Note: this is a very old post from an ancient incarnation of this blog. I found it interesting to revisit, however, so am leaving it online.
Today, the message comes from Raven.
A short while ago, I posted a rewrite of one of my animal communication newsletter articles on PodBlogging:
The original had focused on herons and foxes, and the rewrite explored the fact that an enormously traumatic change in my life occurred the day after the article was written, casting a whole new light upon the messages these animal spirits were revealing.
Today, my path has been crossed, no fewer than four times, by Raven (five if you include a friend who goes by Raven, actually). I heard a raven croak from the woods behind the house this morning, I stumbled across two raven-oriented pieces on the web, and, on Twitter, a favorite TV show, Paranormal State, announced that tonight’s new episode is entitled “The Raven”.
Raven Medicine, according to Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards, is all about magic. Raven peers into the void and returns with deep wisdom. He has the talents to take thought-and-dream energy and transmute it to solid form. Raven is also a master of trickery, a shape-shifter, akin to Coyote in many ways.
Ravens, though in the crow family, are very different from their more common relations. They are heavier in build than crows, scruffier, often with a ragged plume of feathers, like a beard, below their bills. Their beaks are thicker and much more coarse. Where the crow “caws”, the raven’s call is more of a hoarse “croak”. Ravens are less numerous, though where they are found, it’s not all that unusual to see them mingling with crows and competing for food sources and nesting space.
Ravens are incredibly intelligent, in this way much like their cousins the crows. They are so intelligent, in fact, that much raven folklore has to do with these dark birds outsmarting, and humbling, mankind.
Raven folklore finds a place in almost every culture The Japanese Shinto Goddess, Amaterasu took a raven form. Odin’s pet ravens, Huginn and Muninn, figured in Norse mythology. The Celtic Morrigan flew over battle fields in the guise of a raven to protect soldiers.
For most of us in English-speaking western cultures, however, our first association with Raven often comes in the form of:
Once upon a midnight dreary
While I pondered, weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious
Volume of forgotten lore….
(from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, of course )
Did you know that, like the bird in Poe’s famous poem, ravens can indeed mimic human speech? Their crow-brothers can as well, and neither, to squelch the old wive’s tale, need to have their tongues cut to do so.
Although my last encounter with repeat totems and spirit animal messages, or rather the last one I wrote about, didn’t exactly have a happy ending, I’m by no means of the mind that all such messages are negative: not even with a messenger as black and deep as Raven. The message of magic, of secrets revealed, of sifting through the shadows for wisdom, can be a blessing. In fact, “seek light and wisdom in the midst of darkness” is a very good message for me right now.
When I was in fifth grade, my teacher had our class all memorize a poem a week and recite it out loud. I still remember the first poem I memorized (“I saw a star slide down the sky, blinding the earth as it went by. Too burning and too quick to hold, too lovely to be bought or sold. Good only to make wishes on, and then, forever, to be gone.”) I was criticized by the teacher for choosing a poem that was too simple.
The following week, I recited “The Raven”. I made it through nine of the eighteen stanzas before my teacher said, “That’s enough. You’ve made your point,” and made me sit down.
Raven’s still a friend of mine, and always welcome to peer into my darkness and help me find the light.
For your enjoyment: