Crows-Ravens and Halloween

Corvids (Crows & Ravens) are some of the most popular symbols of Halloween.   Months ago I wrote an article about why people think Crows are Evil.  evil crows post   In that article I talked about how we as humans might fear a bird that is so smart.  Or is it that in our clean and tidy world we don’t take well to them feeding on battlefield dead.  Lets look at this subject in more detail:

They are black & that color is associated with the powers of darkness.  Sounds like a simple reason but not many birds are all black and glossy.

However, other reasons, as I mentioned in my earlier article is they eat carrion.   Not only dead animals but also humans left in the open such as battlefields.   Modern battlefields don’t really experience this like days of old.  Gettysburg of the US Civil War and Culloden (Battle of Scot & English in 1845) are from a time that is so much messier than our methods of killing each other.   Add modern combat medicine and bodies left laying around are pretty rare in this century.

Lets get gory (yes Halloween is that kind of celebration) and crows do something that gives all of us the willies & chills.  They eat the eyeballs or other soft tissue first.   Their beaks can’t easily break the skin of the dead they are munching on so they go for the easy tasty places.

They do occasionally attack and kill small animals hence they have earned  “unkindness of ravens” and “murder of crows” used to describe flocks of these birds.  However, they do eat other foods, berries, insects, grain, worms and by eating roadkill they are cleaning up a messy by product of our busy arterial.

They don’t have song bird voices either and even learn how to imitate human speech.  Some of us think they are smart enough that they aren’t really imitating but rather have learned to communicate in our language.  Their natural voices produce a wide variety of harsh and sometimes disturbing noises which most people find unsettling.   Nothing like a crow cawing outside your window to wake you up freaked out and worried what the day will bring.

Myths and Superstitions could also be why we pick Corvids as mascots of Halloween.

In Germany it is told Ravens can find the souls of the dead and even contain the souls of the damned.

In Sweden the croaking sound of Ravens is thought to the voices of murdered people who were not properly buried.

The Tower of London has six Ravens because the legend says if anything should befall them, England will be invaded.

A Crow or Raven on the roof foretells death or misfortune to the home’s inhabitants.  A raven on a church steeple is bad news for a whole community.   I have to comment here- We have quite a flock (murder) of crows we feed and entertain daily.   They rest on our roof day after day.  I like to think they give us good luck.

The Northwest coastal people have traditions that portray the Raven as both the creator spirit, trickster, hero or villain all at the same time.   He is a great shiftshaper and can assume any image to get what he wants.  He either is the creator of the world or plays a big part in its creation.  Their Crow stories explore themes of justice versus the Raven who has a greedy motivation.

Are you now convinced they must be the most evil thing in the world and deserve to be associated with Halloween?   If you have read my blog about their families and behaviors, you know I don’t think that.

But remember, they are Black.

Sources: -Article by Rosemary Drisdelle on “Ravens and Crows – Halloween Symbols” October 18, 2008

American  Crow.” Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds.

Birds in Legend Fable and Folklore. Ingersoll, Ernest. New York:  Longmans, Green and Co.; 1923

Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Perrins, Christopher ed. Buffalo:  Firefly Books, 2003


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