Crows and ravens are birds that evoke much in the way of emotions and passions in people. This is likely because of the fact that crows and ravens are both associated with deities in multiple cultures. This would lead to their inclusion in Aesop’s Fables, and later in literature. In Arthurian legends, Morgen le Fay is given the ability to transform into a crow! Not to mention Edgar Allan Poe’s iconic poem, The Raven, is forever an image of what we see as this bird’s symbology.
Crows and ravens are both corvids, and they are among some of the most intelligent of all birds. This has turned to many people being absolutely enamored with them, including Charles Dickens having a pet raven.
Now let us look at the history of corvid associations with deities. The two most important deities to be associated with crows or ravens, and the ones I will focus on, are Odin and the Morrigan. Odin was the All-Father and leader of the Aesir in Norse myth. He had two pet ravens known as Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory, that would fly around the world in order to bring him back knowledge. This was one way for Odin to be able to be seen as all-knowing!
The Morrigan was an Irish Celtic war Goddess. She was triple Goddess that was able to transform into a crow at will. She used this guise to fly over battlefields and chose who would win. She even perched as a crow on the shoulder of her enemy Cú Chulainn as he was dying in battle! She is a very evocative figure that is associated with many a goddess, and other literary figures. For example, her Macha aspect is connected to Rhiannon, and she is often also connected to Morgan le Fay!
These two powerful deities, still often worshipped in modern Paganism, are good reasons for crows and ravens to become potent symbols used by many writers. I already mentioned both Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe being lovers of ravens. A more modern example of using the symbology of crows is L.J. Smith in her Vampire Diaries book series. In this series she literally gives her vampires the ability to change into the form of animals, and the first animal form they can obtain is that of a bird. In the case of the character Damon, he has the ability to become a crow. Damon is the anti-hero of the tale, and makes many mistakes. In the beginning he is seen as a villain, and this is consistent with the dark aspect of the crow. He is cunning and manipulative, and is obsessed with getting what he wants! But he also shows the crow’s ability to protect and guard. He guides and guards the woman he loves through several adventures, even if he thinks that he will never have her love. In some ways his complex personality can be seen as an offshoot of the principles of the crow deities discussed above!
I hope you have enjoyed this analysis of crow and raven symbology. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a crow. I found the image on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crow.
- The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
- Aesop’s Fables
- The Vampire Diaries Series by L.J. Smith
- Mythology by Edith Hamilton
- Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan by Stephanie Woodfield
- Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory