Did you know that today is International Vulture Awareness Day? Many of these beautiful birds are now threatened or facing extinction, and population numbers are declining the world over. The Egyptian Vulture, which was known in Ancient Egypt, is on the endangered list. The Griffon Vulture, also known in Ancient Egypt, is the only one on the list that is of ‘least concern’.
The first Saturday of September every year is International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD). Started in 2006 by the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Birds of Prey Programme and the Hawk Conservancy Trust, plus a range of partners and associates, IVAD has become a global event supported by the IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group; in 2016, 164 organisations from 47 countries participated. IVAD aims to create awareness about vultures as a whole, garner support among the public about the plight of vultures globally and highlight the work done by conservationists to protect these birds and their habitats.
Vultures are a characteristic, distinctive and spectacular component of the biodiversity of the environments they inhabit. They also provide critically important ecosystem services by cleaning up carcasses and other organic waste in the environment; they are nature’s garbage collectors and this translates into significant economic benefits. Studies have shown that in areas where there are no vultures, carcasses take up to three or four times longer to decompose. This has huge implications for the spread of diseases in both wild and domestic animals, as well as elevating pathogenic risks to humans.
You can find more information on the International Vulture Awareness Day website
They have kids activities and also colouring pages of different vultures on their downloads page, and you can also download this cute ‘Vultures of the World’ PDF
Two species of vulture were known in Ancient Egypt – the Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) and the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus). The Griffon vulture is the one most commonly depicted. On its own it represents the phonetic value of A, and was used to write the word mut, meaning ‘mother’. With the largest wingspan of any bird in Ancient Egypt the outspread wings of the vulture were seen as offering protection¹, and became a popular motif in Egytian art and jewellery. As vulture Goddesses Nekhbet and Mut became symbols of maternal love and protection. In the Late Period the vulture was: ‘…a symbol of the female principle and stood in juxtaposition to the beetle as the embodiment of the male principle.’²
The vulture headdress was seen as a ‘symbol and ideogram of motherhood’³ and also associated any Queen who wore it with Mut as consort of the state God, Amun, and also with Nekhbet as protectress of Upper Egypt¹.
There are many theories about whether the Set-beast is based on a real animal, whether it is a compilation of creatures (like Ammit), or a completely mythological being.
While watching the ‘Grasslands’ episode of Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth II’ I came face to face with an Ice Age relic: the Saiga Antelope. Just look at that nose! How can you not see a resemblance to the Egyptian God Set when you look at it?
By Vladimir Yu. Arkhipov, Arkhivov – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8955913
Our garden is filled with so many beautiful plants and trees, but my heart was captured this Autumn by our Hawthorns. They live at the very top, acting as a boundary between us and the field behind.
In folklore lone Hawthorns are said to be connected to Fairies. They have white flowers and red berries, and anything red and white was often linked to the Fair Folk. Animals like cattle and hounds with red and white markings were associated with them. Hawthorns were often used as field boundaries, like ours, and so can have a protective element. Because of the white summer blossom they are also referred to as Whitethorns. Ours do have thorns but not many. Perhaps they’re friendlier and don’t feel threatened.
Dung beetles are guided by taking note of where they are in relation to the stars. This is a great link to Khepera, the scarab beetle who rolls Ra’s Sun disc through the sky each day.
‘The Trial of Loki’ was originally published in the Australian Odinist journal ‘Renewal’ in serial form, and it tells. Although it has been revised and expanded it is still, essentially, an essay rather than a book. It looks purely at the format of Lokasenna, the author’s focus solely on this one ‘chapter’ of the Eddas, and his theory is that Lokasenna is in fact a trial.
European polytheism: a personal look
Following recent discussions with other polytheists, which made obvious a divide in attitudes and perspectives between the two sides of the Atlantic, I’ve been considering the topic more extensively, taking into account the idiosyncrasies of the United States, western Europe in general and my country in particular. Things like History, politics, social dynamics and attitudes towards the State. And the more I thought about it, the more I kept going back to three points. So in order to clarify things, I wrote this post explaining where I stand as a European polytheist and in contrast with what comes across as a significant trend in US American polytheism.
