Category Archives: Raven Myths and Tales

A Raven Crown

The hereditary monarchy of the Wangchuk dynasty in the independent Himalayan State of Bhutan was established in 1907. The first king of the Wangchuk dynasty, Sir Ugyen Wangchuck (1862–1926), was a charismatic figure who came to power against a turbulent background of incessant and complex feuding in that chaotic warrior state. He adopted as the unique symbol of his authority a crown surmounted by the head of a raven. The bird represents a form of “Mahakala“, Bhutan’s guardian deity. The prototype of the founding monarch’s Raven Crown had first been devised as a battle helmet for his father, Jigme Namgyel (1825–81). Known as the Black Regent, he had worn it in bloody struggles against his many rivals within the country and against the British who tried, unsuccessfully, to subdue him.

The story of the Wangchuck dynasty’s rise and triumph moves from a picture of turmoil and chaos to one of relative peace and stability. The heredity monarchy is fairly recent and the Wangchuck dynasty was established in 1907.

Raven Crown today is the official crown worn by the Kings of Bhutan. The Raven is the national bird of Bhutan. The raven is known locally as Jaroq. One time was a capital crime to kill a raven in Bhutan.

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A Creation Myth

Sibyl Raven

From the formless void
Motes, particles, miniscule molecules of matter
Slowly began to stir
Drawn by an invisible procreative,
Primordial force
They gravitated
Clinging together tenaciously
Swelling into a giant cluster
A sensual shape with
Dark raven wings

Inflaming, arousing desire, Raven
Spread her wings
Dancing, gyrating provocatively
Upon Wind’s fingertips
Wind and raven’s coming together
Borne of frenzied passion
Was a union, an act of love?
From which was birthed
An exquisite silver, moon egg
Swollen with life.

Curled within the silver womb
Amid deep silence
Lay the Goddess of Love,
Goddess of erotic love, fertility
Wrapped in the very wings
Upon which would ride, ravenous
Procreative inspiration
The all powerful
Creative energy
That fuels the universe

Heather Blakey

Raven Mocker

The most dreaded of all Cherokee witches is the Raven Mocker, who robs the dying of their life.  A Raven Mocker can be of either sex, and there is no real way to know one.  They usually look old and withered, because they have added so many lives to their own.

During the night when someone is sick or dying, the Raven Mocker goes there to take the life.  He flies through the air with his arms outstretched like wings.  There will be a wild wind noise around him, and sparks trailing from behind.  Every once in awhile he will dive, and make a sound similar to a raven’s cry.  All those who hear it are afraid, because they know that someone’s life will soon end.  When the Raven Mocker makes it to the dying person’s house, he often finds others of his kind there.  Unless there is an Cherokee Doctor watching out who knows how to drive them off, they will all go inside (they are invisible) and frighten and torment the sick person until they kill him.  Sometimes, those who are attending the sick think the person is just fighting for their breath.

After the witches take the life, they take out his heart and eat it, and by doing this, they add to their own lives as many days or years as they have taken from his.  Nobody who is attending the sick can see them, and there is no scar where they have removed the heart.  Upon further examination, they will find that there is no heart left in the body.

Only a medicine person with the right kind of medicine can recognize a Raven Mocker, and if that medicine person stays in the room with the sick person, the witches will be afraid to come in.  When one of them has been recognized in his right shape, he must die within seven days.  Often, when the friends of a traditional Cherokee know that there is no more hope, they will try to have one of these medicine people stay in the house and guard the body until it is buried.  Witches will not steal the hearts after burial.

Other witches are usually jealous of Raven Mockers and are afraid to enter the same house with one.  When a Raven Mocker finally dies, the other witches sometimes take revenge by digging up the body and abusing it.  Traditional Cherokees also believe that after a person dies, his soul often continues to live as a ghost.  Ghosts are believed to have the ability to materialize where some people can see them, although some can not.

Raven Fools Crow

Is it a Raven or a Crow?

