Crows and ravens have both played a large role in a many different folklores, myths and legends… and signified heroes’ throughout the ages. In many instances, these Corvi are considered an omen of death or bad tidings to come, but in others, they might represent a message from the Divine. For example, Crows sometimes appear as a method of divination and prophecy (the druids accounts in the annals, messengers to Odin, signifies the Mór-ríoghain is watching(this spelling is the Irish one that is of the instance of the phantom queen), listening or wants your attention for a message to be heard or learned, in Greek mythology, ravens are associated with Apollo, the God of prophecy, and the raven was the totem of the Welsh God, Bran the Blessed, the giant protector of the Brits), crows are often seen as a sign of bad things to come, but in others they are considered to be messengers from the ancestor, and gods, and crows often appear as trickster characters in folklore and legend.
In Celtic mythology, the warrior goddess known as the Morrighan often appears in the form of a crow or raven. Typically, these birds appear in groups of three, and they are seen as a sign that the Morrighan is watching—or possibly getting ready to pay someone a visit.
In some tales of the Welsh myth cycle, the Mabinogion, the raven is a harbinger of death. Witches and sorcerers were believed to have the capability to shape shift themselves into ravens and fly away, thus enabling them to evade capture.
The Native Americans often saw the raven as a trickster, much like Coyote. There are several tales regarding the mischief of Raven, who is sometimes seen as a symbol of transformation. In the legends of various tribes, Raven is typically associated with everything from the creation of the world to the gift of sunlight to mankind. Some tribes knew the raven as a stealer of souls or the bringer of death.
In the Norse pantheon, Odin is often represented by the raven—usually a pair of them. Early artwork depicts him as being accompanied by two black birds, who are described in the Eddas as Huginn and Munnin. Their names translate to “thought” and “memory,” and their job is to serve as Odin’s spies, bringing him news each night from the land of men.
Crows often appear as a method for divining. For the ancient Greeks, the crow was a symbol of Apollo in his role as God of prophecy. Augury—divination using birds—was popular among both the Greeks and the Romans, and augurs interpreted messages based on not only the color of a bird but the direction from which it flew. A crow flying in from the east or south was considered favorable.
In Christianity, ravens hold a unique significance. While they are referred to as “unclean” within the Bible, Genesis tells us that after the flood waters receded, the raven was the first bird Noah sent out from the ark to find land. Also, in the Hebrew Talmud, ravens are credited with teaching mankind how to deal with death; when Cain slew Abel, a raven showed Adam and Eve how to bury the body, because they had never done so before.
In my experience, the crow and raven have come to me from an early age, and they signify many things for me from messages, warnings, and guidance! Though the crow and raven may signify all these other cultural meanings, they can also have interpersonal meanings as a spirit animal or guide, The raven is one of mine, and some of the aspects I wrote of here are a part of that, including protection, she comes to me in other personal ways and reasons as well!
- Cath Maige Tuired, Poem C: Section 167, lines 831 – 840
- Lebor Gabála Érenn , ‘Book of the Taking of Ireland’, Book of Invasions - Mythological
- Feher-Elston, Catherine. Ravensong: a Natural and Fabulous History of Ravens and Crows. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005.
- Sinn, Shannon. “The Raven and Crow of the Celts - Part I: Myth and Legend.” Living Library, 23 Mar. 2018, https://livinglibraryblog.com/the-raven-and-crow-of-the-celts-part-i-myth-and-legend/.
- Starovecká, Zuzana. “Ravens and Crows in Mythology, Folklore and Religion.” Perspectives, https://perspectiveszine.webnode.sk/news/ravens-and-crows-in-mythology-folklore-and-religion/.
- Translated with an introd. by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones. (1957). The Mabinogion. London : New York :Dent; Dutton,