Monday, March 14, 2011

Crow in Myth


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Corvus
Linnaeus, 1758
See text.
The true crows are large passerine birds that form the genus Corvus in the family Corvidae. Ranging in size from the relatively small pigeon-sized jackdaws (Eurasian and Daurian) to the Common Raven of the Holarctic region and Thick-billed Raven of the highlands of Ethiopia, the 40 or so members of this genus occur on all temperate continents (except South America) and several offshore and oceanic islands (including Hawaii). In the United States and Canada, the word "crow" is used to refer to the American Crow. The crow is a year round species.
The crow genus makes up a third of the species in the Corvidae family. Other corvids include rooks and jays. Crows appear to have evolved in Asia from the corvid stock, which had evolved in Australia. A group of crows is called a flock or a murder.[1]
Recent research has found some crow species capable not only of tool use, but of tool construction as well.[2] Crows are now considered to be among the world's most intelligent animals.[3]




The genus was originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work Systema Naturae.[4] The name is derived from the Latin corvus meaning "raven".[5] The type species is the Common Raven (Corvus corax); others named in the same work include the Carrion Crow (C. corone), the Hooded Crow (C. cornix), the Rook (C. frugilegus), and the Jackdaw (C. monedula).
There is no good systematic approach to the genus at present. Generally, it is assumed that the species from a geographical area are more closely related to each other than to other lineages, but this is not necessarily correct. For example, while the Carrion/Collared/House Crow complex is certainly closely related to each other, the situation is not at all clear regarding the Australian/Melanesian species. Furthermore, as many species are similar in appearance, determining actual range and characteristics can be very difficult, such as in Australia where the five (possibly six) species are almost identical in appearance.
The fossil record of crows is rather dense in Europe, but the relationships among most prehistoric species is not clear. Jackdaw-, crow- and raven-sized forms seem to have existed since long ago and crows were regularly hunted by humans up to the Iron Age, documenting the evolution of the modern taxa. American crows are not as well-documented.
A surprisingly high number of species have become extinct after human colonization, especially of island groups such as New Zealand, Hawaii and Greenland.


