Raven Symbol – General Overview
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The raven symbol varies across cultures and times. In mythology and symbolism it can be seen as a collective for a gravedigger, a harbinger of death, a thief figure, emphasizing a dramatic moment in a literary narrative, and much less often as a positive figure emphasizing the raven’s nature as a receptive intelligent guiding figure. According to Icelanders, children should not play or drink from a straw made from the stem of a raven’s feather, so as not to become thieves.
Enchanted people in fairy tales are portrayed as crows, and in the Indian cultures of North America, they are seen as a hypostasis of a supernatural creative being.
In psychology, the raven is a symbol standing close to the dark side of the psyche. It can be a catalyst for positive change, as long as it catches on and transforms this symbol. If not, it remains as a “one in mind”, which must be explored sometime in life, but always with conscious action to be extracted as a transformational symbol of psychological transformation.
Benedict, Boniface, Oswald, Mainrad – all these saints have a common symbol, and it is on the raven. With him they were depicted as helpers, and the corpse of St. Vincent was defended by predators with the help of a raven.
The Bible tells the story of Noah, but sending a raven as a scout on land from the ship, and the prophet Elijah brings bread and meat in the wilderness (the raven does the same for the hermits Anthony and Paul).
In a Ukrainian legend mentioned by S. Golovin, the crows in Paradise had multicolored feathers, but after the fall of Adam and Eve, in order to survive, he began to eat the carcass and his feathers turned black. His feathers would recover, and the croaking would be the most wonderful music, only at the end of time. Until then, the raven will still be black and scary.
The raven is also present in the heraldic symbolism. It can be seen in the coat of arms of the Courbet family, on the Ravenstein estate (literally “raven stone”), on the Saxon town of Rabenau, on the Biron family in Courland and on the Eisindeln monastery in Schwitz (as an attribute of St. Mainrad).
The three-legged raven is a sun symbol according to ancient Chinese culture. According to legend, ten three-legged crows radiated unbearable heat until an archer pierced nine of them.
The emperors of the Zhou dynasty (until 265 BC) were represented by the red raven, which is also a sun symbol – they were placed on a par with the sun.
The goddess Su-Wang-Mu had crows as messengers, who also played the role of messengers who brought her food, in celestial tournaments they were afraid only of the liqueurs.
In the early Christian period, the raven was depicted as the bird that did not inform Noah of the end of the flood, and thus became a symbol of leisure and procrastination of the carefree sea man. It is said that the crow’s roar “cras, cras” translates as “tomorrow, tomorrow”. The symbol of misfortune, disease, war and death is given to the fact that the raven feeds on the carcass and allegedly abandons its young.
In Norse / Scandinavian mythology we find the crows Huginn and Muninn (Thought and Mind), as faithful and strong messengers-messengers of Wotan / Odin, whom they informed about everything that was happening on earth.
In alchemy, Material Prima is referred to as a raven turning into a philosopher’s stone, with the raven being depicted with a white head as evidence of enlightenment.
The thirteenth leap month in the Babylonian calendar is under the protection of the raven and is considered a bad omen. In ancient mythology, he is depicted as a discrete beaver, which is why he could not remain a companion of the goddess Athena, and she replaced him with the owl.
According to the legend of Apollo, the deity punishes the raven because of its chatter and its white feathers turn black; and according to another legend, he sent the raven for water, but saw a tree with green figs on the way and waited for the fruit to ripen instead of fulfilling the order. Apollo moved the bird among the stars (constellation Raven, corvus, Korax), where the Hydra (constellation Hydra) did not allow him to drink from the Cup (constellation Crater). And yet, although among the stars, the raven remained a companion of Apollo (as in Chinese legends – the sun and the three-legged raven).
According to another ancient belief, crows laid their eggs through the beak, so they were not allowed near the parturients, so as not to cause severe labor pains in them. According to Pliny, the strangled roar only the raven understands its own gloomy omen.
The raven is seldom presented positively, but in its image the inhabitants of Thira (Santorini) were taken from Apollo to Cyrene, and a white crow showed the way to the emigrating Boeotians, and two crows pointed the way to the sanctuary of Amun of Alexander the Great.
Science Point of View
There are about 40 species of ravens around the world. The most common are crows about 69 centimeters in size.
Very intelligent, alleged to destroy the cereal classes, but according to new science data, they are not in such a threatening amount as previously thought.
Extremely intelligent, can solve problems requiring more complex solutions. For example, if a raven meets a bad person, it may teach the other ravens that this particular person is not good. Studies show that crows do not forget faces.
Many ravens prefer to be single, but they also gather in groups. If a crow dies, others gather around him and try to understand what he died and how.
The group then hunts predators by signs.
The Legend of the Raven (Legend of Haida Gwaii)
Long ago, near the beginning of the world, the Gray Eagle was the guardian of the sun, moon and stars, of fresh water and of fire. The Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water.
The Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter and the Raven fell in love with her. In the beginning, the Raven was a snow-white bird and as such pleased the Gray Eagle’s daughter. She invited him to her father’s father’s house.
When the Raven saw the Sun, Moon and stars and the sweet water hanging from the side of the Eagle’s bed, he understood what he had to do. He was watching his chance to seize them when no one was looking for him. He stole everything and a stick of fire also flew out of the cottage through the smoke hole. As soon as the Raven came out, he hung the Sun in the sky. He made so much light that he was able to fly far to an island in the middle of the ocean. When the Sun went down, he fixed the Moon up to the sky and hung the stars around in different places. With this new light, he continued to fly, carrying with him fresh water and the stick of fire he had stolen.
He flew back over land. When he got to the right place, he released all the water he had stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the freshwater streams and lakes in the world. Then the Raven flew in and held the stick of fire in its grip. The smoke from the fire spread over his white feathers and made them black. When his grip started to burn, he had to drop his wand. He was hitting rocks. Therefore, if you hit two stones together, the sparks of the fire will fall off.
The Raven’s feathers never turned white again after being blackened by the smoke from the fiery stick. That is why the Raven is already a black bird.
The Raven in Poetry
This quirky bird always appears as a harbinger of death or bad news, and sometimes as a philosopher who, at the right moment, has to think.
In Hristo Botev’s song “The Hanging of Vasil Levski”, the raven sounds like this:
O my Mother, dear Motherland
Why weep you so mournfully, so plaintively?
And you, raven, cursed bird –
On whose grave croak you with such a dread?
Ah, I know – I know you’re weeping, Mother
Because you are a dismal slave,
Because your holy voice, Mother
Is a helpless voice – a voice in the wilderness.
Weep! There, near the edge of Sofia town
Stretches – I saw it – a dismal gallows
And one of your sons, Bulgaria
Hangs from it with a terrible power.
The raven croaks dreadfully, ominously
Dogs and wolves howl in the fields,
Old people pray to God with fervor
Women weep, children cry.
Winter croons its evil song,
Gales sweep thistle across the field
And cold and frost and hopeless weeping
Heep sorrow on your heart.
In Edgar Alan Poe’s wonderful poem, the raven comes at the right time:
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
The raven is also the protagonist in the Sanskrit tale “Of Ravens and Cuckoos.”