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raven & crow lore - for those of you interested in these black birds
ravensaverage about 24 to 27 inches long
around 3.5 to 4 feet
weighs four times that of a crow
long & wedge-shaped
bigger, more powerful & curved
shine with a blue or purple tint in sunlight
low & slow croak
sometimes makes a prominent "swish, swish" sound
flock, or there are a couple of great, but obsolete terms, an unkindness or conspiracy
crowsaverage around 17 inches long
about 2.5 feet
let's say about one fourth of a raven
more blunt & splayed wing tips
more-or-less flat bills
plain, flinty black, & can even have lighter markings
wing beats are usually silent
- Crows account for an entire family of birds, Corvidae, that includes the raven species. That is, all ravens are crows, but crows can be ravens, jays, or magpies. This gets a little confusing because some people commonly refer to ravens and crows as species, both in the genus Corvus
- More subtle characters include: ravens soar more than crows. If you see a "crow" soaring for more than a few seconds, check it a second time. Crows never do the somersault in flight that Common Ravens often do. Ravens are longer necked in flight than crows.
- Raven wings are shaped differently than are crow wings, with longer primaries ("fingers") with more slotting between them. Some say, "Ravens are the ones whose wings you can see through." The longer primaries make the wings look more bent at the wrist than a crow as the bird flies, and the "hand" portion can look nearly pointed.
Mythology of the people of the West Coast of North America
Rested, The Raven picked up his bag and continued to fly. After a while he became tired, so he sat on a rock and took more items from his bag. He removed the fir, the pine, the spruce, the redwood and all the trees of the world. He also removed the huckleberry bush, the wild strawberry, the grass and all of the plants of the world, including the plants of the sea. These things he scattered across the land and the water, so that they may grow.
Again The Raven took his pouch around his neck and flew through the darkness. And again The Raven became tired so that he sat upon a rock. This time he removed all the animals of the world. The wolf, the eagle, the salmon, the bear, the dear, and all the animals of the land and of the sea.
The Raven looked around him at the world he had made, it was a good world, every one was peaceful and happy. But before he flew off he looked into his pouch and saw that there was one thing left. So he removed man from the bag and placed him upon the earth.
Different Things to Many People
Raven's element is air, and she is a messenger spirit, which Native American shamans use to project their magic over great distances.
In many northwestern American Indian traditions, Raven is the Trickster, much like the Norse Loki. Observing ravens in nature, we find that they often steal food from under the noses of other animals, often working in pairs to distract the unfortunate beasts.
Yet, conversely, the Bible also says that ravens were the protectors of the prophets; they fed Elijah and Paul the Hermit in the wilderness. Also, ravens helped St. Cuthbert and St. Bernard.
In contradictory Christian traditions, ravens represent the solitude of the holy hermits, yet also the souls of wicked priests and witches.
In the Norse shamanic tradition, Odin's ravens represent the powers of necromancy, clairvoyance and telepathy, and they were guides for the dead.
The Tower of London Ravens
Nobody knows when ravens first came to the Tower of London, but they’ve been associated with the Tower for centuries. Legend dictates that, if the ravens ever leave, the Tower will fall and the Kingdom will fall, so Charles II decreed that there must always be at least six ravens at the Tower. That tradition has been honored for more than 300 years.
If you’re an aficionado of raven trivia, take a moment to memorize these facts and figures about the Tower’s avian mascots:
update from February, 2006
The Tower of London, home to Britain’s Crown Jewels, has decided to keep its ravens indoors to protect them from the threat of bird flu. The six black birds were moved from lawns outside the 11th century castle into specially built cages in one of its towers as the deadly disease spreads across Europe, a spokesman said on Tuesday. "Although we don’t like having to bring the Tower ravens inside, we believe it is the safest thing to do for their own protection, given the speed that the virus is moving across Europe," said Yeoman Raven Master Derrick Coyle.
When one of the Tower ravens dies it is usually replaced by a wild one. Recently, however, some have been hatched in captivity. The six, notoriously unfriendly birds — Branwen, Hugine, Munin, Gwyllum, Thor and Baldrick — already have their wings clipped to prevent them from flying away. The birds are getting used to their new surroundings, Coyle said. "We are taking advice on the vaccinations against avian flu, and in the meantime, we will continue to give our six ravens as much care and attention as they need," he added.
Maybe it’s time for some ravens at the White House!