A Native American Story about Aging, Death, and Kindness
The Old Woman and the Three Buzzards
This is a Native American story about how the buzzard saved the land and learned how to become death-eaters from an unsuspecting old woman.
Once upon a time, an old woman took in a few buzzards who were down on their luck. This was in the very early days of creation when buzzards hunted for live food to eat because they did not yet know how to scavenge.
During a battle with a wild boar, the buzzards were terribly wounded. The old woman took pity on the buzzards (the nearby tribe thought buzzards were bad luck), took them in and nurtured them back to health.
During this time, she talked a lot and shared much wisdom with the buzzards. The old woman taught them valuable lessons…lessons they could take and use to improve their lives, as well as transform the world.
Sure enough, it came to pass. The old woman taught the buzzards how to become ‘death-eaters.’ In so doing, the buzzards became top on their food chain, and changed the world by helping recycle what was once left to rot.
The old woman taught them their biggest lesson which they learned and applied.
The lesson as told by the old woman was: “As a death-eater, you ensure new life.“
The buzzards returned to the old woman many years later. They granted her the gift of immortality for her mercy and for what they taught the birds.
She was also given the title of Great Mother and is forever honored for cleansing the world of decay by teaching the buzzards how to be death-eaters.
Moral of the Native American Story of the Old Woman and Buzzards
As with all stories (Native American or otherwise), there is typically a lesson. This story has a few lessons…
—It Takes a Mother: The old woman earned the title of Great Mother because saw potential in the buzzards where others in the tribe only saw bad luck. She nurtured their potential. By doing so – she made way for renewal in the world. We can do the same by seeing the potential in others. Nurturing that potential can facilitate amazing growth in us and in others.
—Death is the Beginning: Before the buzzards learned how to become death-eaters, much of the world struggled with decay and darkness. By scavenging and consuming decay, the buzzards allowed room for new life and light to enter the world. We can do the same by accepting and embracing death as a factor of growth.
—Be Kind, not Blind: This story is a big lesson in avoiding blind judgment. It speaks about never judging (or underestimating) the elderly. It speaks to drawing our own conclusions about different things – even if our community labels it ‘bad luck’ or ‘crazy’. Had the old woman judged the buzzards, the world would have been an entirely different (and very stinky) place. You never know if, how or when an act of kindness (and suspending judgment) can make an overwhelming difference in the world.
Thanks to my mentor Ruth, and her long-time friend, Four Paws of the Native American Caddo tribe for telling me this story.
This is actually the abbreviated version. If you want the FULL story about The Old Woman and How Buzzards Became Death-Eaters, check it out here. It goes deeper into the moral of the story, as well as offer background information on buzzards vs vultures and the concept of death-eaters.
As always, thank you for reading. I hope this story offered some inspiration in your life.
Bright buzzard blessings to you,