luish tinge. It is found right
across the British Isles. There is some little migration, and also
evidence of movement from Britain to both the Netherlands and to
Ireland. The jackdaw is probably the most active crow traveler.
Jackdaws are always beaten in fights with crows and rooks, and so their arguments tend to be amongst themselves. If the jackdaw wishes to make a friend it will swoop over them, wagging its tail as it does so.
The jackdaw is markedly colonial, often nesting very close together. The male builds the stick structure to the nest and the female is responsible for the lining, which tends to consist of fibres, bark
strips, dead leaves, moss, paper, sometimes with a base of clods of
earth, and with a final cup of fur, hair and feathers. The nests can be
built in dense foliage branches of trees, but jackdaws do prefer to
build them in holes, whether in trees, cliffs, chimneys or ruined
buildings. When not raising young, the jackdaw roosts will contain both
resident and migrant birds and also carrion crows, ravens and,
especially, rooks, although the different crow species will generally
inhabit different parts of the tree or building.
Jackdaws are surface feeders and do not dig for worms in the way that rooks do. They like grassland insects, grain and wild plant seeds and larvae, although their eating habits are very adaptable to what is
available, taking animal feed stuffs, carrion and other birds’ eggs
also, and will also take ticks from sheep and cattle. They are happy
scavengers, and enjoy hawking for flying ants. They are less inclined
to store food than are other crows.
Jackdaws and magpies have always fascinated me. They may be rogues, but they are intelligent rogues and I always suffer pangs of conscience during vermin control when they have to be shot.
Until recently their numbers were controlled by the gamekeepers with the result that shooting and keepered estates always had a greater number and variety of other birds on it than countryside allowed to run wild.
The corvines - crows, rooks, jays, magpies and jackdaws - are relentless stealers of other birds' eggs and chicks. During the nesting season they nest in medium-sized colonies of 20 or more birds, using church towers, mills, etc, indeed anywhere
there is a cavity for shelter and shade, from where they will sally forth
on foraging expeditions.
Often they brave the noise and bustle of our cities, including Inner London, in order to watch and raid the pigeons' nets on such buildings as the British Museum and the National Gallery.
A friend who is one of the pest officers for Norwich city tells me that the jackdaws save them a lot of work when it comes to controlling the ever increasing hordes of London's pigeons, which, incidentally, you are not now allowed to feed
(or so a by-law says).
My interest in jackdaws was first stirred when Biddy Booke, the daughter of the village doctor, kept a pet one. It was highly intelligent and like the "Jackdaw of Rheims" had the ability to imitate human speech and was a great thief.
When anything bright and shiny went missing, it was usually found in Jack's
Since then, I have had several friends who have hand reared jackdaws , and all have found them characters who have not shown the least fear of human beings. And strangely, though free flying, they have never attempted to join the flights
of wild jackdaws winging their way home to roost during the late afternoon.
This happens despite the wild birds uttering their loud staccato calls of "jack" or the nasal "kaar" and also occasionally indulging in acrobatic tumbling in the air.
The social unity of a wild jackdaw colony is very strong, as was evidenced several years ago when Mr E Kingdom, the stationmaster of Nelson, Glamorgan, was one evening walking along the line and noticed a very young jackdaw hopping about.
He picked it up and immediately the flock of jackdaws flew down from neighbouring
trees and attacked him with persistent ferocity, causing him to run for
the protection of the station buildings.
Dr Konrad Lorenz also mentions a similar occurrence in his book, King Solomon's Ring.
family. Come join us in the group A Murder of Crows. learn, share, meet others of similar paths, but most of all share your experiences of the Corvidea totems: This is a group for all members of the Corvus family totems. This is a place to share and learn the folklore, medicine, and lessons the Crow
family has brought to the people, and honor these most sacred birds.Greetings to all. Feel free to post new threads as long as it's related to Corvids in some way. Go ahead and introduce yourself, and tell us what your connection to your totem is. If you have knowledge to share, by all means don't hold back. We're all ears here. Let's keep this group friendly and helpful to others here even if our opinions conflict with others there is no reason why we can't be civil. Take care and may Crow guide your step wisely.
enus family and their all welcome here, as are you. Speak up and tells us about who you are and your bird.Caw caw!
Corvidae is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds that contains the crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers. The common English name used is corvids (more technically) or the crow family (more informally), and there are over 120 species. The genus Corvus, including the jackdaws, crows and ravens, makes up over a third of the entire family.
They are considered the most intelligent of the birds having demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests (European Magpies) and tool making ability (Crows, Rooks)—skills until recently regarded as solely the province of humans and a few other higher mammals. They are medium to large in size, with strong
feet and bills, rictal bristles and a single moult each year (most passerines moult twice).
