- A Negative Bird
For the Celts, the crow was sacred and meant the flesh torn by fighting. As he eats carrion, the welsh poetry uses the metaphor "the crow pierced you" to say "you have died". They thought crows escorted the sun during his nocturnal path, that is to say in Hell. So they were a symbol of evil, contrary to swanns, symbolizing purity.
In Babylon, the crow was the name of the 13th month of the calendar, and he had a very negative value.
For the Greeks, the crow was too gossipy. That's why Athena replaced him with the owl, to stay with her. The crow was also devoted to Apollo. The god sent him to the aquatic world, to bring back water. The crow discovered a fig tree whose fruits were not ripe yet, so he waited near the tree to eat ripe figs instead of accomplishing his task . He was punished for his disobediance and egotism : Apollo placed him in the constellations, but the hydra prevented him from drinking the cup : he is condemned to thirst.
In the Bible, the crow is sent by Noah to search earth after the flood. But the crow didn't told Noé that the flood was finished. So he is considered selfish. Saint Golowin thought that in Paradise, the crows had multicoloured wings. But after Adam and Eve were driven away from the Paradise, the crows started to eat carrion. So they became black-feathered. At the end of time, the crows will find their beauty again and sing harmoniously to praise God.
In the Middle-Ages, it was said that crows neglect their young; as he eats carrions, he is seen as a bad omen.
In India, in the Mahâbhârata, the messengers of death are compared to crows. In Laos, the water soiled by crows can't be used for ritual purification.
- Tlingit Indians
For Tlingit Indians (North-West of the Pacific), the crow is the main divine character. He organises the world, gives civilisation and culture, creates and freeze the sun.
- Haïda Indians
For Haïda indians (North-western coast of the Canada), the crow will steal the sun from the sky's master, to give it to the earth's people. Raven has also a magic canoe : he can make it change its size, from the pine needle size, to big enough to contain the whole universe.
- North America
In North America, he is the personnification of the Supreme Being. When he flaps his wings he creates the wind, the thunder and the lightning.
- Mithra's Cult
In Mithra's cult, he can fight evil spells.
- Scandinavians Legends
Scandinavians legends show two crows, perched on Odin's seat : Hugi, the Spirit, and Munnin, the Memory. They symbolize the principle of creation. In the same way, these birds are the companions of Wotan ("the God with the crows").
The crow was sacred for the Celts. He was associated to the creation of Lugdunum (Lyon), city of the God Lug. Lug is the great solar god. He has the form of a crow and is assimilated to Apollo.
The crow is also in the Bible: he brings bead to man, alone in the desert.Prophet Elie, Saint Paul hermit, Saint Antoine... Saint Vincent had been defended by crows against the attack of carnivores; the crow is also seen at Saint Benoît's feet and in Saint Oswald's hands. Here, he symbolizes divine providence. He is also linked to Saints Boniface and Meinrad : their two tame crows allowed to find their corpses.
- Asiatic Mythology
The crow has also a role in the asiatic mythology : in China and in Japan, he shows love and filial gratitude.According to chinese legends, ten red crows with three paws flew away from the East Blackberry Tree to bring light to the world. But they brought an unbearable heat to the Earth. Yi The Good Archer killed nine of them, and saved the world. The last Crow is now in the Sun.
So the crow is a solar symbol. He represents the creative principle.
- Tlingit Indians
The major meaning of this black bird is to be a guide and the Gods' messenger.
- Black Africa
In Black Africa, the crow warns men that dangers are menacing them. The crow is their guide and a protector spirit.
For Mayas, he is the messenger of the God of lightning and thunder.
