Saturday, September 04, 2010

International Vulture Awareness Day

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" You'll think I'm making this up, but go ahead and Google it. Today, September 4, 2010 was International Vulture Awareness Day, observed on several continents! We are trying to change hearts and minds all over the world -- to reach out and gain disciples for the Sacred Thunderbird!

Today I journeyed to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. This was the only place in the vicinity that was having an International Vulture Awareness Day program. And what a program it was! A pair of wildlife rehabbers from the Red Creek Wildlife Rescue talked for a whole hour about turkey vultures and displayed a whopping fine specimen who had been raised by a human and cannot be re-released into the wild. Pinky swear, that vulture (named Hannibal) knew that he was the center of attention and did all he could to charm his highly interested audience.

Hannibal's handler rattled off the usual facts about vultures, the ones I've often quoted here as Holy Scripture so will not repeat. However, it just goes to show that no matter how much you think you know about Sacred Thunderbirds, every new sermon will have new information in it.

How about this: Have you thought about a vulture's carbon footprint?

Most of us Pagans have wistful moments when we imagine leaving a neutral carbon footprint on Gaia. Step aside, human race, and let a winner lead the way!

Vultures leave a negative carbon footprint. Every day that they get up and go to work, the Earth becomes a better place. This is something we can't even strive for. We can't eat rancid meat. Our "droppings" are toxic. (Vulture droppings have no toxicity, although they're pretty acidic.)

As much as I've thought about vultures over the years, I never thought about their carbon footprints. I should write a whole new Psalm about this. Worthy art thou, o Thunderbird ... (good start)

It's not often that wildlife rehabbers have to give an hour-length program on a single species, but these brave folks did, and the dude held the 7-pound vulture the whole time. When an hour starts nearing its end, you get down to some arcane knowledge, and this is where I felt a schism brewing between myself and the vulture preachers.

The first point of contention was the vulture preacher's demand that we not call vultures buzzards. He said that vultures aren't buzzards. "Buzzards" (actually, bustards) live in the British Isles and are a kind of raptor not found in the New World. Ergo, if those birds are "buzzards," then our New World vultures cannot be "buzzards."

Sacrilege! Blasphemy! You've got this straight from Anne Johnson: Go ahead and call them buzzards.

I say this and back it with logic. What do you call that pretty little backyard bird with the red breast who hops across your lawn and pulls up worms? Oh! It's a robin! But wait. There's a little bird with a red breast that only lives in the British Isles, also known as a robin. So which one is the robin?

When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they adopted many Native names for wildlife not found in Europe. But the settlers also endowed other species with names of Old World critters they resembled. That is how our New World vultures got to be called "buzzards." And how robins got called "robins." So what's good for the robin is good for the buzzard. I say we can use buzzard and vulture interchangeably, unless of course we're talking about condors.

The other thing that I found fault with in today's sermon was the preacher's admonition that it is illegal to own vulture feathers. This is indeed true -- except if the feathers are used for religious purposes. When I pointed this little quibble out to the preacher, he said, well, yes, if you're a "card-carrying Native American," you're allowed to own vulture feathers.

Friends, I have a vulture feather on my wand and a primary flight feather on my altar. Both of them were picked up off the ground, not pulled from a live bird. Those feathers are a part of my Ritual practice, and I don't need to carry a card, or be a Native American to use them. Bring it on, Fish and Wildlife! Saying I have to be a Native American to revere the vulture is like saying you have to be able to prove descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be a Jew! That's just preposterous. (If you refer to last March's "buzzard worship" sermons, you'll see that I got full approval from the card-carrying Native Americans to be a vulture Shaman, no questions asked about ancestry.)

Anyway, to wind up this sermon about a sermon, I just want to remind you yet again that we humans can never hope to measure up to the high standards set by vultures when it comes to aerodynamics, carbon footprint, or non-aggression. In everything you do, and everywhere you go, please spread the good news about buzzards. People actually kill them out of fear of them. This practice must end! It's hard to imagine a dirtier world than the one we currently have until you face the prospect of extinction for all vultures. Say it will never be so!