Living and recently extinct species

Common Ravens on the grounds of the Tower of London

Carrion Crow in flight
  • Species name - Common Names (range)
    • Subspecies...
  • Corvus alberculos - White-necked Raven or Cape Raven (Southern, central and eastern Africa)
  • Corvus albus - Pied Crow (Central African coasts to southern Africa)
  • Corvus bennetti - Little Crow (Australia)
  • Corvus brachyrhynchos - American Crow (United States, southern Canada, northern Mexico)
  • Corvus capensis - Cape Crow or Black Crow or Cape Rook (Eastern and southern Africa)
  • Corvus caurinus - Northwestern Crow (Olympic peninsula to southwest Alaska)
  • Corvus corax - Common Raven or Northern Raven (The Holarctic south throughout middle Europe, Asia, and North America to Nicaragua)
    • Corvus (corax) sinuatus - Western Raven (Holarctic; Arctic, North America, Eurasia, northern Africa, Pacific islands and British Isles)
    • Corvus (corax) varius morpha leucophaeus - Pied Raven an extinct color variant (Holarctic)
  • Corvus corone - Carrion Crow or Eurasian Crow (Western Europe from British Isles to Germany, eastern Asia)
    • Corvus (corone) capellanus - Mesopotamian Crow or Iraq Pied Crow (Southern Iraq to extreme southwest Iran)
    • Corvus (corone) cornix - Hooded Crow (Northern and western Europe through Turkey, but only North Western Scotland and Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom as the Carrion Crow is more common on most of the British mainland; Syria, Iran, Iraq)
    • Corvus (corone) orientalis - Eastern Carrion Crow (Eurasia and northern Africa)
  • Corvus coronoides - Australian Raven (Eastern and southern Australia)
  • Corvus crassirostris - Thick-billed Raven (Ethiopia)
  • Corvus cryptoleucus - Chihuahuan Raven (Southwestern U.S., northwestern Mexico)
  • Corvus dauuricus - Daurian Jackdaw (Eastern Europe to eastern Japan, occasionally Scandinavia)
  • Corvus enca - Slender-billed Crow (Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia)
    • Corvus (enca) violaceus - Violaceous Crow (Philippines, Ceram, Moluccas)
  • Corvus florensis - Flores Crow (Flores Island)
  • Corvus frugilegus - Rook (Europe, Asia, New Zealand)
  • Corvus fuscicapillus - Brown-headed Crow (New Guinea)
  • Corvus hawaiiensis (formerly C. tropicus) - ʻAlalā or Hawaiian Crow (Island of Hawaii)
  • Corvus imparatus - Tamaulipas Crow (Gulf of Mexico coast from Nuevo León east to Rio Grande delta, south to Tampico, Tamaulipas)
  • Corvus jamaicensis - Jamaican Crow (Jamaica)
  • Corvus kubaryi - Mariana Crow or Aga (Guam, Rota)
  • Corvus leucognaphalus - White-necked Crow (Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico)
  • Corvus macrorhynchos - Large-billed Crow (Eastern Asia, Himalayas, Philippines)
    • Corvus (macrorhynchos) levaillantii - Jungle Crow (India, Burma)
  • Corvus meeki - Bougainville Crow or Soloman Islands Crow (Northern Soloman Islands)[6]
  • Corvus mellori - Little Raven (Southeastern Australia)
  • Corvus monedula - Jackdaw or Western Jackdaw (British Isles and western Europe, Scandinavia, northern Asia, Northern Africa)
  • Corvus moneduloides - New Caledonian Crow (New Caledonia, Loyalty Islands)
  • Corvus nasicus - Cuban Crow (Cuba, Isla de la Juventud, Grand Caicos Island)
  • Corvus orru - Torresian Crow or Australian Crow (Australia, New Guinea and nearby islands)
  • Corvus ossifragus - Fish Crow (Eastern U.S. coast, southeastern U.S. through Florida, west along major rivers to Oklahoma and Texas)
  • Corvus palmarum - Palm Crow (Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic)
  • Corvus rhipidurus - Fan-tailed Raven (Northeast Africa, Middle East)
  • Corvus ruficolis - Brown-necked Raven or Desert Raven (Northern Africa, Arabia, southeast to eastern Asia)
    • Corvus (ruficolis) edithae - Somali Crow or Dwarf Raven (Northeast Africa)
  • Corvus sinaloae - Sinaloan Crow (Pacific coast from Sonora to Colima)
  • Corvus splendens - House Crow or Indian House Crow (Indian subcontinent, Middle East, east Africa)
  • Corvus tasmanicus - Forest Raven or Tasmanian Raven (Tasmania and adjacent south coast of Australia)
    • Corvus (tasmanicus) boreus - Relict Raven (Northeastern New South Wales)
  • Corvus torquatus - Collared Crow (Eastern China, south into Vietnam)
  • Corvus tristis - Grey Crow or Bare-faced Crow (New Guinea and neighboring islands)
  • Corvus typicus - Piping Crow or Celebes Pied Crow (Sulawesi, Muna, Butung)
  • Corvus unicolor - Banggai Crow (Banggai Island) - possibly extinct
  • Corvus validus - Long-billed Crow (Northern Moluccas)
  • Corvus woodfordi - White-billed Crow or Soloman Islands Crow (Southern Soloman Islands)[6]
List sources[7]
Prehistoric and fossilized species
In addition to the prehistoric forms listed above, some extinct chronosubspecies have been described. These are featured under the respective species accounts.
they also live in dead peoples arse cracks.

Crows and humans

The Common Raven, Australian Raven and Carrion Crow have been blamed for killing weak lambs and are often seen eating freshly dead corpses probably killed by other means. Rooks have been blamed for eating grain in the UK and Brown-necked Raven for raiding date crops in desert countries.[8]
In Auburn, New York (USA), 25,000 to 50,000 American Crows (C. brachyrhynchos) have taken to roosting in the small city's large trees during winter since around 1993.[9] In 2003, a controversial, organized crow hunt proved ineffective at reducing their numbers and the problem (concerns for public health and the sheer noise of so many crows) continues.[10]
At a Technology Entertainment Design conference in March 2008, Joshua Klein presented the potential use of a vending machine for crows. He suggested the crows could be trained to pick up trash and the vending machine would be designed to give a reward in exchange for the trash.[11]
Crows have also been known to imitate the human voice, just like parrots. Crows that have been trained to "speak" are considered valuable in parts of East Asia, as crows are a sign of luck.[citation needed]
Some people have adopted crows as pets.
Though humans cannot generally tell individual crows apart, crows have been shown to have the ability to visually recognize individual humans, and to transmit information about "bad" humans by squawking.[12]


