from PowerOfTheShaman Website








The image above shows an impression of a room called the 'Vulture Shrine' in the town of Çatal Hüyük, an ancient site still being excavated at Anatolia, Turkey.


Çatal Hüyük culture dates back to 6,500 BCE and yet these people were surprisingly sophisticated. The vulture image appears to represent for them a god-form, responsible for removing the head (i.e. the soul?) of the deceased, as can be seen in the picture above.






They may have practiced 'sky-burials' (where corpses are left to the birds to eat) or the imagery may have been entirely metaphorical, or both.


There is some evidence to suggest that over time as this culture developed the bird image evolved into that of a 'vulture-goddess'. But most importantly at least one of the murals from Çatal Hüyük apparently shows a human being dressed in a vulture skin.

Taking an eight-thousand year old image of a "human in a vulture skin" and turning it into an early Vulture Shamanism culture could be stretching things a bit... and one should always be careful of making assumptions when the evidence in support of pet theories is tenuous.


However, in the last few decades archaeological research has come to light which, when added to the evidence from Çatal Hüyük, begins to lend very strong weight to the idea of a 'shamanic connection'.


In the 1950's the archaeologist/anthropologists Rose Solecki and her husband Ralph began excavating a cave site near the Greater Zab river in Kurdistan.


This cave had been used for burials by the Zawi Chemi people (as this small area is called) around 8870 BC (plus or minus 300 years, according to carbon-dating) - over 10,000 years ago - and 4,000 years before the beginnings of the various Mesopotamia cultures referred to here. What did they discover that was so significant?


They found a number of goat skulls placed next to the wing bones of large predatory birds, including the bearded vulture, the griffon vulture, the white-tailed sea eagle and the great bustard.


The Soleckis had to ask themselves what the purpose of such a 'ritual burial' was, and why it was that only certain species of birds had been selected.





Around 11,000 years ago at Zawi Chemi in the Zagros Mountains,

people used river boulders to build some of the earliest houses.



Remains of a Navajo rock hogan similar in construction Zawi Chemi stone houses.

Located in Monument Valley, U.S. desert southwest.

Note door as well as possibility of same type roof construction.


An inhabited modern day Navajo stone hogan.


In 1977 the journal Sumer published an article by Rose Solecki entitled 'Predatory Bird Rituals at Zawi Chemi Shanidar' where she described the findings, going on to suggest that the wings had almost certainly been utilized as part of some kind of ritualistic costume, worn either for personal decoration or for ceremonial purposes.


She connected the finds with the Vulture Shamanism of the protoneolithic Çatal Hüyük community in Central Anatolia mentioned above (which was 2000 years later in time, and several hundred miles away in distance).


Recognizing the importance of their discovery, however, Rose Solecki concluded the article by saying:

"The Zawi Chemi people must have endowed these great raptorial birds with special powers, and the faunal remains we have described for the site must represent special ritual paraphernalia.


Certainly, the remains represent a concerted effort by a goodly number of people just to hunt down and capture such a large number of birds and goats... either the wings were saved to pluck out the feathers, or that wing fans were made, or that they were used as part of a costume for a ritual.


One of the murals from a Catal Hayuk shrine ... depicts just such a ritual scene; i.e., a human figure dressed in a vulture skin"

The ritual coats of present-day Siberian Shamans are cut to look like birds: they are cut to a point and tasselled in a way that is suggestive of feathers, and this is quite deliberate.


And, although in all the forms of Shamanism across Asia there is little interest in creating any long-lasting images of winged humans, the notion of the Shaman being able to fly is nonetheless universal.


When stone-carved motifs do start to appear around 3,000 BC in Mesopotamia and the surrounding area, the wings of these winged beings seem to signify an ability to travel to places that ordinary people can't reach, along with an ability to 'mediate' between the human world and some other 'higher' state or states. Both of these qualities are (also) universally considered to be the main attributes of a Shaman.


Undoubtedly this also helps explain why Shamen across the world generally tend to have a strong connection with birds.


The Shaman can 'fly' in trance, travelling to the realm of the spirits where he can then either do battle against malign entities, or try and persuade, flatter, cajole or otherwise entreat the spirits to act for the benefit of one or more human beings.




Murals from Çatal Hüyük

"One of the murals from a Catal Hayuk shrine ... depicts just such a ritual scene; i.e., a human figure dressed in a vulture skin."







Although it is not known what mural or murals the author of the above article is specifically referring to, the sketches below accompanied a 1984 article by James Mellaart, "Some Notes on the Prehistory of Anatolian Kilims." (B. Frauenknecht, Early Turkish Tapestries, pp. 25-41.) show what appears to be,

"a human figure dressed in a vulture skin."