Corvids are found worldwide except for the tip of South America and the polar ice caps. The majority of the species are found in tropical South and Central America, southern Asia and Eurasia, with fewer than 10 species each in Africa, Australasia and North America. The genus Corvus has re-entered Australia in relatively recent geological prehistory, with five species and one subspecies there.
The raven often has a bad press, for being a carrion bird it is ultimately associated with death, and consequently considered a bad omen by many, or a forewarning of war.
But there is much more to this enigmatic and intelligent bird than death, darkness and destruction. Raven is a trickster, a protector, a teacher. and a bringer of great magic.
Learn all about the Raven and his lore here on this page, and perhaps you will take a little bit of Raven wisdom away with you, to help you on your way...
Raven Biology: Natural History of the Raven About the Raven Member of the crow family
The raven is not only the largest member of the crow family, but the largest perching bird in the world. An extremely intelligent bird, the raven was once extremely common, but persecution now finds it only in remote areas such as cliffs, mountains and moors.
The adult is completely black with a shaggy throat and heavy bill. It flies higher than the crow and is adept at aerial acrobatics.
It is a carrion bird, feeding the likes of dead sheep, and will also kill its own food also, including small mammals and birds, reptiles, as well as taking eggs and eating insects and seeds.
Ravens prefer to nest in a sheltered spot, favouring a rock crevice but also opting for trees. They build their nests from earth, moss, twigs and heather stalks, lining it with hair and wool. They raise just one brood per year, from February to March, which consists of 4-6 eggs.
Ravens are extremely intelligent and in some cases can even learn to talk.
If you are fascinated with ravens, read incessantly about them, observe them in nature, can recognize their unique voice, collect their feathers, collect raven art and artifacts, and know their literature and folklore from around the world, you are probably an amateur CORVIDOLOGIST, which is the branch of Ornithology specializing in RAVENS and their family. And magically speaking, Raven is your totem.
Raven (Corvus corax), also known as the Common Raven or the Northern Raven,is the largest bird in the family CORVIDAE or CORVINI. Raven's closest relatives in the subspecies CORVUS include the crows, jackdaws, and rooks. More distant Corvid cousins are Choughs, Treepies, Nutcrackers, Magpies and Jays.
There are many species of ravens around the world - Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides), Little Raven (Corvus mellori), Forest Raven (Corvus tasmanicus), New England Raven (Corvus (t). boreus), Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus), Dwarf Raven (Corvus (r). edithae), Brown-necked Raven (Corvus ruficollis), White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis), and Thick-billed Raven (Corvus crassirostris)
Most of us are familiar with the Common, or Northern Raven. It is the most widespread of all corvids, ranging throughout Europe, North Africa, Western Siberia, North America and Greenland. The bird prefers wild upland and mountainous regions, but also inhabits forests, inshore islands, coastal areas, steppes, semi-deserts, and plains. I have observed these expert foragers in cities and suburban areas as well.
Raven is a striking all black bird, 58 - 69 cm from beak to tail. Orthinologists believe that the all black plumage helps them absorb and retain heat in high altitudes and northern latitudes.
Distinctive features (to help you distinguish them from crows) are their large size, heavy bill, shaggy throat hackles, long fingered wing tips and long wedge shaped tail. In aerial silhouette their longer features (bill, tail and fingered wings) easily distinguish them from crows.
On closer observation (and they are often displayed in zoos) you will notice the strongly decurved distal part of the culmen, with prominent nasal bristles. The throat feathers are long and pointed, the tail is long and graduated. The entire body is glossy black, as are the bills, legs and feet. The black glossy feathers go slightly greenish on the head, under parts, tail and primaries, and bluish-purple on upper parts, secondaries and wing coverts. Their irides are dark brown.
Females measure smaller, but are not easily distinguishable from males. Juniors are a duller blackish brown until their second year.
The voice is normally a distinctive deep, harsh croak, or hollow croaking honk. Ravens have a large, complex vocabulary of sounds in their repertoire including a high knocking "toc toc toc", a dry, grating "Kraa", low guttural rattles, and some more musical calls. Captive birds have even been taught to speak.
They are solitary nesters, creating bulky nests out of twigs and branches lined with roots, moss, wool, and rags daubed with mud and dung. They build frequently on cliff faces or high in large trees, but have been known to nest in old buildings, or even in low bushes or on the ground in undisturbed open country.
Their clutch consists of three to seven (averaging five) eggs in various shades from light blue to greenish blue or blotched olive, gray and brown. Ravens usually lay in February, but it varies depending on the climate (as late as April in Greenland, or as early as December in Pakistan). Incubation is 18 - 21 days, with a sitting female, and the male will bring food to the nest. The young ravens fledge at 35 - 42 days, are fed by both parents, and stay with the pair for six months afterwards.
We usually observe ravens in pairs or family parties, but non-breeders gather in large groups at feeding sites or communal roosting. Their territories are large (between 17 and 44 sq. km), but with few disputes as they are tolerant of other birds. Flocks usually number in the tens, but flocks of more than 100 have been seen at feeding sites in harsher environments such as Iran or the Shetlands, or in winter.