Raven used to live high up in the upper Skagit River country. He was very lazy. In the summer when the other animals were busy gathering food for winter, he would be flying from rock to stump and stump to rock making fun of them. Raven just laughed when Crow (his cousin) urged him to follow Squirrel’s example but Raven never prepared for the cold months, when the snow would drift over the ground and cover all the remaining food.

But now Raven was in trouble. Winter had come and the snows were deep. He was hungry and Raven loved to eat. He had to find someone who would share their food with him.

Raven went to see Squirrel. He had a huge supply of pine nuts and seeds and other food hidden all over the place. Raven poked his head in squirrel’s nest in a old fir tree. Squirrel had lots to eat. Raven politely begged for some food. Squirrel scolded him that was always Squirrel’s way “You refused to work and save for winter and you poked much fun at me, you deserve to starve!”

Raven went looking for Bear. But Bear was sound asleep in his cave and could not be wakened. Raven looked around for some food, but it was all in Bear’s belly. Bear had already eaten it all and was sleeping till spring.

Raven was now very hungry. He thought: “Who can give me something to eat? Everyone is either stingy like Squirrel or sleeping like Bear and Marmot, or they have gone South for winter like the snow birds.” Then he thought of Crow he would be easy to fool!

Raven flew to Crow’s nest. “Cousin Crow, we must talk about your coming potlatch!” Crow answered. “I have not planned a potlatch”

Raven ignored his response. “Crow, everyone is talking about your potlatch will you sing at it?” “Sing?” Crow had not known that anybody really cared for his singing voice, though in those days, Crow’s song was much more like that of Wood Thrush than it is today.

Raven continued to talk of Crow’s potlatch. “You are very talented and possess a beautiful voice – everyone will be so disappointed if you don’t sing at your potlatch!”

“What potlatch? …. You really like my singing?”

“We love your singing, Crow,” Raven answered. “The Winter’s cold has chilled the forest and we’re cold and hungry and singing will help us forget our cold feet and empty stomachs. Now you get started fixing the food, looks like you have plenty here and I will go invite the guests to your potlatch. You can practice your songs as you cook!”

Crow’s hesitation now overcome, he began to prepare all the food he had collected for winter, and as he prepared it, he practiced his songs. The more he thought the feast and how everyone wanted to hear him sing, the more excited he got about it.

Meanwhile Raven was offering invitations to all the animals of the forest. (Of course Marmot and Beaver were sleeping like Bear, and Robin and Goose were gone South) To each he said the same thing: “Come to My potlatch! I have worked hard to prepare it. There will be much food at Raven’s potlatch and Crow is helping and will sing for us. There will be fern roots and wild potatoes, dried berries, fish and meat. Come to My potlatch! It will be a great occasion.” Raven did not invite Squirrel however since he had refused to share his food with Raven. But all the rest of the animals were invited to Raven’s Potlatch.

When he returned to Crow – he was busy singing and cooking. Raven told him, “Everyone is coming – be sure and fix all your food, they will be hungry after their journey. And your songs are sounding so good! Crow’s potlatch will be a great feast!”

As the guest arrived, Raven welcomed each one to his potlatch. There was Deer and Mountain Goat and Mouse, Rabbit, Ptarmigan and Jay. The guests were seated and the food was brought out. Crow started to sit and eat, but Raven asked him for a song first. “It’s not good to sing on a full stomach, Crow”.

So Crow began to sing. Every time he would stop to eat – Raven would insist he sing another song. “You can’t sing with your mouth full, Crow!” Encouraged again and again by the guests who were busy stuffing themselves with Crow’s food. Crow sang song after song after song all day until night and Crow’s voice became hoarser and hoarser until all he could do was “Caw – caw”.

As was the custom – the left over food was collected by the guests and taken by them for their homeward journey. Even Raven had taken his share and left as Crow was cleaning up. Crow had nothing left to eat. ” At least,” Crow thought, “I won’t go hungry, I will be invited to their feasts.” For it was the custom that having been entertained, each guest was now obliged to return the favor and invite the host for a return potlatch.

