This post with consider both the crow and the raven. They are from the same family and are often used interchangeably in myths, legends and beliefs.
There is so much to say about these amazing birds that I can only hope to touch on a fraction of it. If this is a card that appears for you or you resonate with, do go and do further research and get to know more about these fantastic animals. Definitely check out Crows, smarter than you think: John Marzluff at TEDxRainier.
Crows and ravens
The main difference between the two birds is that the raven is bigger and prefers to live away from humans whereas crows are frequently seen in towns and cities.
Crows and ravens are amazingly intelligent. Mindblowingly so. Seriously watch that TEDx talk! They are brilliant problem solvers and one of few animals to use tools, and they even use tools to get tools to get to the food which speaks volumes about their brains. All of this mental skill means they are very adaptable and good with change.
They have great human facial recognition and also great memories. If you annoy a crow or raven, be careful, they will remember and hold a grudge…
Perhaps another sign of their intelligence is their communication ability. They have lots of different calls and each one has a meaning and they can share messages. As a card of the air suit, this is very relevant and we will see shortly that they are portrayed as messengers of the gods. These communication skills ties them with clairvoyance, telepathy and prophesy.
In terms of diet, they eat anything pretty much. Especially the crow who is a very opportunistic feeder which aids their survival. In Japan, the crow or raven, I can’t remember which, has been regularly observed using cars at traffic lights to crack open nuts. They will hide, or cache, food to be eaten later which isn’t exciting in itself, a lot of animals do this… BUT if they are being watched they falsely cache, either depositing a stone or nothing at all! This is perhaps one reason they are known as a trickster or mischief maker!
They watch and observe, masters of seeing without being seen, and learn from each others experiences. So if you’ve been mean to a crow or raven they will tell their friends. The lesson here is, don’t annoy them. They are already considered bad luck in some cultures so you’ll really be in trouble if you add a grudge into the mix.
Crows gather in huge groups and are very sociable creatures. Crows often mate for life, and young from previous years often help with raising their siblings. They have even been known to hold ‘funerals’ where they gather around a dead bird and are still and quiet for a few minutes.
I mentioned in the post about the wolf that the wolf and the raven help each other out with hunting; the raven can see where the prey is from above which guides the wolf and then the raven can enjoy the leftovers.
It could well be simply it’s colour which has led the crow or raven to be associated with death, ill tidings and bad luck but a number of myths exist which tell of the bird being once white. These generally involve it flying into fire and charring it’s feathers. Sometimes this is to steal fire and sometimes it’s to bring fire to the humans or animals who didn’t have it.
In mythology, we see the raven featured in a number of creation myths. Once he had created earth, he created man and then, to amuse himself, he created woman and has never been bored since. Perhaps this explains why these birds always appear to be watching us – are we starring in a play for them?!
In another myth, which I can’t find at the moment, raven got into a fight with the coyote. Both creatures were immortal and thus they would fight for eternity as they were evenly matched. At times the raven is on top and ruling the fight and the world is good. At times the coyote is on top and ruling the fight and the world is less good. This fight will continue until the world ends and beyond as in a fight between two immortals, there can be no winner.
There are also various versions of a story in which the raven gave us the sun. In the one I read but can’t find right now, the sun was a small golden orb, like that in the card, and the raven didn’t know what it was. At some point in the story, it ends up in the sky where it shines so brightly that it becomes the sun.
In Chinese mythology, a three legged raven lives in the sun.
In Norse mythology, the god Odin had two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Their names mean thought and memory and they would fly all over the world bringing back news of all they have seen and heard for Odin.
Another deity associated with crows and ravens is the Irish goddess Morrigan who is a triple goddess linked with birth, death and rebirth as well as war. It was said that she could transform into a raven and would make advances on soldiers. If they refused they would go on to die in battle. Since the Morrigan always knew in advance the outcome of any battle, the Irish proverb “…has a Raven’s knowledge” means the person it describes can see into the future. Crows and ravens were said to be a guide from our world to the afterworld, possibly something which arose from the stories of the Morrigan.
Another death association is seen in the Raven Mocker of the Cherokee. This evil being takes life from the old, the sick and the dying. It then adds this life to their own and thus increased their life span. Hearing a Raven Mocker is a sign that someone will soon die.
I really could go on and on but we’ll try and keep this brief. So as well as birth, light, life and death, it was also believed that witches could turn into ravens to escape danger and that the crow holds within it’s mind’s eye three realities; past, present and future. Thus tying in with the clairvoyance mentioned above.
Wild Unknown Tarot
The Hierophant pictures a black bird which I have always assumed to be a crow. This card is about tradition, religion, teachers and conformity.
But as I’ve already written so much, I’m going to direct you to the lovely Carrie Mallon who has done a series of posts discussing the Wild Unknown tarot cards.
And in conclusion…
Woah that was a lot of info. Let’s sum it up, these birds are:
- highly intelligent and excellent problem solvers
- great memory but may bear grudges
- great communicators as well as links with clairvoyance, telepathy and prophesy
- messengers of the gods
- creators of life and light
- strong links with death
So, now that I’m coming to the end of my love letter to the crow and the raven, let’s look at what that all might mean if you’ve pulled this card.
Use your head, think things out, this bird is very much of the mental realm. Look at how you are communicating with others, are you being clear in what you’re saying, are you being truthful, are others being truthful, are others saying more than their words suggest?
But as well as all the strong mind focused work, the crow and the raven are also creators. You can bring life into your world, you can create your own sun, your own life force. What sparks energy in you? What brings a light to your face? Do these things. Illuminate yourself. And to do that may mean something has to die. Something has to change or be let go of. And that’s ok. As we’ve seen strongly with the vulture and again here, death is life.