The word of Vulture for the people of Vulture. Thanks be to Vulture.


Briny Deep said...

I watched the vultures today. They seemed to be having a good time. I hope they found something stinky.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

The vulture vs. buzzard debate sounds very similar to the bison v. buffalo debate. People need to get a life!

Kathryn said...

As for the legality, I understand how you feel, but how are you going to prove to Fish and Wildlife that you picked them up off the ground and didn't pluck them. At least that's their thinking, ergo, you can't possess them, but I won't tell.

Lori F - MN said...

Imagine - Fish and Wildlife come to your door to interogate you about your ownership of [gasp] vulture/buzzard feathers. You can say no, I don't have those feathers, but I have feathers from the thunder bird. or say yes, yes I do. Found them in the wild without the benefit of being on a living creature. and Just before the Attempt to put you into cuffs, you pull out your trump card. Your permission from a 'card-carrying Native American' [only in quotes because that's what the DNR will think] to be a vulture Shaman. In your face, DNR!
The burden of proof is on them to prove you plucked them off a living creature.
I mean, if you found a dead bald eagle, before the vultures, that is, and took the feathers, is that Really illegal? The vultures would have taking care of the rest, so there would be no proof, unless you are in the habit of taking pictures of dead creatures you take feathers from...

Pitch313 said...

The Cherokee term for vulture is--suli'. And they hold that "According to the Wahnenauhi manuscript, it is said also that a buzzard feather placed over the cabin door will keep out witches."

These protected feathers pose a dilemma to some Pagans.

We value the birds as living creatures in the wild, not to be hunted and killed as a market source of feathers. But we also value the feathers on a magical and spiritual basis.

I think that if somebody really finds a fallen feather on the ground, then picking it up does no harm. But I think that we Pagans do need to honor the regulations that protect these birds and their parts, as fully as possible.

Sarita Rucker said...

It seems a little dangerous to me to state on your blog that you're breaking a law, especially when you use your real name.

And I have a question...why shouldn't we call condors buzzards? I'm guessing that there's some distinction that I'm missing.

And as always, you make me wish that we had buzzards where I live! Darn it. And that they have a negative carbon footprint...WOW.

Rick Loftus, M.D. said...

Great post, thanks. I thought you'd like to know that while vultures are hurting in many places, there is good news that they're doing better in Cambodia, of all places:

Anne Johnson said...

I don't consider it breaking a law if I find a feather on the ground, and that feather just happens to be under a tree where vultures roost. The burden would be on Fish and Wildlife to arrest me for using the feather, and if they arrested me, my first call would be to the ACLU. And look at all the blog posts I would have to back up my Practice!

For the love of fruit flies, I would never harm a bird -- any kind of bird -- to obtain feathers! I may feel like plucking Decibel the Parrot at times, but even he has never lost plumage any other way than molting.

umesh said...

My video and Save vulture campaign

thought you might find some books interesting here..js

Intense Guy said...

Our Fish and Game people probably would claim they don't have any money to enforce any of the laws the department was organized to enforce. I think they spent it all on coffee, donuts and gas guzzling SUVs.

Rather than defend call Vultures, Buzzards (which is okay too), I prefer expend the engery to learn and call them by their "correct" names like "Eastern Turkey Vulture" and hopefully someday I'll see a Greater Yellow-headed and the Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture in South America.

Intense Guy said...

The law is the "MIGRATORY BIRD TREATY" who's full text can be found here:

" shall be unlawful at any time, by any means or in any manner, to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture, or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to barter, barter, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, export, import, cause to be shipped, exported, or imported, deliver for transportation, transport or cause to be transported, carry or cause to be carried, or receive for shipment, transportation, carriage, or export, any migratory bird, any part, nest, or eggs of any such bird, or any product, whether or not manufactured, which consists, or is composed in whole or part, of any such bird or any part, nest, or egg thereof..."

So for whatever misguided reasons, the powers-that-be have made it illegal to "possess" "any part" of a migratory bird (of which an Eastern Turkey Vulture is considered to be).

I wonder how many trees that Turkey Vultures one stood in were cut down to make paper to print all the babble our government generates....