Mellaart says the majority of the motifs were copied from Çatal Hüyük wall paintings (or in the case of Numbers 67-70 from Hacilar painted pots).





Please note drawing Number 74 as well as Number 82, traced or drawn by Mellaart from the walls of actual Çatal Hüyük murals. The images seem quite clear, while other close by motifs indicate a similar human figure, vulture theme as well, albeit in a much more abstract fashion.


Vulture wings had almost certainly been utilized as part of some kind of ritualistic costume, worn either for personal decoration or for ceremonial purposes.









The Golden Purifier
by the Wanderling

The vulture is a very powerful totem. Its cycle of power is year-round. If you have a Vulture as a spirit guide or totem, it can show you how to use energy powerfully and efficiently.


It glides effortlessly on the winds, soaring high but using little energy.


It symbolized the distribution of energy so that gravity (or cares) do not weigh it down.





The Vulture uses air currents against the pull of gravity. It does not use its own energy, but uses the energies of the Earth instead, the energies of the Earth being ONE of the mainstay sources in The Power of the Shaman.


A very valuable lesson.

"One day, when I was around ten years old or so, I went for a hike deep into the desert unescorted. When my Uncle discovered I was gone he went looking for me.


During my walk I happened across the carcass of a dead rabbit and was fascinated by it for some reason. When my Uncle found me after cresting a small hill he saw me squatted down with the carcass.


Joining me quite comfortably in a circle with the rabbit were three what were, because of this incident, to eventually become my Totem Animal - VULTURES. From what he was able to discern from his initial vantage point I was neither afraid of them nor were they remotely afraid of me.


As well, and he swore this to be true - although I have absolutely no recollection of it and construe it as a possible total misinterpretation of facts - that the vultures and I were sharing meat from the carcass between us.

"When my Uncle told his estranged wife about the incident she suddenly was very interested in me. You see, for some reason, in today's neo-Shaman environment there has been a stress placed on finding one's "power animal."


The contemporary neo-Shaman workshops have a tendency to blind people to the fact that real animals are also spirit and power, and every bit as important, or even more so, than than a spirit guide that appears in some vision.


His estranged wife, a Midewiwin Medicine Woman, knew that. In workshops, the totem-animal-visions of participants are never frogs or gophers, they are always wolves, bears, eagles, and falcons. If it were only so."

The scientific name for the Turkey Vulture is CATHARTES AURA which means GOLDEN PURIFIER because as it goes about it's lifetime business it purifies the landscape and environment in it's own natural way, ensuring the continued health and life of other living things.


The Vulture is a promise that all hardship was temporary and necessary for a higher purpose. Once a Vulture enters your life as a totem or guide, it will remain with you for life.





In Buddhism the Golden Purifier is COMPASSION, Karuna in Sanskrit. Compassion works for us in allowing us to perceive the pain, anguish, affliction, agony, torment and distress of others clearly, through allowing it into our experience also.


It is then something that has moved further out of the realm of the ignored or the unconscious into the realm of the included, the accepted, the conscious. Compassion is spacious, allowing the way things are to exist, to change, and to end. Particularly it allows pain to end.


This means that it must be patient, not in any hurry to force pain to end or to try officiously to get rid of pain. It is the active side of wisdom and is the Buddha's supreme or GOLDEN PURIFIER.


The Buddha's compassion allowed him to realize that there is still something that can be done by a fully Enlightened being. It was compassion that motivated him to teach "for the benefit of those with dust in their eyes".

Do you then approach the study of Zen - or Shamanism - with the idea that there is something to be gained by it? This question is not intended as an implicit accusation. But it is , nevertheless, a serious question.


Where there is a lot of fuss about "spirituality," "Enlightenment," or just "turning on" it is often because there are vultures hovering around a corpse. This hovering, this circling, is not what is meant by the study of Zen. There is no body to be found.


The birds may come and circle but they soon go elsewhere. When they are gone, the "nothing" that was there, suddenly appears.




Vultures live and work together, both in cooperation and friendliness.


They communicate with friends and neighbors when they find something to eat. They let the others know where the food is. And when there is a big feast they communicate with neighboring flocks in distant roosts.


Also, Turkey Vultures that range within California Condor habitat areas, when they find food they will go to the Condors and lead them to it.


One roost was observed when they had a dead cow in their neighborhood. They somehow contacted a roost of 100 vultures about 30 miles away to come join them. Several days later, before they finished their feast, two more cows died. Within a day the vultures had contacted another roost to join them. At night all the birds visited together in the same or neighboring trees.