Ravens enjoy playful flight patterns, such as soaring, tumbling and rolling. Their longer wings make them quite agile aerial acrobats.
A wild raven can live more than thirty years.
They are omnivorous eaters, preferring to scavenge, but able to kill when necessary. They prefer carrion - dead sheep, cattle, rabbits and fish, but will also eat nestling birds and eggs, rodents, shellfish, insects, seeds, berries and grain. They have been known, in Greenland, to hunt and kill ptarmigan in flight, and to kill puffins emerging from their burrows. Ravens will also hide and store food for later use. Near human habitations, they boldly scavenge in garbage dumps and for slaughter house scraps.
In northern regions they have been observed to hunt cooperatively with wolves. Ravens will alert wolves to prey, wait for the kill, then feed. Wolves and ravens have also been seen to engage in playful behavior with each other, ravens swooping down at the wolves, who will chase them playfully.
Ravens have been heavily persecuted by man, especially in farmlands where they will eat the seed and grain. In some regions the species have disappeared completely.
Corvophobia is the unnatural fear of corvids, especially ravens and crows. This fear has been promulgated throughout literature, such as the words of Edgar Alan Poe, who described them as ". . . grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous creatures." This is unfortunate, because they, in fact, are more helpful than harmful. Only one percent of their omnivorous diet consists of corn, while actually they prefer to devour agricultural pests such as grubs, caterpillars and worms. A study in New York found a single family of crows to devour about forty thousand pests in one nesting season.
In the animal world, ravens natural enemies are the great horned owl and red tail hawk. Ravens will cooperate together and mob these bigger birds to drive them off.
In spite of these obstacles, ravens (as well as the other corvids) are a highly successful species due to their high level of intelligence, flexibility, and adaptability.
In The Audobon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds, ornithologist John Terres writes, "Corvids have probably achieved the highest degree of intelligence to be found in any birds." Animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz agrees, writing that raven has the "highest mental development" among the avian species. Naturalist Tony Angell has proven in controlled laboratory experiments that ravens are "superior in intelligence to all other avian species tested." Irene Pepperberg, of the University of Arizona, has gone even further, stating that corvids share "the cognitive capacities of many primates."
A tale told by Aesop informs us that the intelligence of corvids has long been known. A thirsty crow found a pitcher of water, but the water was too far below the rim for his beak to reach. The clever crow began dropping pebbles into the pitcher, raising the water level until it reached the brim, where she could quench her thirst.
At Oxford University in England, ornithologists conducted an unusual experiment with two New Caledonian Crows named Betty and Abel, reported in the August 9, 2002 issue of the journal Science. They placed a tiny bucket of meat inside a pipe, and left two pieces of wire in their cage, one hooked and one straight, to see if the birds would choose the hooked wire to retrieve the bucket of meat, proving that birds were "tool users" on a par with higher levels of animal intelligence.
"We were delighted and extremely surprised" reported Alex Kacelnik, one of the bird experts studying the crows, when Abel stole the hooked wire from Betty, and rather than giving up, Betty "modified" the straight wire into a hooked wire, and was thus able to hook the bucket, pull it up, and retrieve her snack. This elevates ravens from "tool users" to "tool makers", which places them on a par with primates.
According to neurologist Stanley Cobb, birds do not have a complex cerebral cortex, such as mammals do, but rather, they have developed their hyperstraiatum, a part of their forebrain, that can carry out complex functions. Corvids, especially Ravens, Crows, and Magpies, have the largest brain size (i.e. the largest number of brain cells) among birds, including the largest hyperstriatum.
Wolf and Raven
A Wolf Tries to Keep Ravens from its Wapiti Kill
The wolf and the raven are often mentioned together in mythology, lore and scripture. In nature, the wolf and raven have an important relationship. Wolves use ravens as aerial spotters for possible sources of food, as well as using them to alert them of any danger ahead.
The raven also gains from this relationship with the wolf. Being carrion birds, ravens share in the feast provided by the wolves when they bring down their prey. Golden eagles bald eagles have also been spotted feeding on the remains of wolf prey along with ravens.
Raven Lore: Folklore & Legends The Raven and Water:
The raven has a plethora of lore surrounding it. Richly interwoven into Celtic and Norse mythology, it also features in many superstitions and countless legends and stories, from Noah to the Tower of London.
Those interested in perusing the very early stories of ravens should note that they often speak of the raven as the crow.
The raven is often associated with water, often with the finding of water, or lack of it. Sacrificing gods sent the raven for water, but the bird delayed his mission to wait for some figs to ripen. Angry, the gods punished the raven by cursing him with a great thirst in the summer, which is said to be why the raven croaks.