But the invitations never came. Since all the guests thought it was Raven who hosted the feast, Raven was invited to enough dinners to keep his stomach full for several winters and he never went hungry.

But Crow, who had been fooled, had been reduced to starving, and never regained his singing voice either. He was destined to spend his winters begging in the camps of men for scraps of food. And that’s where we find him today, squabbling over scraps in grocery store parking lots.

A Popular Image

The Vikings used a lot the image of the crow. The put a symbol on their sails. Ragnar Lodbrok had a flag called “reaffirmation” and embroidered on it the image of a crow. According to legend, if the flag fluttered in the wind, Lodbrok would win but if the flag hung motionless, they lose the battle.

The Raven is a bird of high intelligence in many mythologies is revered and feared. The legends of this enigmatic bird back centuries, having been immortalized with his sinister presence as a bad omen …

The common raven is between 52 and 69 centimeters in length and its weight varies from 0.69 to 1.7 kilograms.

Generally live 10 to 15 but some individuals have reached 40 years. Part of their success is due to their omnivorous diet, the Common Raven is extremely opportunistic, feeding on carrion, insects, food waste, grains, berries, fruits and small animals.

In some places large numbers and amazing adaptation to almost any habitat they have forged a reputation as a “plague.” The Common Raven has one of the largest brains of all species of birds. It has been reported that crows are at other animals to work for them, for example by calling the wolves and coyotes to the place of a carcass.

The presence of crows in wars, death scenes, with his appetite scavenger have promoted black bird as a harbinger of death. In many cultures there is mention of this bird in its legends:

– In Norse mythology the image of the god Odin has a raven on each shoulder, Huginn represents the thought, while Muninn is memory. Odin sent his birds to travel the world to observe what happens, the old god fearing for the death of both. Their fear is that of the elders at the loss of the ability to think and remember.

The Vikings used a lot the image of the crow. The put a symbol on their sails. Ragnar Lodbrok had a flag called “reaffirmation” and embroidered on it the image of a crow. According to legend, if the flag fluttered in the wind, Lodbrok would win but if the flag hung motionless, they lose the battle.

– In Greek mythology, Apollo, the god of the sun sent a white crow to protect Corinis, a mortal of the sun god who fell in love. When she was unfaithful in a neglect of the raven, the bird flew to the heavens and said what happened to Apollo. God burned the crow and the feathers were black, and since then this bird is associated with bad news. If you hear it squawking warns of approaching death, if a house fly, this will have bad luck. The peasants who saw a crow fly over his flock know that one of the animals perish soon.

– In the fable of King Arthur, reported that he did not die and magically transformed into a raven. According to legend, if ever all ravens of the Tower of London disappeared, the British Empire would fall away in the absence of their guardians. This myth was born in the nineteenth century, a period in which the ravens of the tower is fed from the eyes of the criminals executed by the Empire.

– In the Hebrew stories there is a strange connection between the raven and dove, birds important to the image of God, the crow guides man in the darkness, is the sentinel of the Moon. While the pigeon goes to the man in the light, the sun and life. Noah sent two birds in search of dry land. The raven did not return to find abundant food, while the dove brought hope. This fable shows the raven and the dove as wisdom and knowledge.

– In Buddhism Dharma protector Mahakal is represented by a crow, because of its association with soil and worms. Figure in the first reincarnated Dalai Lama, who according to legend, during his birth home was attacked by thieves, forcing parents to flee. Fearing the worst when they returned they were surprised to see the Dalai Lama lives, surrounded by crows. Since then, the Dalai Lama are protected by crows, and birds are mentioned in Tibetan Buddhism and disciplines.

Occult circles talk about the participation of the crow as a guide the souls of the dead to the underworld. However, there are occasions where the deceased died unjustly or was not his time to die. In these rare cases, Native American legends, in which the soul can not rest and must return to repair the damage suffered. The author James O’Barr wrote the popular comic “The Crow, the Crow in 1989, it was to be able to cope with the loss of his fiancee at the hands of a drunk driver.