In the United States it is legal to hunt crows[citation needed] in all states usually from around August to the end of March and anytime if they are causing a nuisance or health hazard. There is no bag limit when taken during the "crow hunting season." According to the US Code of Federal Regulations, crows may be taken without a permit in certain circumstances. USFWS 50 CFR 21.43 (Depredation order for blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, crows and magpies) states that a Federal permit is not required to control these birds "when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance," provided
  • that none of the birds killed or their parts are sold or offered for sale,
  • that anyone exercising the privileges granted by this section shall permit any Federal or State game agent free and unrestricted access over the premises where the operations have been or are conducted and will provide them with whatever information required by the officer, and
  • that nothing in the section authorizes the killing of such birds contrary to any State laws and that the person needs to possess whatever permit as may be required by the State.
In the UK, the crow is considered a pest when in a large community and under certain conditions can be shot under a number of general licences issued by DEFRA.


Crows appear to have evolved in central Asia and radiated out into North America, Africa, Europe, and Australia.
The latest evidence[13] regarding the crow's evolution indicates descent from the Australasian family Corvidae. However, the branch that would produce the modern groups such as jays, magpies and large predominantly black Corvus had left Australasia and were concentrated in Asia by the time the Corvus evolved. Corvus has since re-entered Australia (relatively recently) and produced five species with one recognized sub-species.



Crows make a wide variety of calls or vocalizations. Whether the crows' system of communication constitutes a language is a topic of debate and study. Crows have also been observed to respond to calls of other species; this behavior is presumably learned because it varies regionally. Crows' vocalizations are complex and poorly understood. Some of the many vocalizations that crows make are a "Koww", usually echoed back and forth between birds, a series of "Kowws" in discrete units, counting out numbers, a long caw followed by a series of short caws (usually made when a bird takes off from a perch), an echo-like "eh-aw" sound, and more. These vocalizations vary by species, and within each species vary regionally. In many species, the pattern and number of the numerical vocalizations have been observed to change in response to events in the surroundings (i.e. arrival or departure of crows). Crows can hear sound frequencies lower than those that humans can hear, which complicates the study of their vocalizations.
Loud, throaty "caw-aw-ah"'s are usually used to indicate hunger or to mark territory. When defending a nest site or food, crows will usually enlarge their crest feathers and hunch their shoulders to increase their size. Softer, gurgling sounds have also been observed as a sort of beckoning call, or a call of affection. These noises are emitted from within the throat of the bird, much like a cat's purring.


Hooded Crow searching for food from a punctured garbage bag
As a group, the crows show remarkable examples of intelligence, and Aesop's fable of The Crow and the Pitcher shows that humans have long viewed the crow as an intelligent bird. Crows and ravens often score very highly on intelligence tests. Certain species top the avian IQ scale.[14] Wild hooded crows in Israel have learned to use bread crumbs for bait-fishing.[15] Crows will engage in a kind of mid-air jousting, or air-"chicken" to establish pecking order.
One species, the New Caledonian Crow, has also been intensively studied recently because of its ability to manufacture and use its own tools in the day-to-day search for food. These tools include 'knives' cut from stiff leaves and stiff stalks of grass.[16] Another skill involves dropping tough nuts into a heavy trafficked street and waiting for a car to crush them open, and then waiting at pedestrian lights with other pedestrians in order to retrieve the nuts.[17] On October 5, 2007, researchers from the University of Oxford, England presented data acquired by mounting tiny video cameras on the tails of New Caledonian Crows. It turned out that they use a larger variety of tools than previously known, plucking, smoothing and bending twigs and grass stems to procure a variety of foodstuffs.[18] Crows in Queensland, Australia have learned how to eat the toxic cane toad by flipping the cane toad on its back and violently stabbing the throat where the skin is thinner, allowing the crow to access the non-toxic innards; their long beaks ensure that all of the innards can be removed.[19][20]
Recent research suggests that crows have the ability to recognize one individual human from another by facial features.[21]

In culture and mythology

See also Raven in mythology and Cultural depictions of ravens.