The Raven, Death and War
The raven is also, quite famously, known as an omen of death. Being carrion feeders, seeing them feeding on gibbet corpses was once a common sight, and most likely where the association arose.
A famous example of ravens being portends of death include the Roman philosopher, statesman and political theorist Cicero being forewarned of his death by the fluttering of ravens.
Raven is a war bird. The Danes believed that observing ravens could help foretell the outcome of a battle. Indeed, they are said to have foretold the deaths of Plato and Tiberius, and told Irish god Lugh of the invasion of the Formorians in Celtic mythology.
The Raven and Prophecy
The raven is also frequently linked with prophecy, further enhancing its status as a bird of the occult. Not only was it a messenger of the gods, both as an informant and as a guide, but it also was thought to be the most prophetic of all birds. People are still referred to as having "the foresight of ravens".
Raven, bird of prophecy, is the protector and teacher of seers and clairvoyants.
Raven is considered both a good and bad omen according to different cultures
Swift, swift, you dragons of the night, that dawning
May bear the raven's eye
Cymberline, by William Shakespeare
Raven is a contrary spirit. On the negative side, Raven represents the profane, the devil, evil spirits, the trickster and thief, war and destruction, death and doom, the void.
Yet in many cultures Raven also represents deep magic, the mystery of the unknown, death and transformation, creation, healing, wisdom, protection, and prophecy.
Raven is both the symbol of the sun, and the symbol of a moonless night. She is the birth giving light in the center of our galaxy, and the black hole in the center of the universe, to which we are all traveling to our eventual extinction.
Raven is the fatal touch of the Calleach in winter, the wisdom of Odin, the vessel of prophecy given to a seer, the mighty protector of the Western Isles, and the healing message of an Indian shaman.
Raven is a complex bird, both in nature and in mythology.
You might want to choose a Ravenish magical name. There are many names associated with Raven from the differing traditions. Below is a list of European names:
Corvin, Corwin, Corwun, Korwin and Korun
Raven's Friend (fem.)
a Corvid name
Corvus, Corvi and Corvinus
Branwen, Branda, Brenda
Tokens and Artwork:
When choosing a totem, find a symbol to represent that totem and keep it on you, or in a sacred place in your home. (For instance, I always wear a silver raven ring). This token will help you to communicate with your totem, and it will protect and guide you both in magical and mundane affairs.
It is illegal to hunt and kill ravens and crows in the United States, under the Endangered Species Act. Keeping ravens and crows as pets are also illegal.
Raven artwork is all around us. In the northwest Indian and Alaskan cultures, Raven is the Creator Deity. Native American artists have created artifacts, T-shirts, emblems, and all sorts of sacred raven art.
Raven and Crow are favorite subjects in traditional Chinese and Japanese art. I have found raven paintings by local Japanese and Chinese artists in San Francisco.
Raven art is catching on in Western Culture, especially among Celtic and Norse style artists. I now find ravens in jewelry, decals, T-shirts, and altar cloths, available from vendors in local craft fairs, Scottish and Celtic Games, Scandanavian festivals, Renaissance fairs and other historical re-enactment fairs. You'd be surprised where you can find ravens. I have found wooden and metal ravens in antique stores. Halloween is an especially good season to find raven designs sold as decorations. Many artists and craftspeople are open to suggestion, and available for commissions. The more people that ask for raven designs, the more they will show up in the marketplace! If you have a favorite local artist - commission him/her to do a raven design!
Raven art can also be found in several tarot card decks - including The Medicine Cards and The Druid Animal Oracle. Pull these cards out and use them in meditation, trance work, spirit guide work.
Raven represents winter, because of their ability to endure the cold. My husband, who was stationed in Greenland with the Army in the 1960's, saw only two animals the year he was there - arctic foxes and ravens!
Raven also represents night, their ebony plumage reminding us of the Dark Moon. Raven magic is very potent at this time of month when the majesty of the starry universe unfolds above us. Raven is an ideal guide on the path of the deepest mysteries.
And in Eastern traditions, Raven represents the sun - rising, noon and setting.
The intelligence and adaptability of Raven really makes Her an appropriate totem for any time or season.
There are many chants and songs that can be used to invoke Raven.
A traditional Scottish chant to shapeshift into a crow (for astral traveling), while holding a crow or raven's feather: (From the witch trial of Isobel Gowdie)
I shall go into a crow
with sorrow and such and a black thraw
And I shall to in the Devil's name
Until I come home again!
To change back:
Crow, crow, crow God,
Send Thee a black thraw
I was a crow just now
But I shall be
in a woman's likeness even now
Crow, crow, crow God,
Send Thee a black thraw!
Prophecy and Divination
I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech.
To invoke Raven as bird of prophecy, you can use the old English rhyme used to interpret omens by the number of ravens, crows, or rooks seen in a flock:
One for bad news,
Two for mirth.
