Jules Evens writes about turkey vultures in Lightness of being.
"Many cultures revere vultures. They spend so much time aloft, ranging over the landscape, looking down on us. All things pass through the clear vision of this bird. They are the silent observers, the knowledgeable ones. The Egyptians believed that vultures were impregnated by the wind and considered them symbolic of purification, compassion and eternity. Some Native American tribes considered them spirits of salvation - consuming the body and carrying it to the heavens. And for the people of the Pueblo culture, the Turkey Vulture presides, like a priest, over the dangerous passage from the the spirit world back to daily life.
In a beautiful gesture that speaks to an affinity for the earth and sky, Tibetan Buddhists take their deceased relatives to a mountain ridge and feed the flesh and bones to the Himalayan vulture, Lammergeier. Sky burial.
Vultures do walk with ceremonial dignity while they
preside over the disposition of carrion.
- Hamilton Tyler, Pueblo Birds and Myths
Perhaps our curious kinship with vultures traces back to the early Pleistocene, to the savannah and scrublands, to the thickets where our ancestors crouched, watching the sky and the plains. Before they developed sharp-edged tools for cutting flesh, our forebears were not only hunter-gatherers, they were also scavengers who relied on vultures to find carrion and to open body cavities to provide access to the meat inside. Some ember of that early commensal relationship seems to flicker in our chromosomal memory and inform our wonder as we watch them glide over the landscape."
Useful and beautiful information, I say.