Later in 1994 the story was made into a movie where Brandon Lee immortalized Eric Draven, a young musician who returns from the dead to quench their thirst for revenge. The raven is the source of power and gives invunerabilidad, strength and vision of all you can see the black bird. Sagas of the film later overshadowed a classic film which unfortunately Brandon Lee was killed in an unfortunate accident.

The most intelligent bird

Crows have shown high levels of recursion and memory. Being the most intelligent birds, they can learn words and short sentences even better than a parrot, its ability to mimic is truly amazing. Talking crow.

Can count on a different scale, ie if three humans enter a room with crows, and leave two visitors, the birds know that there is still a person. They have also shown some attraction to small, bright objects, which they steal and conceal. Cuervo using a wire as a hook to get food.

Show planning and communication skills with individuals, some species such as Corvus moneduloides learn to use tools to get your food. It is well known for crows have learned to use the vehicle traffic on a road to crack open nuts, nuts open using car Ravens on the road.

Surprisingly these birds respect their elders, who bring food, according to research that shows that the species are familiar with the concept of respecting their elders. Despite having much intelligence crows are not good pets, as well the saying goes “Raise ravens and they will peck out your eyes.”

Can I Have What He’s Had?

The Common Raven is an acrobatic flier, often doing rolls and somersaults in the air. One bird was seen flying upside down for more than a half-mile. Young birds are fond of playing games with sticks, repeatedly dropping them, then diving to catch them in midair.

RavenJig

Tree and I were not sure what had made this Raven happy enough to be jigging about, but we were only just saying that we thought we would like some of what he has had.

BabaReturns_0001

Then we heard what sounded like a jet arriving and  we realized that Baba had returned to Lemuria in her mortar. No wonder Raven is dancing a jig.

When Baba makes a come back everyone has a reaction.

Meanwhle, this aged Raven who has clearly seen it all before, is far from impressed.

RavenAged

Running With Wolves

Some believe that wolves use Raven as an aerial spotter for possible food sources. The raven has a connection to the moose in Eskimo lore, and since Moose can be a prey of wolves, raven is linked to them as well. Ravens will often follow wolves. They will fly ahead, land in a tree and wait for the wolves to pass, and then fly on again. A playful behavior is sometimes displayed between wolves and ravens.

Entering Lemuria

After leaving the house of Baba Yaga, Raven has flown ahead and is watching and waiting. Everyone is alert as we travel the highways and byways of Lemuria.

The Morrigan

A Goddess of natural cycle. With the natural cycles of the land so threatened and damaged the battle aspect cannot be ignored.

‘All that is perverse and horrible among the supernatural powers’, A Goddess of battles who appears in the form of a scavenging scald-crow or a ragged winged raven, glorying in death and battle’.

This is the commonly held image of the Morrigan in folklore and story telling and in this form she plays a significant part in both the mythological story cycle, and the Heroic cycle.

Before the Battle of Magh Tuireadh, she promises Lugh that she will pursue any who seek to flee from battle. She draws ‘the blood of his heart’ from the Formoire leader Innneach stealing his power, and offers two handfuls of this blood to his foes at the Ford of Destruction.

She also prophecies the Tain and seems to be there at significant points, disturbing and troubling its unfolding. In her first meeting with Cuchulain she is revengeful when her advances are rebuffed and she is there at his death.

She is, indeed, portrayed as wild and war loving. One late text describes her as “shrieking triumphantly over fighting soldiers….a lean hag, speedily leaping over the points of their weapons and shields.” So she comes down into our time as a figure presiding over death and destruction or dwindled into dark and fearful figure, leading spirits out of the Otherworld cave entrance of Cruachain at Samhain and the dark enemy of children’s stories.

But it is not just as a wild haired grey and nimble hag, pouring curses, hailstones and fiery showers on the assembled enemies of her people that she enters into the old stories. She may equally appear as a strong and beautiful woman as when she meets and mates with the Dagda before the battle against the Formoire.

A crimson robed, flame-headed warrior , she appears coming out of the Sid of Cruachain bringing a red eared white heifer to the brown Bull of Cuailnge.

“…..a chariot harnessed with a chestnut horse. The horse had but one leg and the pole of its chariot passed through its body,…..Within the chariot was a woman, her eyebrows red and a crimson mantle round her. Her mantle fell behind her between the wheels of the chariot so that it swept along the ground……..”

She appears to Cuchulain in similar form calling herself the King of Buan’s daughter and offering him her treasure and herself . She is also a powerful shape-shifter appearing as a white heifer, an eel, a wolf, an otter as well as the more usual crow, black bird or raven.

It is generally accepted that Morrigan (Mor Rioghan, Morrigu) has the meaning of Great Queen or possibly Phantom, i.e. Otherworld Queen. It is certainly a title rather than a name. In the glossary to the Battle of Magh Tureadh her names are given as Danu and Ana, (Anu). Now Ana is one of the oldest names of the Great Mother Goddess and in that or similar forms the name appears in mythologies from all over the world. She was Anna-Nin, Lady of Heaven in Sumeria, Anat in Canaan, Anatha in Syria, Nanna in the Norse lands, Hannah, Di-ana, Inanna, Anna Perena, Grandmother time; the list is endless. She is the Great-mother, the Grand-mother and it is hardly surprising that She is remembered in Christian mythology as the Grandmother of Christ.

In Celtic mythology she is remembered as Anu, Danu, Mother of Her people, the Tuatha De Danaan. Her name is commemorated in the landscape, as in the Paps of Anu in Killarney, and elsewhere. (There are small hills known as “The Paps of the Morrigan” in Co. Meat). Anu, Danu, is the giver of Gifts, of inspiration of brightness. but she is also the bring of sleep and darkness. Danu’s children revered the night and gave darkness precedence over day. And in folklore she becomes both the bright fairy woman, Erin and the black ‘witch’ Anis . As Great-Mother she encompasses both light and dark, both giving and receiving back.

If She is the ‘Great Queen’ of Ireland then the stories will show evidence of her sovereignty. There are many stories of a prospective king who is met and tested by a woman who changes from old to young, from hideous to beautiful These encounters often take place near water so that it is not unexpected to find that the Dagda mates with the Morrigan as she stand bathing with one foot on each bank of the river.

It is interesting that when she offers herself to Cuchulain he refuses her ‘queenship’. Is the story seeing Cuchulain as a “solar hero”, a patriarchal warrior type who no longer seeks the mating with the Goddess of the land? Perhaps, although other aspects of his myth do not wholly bear this out. Even so the Cuchulain story belongs to the ‘heroic’ rather than the ‘mythological’ cycle.

These great Goddesses are always triple and the Morrigan is no exception. She is usually viewed as one of a triad of sisters, including Badhbh, and Macha.

Macha is also a Goddess of the Land. Besides the well known story of her race with the king’s horses and her birthing curse on the warriors of Ulster there is also the story of how she laid out the boundaries of Emain Macha with her broach pin. She is the horse Goddess and protector of her people.

Nemain is another known war Goddess as is Fea. At the battle of Magh Tuireadh they are all mentioned as wives of Nuada so perhaps they are all aspects of the Goddess of the land evoked for protection.

And why have they remained, remembered only as Goddesses of war and battle? The Goddesses of the Sacred Land, and all land is sacred, are givers of prosperity and fertility. Their chosen ones were pledged to uphold and cherish the gifts of the Goddess.

Maybe there are clues in the stories. Macha’s secrets are raped and her gifts abused through pride and jealousy. When she is forced to race against her own natural cycles and to give birth before her time her blessing becomes a curse. When Cuchulain refuses the Morrigan’s gifts he begins a cycle of competition rather than co-operation. Is it any wonder that she is perceived as angry? He wounds her in her shape shifted forms and is only healed when he consents to drink from the teats of her cow and offers a blessing. He accepts her nourishment and healing takes place.

It is clear that in the stories, conquest of the land becomes paramount. and therefore conquest of the Goddess by whatever name she is known. How can it be otherwise when She is the land. Where we seek to abuse, there we also fear. She has become the recipient of our fearful projections and so becomes fearful herself.

So why Morrigan healing? If we regard her as dark and fearful then we will treat the Sacred land in the same way. If we see her as guide and protectress then she will grant us the clear vision of her ravens. Her healing will be cleansing, not easy maybe, because as the earth rots away and transforms all that is dead, or as fire consumes and transmutes static energies, or as the scavengers pick clean, so her cleansing is to the bone. Not easy, but what she transforms is cleansed to health.

Remember that after the Tain, the cattle raid, it is she who tells the trees and the rivers the outcome. It is she, who after the battle of Magh Tuireadh, sings the song of blessing and regeneration.

Peace up to the skies;The skies down to the earth;The earth under the skies;Strength to everyone.

A Goddess of natural cycle then, And with the natural cycles of the land so threatened and damaged the battle aspect cannot be ignored. But if we are cooperating with her and not in competition then any conflict will become part of the healing process, not an end in itself.

The Morrigan; Goddess of no pain, no gain.

Reprinted From Sheela-Na-Gig Magazine

Cleaning Up Our Mess

Ravens figure heavily in Celtic mythology and legend. They were linked to darkness and death – especially the death of warriors in battle. Celtic war goddesses often took the form of a raven. In “The Dream of Rhonabwy”, the knight Owein battles King Arthur in a dream world assisted by ravens. Some tales suggest that the great King Arthur himself was turned in to a raven upon his death.

RavenScavenger

The Morrigan, a goddess of war, often appeared on the battlefields in the shape of a raven.

Because ravens were a common sight on the battlefields they have become know as one of the Beasts of Battle and feared. It must have been a shocking sight for survivors to see murders of ravens hovering over the slain devouring them. Little wonder that fear has been etched into the hearts of the human race.

But cleaning up the mess of mankind is hardly the original sin. The sin was the blood thirsty, relentless wars that saw so many women, children and men killed for the sake of some cause that felt right at that time.

Baba’s Ravens

Baba Yaga says, “Intelligence ripens with age.” In Slavic oral traditions, Baba Yaga was the old crone of autumn who lived in the last sheaf of harvested grain. Fittingly, the woman who bound that sheaf would bear a child the next spring, for the old Baba was also guardian of the fountain of the waters of life. Her legend suggests she was the preserver of herbal knowledge and medicinal healing. Let us return this wise crone to glory!

BabaRavens

Deities associated with Ravens include Baba Yaga, Bran, Odin, and the Morrigan. The Morrigan was a raven deity who gloried in battles; she could assume the forms of a hag, a beautiful woman, or a crow or a raven.

In Ireland, the raven was associated with the Morrigan and other battle or death goddesses. Badb, the Raven of Battle, was goddess of war and bloodshed. The Morrigan was a raven deity who gloried in battles; she could assume the forms of a hag, a beautiful woman, or a crow or a raven. The continental Celts had a goddess Nantosuelta whose symbols were ravens and doves. The god Lugh had two magickal ravens as companions.

In Welsh, ubran means “raven,” the name connectin it with the god, Bran the Blessed. One of the greatest heroes in Welsh legend was Owein, who had an army of magickal ravens that fought King Arthur’s men. Although an important totem animal of the Celts, the raven was considered to be of dubious reputation, and they took great care when dealing with it. Ravens were scavengers, one of the birds that frequented battlefields and feasted on the dead. If a raven had any white on it, the bird was consider to be beneficial and mot malevolent.

Ravens were creatures of the Morse-germanic Valkyries, who wore their black feathers when they fulfilled their task as Choosers of the Slain. The Germans called the raven waelceasig (“corpse-choosing”) and a Valkyrie waelcyrge. The skalds, Nordic poets, had a number of kennings (metaphors) for the raven: “blood-swan,” “blood=goose.” They also called dead warriors “feeders of the ravens.”