Three is a wedding,
Four is a birth.
Five is for riches,
Six is a thief.
Seven, a journey,
Eight is for grief.
Nine is a secret,
Ten is for sorrow.
Eleven is for love,
Twelve - joy for tomorrow.
Keep a raven feather or artifact with your divination tools. Ravens especially preside over dark tools such as dark mirrors and onyx scrying balls, but can be used with any tool.
Raven is an excellent dream guide. Most Native American craft stores will sell dream wheels (or you can make your own). Attach a raven feather or artifact to the wheel and hang it over your bed. Powerful and prophetic dreams will come your way.
When drawing a circle using Raven imagery, clothe yourself in dark flowing robes. In the Morganian tradition of Wicca, the Raven priestess circles the perimeter nine times in honor of the nine priestesses of Avalon.
Adding raven feathers to your tools (for instance attaching the black feathers to your wand, staff, athame, shield, drum, pentacle) or crafting your tools in the shape of ravens is a powerful way to use Raven Magic. I have also worn a raven mask when drawing down the Raven Goddess, Morgan.
Use Raven to guide you into trance. There are many poems and songs dedicated to Raven that you can use to guide you.
Invocation of Raven
by Susa Morgan Black
Morgana of the Dark Moon Night
Onyx bird, bold in flight
Raven, come to us now!
Keeper of the sacred well
Where the faerie spirits dwell
Raven, come to us now!
Guardian of the Blackthorn Tree
Home of the feared Banshee
Raven, come to us now!
Teacher of warriors, and of sex,
spells that heal and spells that hex
Raven, come to us now!
Bean Sidhe by the river bed
Washing shrouds of the newly dead
Raven, come to us now!
Twin birds of memory and thought
Who brought the knowledge Odin sought
Raven, come to us now!
Raven with his bag of tricks
Always getting in a fix
Raven, come to us now!
Stalwart guardian of the Land
The sacred bird of mighty Bran
Raven, come to us now!
Wise One of the Second Sight
Who foretells our human plight
Raven, come to us now!
Raven, Oldest of us All
Watch over us and hear our call
Raven, come to us now!
Bird whose magic is revealing
The hallowed mystery of healing
Both Celtic and Druid Slànaighear (Healer) and Native American shamans use Raven's spirit for healing, especially long distance healing. When doing a healing circle for an absent friend, the energy can be sent in the form of a raven.
If you are working directly with someone who is ill, you can use raven feathers to stroke their body, collecting and drawing out the negative energy, to be shaken out and cleansed later. Raven is powerful medicine.
The dead are lying in the field,
Oh, hear Her Kraaak and cry!
The gaping wounds, a raven's yield,
She comes hungry from the sky.
- The Morrigan by S. Black
In nature, Ravens will mob their enemies if they come too near their nest. Ward your home or business against malefactors with the spirits of warrior ravens, like Owein's Raven Army, the Morrigan, or the Valkyres. When you invoke their fearless spirits, nothing can prevail against you.
Raven Superstitions Raven Augery and Symbolism Ravens and the Weather, Negative Raven Superstitions
Raven Lore: ~*~*~*~*~*~
Ravens facing the direction of a clouded sun foretell hot weather
If you see a raven preening, rain is on the way
Raven Superstitions of Death and War ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Ravens flying towards each other signify an omen of war
Seeing a raven tapping on a window foretold death
If a raven is heard croaking near a house, there will be a death in it
If a raven flies around the chimney of a sick person's house, they will die
Positive Raven Superstitions ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Many parts of Celtic Britain and Ireland view the raven as a good omen:
Shetland and Orkney - if a maiden sees a raven at Imbolc she can foretell the direction of her future husband's home by following the raven's path of flight
Wales - if a raven perches on a roof, it means prosperity for the family
Scotland - deerstalkers believed it bode well to hear a raven before setting out on a hunt
Ireland - ravens with white feathers were believed a good omen, especially if they had white on the wings. Ravens flying on your right hand or croaking simultaneously were also considered good omens
Do Ravens Represent Good or Evil?
Many associate Raven with death, war and evil, while others see Raven as a bird of wisdom, magic and good omens. How do you view this enigmatic bird? Do you see Raven as a good omen or a bad omen?
The Raven permeates the myths of so many cultures, from the ancient Celtic and Norse, to Greek and Roman, right through to Native American and Christian spirituality.
The Raven's appearances in mythology are discussed below. First, here is a list of deities associated with ravens, the most closely associated of which would be the Celtic goddess, the Morrigan, and the Norse god Odin.
Apollo Arthur Badbh Bran Branwen Circe Freya Macha Mari Mithras Morrigan Nantaosuelta Nemain Odin Rhiannon
The Raven in Norse Mythology Raven and Odin Ravens are an iconic symbol of Norse mythology and most closely associated with Odin.
