Crows and ravens are majestic birds found on every continent except Antarctica and South America. They are so similar it’s hard to tell them apart, the main difference being size. Even in myth some deities are associated interchangeably with Crow and Raven as their symbolic significance is basically the same.
The American crow is about 14 – 16” long. Ravens are quite a bit larger, 22 – 27” and clunkier in proportions. Both birds are relatively long-lived; wild ravens can live up to seventeen years and crows up to twenty.
Mystery, Intuition, Magic, Destiny, Death, Transformation, Commitment, Wisdom, Intelligence, Fearlessness, Strength, Communication, Playfulness
Mystery … Transformation
As scavengers on the battlefield, Crow and Raven have long been associated with death. In myth they are portrayed not as the cause of death but as its harbingers and scavengers. A group of crows is called a murder. Some scientists would like to see that name changed as it supports negative associations with violent death.
Both birds figure prominently in Celtic Mythology. Morrigan, The Phantom Queen, emerges from the darkness wielding her magic. She was a shapeshifting war goddesses who could appear as Crow/Raven or be accompanied by them. As Raven she predicted death on the battlefield or feasted on slain warriors.
Dhumavati, Hindu goddess, is often shown riding in a chariot pulled by crows, riding on a crow or with a crow flag. She is “the Void” that exists before creation and after dissolution. Often depicted on a cremation ground, the place of final transformation, she is a great teacher with ultimate knowledge of the universe – knowledge that goes beyond the duality of this world.
Some Native American tribes believe Crow is a shapeshifter, simultaneously living in both the physical and spiritual worlds. Others see Crow as part of their creation story.
Crow teaches that dissolution is part of the ever-changing nature of life, leading you through the difficult task of letting-go onto transformation and rebirth. Crow calls you to to see through illusion and experience the oneness of being.
Both birds appear to have empathy for one another – consoling another who lost a fight or responding amicably to bird friends for many years. Crows will surround a deceased member of their family both to mourn and to assess potential danger to the group. A dead crow’s mate often appears devastated and can mourn its loss for several days.
From the Welsh tales of the Mabinogion we learn of King Bran whose name means Crow or Raven and his sister Branwen, whose name translates as Beautiful Raven. When Branwen’s husband, the king of Ireland, began mistreating her, King Bran gathered an army to rescue her. The war was terrible; many were killed; Bran was mortally wounded by a poisoned spear; Branwen died of a broken heart. Beautiful Raven’s journey of betrayal and heartbreak, one traveled with determination to find harmony, calls us to remember the importance of love, empathy, and determination. Call on Crow for help in dealing with adversity, in the development of will power and in being true to yourself.
Insight, Intuition, Fearlessness
Crow and Raven prefer living in open landscapes with trees nearby. It’s a common sight to see crows perched high in trees surveying the world around them. Crow says it’s time to see your own struggles from a higher perspective – time to access your inner wisdom.
Crows are know to be fearless in protecting themselves.They gang up together to chase away large predators in aerial attacks called mobbing.
Crow encourages you to be fearless and bold.
The tale of King Bran illustrates another message from Crow – be ever watchful. Seeking a less painful death than one from poison, King Bran asked that his head be cut-off and buried at Gwynfryn (where the Tower of London now stands). Still today ravens are kept at the Tower of London, vigilant sentinels of protection. From this higher perspective Crow sees much. Crow calls you to be alert, with open eyes, to trust your intuition and insight will follow.
Magic, Intelligence, Wisdom,
Crow and Raven are undeniably smart – the only animals more intelligent are humans. Like humans, they have a highly developed forebrain where intelligence is regulated.
Raven has been known to push rocks on people to protect their nests and to steal fish by pulling a fisherman’s line out of ice holes. Keen puzzle-solvers, some Crows even make tools.
Various Native American tribes recognized Crow’s intelligence, wearing crow feathers in their hair as a sign of respect. To many tribes crow is a messenger of destiny and magic and a symbol of transformation. The Cherokee place great value on Crow medicine which enhances our decision-making skills and allows us to embrace change. Crow reminds us that magic is everywhere and that a sharp wit, keen eye and wisdom will help you access that magic.
Crows and Ravens are great communicators – emitting different sounds with different meanings and mimicking other noises and animal sounds. They also use gestures to communicate – pointing with their beaks in the direction of hidden food.
The Norse God, Odin had two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) who traveled the world and brought messages back to Odin everyday
In Native American lore Crow and Raven are often depicted as playful and mischievous – even a trickster. They have been observed skiing down snow-covered roofs, playing keep-away with other animals and taunting other animals just for fun.
If you have become a little too stuffy or self-important Crow might be telling you to lighten-up and have some fun.
When Crow swoops into your life bringing clarity of vision to your situation, it’s time to be fearless, bold, brash, and alert. Seek Crow’s help in dealing with adversity. Allow Crow to guide you into the dark mystery of your soul and from that higher perspective to access your inner wisdom; to see beyond the illusion of duality. Crow urges you to listen to your intuition, to speak your truth and to seek the light. Crow reminds you that every moment is magic; that all is one. Listen to Crow’s messages with an open heart and be open to transformation.
Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now. You can order your deck from Judith’s Etsy Shop. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!
Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life. Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her art. She continues to be inspired by the Goddess in all of Her manifestations. In recent years Judith became very interested in the Goddesses of her own ancestors, the Celts, resulting in her deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle cards. She is now working on her next deck of oracle cards – Animal Spirit Guides. Originally from New Orleans, Judith makes her home in New Mexico where she paints as much as time allows and sells real estate part-time. Give yourself the gift of one of Judith’s prints or paintings, priced from $25 – $3000.