(The Witches Familiar)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Crow for sorrow,
Crows for mirth;
Crows for a wedding,
Crows for a birth;
Crows for silver,
Crows for gold;
Crows for a secret, not to be told;
Crows for heaven,
Crows for hell;
And ten Crows for the devils own self.
The Crow is any of several large black birds belonging to the
family of Passerine
birds that comprise the genus Corvus, which
include: Jays, Magpies,
Nutcrackers, Jackdaws and Ravens. They
can be found on every continent except South America and Antarctica, but some,
especially those found on islands, are endangered and their habits little known.
Northern-hemisphere crows are sometimes migratory, but most often they
stay resident the year round.
many respects are very similar to the Raven in appearance, but are smaller
and less heavily billed. Like the
Ravens, Crows are among the
most intelligent and adaptable of birds and several species have been able to
thrive near humans. Crows
grow to about 50cm (20 inches) long and are commonly coloured a glossy black,
they can live up to 13 years in the wild and more than 20 years in captivity.
The typical call
of Crow is a loud and harsh “caw-caw-caw” or “crah-crah-crah”
sound, which is characteristic
for each species. Some pet
Crows even “speak”, and in laboratory conditions some have learned to count
to three or four and find food in boxes marked with symbols.
Crows are gregarious birds and at times roost together in great numbers, when wintering, a single flock can number many thousands. In literary terms, the collective noun for a group of crows is a “murder”, however most people today and especially scientists, use the more generic term of “flock” or “horde” Each mating pair will have its own nest, which is usually built high up in tall trees and made of sticks and twigs. Here the female will lay and incubate three to eight greenish-to-olive eggs, which when hatched, both parents then care for the young.
Crows are omnivorous and will eat grain, berries, insects,
vegetable matter, carrion, garbage, small animals, and the eggs and nestlings of
other birds. Crows also eat
insects, but their habit of eating cultivated grain makes them very unpopular
with farmers, and in some agricultural areas Crow is considered a great pest.
They have also been known to kill weak lambs (which again doesn’t endear them
to farmers), as well as feeding on corpses most probably killed by other means.
Crows feed mainly on the ground, where they can be seen regally
waddling about in a sedate manner.
Crows are territorial in the breeding season, and will gather
together to mob owls and other predators, but due to their habit of raiding
other bird’s nests, they in turn are often attacked. Their natural
enemies are birds of prey, Hawks and Falcons, which soar high in the sky above
the trees. They hunt mainly on
bright sunny days when contrast between light and shadow is greatest.
Crows take advantage of this by maneuvering themselves through the
dappled shades of the trees, where their black color renders them invisible to
their enemies above, and use this to set up complex ambush attacks.
This is were Crow differs most from Raven, who tends to soar high in the
air much as birds of prey do, and like them, are usually the target of ambushes
by Crows. Crows do not appear to
perceive Ravens as their own kind, but instead treat them as birds of prey.
While Hawks and
Falcons tend to be the primary daytime predators of Crows, their most deadly
predators are the Owls that hunt by night, preying upon Crows while they sleep
in their roosts. Crows often mob
Owls much more fiercely when they find them in daylight, more so than other
predators. Frequently Crows will
appear to “play” with Hawks and Falcons, while escorting them out of their
territory. Their attacks on Owls
however, possess a definite serious quality.
In the United
States of America it is legal to hunt Crows in most states, where the “Crow
hunting season” is usually from around August to the end of March.
Crows can also be hunted outside the open season, if in compliance with
federal regulations, they are deemed to be causing a nuisance or creating a
health hazard. In the United Kingdom it is illegal to kill or take Crows
from the wild, and in Australia it is illegal to kill any native birds.
In many mythologies because of their similarities, Crow and Raven are often mixed up, and in the telling of their myths and legends; one frequently takes the place of the other. Like the Raven, Crow was considered a messenger of the gods, and is associated with the Sun, weather, longevity, beginnings, bad luck and death. Crow is also associated with the visible and invisible worlds, and was considered a bird of omen and prophecy. Because of his intelligence and cunning, Crow was also seen as a trickster, and many believed that fairies turned into Crows in order to cause mischief.
