Raven Folklore

Falling leaves, autumnal colors, crisp temperatures, all of this means autumn has arrived. For me, one of the symbols of autumn is the beautiful Raven. Ravens and crows are my favorite birds. They are extremely intelligent, remembering people who are nice to them as well as people who are not. There is a little girl named Gabi who has befriended crows in her yard. They bring her treasures of beads, shells, screws, any shiny thing they find. She has an entire collection of gifts from the birds. 

Ravens and crows can recognize human faces, mimic human voices, are very social animals and wonderful problem solvers. They even mourn their dead.

Ravens are one of the most common symbols in cultural myths around the world. In most Northern European cultures the Raven has been seen as a harbinger of death. One thousand year old Norse mythology calls the Raven a symbol of evil as they are scavengers. But the God Odin had two Ravens whom he would send off into the world (and sometimes the underworld) every morning to observe everything they could and return at night to inform Odin of all they'd learned. Because of this, they are as symbol of his ability to see into the future. 

Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin's shoulders in an illustration from an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript

Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin's shoulders in an illustration from an 18th-century Icelandic manuscript

Native American cultures view the Raven as everything from a creator being, a symbol of transformation, a shape-shifter, a magical creature, as well as a trickster and a sage. When it flaps it's wings it causes strong winds, lightening and thunder. They are revered and protected. Raven is often called upon for healing purposes. 

At the Tower of London, Ravens are respected, beloved and cared for. It is said that if the ravens ever leave The Tower, the kingdom will fall. Charles II declared the ravens must always be protected at the tower and cared for. Today there are seven resident ravens at The Tower and they only respond to the Raven Master. They eat 170g of raw meat a day plus biscuits soaked in blood.

Beefeater kissing a raven at The Tower of London. Gives you an idea of the size of these birds.

Beefeater kissing a raven at The Tower of London. Gives you an idea of the size of these birds.

I have to admit that given the chance to get within inches of one of The Tower ravens I was in awe. They are such large birds and very regal. I felt the need to ask his permission before taking my photos and didn't want to get too close so as to infringe on his personal space. 

A beautiful Tower Raven agreeing to be photographed.

A beautiful Tower Raven agreeing to be photographed.

If you'd like to form a relationship with your local murder of crows or ravens biologist Dr. Kevin McGowan recommends the following:

*Feed them something healthy—unsalted peanuts, with or without the shells are recommended by the crow experts themselves.

 

*Don’t throw the nuts AT them, and don’t feed them too much. These are wild birds accustomed to gathering their own food—so a few peanuts are plenty.

 

*Also, make sure you’re not luring these birds into a dangerous situation—a place where cars are coming or an area where neighbors might get angry about loud crows hanging around.

Ravens and crows are a special part of our world. Let's appreciate the magic they bring and what we might learn from them.