The Twa Corbies by Arthur Rackham

Crow on a branch, Maruyama Ōkyo (1733–1795)
Crows, 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 (including those of humans). They are commonly thought to circle above scenes of death such as battles.
In occult circles, distinctions are sometimes made between crows and ravens. In mythology and folklore as a whole, crows tend to be symbolic more of the spiritual aspect of death, or the transition of the spirit into the afterlife, whereas ravens tend more often to be associated with the negative (physical) aspect of death. However, few if any individual mythologies or folklores make such a distinction, and there are ample exceptions. Another reason for this distinction is that while crows are typically highly social animals, ravens don't seem to congregate in large numbers anywhere but:
  1. Near carrion where they meet seemingly by chance, or
  2. At cemeteries, where large numbers sometimes live together, even though carrion there is no more available (and probably less attainable) than any road or field.[citation needed]
Compendium of Materia Medica states that crows are kind birds that feed their old and weakened parents; this is often cited as a fine example of filial piety.

In mythology

A very incomplete list of deities associated with ravens includes the eponymous Pacific Northwest Native figures Raven and Crow, the ravens Hugin and Munin, who accompany the Norse god Odin, the Celtic goddesses the Mórrígan and/or the Badb (sometimes considered separate from Mórrígan), and Shani, a Hindu god who travels astride a crow.
In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Chaldean myth, the character Utnapishtim releases a dove and a raven to find land, however, the dove merely circles and returns. Only then does Utnapishtim send forth the raven, who does not return. Utnapishtim extrapolates from this that the raven has found land, which is why it hasn't returned. This would seem to indicate some acknowledgement of crow intelligence, which may have been apparent even in ancient times, and to some might imply that the higher intelligence of crows, when compared to other birds, is striking enough that it was known even then.
According to Ovid's Metamorphoses, in classical Greek mythology, when the crow told the god Apollo that his lover Coronis was cheating on him with a mortal, he became very angry, and part of that anger was directed at the crow, whose feathers he turned from white to black.
In Hinduism, it is believed that people who died will take food and offerings through a variety of crows called "Bali kākka". Every year people whose parents or relatives died will offer food to crows as well as cows on the Śrāddha day. A battle between crows and owls is said to have inspired the final bloody night of the Mahabharatha war.
In the Story of Bhusunda, a chapter of the Yoga Vasistha, a very old sage in the form of a crow, Bhusunda, recalls a succession of epochs in the earth's history, as described in Hindu cosmology. He survived several destructions, living on a wish-fulfilling tree on Mount Meru.[22]
In Buddhism, the Dharmapala (protector of the Dharma) Mahakala is represented by a crow in one of his physical/earthly forms. Avalokiteśvara/Chenrezig, who is reincarnated on Earth as the Dalai Lama, is often closely associated with the crow because it is said that when the first Dalai Lama was born, robbers attacked the family home. The parents fled and were unable to get to the infant Lama in time. When they returned the next morning expecting the worst, they found their home untouched, and a pair of crows were caring for the Dalai Lama. It is believed that crows heralded the birth of the First, Seventh, Eighth, Twelfth and Fourteenth Lamas, the latter being the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Crows are mentioned often in Buddhism, especially Tibetan disciplines.
In Japanese mythology, a three-legged raven or Jungle Crow called Yatagarasu (八咫烏?, "eight-span crow") is depicted. Its appearance is construed as evidence of the will of Heaven or divine intervention in human affairs. Both the Japan Football Association and subsequently its administered teams such as the Japan national football team use the symbol of Yatagarasu in their emblems and badges respectively.
In Chinese mythology, the world originally had ten suns embodied as ten crows, which rose in the sky one at a time. When all ten decided to rise at once, the effect was devastating to crops, so the gods sent their greatest archer Houyi, who shot down nine crows and spared only one. Having a "crow beak" is a symbolic expression that one is being a jinx.
In Korean mythology, it is known as Samjokgo (hangul: 삼족오; hanja: 三足烏). During the period of the Goguryeo Kingdom, the Samjogo was a highly regarded symbol of power, thought superior to both the dragon and the Korean phoenix.
The three-legged bird was one of several emblems under consideration to replace the phoenix in the Korean seal of state when its revision was considered in 2008.[18] The Samjogo is considered a symbol of Goguryeo(or Koguryo).

In culture

The Adelaide Football Club (Australian Rules Football) mascot is a Crow and are known as 'The Crows' or ' Adelaide Crows'.

Literature and film

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. Their depiction of evil has also led to some exaggeration of their appetite. In modern films such as Crows Zero, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Damien: Omen II, The Crow and Exorcist: The Beginning, crows are shown tearing out people's eyes while they are still alive. Crows have never been known for this behavior due to their high preference for carrion. Crows are also one of the investigation clues in the ABC TV series FlashForward. In CW's TV series The Vampire Diaries and books, the main character and other characters often see crows around, especially Elena.
Odin's crows appear in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, which also featured, among other characters, a Samantha Black Crow.


