This photograph of a large pod of pelicans was taken at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, just outside of Carmel, California. Pelicans have significant historical and cultural value, including in Egyptian mythology, where the pelican was believed to be able to to prophesy safe passage in the underworld for someone who had died. Interestingly, Alcatraz was so named by the Spanish because of the large number of pelicans roosting there. The word alcatraz is itself derived from the Arabic al-caduos, a term used for a water-carrying vessel and likened to the pouch of the pelican. In the Christian context, pelicans were viewed as a paragon of piety based, in part, on the belief that a mother pelican was particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood by wounding her own breast when no other food was available. As such, pelicans are associated with the Passion of Christ and the Eucharist.
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