The raven was a powerful war symbol to the Norse people. Warriors would fly black flags emblazoned with ravens during battle.
The goddess Freya also had a prophetic raven which she lent to Odin.
The sea raven was sacred to Odin, and was also the emblem of Danish raiders.
Odin himself had two ravens, Hugin and Munin (Mind and Memory). They perched on Yggdrasil, the World Tree, and would fly around the world seeking out news to deliver to Odin. For ever after ravens were thought of as spies and not to be spoken in front of.
The raven was also connected to Odin as the Yuletide father and the rebirth of the sun from the Underworld in the midwinter.
Odin, with His Two Crows, Hugin and Munin
The pagan Danes and Vikings used the raven banner on their ships, in Odin's honor. These flags, usually sewn by the daughters of great warriors and kings, were tokens of luck on their voyages. Houses where ravens nested were also thought to be lucky.
Odin had two ravens - Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory) who flew about the world, delivering messages, gathering knowledge and reporting back to him. One of Odin's many titles is Hrafna-Gud, the God of the Ravens. Odin's daughters, the warlike Valkyres, were sometimes said to take the shape of ravens.
In the Elder Edda's cryptic poem, the Grimnismal, a verse refers to Odin's ravens:
Huginn and Muninn, every day
They fly over earthground.
I fear for Huginn,
that he may not return.
But even more, I fear
for the loss of Muninn.
In the Norse shamanic tradition, Odin's ravens represent the powers of necromancy, clairvoyance and telepathy, and they were guides for the dead. This poem expresses a shaman's fear of his loss of magical powers. (Source: The Well of Remembrance by Ralph Metzner, Shambala, Boston, 1994)
The Raven in British, Irish & Celtic Mythology Magickal Graphics
Celtic Raven Lore In Celtic, Movran means 'sea raven", and Macha means "raven", as does the name "Bran" (Slavic Branu meaning "raven").
Ravens are closely associated with the god Bran. His head was taken to the White Mount in London, where it continued to prophesise and protect Britain from invasion. It was removed by King Arthur to show he was now Britain's protector, but the descendants of Bran's ravens remain on the site, which is where the Tower of London was later built. The ravens live in the Tower and are still said to protect Britain from invasion. According to legend, if they ever leave the Tower, Britain will fall to invaders.
Ravens also protected the Gaulish city of Lyon, which had the white raven Lugos as its totem bird.
Raven: Omen of War
The raven was a bird of death and war for the Gaels and Cornish.
Celtic tales had the raven associated with death and battle goddesses, namely Morrigan, Badbh, Magickal Graphics and Nemain, who could all take the form of a raven. Morrigan (meaning "great queen") became a raven on the battlefield and would foretell the outcome of the fight to the Dagda.
Warriors would invite the Morrigan to battle through the blowing of war horns, which imitated the croaking of ravens.
Ravens are said to have warned the god Lugh of the impending invasion by the Formorians. Ravens: Guardians of the Underworld Ravens are also guardians of Underworld treasure. In the Chaw ("raven") Gully mine in Cornwall, gold is said to be guarded by a fierce raven.
According to myth, a stone collected from a raven's nest is called a "stone of victory" or "raven stone" and can help discover treasure and aid prophecy. One such stone was owned by Brahan the Seer.
The Celts held the raven in high esteem as a sacred bird, and its Gaelic name Fitheach appears as part of the name of Pictish deities and sacred kings. The Raven in Arthurian Mythology
Morgan Le Fay (Le Faye meaning "the fate") is said to be the later counterpart of the Morrigan, who could transform into a raven. Morgan could appear as a raven also.
Elsewhere in Arthurian stories, while Arthur plays the board game Gwyddbwyll with Owain, his warriors are attacked by those of Owain in the form of ravens.
While the name Arthur means "bear-man", the Irish name Art-Bran is translated as "priest of the raven", but can also be translated as "bear-raven".
Many areas believe Arthur to have become a raven following his death. Consequently many countrymen still tip their hats to ravens. It was considered a crime to kill one as to do so would insult Arthur, and in Wales and the West Country, ravens were considered royal birds.
In Beowulf, an Anglo Saxon poem, is written " . . . craving for carrion, the dark raven shall have its say, and tell the eagle how it fared at the feast, when, competing with the wolf, it laid bare the bones of corpses."
In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Lady Macbeth sees the raven as a herald of misfortune as it "croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan."
In England, tombstones are sometimes called "ravenstones".
Among the Irish Celts, Raven was associated with the Triple Goddess, the Morrigan, who took the shape of Raven over battlefields as Chooser of the Slain. She was a protector of warriors, such as Chuhulian and Fionn MacCual.
Raven is also the totem of the pan-Celtic Sorceress/Goddess Morgan le Fay, who was also called the Queen of Faeries. In some tales, she is Queen of the Dubh Sidhe, or Dark Faeries, who were a race of tricksters who often took the form of ravens.
