Facts, Myth, and Lore about Ravens
The raven - bird of mystery, magic and omens both good and bad. Raven symbolism is rich and plentiful, with a plethora of raven mythology, raven lore and raven superstitions available from a wealth of cultures.
The raven often has a bad press, for being a carrion bird it is ultimately associated with death, and consequently considered a bad omen by many, or a forewarning of war.
But there is much more to this enigmatic and intelligent bird than death, darkness and destruction. Raven is a trickster, a protector, a teacher. and a bringer of great magic.
Raven Biology: Natural History of the Raven
About the Raven
Corvus Corax. Member of the crow family
The raven is not only the largest member of the crow family, but the largest perching bird in the world. An extremely intelligent bird, the raven was once extremely common, but persecution now finds it only in remote areas such as cliffs, mountains and moors.
The adult is completely black with a shaggy throat and heavy bill. It flies higher than the crow and is adept at aerial acrobatics.
It is a carrion bird, feeding the likes of dead sheep, and will also kill its own food also, including small mammals and birds, reptiles, as well as taking eggs and eating insects and seeds.
Ravens prefer to nest in a sheltered spot, favouring a rock crevice but also opting for trees. They build their nests from earth, moss, twigs and heather stalks, lining it with hair and wool. They raise just one brood per year, from February to March, which consists of 4-6 eggs.
Ravens are extremely intelligent and in some cases can even learn to talk.
Raven Lore: Folklore & Legends
The Raven and Water
The raven has a plethora of lore surrounding it. Richly interwoven into Celtic and Norse mythology, it also features in many superstitions and countless legends and stories, from Noah to the Tower of London.
Those interested in perusing the very early stories of ravens should note that they often speak of the raven as the crow.
The raven is often associated with water, often with the finding of water, or lack of it. Sacrificing gods sent the raven for water, but the bird delayed his mission to wait for some figs to ripen. Angry, the gods punished the raven by cursing him with a great thirst in the summer, which is said to be why the raven croaks.
The Raven, Death and War
The raven is also, quite famously, known as an omen of death. Being carrion feeders, seeing them feeding on gibbet corpses was once a common sight, and most likely where the association arose. A famous example of ravens being portends of death include the Roman philosopher, statesman and political theorist Cicero being forewarned of his death by the fluttering of ravens.
Raven is a war bird. The Danes believed that observing ravens could help foretell the outcome of a battle. Indeed, they are said to have foretold the deaths of Plato and Tiberius, and told the Irish god Lugh of the invasion of the Formorians in Celtic mythology.
The Raven and Prophecy
The raven is also frequently linked with prophecy, further enhancing its status as a bird of the occult. Not only was it a messenger of the gods, both as an informant and as a guide, but it also was thought to be the most prophetic of all birds. People are still referred to as having “the foresight of ravens”.
Raven Augery and Symbolism
Ravens and the Weather, Negative Raven Superstitions
Weather Raven Lore:
Ravens facing the direction of a clouded sun foretell hot weather
If you see a raven preening, rain is on the way
Raven Superstitions of Death and War
Ravens flying towards each other signify an omen of war
Seeing a raven tapping on a window foretold death
If a raven is heard croaking near a house, there will be a death in it
If a raven flies around the chimney of a sick person’s house, they will die
Positive Raven Superstitions
Many parts of Celtic Britain and Ireland view the raven as a good omen:
Shetland and Orkney - if a maiden sees a raven at Imbolc she can foretell the direction of her future husband’s home by following the raven’s path of flight
Wales - if a raven perches on a roof, it means prosperity for the family
Scotland - deerstalkers believed it bode well to hear a raven before setting out on a hunt
Ireland - ravens with white feathers were believed a good omen, especially if they had white on the wings. Ravens flying on your right hand or croaking simultaneously were also considered good omens
Source and to read the rest of this excellent article:http://www.squidoo.com/raven-symbolism-lore
[ Image is a vintage illustration of a Raven circa 1830s ]