In heraldry, a crow was used to indicate a dark person such as
a Moor or Saracen. In Egypt, two
crows, like two doves, is an emblem of monogamy.
Among the ancients Celts, a white
Crow was associated with the heroine Branwen, while her brother Bran was
associated with Raven. Crow
also features in Native American mythology; among the Chipewayan people of
eastern Canada he is considered a trickster, while the Navaho refer to
missionaries as Crows, because of their black robes.
In Greek and Roman mythologies, Crow
is associated with the gods Saturn, Cronus and Athena, the goddess of
wisdom, victory and the arts. When a Crow gave Athena some bad news, she
flew into a rage and cursed his feathers to be black forever.
Similar to that is a story of how Apollo turned white Raven into
black Raven for being the bearer of bad news, while another story tells how
Apollo did the same to Crow after the birth of Hermes:
Hermes was a child of Zeus, father of the Olympian gods, and
Maia a daughter of Atlas who holds up the earth. As well as being the messenger of the god’s, Hermes was also
a dangerous foe, trickster and a thief, who from the day he was born was the source
of much mischief. On
the day of his birth, Hermes stole a herd of prized cows from his brother, the
sun god Apollo, and obscured their trail by making the herd walk backward.
The next day when Apollo found his herd of cows gone, he asked his white Crows who had stolen them. The Crows replied: “It was the twelfth god of Olympus, only a day old, who spirited your herd away”. This made Apollo very angry “You lying birds” he cried, “there are only eleven gods of Olympus, and I will punish you for your lies”. So he turned the Crows black. When Apollo went in search of the cows, he came upon a cave where Maia sat with the baby Hermes on her lap. He was playing a lyre he had just invented and made from the shell of a turtle. Apollo asked Maia “Who is this child, so clever as to make such a marvellous thing at such a young age”?
“This is Hermes,
your new brother and the twelfth Olympian”, she replied. It was then Apollo realised that the Crows had told the
truth. He pointed an accusing
finger at the baby Hermes and said, “So you stole my prized herd of cows, you
must give them back immediately”. Hermes
answered in a soothing voice “but I cannot dear brother, I have already made a
feast of them, but come and eat with me and we’ll discuss things”.
So Apollo ate with Hermes who in order to make amends gave Apollo the
lyre and taught him to play it expertly. As
for the Crows, they remained black forever.
In Irish Celtic mythology, Crow is associated with Morrigán,
one of a group of three war goddesses who had the ability to shape
change. Together with her two
sisters Badb and Macha, Morrigán would turn
herself into a Crow and perch on the top of houses to “caw” out her
prophecies of war. She would often
appear to warriors who were about to be killed, and later feed on the bodies of
the slain after battles.
mythology, Apollo sent a crow to fetch a cup of water.
Crow however, got distracted eating figs and after much delay, finally
remembered his mission. Rightly
figuring that Apollo would be angry, Crow plucked a snake from the water and
concocted a story about how it had attacked and delayed him. Apollo was not fooled and angrily flung all three into the
sky, placing the Crow and cup on the snake’s back.
Then the god ordered Hydra to never let the crow drink from the cup.
As a further punishment, he ordered that the Crow should never sing
again, only croak and caw.
Crows are believed to have long
lives, in his Metamorphoses Ovid speaks of the witch Medea injecting the
veins of the elderly Jason with the blood of a Crow that had outlived nine
generations of men. In Wales it was
a common custom to doff one’s hat at the sight of a Crow, and in Scotland,
witches were said to transform themselves into Crows. Crows are believed to possess the power of divination; their
“caws” were oracles, thought to be warnings or directives.
In Buddhism, Avalokiteśvara is the earthly manifestation of the self-born eternal Buddha Amitābha, who guarded the world in the interval between the departure of the historical Gautama Buddha and the appearance of the future Maitreya Buddha. Amitābha is often closely associated with the crow because it is said that when the first Dalai Lama was born, robbers attacked their family home. His parents fled the house in fear, and in their haste left the Dalai Lama “home alone”. When they returned the next morning expecting the worst, they found their home untouched and a pair of Crows caring for the new born Dalai Lama. It is believed that Crows heralded the birth of the First, Seventh, Eighth, Twelfth and Fourteenth Dalai Lamas, the latter currently being Tenzin Gyatso.
