The common Raven (Corvus corax) is a member of the Corvidae family, which includes Jays, Crows and Magpies. Raven can be found throughout most of the Northern Hemisphere, the high Arctic islands of Canada, Europe and even in the deserts of North Africa. A passerine (perching) bird, it is the largest blackbird in the world and can grow to a length of more than 60cm (24in).
The Raven has a long powerful bill that is slightly hooked, shaggy throat feathers and a long strongly graduated wedge-shape tail. Its body has a mostly black iridescent plumage and its eyes are dark brown. Ravens survive in many types of habitat and normally live for up to 10 or 15 years in the wild, but in capivity its lifespans has been greatly increased. Those in the Tower of London have been recorded living up to 40 years.
The raucous call of the Raven is a deep and grating kraa-kraa-kraa sound, but it can also produce an amazing assortment of other calls, studies have shown that he has more than 30 distinct vocalizations. Ravens have a wingspan of more than 1.3 m (4 feet) and are excellent flyers; they sometimes soar to great heights and love to engage in aerial acrobatics. Ravens do not migrate like many other birds, but a breeding pair will usually relocate each year.
Ravens start to breed at 3 or 4 years of age and then mate for
life. Courtship rituals
begin in mid-January with aerial
acrobatics, demonstrations of intelligence, and the ability to provide food
being key acts of courting critera. By
mid-March mating pairs start roosting near their intended nesting locations but must then gain a territory of their own before they begin nest building and
Their nests are made from coarse sticks lined with hair or shredded bark,
and are built in high trees or on tall cliff ledges from where they
aggressively defend their territory and food resources.
The female lays from four to eight light blue spotted eggs in a clutch, and once laid will stay in the nest to incubate them while being fed by the male. After about three weeks the chicks hatch and are fed by both parents who regurgitate food and water stored in a throat pouch. The chicks grow quickly and leave the nest about four weeks after hatching. Once the young Ravens leave the nest they form loose flocks during the day and then congregate to roost at night, as many as 500 have been seen to roost in one location.
Raven is omnivorous and consumes a wide variety of food, including: seeds, berries, fruit, insects, small birds, mammals and carrion. They are notorious scavengers and are common visitors to garbage dumps. They store surplus food items and learn to hide such food out of the sight of other Ravens. They also raid the food caches of other birds and animals. In the wild the Raven is a common associate of the Grey Wolf, who he follows to scavenge off the carcasses of its prey, particularly in winter.
Because the Raven is intelligent, sociable and highly adaptable, it has long been the subject of legend and folklore. Sadly the Raven has a near universal affiliation with dark prophecy and is often associated with death, although its cleverness and fearless habits have also won a degree of admiration, as can been seen portrayed in mythology.
In many cultures Raven is considered a bird of ill omen associated with death. As a common carrion eater known to feed on humans killed in warfare or by execution, he became associated with the dead and with lost souls. In Sweden, Ravens are thought to be the ghosts of murdered people, and in Germany, the souls of the damned. Not all cultures feel this way however, for many Native American tribes in North American see the Raven as a creator Spirit who brought the world into being, to them he is Deity, the First Human and the original Shaman. In other cultures because of his intelligence and cunning he is thought of as a trickster, or associated with Deity as a signatory animal.
In a creation myth from the people on the West Coast of North America, they tell how in the beginning there was nothing, only water, darkness and a Raven. The Raven flew through the darkness with a bag hung around his neck, but soon began to tire. As he flew over the water he released a small rock from his bag and dropped it into the water creating an island. Raven sat down on the island to rest, and while resting took other rocks from his bag and threw them into the water creating land.
Rested, the Raven picked up his bag and flew on. After a while he became tired again and stopped to rest on a piece of the land he had created, there took more items from his bag. First he removed a fir tree, then a pine tree, a spruce, a redwood and all the other trees in the world. He also removed bushes, grass, wheat and all the other plants of the world, including the plants of the sea. All these things he scattered across the land and the water so they could grow.
Again the Raven took his bag around his neck and flew through the darkness. When he became tired again he sat down on another rock to rest. This time he removed a Wolf, an Eagle, a Salmon, a Bear and a Deer, and all the other animals of the land and sea. When Raven looked around him and surveyed at all he had created, it looked to be a good world, where everything was peaceful, happily working together in nature. But before he flew off again he looked into his bag and saw there was one thing left “Man”. So Raven removed man from the bag and placed him upon the earth, and then when the world began to change.
The Raven is also the principal creator figure of the Alaskan Inuit peoples who call him Raven Father. At the beginning of the world he is said to have come down from the sky and created dry land. He then created a man and then a woman as his companions, followed by numerous types of animals, trees and plants. Raven Father then taught man and woman skills, such as how to raise children, make fire and care for the animals.
Another myth from the Tsimshian
tribe in the American Northwest tells the story of how a Raven stole the
three heavenly bodies (the Stars, the Moon and the Sun) from a miserly old
Chief, and replaced them in the sky providing light around the world.
According to the legend a mean old
Chief once hoarded the three light sources in the world creating perpetual
night. The light he kept closed up
in three dark bags, which were only opened for his pleasure.
However, a Raven got bored of flying around in the dark and decided to
bring back the light. To do this he
turned himself into a leaf and fluttered down on a gust of wind into the Chief's
The Chief's daughter was
sipping a drink in the tepee, when a leaf entered and landed in her cup as she
was drinking. After swallowing the
leaf, the daughter fell pregnant and gave birth to a baby with raven-black hair
and dark glowing eyes, naturally they called the new arrival “Ravens Child”.
The child however was very temperamental and whenever he was bored or
wanted something, he shrieked, and shrieked and cried.
The Chief while a doting
Grandfather, hated all the noise the child made and ordered, “Give the child
what ever he wants”. So they gave
the child the dark bag containing “the Light of twinkling Stars” to play
with. The child was very happy as
he played with the Stars, bouncing them off the sides of the tepee. So enthusiastically did he bounce them, that one day they
bounced right up through the smoke hole in the ceiling and scattered around the
dark of night providing a little Light, much to the displeasure of the Chief.
Having lost the Stars,
Ravens Child soon became bored again and as was his way, he shrieked, and
shrieked and cried, all the while driving the Chief crazy with the noise.
The Chief relented and ordered, “Give the child what ever he wants”.
So they give the child the dark bag containing “the Light of the
Moon” to play with. The child was
very happy as he played with the Moon, bouncing it of the sides of the tepee. So enthusiastically did he bounce it, that one day it bounced
right up through the smoke hole in the ceiling and joined the Stars in the dark
of night providing a little more Light, much to the displeasure of the Chief.
Deprived of yet another
toy, Ravens Child threw a major tantrum, and shrieked, and shrieked and cried.
So disruptive was the noise he made, it was causing the Chief to tear out
his hair, as a result the Chief ordered, “Give the child what ever he
wants”. The tepee staff were
weary of the child by now, and fearful of the Chiefs wrath should anything
happen to the third dark bag, so they tried to find something else to keep the
child quiet and restore peace, but none of the usual baby toys would satisfy
Ravens Child who kept pointing to the last dark bag.
Finally they give it to him, but with dire warnings not to lose it, for
it contained the Chiefs most prized possession “The Light of the Sun”.
Instead of playing with it as he had done with the other dark bags, the child suddenly turned back into a Raven and flew up through the smoke hole in the ceiling carrying the bag in his beak and stealing the Chiefs “Light of the Sun”. Untying the bag Raven spread light throughout the world bring to an end the perpetual night and creating day. The chief was very angry and his recorded comments contain very strong language in the Tsimshian dialect.
In Scandinavian mythology Odin was the King of the Gods. He had two black Ravens, one called Huginn (“Thought”) the other called Muninn (“Memory”), these he sent out daily to gather information from all around the world. Odin also kept a pair of Wolves, one called Geri (Greedy) the other called Freki (Fierce). Wolves and Ravens have an old and close relationship in the wild, where both lived and survived together. A great deal of a Raven’s food came from scavenging carcasses left by Wolves, particularly in winter. As the God of War, both Wolves and Ravens would have been a common sight on Odin’s battlefields, scavenging on the bodies of the slain.
In some cultures the Raven was originally white, like in the in
the Greek tale of Coronis the daughter of Phlegyes, who was pregnant of Apollo.
Apollo left a white Raven to watch over her, but just before the birth of
his child, Coronis married Ischys. The
Raven reported this fact to Apollo, which made him furious.
In anger at being betrayed, he killed Coronis and Ischys, and turned the
Raven black for being the bearer of bad news.
During Coronis’ funeral, Apollo retrieved the unborn child who later
became Aesclepius, the father of medicine.
In the legends of England, Ravens figure largely in the history of the Tower of London. During the reign of Charles II (1660–85), his astronomer John Flamsteed complained that the raucous noise made by the Ravens was putting him off his work, so the King ordered they should be destroyed. However the Raven was known as a bird of prophecy, so the King was warned that dire bad luck would follow should he destroy the Ravens. Instead, not wishing to tempt fate, the King ordered that the Ravens should be fed and sheltered forever. Since then the legend spread that should the Ravens ever leave the Tower, the reigning Monarchy and the Tower itself would fall, like wise the British Empire. Today at the Tower of London, the Ravens wings are clipped to stop them flying away, and are cared for by a Yeoman Warder with the official title of Raven Master.
In Celtic mythology the
Ravens association with death is linked to the Goddess of Fate and is the totem
bird for Morrigan in her three aspects of Macha, Badh and Nemain
(Morrigan is the collective name for the three Goddesses).
If Raven has called on you, you may soon find the following show up in your life: Magick and mysticism, intellect and acute cunning, awareness and skilful perception, the ability to shapeshift into another for a more complete understanding of Spirit, and a journey into the depths in order to bring out the light. In all this, and more, Raven will be your guide.
The raven is part of the Corvids family (genus, Corvus), which also includes the crow, magpie, blue jay and others - crow being its closest relative. The main difference between a raven and a crow is size, whereas the raven is much larger and has a shaggier tuft of feathers in the neck area. Two other physical differences are the shape of their tail feathers and the length and appearance of their primary wing feathers - whereas a raven's tail feathers are wedge-shaped in flight, a crow's are more rounded...and where the longest feathers of the wing on the raven will have spaces between them when in flight, a crow's will not and will appear more compact. These slight physical differences aside, Raven and Crow bring much the same message, so those with Raven as their Totem would do well to also study Crow, and vice versa. But even through their many similarities, there are some differences.
Where Crow brings word of the magick that surrounds you both within and without, it is Raven who dangles the key. Ravens are known to be able to trigger the energies of the magick you feel all around you, and they will teach you how to fearlessly go about manifesting that magick to fruition. They do this through activating the link between intention and wilful action. Long associated with birth and death, Raven spirit knows best how to help you explore the deeper mysteries. Just as their colour (black) reflects that there are worlds of colourful light within, they are known to delve effortlessly into the darkness for the sole purpose of bringing out the light; this too aiding you in the realization and execution of your magick.
If Raven has come into your life, you can also expect that your imagination will be sparked, and you can definitely expect many changes to begin to take shape within your life. Raven is all about creation...and sometimes in order to create, we must first relinquish old habits. With Raven medicine you will be courageously led into the recesses of your inner self and be given not only the knowledge of what needs be done, but the wisdom and wherewithal to make those necessary changes. And although at times these journeys may be scary to undertake, they can be the most healing. Change is part of the natural Wheel of Life, and this is all part of Raven's reputation of being an omen that foretells of death. He or she is there to help you foretell and render what must be destroyed in order to birth something new. This is an important element of the mysticism of Raven's own magick.
Ravens are excellent shapeshifters - always willing to
embark on journeys into the void, and very capable of delivering the
messages brought back. The Norse god, Odin, possessed two ravens named
Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) that were his personal messengers.
