It's safe to say that Vulture Fest 2008 will be a great success in attracting new believers to the wide-open faith of the Sacred Thunderbird! In my position as one of the lead shamans (that's me in the forefront), I can tell you that many vibrant youngsters left the evening with a whole new outlook on the Thunderbird. One pair of little boys in particular kept shouting good-bye to me until they were a block away from the ritual. Ahhh. What a happy feeling, to be a missionary on behalf of a worthy bored deity!
Our service last night included a presentation by a bird rehabilitation clinic in South Carolina. They use birds that can be tamed but can't be returned to the wild as teaching tools, to give audiences better appreciation for the mishaps that can befall America's raptor population.
The presenters brought a red-tailed hawk, a falcon, a barred owl, and ... drum roll ... a black vulture. The birds were trained to fly across the audience's heads, which in a big multi-purpose school room can be impressive indeed. The vulture was content to strut around the aisles so everyone could see him close-up. I got the impression that he would have done a tap dance for whatever it was they were feeding him morsel by morsel. But that's vultures for you. They are among the easiest of birds to tame, because they're smart and they love to eat.
Here's an important item from the sermon that I simply must post. When you are driving in the car along a highway, do not drop food out the car window. Gosh, I've always done that without thinking. Why drive around with an apple core under the dash? But the shaman in charge of the wild birds said that the amount of food hurled from cars along highways has increased the number of mice, rats, and rabbits along highways, and has thus led to bird mortality when nice hawks and such go after the prey and run smack-dab into a 16-wheeler full of Pampers.
One member of the congregation last night said he'd never seen a dead buzzard on the roadside, that vultures never seemed to get killed by cars. Au contraire. I've seen dead buzzards all wound in with the road kill they were munching ... sobbbb ... so I know it does happen. The shaman said the same.
Here are two facts from the Vulture Canon that I have often repeated (so often, in fact, that I've gotta find a new topic):
1. Vultures do not grab living things, including baby kittens. They get accused of doing that, sort of like Pagans get accused of slaughtering kittens in pentagrams. False, false, false! Vultures can't grasp things with their feet or carry weighty objects in their beaks. Similarly, true Pagans wouldn't dream of killing a kitten or worshipping a deity that demanded such rot.
2. When threatened, a vulture defends itself by vomiting. I've never been cornered, but this seems like a sane defense policy, and a lot easier on the joints than kung fu. However, I do have some doubts that my vomit would be as unsavory as a vulture's, except maybe after a heaping helping of Spam and TaB.
So, in conclusion, let me just say that I feel honored and privileged to be a high head priestess of the East Coast Vulture Festival. And if you think it's easy to walk around in that costume for five hours, go ahead and try it. By the end I was so deprived of oxygen I thought I was an Andean condor. So might it be!
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS