she dropped her head down and seemed to sleep standing up for some time.
I felt the need to continue working on my documentary. Today, after all, was voice-over recording day. So, I went inside and set up the microphone and computer. When I gazed back over I saw that Veronica had moved, so I went to see where she was. She was still in the grass, now moving around the other side of the bush. I came inside to begin recording.
At some point I noticed that she was now over by the palm tree that had almost came down during the last hurricane. Two boards held the palm up, and Veronica was trying to walk up the boards, and sliding back down. It was like surreal scene out of a cartoon. I rationalized that she was not able to fly and that's why she was attempting such a strange feat. And then, just as I told myself that, I saw her raise up, and soar across the pond to the other side.
Well, she could fly all-right! I felt delighted that she was not sick, as we had previously thought. I ran to the window and grabbed my binoculars to see where she had landed, and saw her sitting in some sticks that rose above the water, most likely from a tree that had also come down during the same hurricane.
My heart stopped for a moment because I realized that the alligator, who had also come out across the pond that morning, was no longer on the ground. I searched along the beached area and couldn't find the predator. But when my binoculars moved back on Veronica, I soon saw why. The alligator was in the water, making its way towards her, and was actually very close.
I grabbed my phone to take a picture, then picked up the binoculars again quickly. I was just in time to witness the alligator launch out of the water and take Veronica in his mouth before descending back down into the depths of the waters.
WHAT!?!?!? What had I just witnessed? And why? Why had she chosen that spot to land? Why had she left the comforts of our grassy area in the first place? And why had I been given so much time with her that day, only to watch her die a horrific and violent death?
In the End #DeathisNottheEnd
I can say that I found the event quite triggering. The shock of witnessing the death of the sacred bird left me feeling quite unsettled. As I thought about it, the more questions I had. I did not find myself upset about what happened, as my mother did, because I do honor the cycles of life as well as understand the pecking order in nature. Yet for the remainder of the evening, I kept cycling back through the events of my day with Veronica, seeking closure.
Here's the facts: every moment of our life is extraordinary. There are no ordinary moments. Death and that stage of our life is just as important as the time we took our first breath and every moment in between. Death is a fact of life. We will all die one day. And if you believe in reincarnation, well, then we come back in another form and work out more shit. But most certainly, death is not the end.
What does it Mean?
What did it all mean, all of the events with Veronica, leading up to her demise? Truthfully, I can come up with a lot of potential meanings. What keeps coming back to me though is the shock. Her death, in a way, shocked me back into life. It shocked me back to the reality that, yes, life is harsh and you never know when its your last day. And it also reminded me that sometimes things just happen because life is cyclical and up and down and constantly changing. That chaos is our current reality.
So live life and honor the moment. Today, I'd like to also honor Veronica the Vulture. I believe she knew it was her last day, and she chose to spend some of it with me.
Have you ever had a day like this?