This is a fantastic article by Helios on some of the (generalised) differences between the way polytheism is approached in Europe compared to the USA.
After feeling like I don’t recognise a lot of the mentality behind certain prominent blog posts by American authors the last week or so, reading this article made me sigh with relief. It does, however, make me realise just how important it is to read articles and books written from your own culture’s perspective, not just those that may be more readily available or more popular.
Because I’m a serial procrastinator it has taken me this long to get around to typing up my notes. Finally, however, I’m trying to break the pattern.
Lecture Report – Amarna: A New Mythology? By Dr Garry J. Shaw
AEMES, Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, UK. Saturday 14th March 2015
A new solar mythology started appearing in the Books of Am Duat, and in hymns and rituals in the 18th Dynasty. The sun’s power guaranteed the balance of the cosmos and, though distant, you could feel the sun god’s presence in his rays. Much became subsumed by the sun god, including Osiris, Ra and Amun, and the other gods lessened in importance.
During the late 18th Dynasty Amenhotep III passed on the throne to his son Amenhotep IV, who later changed his name to Akhenaten. However, the throne should have gone to an older son, one who died. Amenhotep IV showed a particular interest in a deity called Aten – ‘the disc’. Aten is referred to in the Middle Kingdom as the physical manifestation of Ra, and is closely affiliated with the king. Aten is the faceless sun disc with long rays ending in hands. It is asexual and androgynous, with no spouse. It is anthropomorphic and has no body, so there are no traditional offering scenes.
The author introduces us to Set from his earliest to latest depictions in Egyptian art, with each chapter exploring different periods of Egyptian history in chronological order. While, for the most part, this was useful in showing the evolution of Set over the years, it also led to a slightly disjointed narrative when exploring the themes associated with the God.
Chapter one explores the earliest images of Set, and it makes clear that even in the Naqada I era he was known as “the lord of the sedges”, establishing his importance as representative of Upper Egypt, alongside Horus as “lord of the papyrus country” (Lower Egypt). Set’s association was with the city of Naqada, his cult centre, where he became known as nbwty – “the golden one.” He is thus often referred to as “Lord of Nubt.”
Interestingly, in the Labels from King Scorpion’s tomb Set, though shown in his animal form, is not shown with the typical erect tail, yet on a detail from the same king’s mace head, he is. The author then goes on to comment on the canine-like appearance of Set in Djoser’s temples, and quotes Ken Moss’ theory that the Set animal may in fact be based on a breed of hunting dog called the Saluki. Their ears were often cropped, producing a squared tip, and when running these square-tipped ears and the tail stick up.
These are some general tips that I have found useful when researching.
1) Buy or borrow the hardback versions of books where possible. Their spines are more forgiving, and are easier to leave open. This is especially useful for comparing texts and translations.
2) Use mini indexing sticky notes/ post-its to mark important passages in books. When you write up your notes you can then review whether you really need to write them down. I recommend reading the book all the way through first as sometimes you can come across a more useful passage later on.
3) With Kindle books take advantage of the highlighting system. You can take the notes from ‘My Clippings’ and create a new document, then review and edit as you see fit. Save the new document and print off.
4) If you have the book or article at home don’t tell yourself you have a set time in the day when you have to do your research unless you really have no other option. Using the index-sticky method I often find I can read through research material better at night. I then write up the notes in the daytime.
5) Use the library, especially for rare and more expensive books. Even if your local library service doesn’t have a copy of the book you’re looking for they can often borrow one from elsewhere. They may charge a small fee, but it’s well worth it and costs less than buying the books yourself. In some cases, unless you are part of a university or academic body, you cannot get hold of a book. In this instance the library inter-loan service is vital. It is thanks to this service I am currently reading ‘The Problem of Loki’ by Jan de Vries; there is no copy available to buy, at any price, and I am not part of a university or academic body.
I hope these tips provide some food for thought.