Irish and Scots Bean Sidhes (Banshees) could take the shape of ravens as they cried above a roof, an omen of death in the household below.
Tha gliocas an ceann an fhitich or Fice ceann na fhitich are Scots Gaelic proverbs meaning "There is wisdom in a raven's head."
"To have a raven's knowledge" is an Irish proverb meaning to have a seer's supernatural powers. Raven is considered one of the oldest and wisest of animals.
Also a bird of wisdom and prophecy, Raven was the totem of the Welsh God, Bran the Blessed, the giant protector of the Britain, the Isle of the Mighty. After the battle with Ireland, Bran was decapitated, and his head became an oracle. Eventually Bran asked to have his head buried in what is now Tower Hill in London to protect Britain from invasion. Bran's Ravens are kept there to this day, as protection against invasion. During World War II, Tower Hill was bombed, and the ravens were lost. Winston Churchill, knowing full well the ancient legends, ordered the immediate replacement of ravens, and they were brought to Tower Hill from Celtic lands - the Welsh hills and Scottish Highlands.
Raven was the favorite bird of the solar deity, Lugh (Irish/Scots), or Lludd (Welsh) the Celtic God of Arts and Crafts. Lugh was said to have two ravens to attend on all the His needs (similar to Odin and his ravens).
Many Celtic tribes and clans descend from animals. An ancient clan called the Brannovices, the Raven Folk, once existed in Britain. To this day, the Glengarry MacDonalds of Scotland have a raven on their heraldic arms, and their war cry is Creagan-an Fhithich - Raven's Rock, a landmark on their ancestral lands.
The Scottish Goddess of winter, The Cailleach, sometimes appears as a raven. A touch from her brings death.
Giving a child his first drink from the skull of a raven will give the child powers of prophecy and wisdom in the Hebrides.
Scottish Highlanders associate ravens with the second sight. An excellent book on the subject is Ravens and Black Rain: The Story of Highland Second Sight by Elizabeth Sutherland (Corgi Books, Great Britain, 1985)
In Cornwall, as in England, King Arthur is said to live on in the form of a raven, and it is unlucky to shoot one.
"Have not your worships read the annals and histories of England, in which are recorded the famous deeds of King Arthur, whom we in our popular Castilian invariably call King Artus, with regard to whom it is an ancient tradition, and commonly received all over that kingdom of Great Britain, that this king did not die, but was changed by magic art into a raven, and that in process of time he is to return to reign and recover his kingdom and scepter; for which reason it cannot be proved that from that time to this any Englishman ever killed a raven?" - Don Quixote by Cervantes
The Welsh Owein had a magical army of ravens.
In Welsh folklore, the raven is also an omen of death. If the raven makes a choking sound, it is a portent of the death rattle. A crying raven on a church steeple will "overlook" the next house where death will occur. A raven could smell death and would hover over the area where the next victim dwelt, including animals. Ravens were heard to "laugh" when someone was about to die. Welsh witches, and the Devil, would transform themselves into ravens.
The Raven in Greek Mythology and History writers spoke of the raven portending storms, and consequently associated it with rain and clouds. Two ravens were linked with a rain-making ceremony at Krannon in Thessaly.
Coins from the fourth century BC depicted two ravens on a wagon, along with a jar of water that had pieces of metal hanging from it. This was a form of ancient "magic" whereby the jangling metal and splashing water would create a mini thunderstorm, with which to summon a real one.
The Athenian Oracle also mentioned ravens, stating that when ravens forsook the woods, famine was imminent. "Ravens bear the characteristic of Saturn, the author of these calamities and have a very early perception of the bad disposition of that planet". The Raven in Roman Mythology Photo Credit: Jupiter Images CorporationRavens were sacred to Apollo, the god of prophecy, and were oracular birds to him
Ravens are also associated with Mithras, and in Mithraic religion (popular among the Roman military) the first initiation was called the raven or "servant of the sun".
Ravens often acted as the protectors of human seers. Ravens are mentioned in The Bible and have various segments of religious folklore attached to them also.
In one story of Noah, a story preceding Genesis in age tells of Noah sending out a raven, a swallow and a dove from the ark in order to find land.
Ravens are sometimes spoken of as the protectors of prophets.
They are said to have fed Elijah in the desert and aided Paul the Hermit, St Cuthbert and St Bernard.
Raven feeds Elijah in the desert
Adversely, the raven was also once known as the devil's bird, with some saying that ravens contained the souls of wicked priests.
In Yorkshire, children were told that a great black bird would carry them off if they were naughty
Other stories say that the raven was once white, but was turned black as punishment for committing sin. The sins vary but one popular one is that the raven fed on the corpses of the drowned in the story of Noah's Ark.
Ravens are considered a solar symbol in Chinese mythology. The three legged raven lives in the sun, representing the sun's three phases - rising, noon and setting. When the sunlight hits their glossy black feathers just right, they seem to turn to silver.