The American crow is very susceptible to the West Nile virus, a disease just recently introduced in North America. American crows usually die within one week of acquiring the disease with only very few surviving exposure. Crows are so affected by the disease that their deaths are now serving as an indicator of the West Nile Virus’ activity in an area.

Status as an Endangered Species

Two species of crow have been listed as endangered by the US fish and wildlife services: The ʻAlalā and the Mariana Crow.[23] The American Crow, despite having its population reduced by 45% since 1999 by the West Nile Virus, is considered a Species of Least Concern.

See also


  1. ^ The Word Detective
  2. ^ Winkler, Robert (August 8, 2002). "Crow Makes Wire Hook to Get Food". National Geographic. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  3. ^ "A Murder of Crows". Nature. PBS video. 10/24/2010. Retrieved 6 February 2011. "New research indicates that crows are among the brightest animals in the world."
  4. ^ (Latin) Linnaeus, C (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii). p. 824.
  5. ^ Simpson, D.P. (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5 ed.). London: Cassell Ltd.. p. 883. ISBN 0-304-52257-0.
  6. ^ a b Note: Both the Bougainville Crow and the White-billed Crow share the same alternate name "Soloman Islands Crow". They both live on the Soloman Islands; the Bougainville Crow in the north, and the White-billed Crow in the south.
  7. ^ John M. Marzluff; Tony Angell (2005). In the Company of Crows and Ravens. Yale University Press. pp. 72–79. ISBN 0-300-10076-0.
  8. ^ Goodwin D. (1983). Crows of the World. Queensland University Press, St Lucia, Qld. ISBN 0-7022-1015-3.
  9. ^ Central New York Information and Links
  10. ^ The Citizen, Auburn NY
  11. ^ TED Joshua Klein: The amazing intelligence of crows TED conference in March 2008, received 9 July 2008
  12. ^ The Crow Paradox by Robert Krulwich. Morning Edition, National Public Radio. 27 July 2009.
  13. ^ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  14. ^ BBC News
  15. ^ ד"ר אורן חסון: יחסים, אהבה, זוגיות, תקשורת בין-אישית (English)
  16. ^ New Caledonian Crow#Tool making
  17. ^ EduTube Educational Videos
  18. ^ Discovery News Top Stories : Discovery Channel
  19. ^
  20. ^ OzAnimals - Australian Wildlife
  21. ^ Nijhuis, Michelle (August 25, 2008). "Friend or Foe? Crows Never Forget a Face, It Seems". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  22. ^ Cole, Juan R.I. Baha'u'llah on Hinduism and Zoroastrianism: The Tablet to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl Concerning the Questions of Manakji Limji Hataria.
  23. ^ Pacific Region Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  24. ^ Gill, B. J. (2003): Osteometry and 1: 43-58. doi:10.1017/S1477201903001019 (HTML abstract)
  25. ^ Worthy, Trevor H. & Holdaway, Richard N. (2002): The lost world of the Moa: Prehistoric Life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. ISBN 0-253-34034-9.

Cultural depictions of ravens

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
There are many references to ravens in legends and literature. Most of these refer to the widespread common raven. Because of its black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion, the raven has long been considered a bird of ill omen and of interest to creators of myths and legends.



[edit] Symbolism

The raven is the national bird of Bhutan, and it adorns the royal hat, representing the deity Gonpo Jarodonchen (Mahakala with a Raven's head; one of the important guardian deities of Bhutanese culture.) It is the official bird of the Yukon and of the city of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. The raven was a common device used by the Vikings. Ragnar Lodbrok had a raven banner called Reafan, embroidered with the device of a raven. It was said that if this banner fluttered, Lodbrok would carry the day, but if it hung lifeless the battle would be lost. King Harald Hardrada also had a raven banner, called Landeythan (land-waster). The bird also appears in the folklore of the Isle of Man, a former Viking colony, and it is used as a symbol on their coat of arms.
As a carrion bird, ravens became associated with the dead and with lost souls. In Sweden they are known as the ghosts of murdered persons, and in Germany as the souls of the damned.[1]