Odin himself would often shapeshift into a raven. So those with Raven
Totem will find that it is not only Raven who will act as shapeshifter and
messenger, but in return they will actually encourage and welcome you
to enter their world. Like no other animal, Raven allows their own spirit
to become one with the human spirit, thus allowing the messages they bring forth to
be quick and clear. They also know how to intermingle and interrelate with
other animal spirits, so those with Raven Totem may also find notably
increased interaction with others, bringing about the advantageous ability
to put one's self in another's shoes and seeing into their hearts.
With this useful skill comes understanding, the increased desire to
cooperate and work together, along with the ability to manipulate.
Where a crow is more likely to be seen physically living near people...ravens are hardly ever seen, preferring to live in densely wooded areas. Ravens are territorial and prefer lots of space, even amidst their brethren. People with Raven Totem will find not only the desire but the need to both physically commune with the forests and internally commune with the dense underbrush of one's own inner being. Ravens will teach you to be swift in deed but wary enough in your actions in order to proceed with safety. In the same breath, though, they also teach you how not to be intimidated. Ravens - just as their Crow brothers and sisters are known to do - will actually mob a hawk in order to chase them from their territory. This is a fine lesson in taking back your personal power.
Noted as being the most intelligent of all the birds, Ravens are excellent tool users. In one study and documentary, they are shown manipulating various ingenious tools and methods to maneuver and gain access into a feeder, using the uncanny ability to plan and think ahead. They are known to possess excellent puzzle-solving ability, good memory capacity and spatial perception, and even mental projection and visualization skills. Metaphysically, they are widely known to be able to see into both the past and the future. With Raven medicine, your own intellect will be acutely sharpened and your intuitions honed - your levels of awareness and perception greatly increased. You may find yourself embarking on new intellectual pursuits, and a new sense of cunning will make what once were looked at as difficult problems disappear. Your ingenuity will increase, and along with it, your self-esteem. After you begin experiencing these new or heightened aspects of yourself, Raven may then ask you to go on a mission quest, but you never need worry about it, as you will be given all the tools that you need in order to accomplish the task.
Ravens like to talk. Those with Raven medicine will find themselves becoming more vocal and/or gaining the ability to reach out to others through some form of communication - many times through the art of writing, painting, acting, dancing or performing. Just as the raven possesses a wide range of vocal tones and notes - actually having the ability to talk and mimic, and possessing a high command of language - your own communication skills will be enhanced. As noted in the text on Wolf, Raven is prone to be vocally helpful in alerting others to danger. In this way, you will find yourself also becoming very watchful and alert, and you will think it very natural to defend your family - be it blood or kinship. You will find it comes easy to bring them messages, whether in the form of warnings or fresh insights.
Ravens are playful and extremely amorous, and those harkening to Raven's call may also find these traits surfacing within themselves. A bit raucous and hardly ever fearful, Raven will teach you how to find humor in the most unexpected places, as self-assuredness through cunning and being 'in the know' relinquishes inhibitions. They will also teach you how to bring your own playful and amorous nature into the light...for bringing the creative life force to the forefront into the light is what Raven is all about.
In all these things and many others, Raven is a great teacher and guide.
The Witch Book – The Encyclopedia of
Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism - By Raymond Buckland
Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft
- By Raven Grimassi
Animal-Speak (The Spiritual & Magical
Powers of Creatures Great & Small) - By Ted Andrews
European Myth & Legend - By Mike
Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology - By Arthur Cotterall
Written and compiled 06th June 2007 © George Knowles
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
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Rituals contributed by Crone: Samhain / Yule / Imbolc / Ostara / Beltane / Litha / Lammas / Mabon
Tools of a Witch / The Besom (Broom) / Poppets and Dolls / Pendulums / Cauldron Magick / Mirror Gazing
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)
Mystical Sacred Sites - Stonehenge / Glastonbury Tor / Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni / Avebury / Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant / Ireland - Newgrange /
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
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
Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill / I Talk to the Trees / Awakening / The Witch in You / A Tale of the Woods
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:
Pliny the Elder / Hesiod / Pythagoras
Remembered at Samhain
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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