- Celtic Civilisation
In Celtic civilisation, he has prophetic functions. Bodb, Goddess of the war, takes the form of a raven to observe the battlefields. The crows' fly and cawings told the future. The crow was also linked to Bran, God of the sailors (bran means crow in gaelic) : the sailors had crows on their boats. They released them at sea. They flied in the direction of the earth. The same idea is in the Bible (after the flood Noah released first a crow),in India and in Norway. Greece>
In Greece the crow foretold the future : a raven stood near the Pythie of Delphes during her prediction. It is generally said in Greece that the white crow guides messengers. This function of messenger of the Gods (especially Apollo's messenger), may have its origin in a greek legend. Coronis was unfaithful to Apollo, and a crow informed him. According to Ovide, the crow was originally white. Apollo made him become black to punish him for bringing bad news. Apollo even took a form of crow to guide Santorin's people to Cyrena. And two crows showed Alexander the Great the road to Amon's sanctuary.
- Scandinavian Mythology
Hugi and Munnin (Thought and Memory), are Odin's companions. In scandinavian mythology, they travel all over the world and come back to tell Odin all the events that happens on earth.
In the mithraic cult, Sol(the God Sun) entrust the crow with telling Mithra to sacrifice the bull.
In Japan, crows are also divine messengers, and in China they are the faerie queen Hsi-Wang-Mu's messengers. They also bring her food and are a good omen.
The Crow in World MythologyThe Crow is often considered an omen of death in North America, but is honored and appreciated in other worlds and times.
Crows in MythologyCrows, and especially ravens, often feature in European legends or mythology as portents or harbingers of doom or death, because of their dark plumage, unnerving calls, and tendency to eat carrion. They are commonly thought to circle above scenes of death such as battles.
The Child ballad The Three Ravens depicts three ravens discussing whether they can eat a dead knight, but finds that his hawk, his hound, and his true love prevent them; in the parody version The Twa Corbies, these guards have already forgotten the dead man, and the ravens can eat their fill. .read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crow
The White Crow/Black CrowAges ago, A snow-white Crow was left by the God Apollo to watch over his love, Coronis. But though Coronis was pregnant with the Sun-God's child, she admitted her passion for another man. The Crow flew off to tell Apollo of Coronis' addmission, but before the Crow could tell him, the Sun-God had already divined Coronis' infidelity.
In the fires of his revenge against Coronis, the Crow was turned black as night. Since that time, the Crows have been spirits of revenge.
Though Coronis died, Apollo managed to save the life of their child...Asclepius. Asclepius grew up and was given a gift by the Goddess Athena; blood from the veins of Medusa the Gorgon. The blood possessed the power to cure the sick, and even to raise the dead. But the power of the Gorgon's blood made Asclepius some powerful enemies, especially Hades, who complained that Asclepius unjustly depleted the population of the underworld. Zeus killed the physician with a thunderbolt...but the Crows kept the Gorgon's blood.
The Crows bring back those who have been wronged, so that they might the wrong things right. And it is said that the Crows shall remain ever black, so long as violence is repaid with violence.
Paraphrased from "The Myth of the CROW" appearing in "The CROW: Wild Justice" #1, published by Kitchen Sink Comics. www.angelfire.com/ia3/sar_alt/cromyth.html
The Rainbow Crow
Background on crows in Language and LiteratureFor a play based on a book of the same name, retold by Nancy Van Laan. See:
Crows are found in almost every part of the world, except for New Zealand. There is a common saying, "if a person knows only 3 birds in all the world, one of these will be a crow" (Blassingame, p. 3). In fact, crows are so popular that they've added words to our language: the "crow's nest" is a lookout at the top of a ship's mast (crows build their own nests very high); to "crow over" means to brag very loudly, inspired by the harsh voice of the crow; to "eat crow" means to take back what one has said.
Crows are very popular in literature and myth. In Roman mythology, crows, or ravens, were once as white as snow. However, when one unfortunate crow brought some particularly bad news to the god Apollo, the god "Black'd the raven o'er, and bid him prate in his white plumes no more" (Blassingame, p. 14).
In Norse mythology, the raven belonged to Odin, the god of war. The raven soared over the battlefield and fed on the bodies of the dead. (Crows are omnivorous, and will eat everything.)
Lady Macbeth states:
...The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. (MacBeth, Act 1, sc. iv)
Then, of course, there is Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem, "The Raven", which features a midnight visitor, whose only utterance is the word "nevermore."
- Black Africa
The crow is seen as a negative omen only recently and mostly in Europe.