Crow Mythology

Stetson T. ’22

A Negative Bird 

  • The crow is seen as a negative omen primarily in Europe.
  • Celts: For the Celts, the crow was sacred and meant ‘the flesh torn by fighting’. As it eats carrion, the metaphor “the crow pierced you” was used 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.
  • Babylon: In Babylon, the crow was the name of the 13th month of the calendar, and he had a very negative value.
  • Greeks: 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 disobedience and egotism : Apollo placed him in the constellations, but the hydra prevented him from drinking the cup : he is condemned to thirst.
  • Bible: In the Bible, the crow is sent by Noah to search earth after the flood. But the crow didn’t tell 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.
  • Middle-Ages:  In the Middle-Ages, it was said that crows neglect their young; as he eats carrions, he is seen as a bad omen.
  • India:  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.

A Guide or Messenger of the Gods

  • Africa: In Africa, the crow warns men that dangers are menacing them.  The crow is their guide and protector spirit
  • Mayans: For the Mayans, the crow was seen as the messanger for the god of lightning and thunder.
  • Celtic Civilization: In the Celtic Civilization, the crow was thought to have prophetic abilities.  Its’ fly and cawing was thought to tell the future. Bodb, the goddess of war, takes the form of a crow to observe the battlefields. Furthermore, the god of sailors was connected to the crow, with his name (Bran) literally translating to crow.  This is because sailors took crows with them to sea, and released them to see which way land was.
  • Scandinavia: Huginn and Muninn (Though and Memory) are Odin’s Crow companions.  They traveled across the globe to report the events that are happening on Earth to Odin.
  • Mithraic: In the Mithraic cult, Sol (the god of the sun) entrusted the crow with telling Mithra to sacrifice a bull.
  • Eastern Asia: In Japan, Crows are considered divine messengers, and in China, they are the messengers of the faerie queen Hsi-Wang-Mu.  In both mythologies, they are considered good omens.

The Symbol of the Supreme God 

  • In mostly nomadic civilisations (hunters and fishers), the crow has a positive meaning. It lost this meaning with the Agricultural Revolution.
  • North American (Pre-Age of Exploration): To the native americans, the crow is the personification of the Supreme Being.  In the Tlingit Indians (North-West of Pacific Ocean), the crow is the main divinity.  It organizes the world, gives civilizations culture, creates the sun, and freezes it. To the Haida Indians (North-Western coast of Canada), the crow stole the Sun from the sky’s master, giving it to the Earth’s people.  The crow also has a magic canoe that he can increase or decrease its size at will.  This can be from the size of a pine needle to enough to encompass the universe.
  • Ancient Celts: To the ancient Celts, the crow was sacred, as opposed to the belief of their more recent counterparts.  It was associated with the creation of Lugdunum, the city of Lug, the sun god. Lug usually takes on the form of a crow, and is assimilated with Apollo.
  • Christianity (Catholic Bible): In the Bible, the crow brings bread to a man stranded and alone in a desert.  Prophet Elie, Saint Paul the hermit, Saint Antoine, and Saint Vincent have been defended by crows against the attack of other carnivores.  The crow is also depicted at Saint Benoit’s feet and in Saint Oswald’s hands, and symbolizes divine providence.
  • Asian Mythology: In China and Japan, the crow is believed to show love and filial gratitude.  According to chinese legends, 10 red crows with 3 talons flew away from the East Blackberry Tree to bring light to the world, instead bringing an unbearable heat to the Earth. Yi the Good Archer killed 9 of the 10 crows, and the final crow is now the Sun.  As a result, the crow is now a solar symbol, and represents creative principle.  
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