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  raven & crow lore - for those of you interested in these black birds



length

wing span

weight

wings

tail shape

bill

feathers

 call

flying

 
grouping

 

ravens

average about 24 to 27 inches long

around 3.5 to 4 feet

weighs four times that of a crow

pointed wings

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

crows

average around 17 inches long

about 2.5 feet

let's say about one fourth of a raven

more blunt & splayed wing tips

fan-shaped (squared-off)

more-or-less flat bills

plain, flinty black, & can even have lighter markings

a "caw"

wing beats are usually silent


murder, or if you want to be boring, a flock

small ravenOther information
- Atop a raven’s bill is a tuft of hairs absent on crows.
- Crows are more at home in the urban landscape, given their ability to be more socially inclined than ravens.
- While both are committed to being vociferous omnivores, ravens are drawn to carrion, while crows may be less picky.

- 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.


book myth time

odin & ravens

Norse Myth
Hugin and Munin are the two ravens of the most high god Odin. He sends them out at dawn to fly over all over the world, ask questions to both the living and the dead, and return to tell Odin.
Hugin thinks. Munin remembers. Everything.

NW raven art

Mythology of the people of the West Coast of North America
In the beginning there was nothing. Only water, darkness and The Raven. He flew through the darkness with a bag that hung around his neck. He had been flying for a long time, and was starting to get tired. So while he flew, he removed a rock from his bag and threw it into the sea. This rock became the first land. He sat down upon this land to rest, while resting he took other rocks from his sack and threw them into the water. Thus The Raven made the land.

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.

small raven Different Things to Many People

Native American
Black, to Native Americans, is a color of magical power, and only to be feared if misused.  Raven symbolizes the void - the mystery of that which is not yet formed.  Ravens are symbolic of the Black Hole in Space, which draws in all energy toward itself and releases it in new forms.  The iridescent blue and green that can be seen in the glossy black feathers of the raven represents the constant change of forms and shapes that emerge from the vast blackness of the void.  In Native American tradition, Raven is the guardian of both ceremonial magic and healing circles. She is also the patron of smoke signals.

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.

China
Ravens are considered a solar symbol in Chinese mythology. The three legged raven lives in the sun, representing the sun's three phases - rising, noon and setting.  When the sunlight hits their glossy black feathers just right, they seem to turn to silver.

Japan
The Shinto Goddess, Amaterasu is sometimes represented as a giant raven, Yata-Garasu.

India
Brahma appears as a raven in one of his incarnations. Ravens are also sacred to Shiva and Kali.

Australia
In Aborigine mythology, Raven tried to steal fire from seven sisters (the Pleides), and was charred black in the unsuccessful attempt.

Middle East
To Egyptians, ravens represented destruction and malevolence.  However, Arabs call raven Abu Aajir - the Father of Omens.

Hebrew/Christian
In the Hebrew/Christian tradition ravens were considered unclean, representing impurity, mortification, destruction, deceit, and desolation. Ravens were cursed by Noah for not returning to the ark with news of the receding the flood.

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.

European
Since ravens can be taught to speak, and have such a complex vocabulary of their own, they are connected symbolically to both wisdom and prophecy. But in Europe, at least from Christian times, ravens have several strikes against them: black is considered a negative color; ravens are carrion eaters; and they have a symbiotic relationship with man's oldest enemy, the wolf. In many western traditions raven represents darkness, destructiveness and evil. They are sometimes associated with deities of evil and of death. Both witches and the Devil were said to be able to take the shape of a raven.

Greece
Raven is the messenger of the Sun Gods, both Helios and Apollo. She is also associated with Athene, Hera, Cronos and Aesculapius.

Northern Europe
The pagan Danes and Vikings used the raven banner on their ships, in Odin's honor. These flags, usually sewn by the daughters of great warriors and kings, were tokens of luck on their voyages. Houses where ravens nested were also thought to be lucky.

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

tower 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:

  • Seven ravens currently live at the Tower. Three are females; four are males.
  • To keep the birds from flying away, the Raven Master clips their lifting feathers.
  • Ravens have escaped occasionally. Grog was last seen outside an East End pub called the Rose and Punchbowl in 198 after living at the tower for 21 years (seven years longer than Sir Walter Raleigh).
  • Occasionally, birds are dismissed for bad behavior. George was exiled to the Welsh Mountain Zoo in 1986 after developing an unhealthy taste for TV antennas, while two other ravens were banished in 1996 for "conduct unbecoming Tower residents."
  • Ravens are well fed: Each bird’s daily ration includes 6 ounces of meat and bird-formula biscuits soaked in blood. Once a week the birds enjoy an egg, and they’re occasionally given a rabbit (the fur is good for them). The ravens also enjoy scraps from the Tower’s mess kitchen.
  • Ravens can live to a ripe old age. The oldest raven to live at the Tower was Jim Crow, who died at the age of 44. The oldest raven currently living at the Tower is Hardey, who is 26 years old.
  • Since 1987, the Tower has undertaken an ambitious and successful breeding program. Charlie and Rhys paired up and produced a total of 17 chicks.

tower boys & ravens

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!


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