The Shinto Goddess, Amaterasu is sometimes represented as a giant raven, Yata-Garasu.
Brahma appears as a raven in one of his incarnations. Ravens are also sacred to Shiva and Kali.
In Aborigine mythology, Raven tried to steal fire from seven sisters (the Pleides), and was charred black in the unsuccessful attempt.
To Egyptians, ravens represented destruction and malevolence. However, Arabs call raven Abu Aajir - the Father of Omens.
The Raven in Native American Mythology Trickster Raven
According to Jamie Sams and David Carson, in their excellent book Medicine Cards (which accompanies a beautiful deck of animal cards), Raven's medicine is magic. She is the Great Mystery of the Void.
Black, to Native Americans, is a color of magical power, and only to be feared if misused. Raven symbolizes the void - the mystery of that which is not yet formed. Ravens are symbolic of the Black Hole in Space, which draws in all energy toward itself and releases it in new forms. The iridescent blue and green that can be seen in the glossy black feathers of the raven represents the constant change of forms and shapes that emerge from the vast blackness of the void. In Native American tradition, Raven is the guardian of both ceremonial magic and healing circles. She is also the patron of smoke signals.
Raven's element is air, and she is a messenger spirit, which Native American shamans use to project their magic over great distances.
In many northwestern American Indian traditions, Raven is the Trickster, much like the Norse Loki. Observing ravens in nature, we find that they often steal food from under the noses of other animals, often working in pairs to distract the unfortunate beasts. Anne Cameron has written several northwestern Indian tales (Raven and Snipe, Raven Goes Berrypicking, Raven Returns the Water, and others) with the Raven as Trickster theme. Native Americans called the raven the messenger of death. The Raven is found in the stories of most tribes and is generally considered a Trickster.
In one story, Raven brings sunlight to a dark world.
The Tsimshian (of British Columbia and Alaska) were given light by Raven, who had tricked a tribal chief.
The chief had kept the light in a box, but Raven created an eleborate scheme to obtain it. He transformed himself into a spruce needle and then fell from the sky into a cup of water that the chief's daughter was drinking, impregnating her. Raven was born into human form, and stole the chief's box before transforming back into his original form.
As he flew off with his stolen prize, Raven saw some fishermen. Hungry, he asked them if he could have some of their catch. but they refused. Raven then flew away and released the daylight.
Raven Totem Animal
Shamanism and Native American spirituality speak of animal totems. These are important nature symbols used by people to get in touch with specific required qualities found within an animal. A person's totem animal will have qualities they need, that they connect with, or feel a deep affinity toward. You can work with more than one totem animal, although many people tend to have a main totem that they work with all their life.
Raven is known as the "keeper of secrets" in numerous native tribes.
As a totem, Raven is the teacher of mysticism. Having such a wealth of myth and lore surrounding him throughout many cultures and ages, Raven is the ideal teacher of this subject.
The black color of ravens and their carrion diet associates them with darkness. This dark void represents the the unconscious.
Raven brings heightened awareness and a deeper understanding of our consciousness. Raven allows us to see into the hearts of others using our newly found perception, helping us to empathise with their feelings.
Raven encourages us to experience transformation, so that we can be reunited with the mysteries of the universe, and rid ourselves of our inner demons.
Raven Medicine and Totems
The Raven, Magic and Witches Associated Elements: Air and Water
Associated Festivals: Samhain and Imbolc
Station on the Wheel of the Year: Northwest and Northeast
Raven is said to be the protector and teacher of seers and clairvoyants. In the past, witches were thought to turn themselves into ravens to escape pursuit. The Raven as a Familiar
A familiar is a spiritual animal power or supernatural spirit, representing a species as a whole (i.e. Raven, not a raven) in a similar way to a Totem Animal.
A witch works with a familiar by drawing on a particular species for their strength and abilities. A familiar may also act as a guide to the Otherworld, and act as helpers in healing or magic.
The term familiar is also sometimes applied to a witch's companion animal, such as a black cat.
The Raven is a teacher, particularly of magical systems. If you find that one is attracted to you, it means you have the potential to be a great worker of magic. Raven does not care if this is for good or bad.
Raven familiars are not for the newly initiated - Raven only appears as a familiar to those who have progressed significantly down the path. Your consciousness must be at a certain level to understand the teachings Raven brings.
Raven brings the secrets from the underworld, particularly bringing the secret of transformation from the underworld to the world of magic.
Raven appearing physically out of the blue, or in a vision, is an important omen.
The Raven appearing in a vision can signify a warning, telling you to take heed as you may be in dangerous territory or are attracting negativity to yourself through magic or other workings.
Alternatively it can mean that the higher powers have acknowledged your progress in your magical workings and have sent Raven to instruct you further in the magical arts.…