This time of year crows come to the forefront. Halloween’s roster of characters include things black from crows to bats. How did the crow’s image get to the top of the evil list?
We humans think of one crow alone in a tree to be mysterious (as in the picture above). As the flock gets bigger and bigger we go into a primeval mode. We feel on the defensive and that these dark crows could attack us. Are you thinking of the old Alfred Hitchcock movie the Birds?
So, here it is the celebration of Halloween, the holiday of goblins, ghouls and the grim reaper and what do we see? Huge flocks of crows forming roosts each evening. Some roosts are only a hundred or so individuals but then there are the ones like in Renton, Washington that are in the thousands. As dusk approaches they flock to the determined common ground. Is it coincidence that large groups of crows gather during the celebrations like Halloween adn the Day of the Dead? Some may think not and again the crows image falls lower.
Our historic knowledge of crows and ravens has not always been happy images. These images range from flocks of birds raiding the fall harvest to them scavenging among battlefield dead. How can anyone not fear a creature that peeks the eyes out of dead soldiers? Not that we have witnessed this phenomena in the current decades. Humans have found new ways in warfare that don’t leave dead just lying around. We bomb them to pieces and think we are being more humane. Hah!! and crows are evil? Look at our image before you throw the first stone on these intelligent birds.
Forklore around crows and ravens is not limited to just one continent. How could it be many tribes and cultures individually admire and fear them? Their intellegence is so above the norm for non-human creatures we attribute our own qualities to them. Here are several myths and forklore that have grown up around our dear raven and crow friends.
Odin the Norse god of old had a pair of ravens named Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Mind). Each daybreak they were sent out into the world to observe what was happening and question everybody, including the dead. By sunrise they would come back to whisper into their master’s ear what they had seen and learnt.
Pacific Northwest indigenous people think of the Raven/Crow as a sage and trickster. A similar story of the world with no light is found in many of the New World’s people. The world is a dark place and in that story the Raven decided he would bring light to the world. The Chief of Heaven kept it in a box and the raven conceived a plan to steal it. He became a leaf on a stream where the chief’s daughter was drinking. She gave birth to him and as the favored grandson the Chief of Heaven gave it Raven. He turned back into a bird and flew away with the box of light. Then he dropped it in error and the light broke into many pieces creating the stars, moon and sun.
In the North American mythology raven is a personification of supreme being. When it flaps its wings, it creates the wind, the lightning and the thunder. And it is also the raven who is responsible for the rhythm of seasons and providing the shamans with their visionary and healing powers. Wait..this is a good image!! Are we human’s confused or what?
This difference in how European and North American People saw the raven and crow led to several disputes. Indigenous people respected and revered them while Europeans despised them. This led to disrespect between the cultures.
The crow has also had a role in the Asiatic mythology. According to chinese legends, ten red crows with three paws flew away from the East Blackberry Tree to bring light to the world. But they brought an unbearable heat to the Earth. Yi The Good Archer killed nine of them, and saved the world. The last Crow is now in the Sun. Interesting how this is another myth around crows and the light on earth.
In the Bible, the crow is sent by Noah to search earth after the flood. But the crow didn’t say that the flood was finished and was considered selfish. Another Bible story is after Adam and Eve were driven away from the Paradise, the crows started to eat carrion. So they became black-feathered. At the end of time, the crows will find their beauty again and sing harmoniously to praise God. They are the symbol of resurrection in these stories.
In India, in the Mahâbhârata, the messengers of death are compared to crows. In Laos, the water soiled by crows can’t be used for ritual purification. Guess they are not thought all light and grace by all.
No wonder these black beauties have an image problem. One day they are riding high as the creator of the world and then the next century they are feared as the death of things. If you think about it, the end of something is the beginning too. The crow and raven then are one of god’s creatures who traverses both sides of good and evil. Showing us that it is not as simple as black and white, good or bad and heaven or hell.
Thank you to http://www.perspectivesmagazine.sk/news/ravens-and-crows-in-mythology-folklore-and-religion/ and http://thecrow.tripod.com/myth.html for information regarding folklore on Ravens and Crows.