The Pelican, which is known as Henet in Egyptian, appears in royal funerary texts from the Pyramid Age. Her iconography depicted her as a protector against snakes. Henet was considered a goddess due to her role as The Mother of The King. In ancient Egypt, that term was reserved for the Mother Goddess.

In funerary papyri, the pelican was considered a special bird. Ancient Egyptians believed that the pelican possessed the power to predict a deceased person’s journey in the afterlife.

When the pelican is depicted with an open beak, it meant that the deceased was able to leave the burial chamber and go out into the rays of the sun. A connection was made between the noticeably long beak of the pelican and the tomb shaft.

Millennia later, Queen Elizabeth I of England would also go on to adopt the pelican symbol for herself. Although the practise of associating the pelican with royalty has its roots in the heyday and customs of ancient Egypt, pelicans are also featured extensively in Christian heraldry.

The Science

Pelicans eat fish, which they catch by using their large mouths as a dip-net. The beak of a pelican is the longest of any bird.

Cooperative fishing is employed by several of the larger pelican species. Pelicans can feed alone, with a partner-in-crime or even as a trio. During certain peak seasons, pelicans even coordinate their feeding with ten to a hundred birds.

Their coordination is impeccable and impressive. They synchronise their bill dipping movements and herd schools of fish toward to shore or into the centre of the circle as they close in. These events are known as fish dives.

These coordinated semicircles lead to the highest rate of fish capture per bird for the species.

Pelican Wisdom

By observing the pelican, we can learn how to work cooperatively and constructively with others. Ultimately, we are given talents and resources to serve others. Pelicans are unselfish and happy to help. They can easily cooperate with others.

As a waterbird that feeds primarily on fish, the pelican’s environment is highly susceptible to oil spills, drainage, pollution and damage by human activity that has its roots in greed, disregard for others and selfishness.

In the event that you are faced with selfish behaviour, the pelican can show you and others how to choose humility. We should always pay attention to our own interests. We can only do so if we are detached and discriminating about who and what has access to our time, our energy and our space.

A key insight when it comes to the pelican is to avoid getting involved in the problems and predicaments of others at all costs. A pelican is warning you not to become a martyr. At the same time, it is reminding you not to expect others to martyr themselves, either. The Universe is, indeed, keeping score.

All of us have no choice but to work with others if we want to reach big goals. The key, then, is to strike a balance between self-interest and shared interest. Whether you have been on the giving end or receiving end is ultimately not what the universe cares about.

What the Universe ultimately rewards is the pursuit of a shared purpose.

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