In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," the albatross is a large sea bird known to follow ships. Most sailors considered them to be good luck. The Ancient Mariner shot and killed the bird. Another meaning of "albatross" is a public burden one must carry as a sign of guilt and responsibility. As a punishment for shooting the albatross, the Ancient Mariner was forced to wear it around his neck as a penance for its killing and the resulting bad luck that plagued the ship.