There were now three different roosts living together. When the cows had been cleaned up the several visiting roosts went home. (source)

In Greek mythology, the Vulture is the descendant of the Griffin. It was a very Buddhist-like, Zen-like symbol of the non-dual oneness of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, good and evil, guardian and avenger.


The Vulture is the avenger of nature spirits. Ancient Assyrians believed the Vulture was, like Nagarjuna's middle way, Sunyata, the encompassing overall non-separated union between the day and night.


Ironically, regardless of the less than good image the vulture is typically granted by most, think about it:

Unlike the needs of nearly all other living creatures, vultures do not kill.
Their prey either dies or something else kills it.

Herodorus Ponticus relates that great men of legend were always very joyful when a vulture appeared upon any action.


For it is a creature the least hurtful of any, pernicious neither to corn, fruit-tree, nor cattle; it preys only upon carrion, and never kills or hurts any living thing; and as for birds, it touches not them, though they are dead, as being of its own species, whereas eagles, owls, and hawks mangle and kill their own fellow-creatures.


That very same overall innate nature imbedded in the actions and life of the vulture, never killing or hurting a living thing or its own fellow creatures, is reflected for the most part, in and by the the actions and life of the person that truly has the vulture as a totem animal.

The noted Athenian writer Aeschylus (c. 525 BC-456 BC) says,

"What bird is clean that preys on fellow bird? - Besides, all other birds are, so to say, never out of our eyes; they let themselves be seen of us continually; but a vulture is a very rare sight, and you can seldom meet with a man that has seen their young; their rarity and infrequency has raised a strange opinion in some, that they come to us from some other world; as soothsayers ascribe a divine origination to all things not produced either of nature or of themselves."

Be as it may, the Assyrians, Greeks and other early civilization city-states were actually late comers to the use or representation of vultures in ritual, religious, or shamanistic rites.

In the 1950's the husband/wife archaelogist/anthropologist team of Ralph and Rose Solecki began excavating a cave site 250 miles north of Baghdad along a tributary of the Tigris River called the Greater Zab that rises out of the Turkey-Kurdistan border area.


The cave had been used for burials by an ancient tribal people called the Zawi Chami around 8870 BCE (plus or minus 300 years, according to carbon-dating) - over 10,000 years ago - which is well over 4,000 years before the beginnings of any of the various cultures mentioned above.


In their dig the Soleckis found a number of wing bones of large predatory birds, which turned out to be Gyptaeus barbatus (the bearded vulture) and Gyps fulvus (the griffon vulture).



Vulture image with headless man at Çatal Hüyük
One image depicts a human figure in a vulture skin


Can Göknil in Creation Myths From Central Asia To Anatolia: Images From The Creation Myths Of The Turks writes:

"Shamanism is a system of belief common to the Turks of Central Asia. Both men and women could be Shaman priests and among old Turkish groups they were called Kam. Kams dressed in elaborate garments to display their supernatural powers.


Accompanied by the beating of drums in their rituals, they believed they could fly with the aid of their own guardian animal. During such flights they reached various levels of Heaven or the Underworld.


Upon returning to this world, they used the information they had learned during their journey for the benefit of their followers".



Kamship is an important part of the pre-islam Turkish belief system. Kam, Kaman or Shaman leads several ceremonies for communicating between this world and the world of sprits. They also lead several rituals for birth, death and marriage, the periods of transitions.


They fight against bad sprits with their symbolic knives or wooden swords. The wooden sword, representing the justice, is a symbol for the peaceful solution of disputes. One can not learn kamship, instead one should descent from the family of a kam.


It is believed that the sprit of the grandfather passes to the grandchild, this is very similarly observed in dedeship in Anatolia.


Each place and location has its own power and potency.


By raising our consciousness about the geo-cosmic specificities of gravity, light, magnetism, solstices, equinoxes, lunar cycles, indigenous plants, animals, climate, and so forth in any given area, we can come to value the variety of diverse cultures and regions whose multiple knowledges all serve to enhance life everywhere on our planet.


Most of these geo-cosmic teachings can only be acquired in the particular region in which they occur. If we are to awaken our own Shamanic abilities, perhaps lost in the mist of time, then we must attune ourselves to precisely those same forces as they manifest themselves in our own bio-regions.


In some cases this may require us to learn about our region from the indigenous tribes in our area; in other cases we must set about discovering the power of the places in which we live on our own.


We need not run away to other "exotic" cultures, but begin exploring our own backyards.