Totem Spirit and Medicine:
Patricia Jean Martin
The crow is a major member of the Corvids family (genus,
Corvus) along with raven, magpie, blue jay and others, so some of the major
teachings of Crow have already been posted within the texts on Raven.
As this is the case, I will need to mention some of the similarities
between the two, but will concentrate mainly on the differences. For
more in-depth knowledge, a study of Raven would be beneficial to anyone with
Crow as their Totem or Spirit Guide, and vice-versa.
If Crow has called on you, you may soon find the following show
up in your life: A call to magick, a better understanding of the creative forces
within and without, a greater nudging to speak your truth, and the courage
and cunning to fly into the Void in order to retrieve the necessary
knowledge and wisdom to manifest all of the above and more.
When Crow comes into your life, you can also expect to gain a
better self-understanding, greater intuitive reflexes, guidance while
shapeshifting through the shadows, and the opportunity to learn about the advantages
of determination and watchfulness. Extremely intelligent (along with
ravens, crows are noted as being the most intelligent of all birds), the
crow will work diligently at manipulating an object or their
surroundings until they have accomplished what they've set out to do.
Like the raven, they are known to use physical tools along with ingenious
methods of action that are noted as being well thought out and even
planned. For those with Crow Totem, all these mental capacities and
skilful manoeuvres reflect a need to use one's inner senses and outer
resources to their fullest.
A crow will build its nest up higher than most other
birds do, and they do this for several reasons. The most
important are for safety and to secure a wider visual range. A
ship's highest lookout point (a small circular balcony surrounding a tall
mast) is called a "Crow's Nest" for obvious good reason.
Those working with Crow medicine will find it advantageous to work on broadening
their horizons, along with anticipating and being on the lookout for new
opportunities that are sure to come when under Crow's tutelage. The crow
has often been nicknamed "The Sentinel," as one will often sit
and watch and remain aware of all that is going on around them in order to
protect other crows in the flock (technically called a "murder") and
to make sure no harm comes to their family. One can learn a lot in this
respect, and Crow will teach you how better to do the same. From this
higher perspective and this watchful awareness, your perception increases and
you are able to foresee what is in the offing, thus giving you greater
opportunity to be prepared for and/or embrace what is coming your way.
Crow, unlike the raven, does not mind living in populated areas. They are apt to cohabitate with humans and often live near or around them, as opposed to the raven's deep forest preference. In fact, it is very easy to befriend a crow. Some people have even been known to keep them as pets. A crow very easily bonds and is imprinted with the image and mannerisms of its keeper and will remain faithful and trusting throughout their relationship if well cared for. This shows the bird's willingness to work with humans, and also gives insight into their teachings of being strongly connected to kin...of recognizing family, even if through past lives shared... and of honouring the spirit of their kin and never forgetting them. Past life regression becomes easier when working with Crow Spirit. And through their prompting, acknowledgment and veneration of one's ancestors is brought to the forefront of your memory.
Crow's character is one of protector, scholar, messenger, and a
bit of trickster. They can be very playful, quite amorous, and very wilful...almost
downright cocky, actually. And akin to ravens, crows like to talk.
Most people find their vocals brassy and annoying, but one with Crow Totem will
find them quite soothing, peaceful to the soul, and even joyful
and interesting to listen to. Learning to listen to the various
tones, inflections and repetitive but varied patterns of the crow's
voice can teach you such things as how to work cooperatively, how to discern the
truth behind another's words, how to read between the lines, and even how
to predict the weather, be alerted to the sudden appearance of a predator, or
how to navigate life successfully. But even through all of Crow's
love of talk, they will also teach you the very opposite...how to stay
advantageously silent when necessary. The Four Cornerstones of Magick (the
Witch's Pyramid) is in no way foreign to Crow.
Omnivorous and apt to eat most anything available, Crow shows
you how to maintain a keen sense of personal survival and how to have an
"appetite" for a wide and diverse store of knowledge that you
will "eat"...take inside, digest, and either be nourished by or spit
out. How to use that nourishing knowledge can often be learned
by watching the movements and antics of the crow - how they interact,
why they interact, and when and with whom they interact. When
you learn how to use wisely the vast array of knowledge they offer
you, it then becomes wisdom. Raven medicine is more apt to delve more
deeply into this conversion of knowledge to wisdom, but Crow will always, at the
very least, open the door and offer you the way.
Aside from merely observing crows in the wild, you can work with the quintessence of Crow in the Spirit world. Here, Crow's own wisdom, offered to you very often in a knowledgeable message form but also in connective experience, is invaluable. They possess the ability to peer into all realms, to coexist in the world of timelessness, and they are very likely to delve into the depths of hidden and obscure knowledge and emerge with a message. It's a bit of a wild ride when working with Crow medicine, as they can take you high aloft to towering realms where the essence of magick may manifest but has yet to fully form, and in the next minute take you perilously deep down into the depths of your psyche, where they almost impatiently will expect you to simultaneously pull forth and examine the message they've delivered from both. In working with Crow, I've found it best to mimic them by staying open and courageous and willing to receive. I've also found they will scoff at you if you do not heed their messages.
Yes, Crow is the epitome of all messengers. Some
older superstitions carry the belief that the visit and call of the crow is
an omen of impending death, but this was probably adopted in thought as a
result of a series of ancient myths - one being where Crow delivered
unwelcome news to Apollo, who in turn smote the then pure white messenger by
turning him and all his brethren to the colour black.
In going from white to black, Crow was actually given the gift of now knowing
both of these realms very well - wherein the past, present and
future are frequently visited by this most magickal and mystical bird.
Being well-known for their methodical and meticulous explorations and
their curious and brazen dispositions, Crow Spirit delves deeply into
the Void in order to bring word of what may be in need of a better
balance in your life. Like their kindred, the Raven, Crow's colour even reminds
us that things are never just black and white. Within their present black
colour lie all the other colours of the spectrum pulled within - as within one's
self lie all the secrets of magick. Black is the colour associated
with creation. It is the Void in which all new things are birthed.
It is pure potential awaiting the spark of thought. Those with Crow
Totem will find themselves pushed to seek out and bring back harmony,
balance and justice to their world, and will be urged to unleash their
unlimited creativity. In the act of creation, though, some outdated
habits and things that are no longer useful are apt to demand change and
transformation. Crow medicine very often heralds change through the
aspects of death and rebirth. Crow is the Totem of Destiny.
As leaders and messengers in the world of Totems, you can
expect Crow to lead you to magick at every step. With Crow being my own
Life Totem, I've had them literally physically lead me to things of
importance in terms of my enlightenment, and other times merely to a place or
thing just for the sheer pleasure of viewing it. In fact, I use
them as guides quite frequently. When travelling, I am very apt to see
Crows along the way. In fact, I worry if I don't. Whenever I do see
a Crow while walking or driving, I can usually expect something exciting to
appear just around the bend. Just as they are known for being
attracted to bright and shiny objects (which they will often steal and
stash away for their own enjoyment), they tend to lead you to them too, both
literally and metaphorically. It's not unlikely that you'll find something
awe-inspiring - something that brings bright spiritual light and shining
resonance to your life - immediately after spotting a Crow. They
also very noticeably show up at particular times where I've been
able to relate it to my own action and whereabouts, in the sense that they let
me know I am in the right place at the right time. Crow's attraction to
the bright and shiny can help you learn to value the light in yourself and in
In all these things and much more, Crow is an extraordinarily gifted teacher and guide.
Animal-Speak (The Spiritual & Magical
Powers of Creatures Great & Small) - By Ted Andrews
European Myth & Legend - By Mike
Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology - By
Microsoft Encarta CD 2006 © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation.
Written and compiled 19th July 2007 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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