[edit] Mythology

"The Twa Corbies", Illustration by Arthur Rackham to Some British Ballads
In Norse mythology, the Ravens Hugin and Munin sit on the god Odin's shoulders and bring to his ears all the news they see and hear; their names are Thought and Memory. Odin sends them out with each dawn to fly over the world, so he can learn everything that happens. The Old English word for a raven was hraefn; in Old Norse it was hrafn; the word was frequently used in combinations as a kenning for bloodshed and battle.
In Irish mythology, the goddess An Morrígan alighted on the hero Cú Chulainn's shoulder in the form of a raven after his death.[2] In other ancient Celtic mythology, ravens were associated with the Welsh god Bran the Blessed (the brother of Branwen), whose name translates to "raven." According to the Mabinogion, Bran's head was buried in the White Hill of London as a talisman against invasion.[3]
The raven also has a prominent role in the mythologies of the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, including the Tsimishian, Haida, Heiltsuk, Tlingit, Kwakwaka'wakw, Coast Salish, Koyukons, and Inuit. The raven in these indigenous peoples' mythology is the Creator of the world, but it is also considered a trickster god.[citation needed] For instance, in Tlingit culture, there are two different raven characters which can be identified, although they are not always clearly differentiated. One is the creator raven, responsible for bringing the world into being and who is sometimes considered to be the same individual as the Owner of Daylight. The other is the childish raven, always selfish, sly, conniving, and hungry. Other notable stories tell of the Raven stealing and releasing the sun, and of the Raven tempting the first humans out of a clam shell.
According to Livy, the Roman general Marcus Valerius Corvus (c. 370-270 BC) had a raven settle on his helmet during a combat with a gigantic Gaul, which distracted the enemy's attention by flying in his face.[4]
A raven is said to have protected Saint Benedict of Nursia by taking away a loaf of bread poisoned by jealous monks after he blessed it.
Of special note is the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw of British Columbia who exposed boys' placentas to ravens to encourage future prophetic visions, thereby associating the raven with prophecy, similar to the traditions of Scandinavia.

[edit] Monotheistic Religions

[edit] The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)

A raven on the coat-of-arms of the Polish aristocratic Clan Ślepowron, to which Kazimierz Pułaski belonged.
In the Bible, the Jewish and Christian holy book, ravens are mentioned on numerous occasions throughout the Old Testament. In the Book of Judges, one of Kings of the Midianites defeated by Gideon is called "Oreb" (עורב) which means "Raven".
Genesis 8:7 shows the raven as the first bird released from the Ark. In I Kings 17:4 God commands the ravens to feed the prophet Elijah. Job ponders who feeds the ravens in Job 38:41. King Solomon is described as having hair as black as a raven in the Song of Songs 5:11.

[edit] The New Testament

In the New Testament as well, ravens are used by Jesus as an illustration of God's provision in Luke 12:24.

[edit] The Qur'an

In the Qur'an's version of the story of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam, a raven is mentioned as the creature who taught Cain how to bury his murdered brother, in Al-Ma'ida (The Repast) 5:31.

[edit] Saint Vincent of Saragossa

According to the legend of the fourth-century Iberian Christian martyr Saint Vincent of Saragossa, after St. Vincent was executed ravens protected his body from being devoured by wild animals, until his followers could recover the body. His body was taken to what is now known as Cape St. Vincent in southern Portugal. A shrine was erected over his grave, which continued to be guarded by flocks of ravens. The Arab geographer Al-Idrisi noted this constant guard by ravens, for which the place was named by him كنيسة الغراب "Kanīsah al-Ghurāb" (Church of the Raven). King Afonso Henriques (1139–1185) had the body of the saint exhumed in 1173 and brought it by ship to Lisbon, still accompanied by the ravens. This transfer of the relics is depicted on the coat of arms of Lisbon.

The ravens on the coat of arms of Lisbon recall the story of St. Vincent's ravens.

[edit] Emperor Frederick Barbarossa

In the legends about the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, depicting him as sleeping with his knights in a cave in the Kyffhäuser mountain in Thuringia or Mount Untersberg in Bavaria, it is told that when the ravens cease to fly around the mountain he will awake and restore Germany to its ancient greatness. According to the story, the Emperor's eyes are half closed in sleep, but now and then he raises his hand and sends a boy out to see if the ravens have stopped flying.[5]

[edit] The Tower of London

Ravens in the Tower of London
According to legend, the Kingdom of England will fall if the resident ravens of the Tower of London are removed. It had been thought that there have been at least six ravens in residence at the tower for centuries. It was said that Charles II ordered their removal following complaints from John Flamsteed, the Royal Astronomer.[6] However, they were not removed because Charles was then told of the legend. Charles, following the time of the English Civil War, superstition or not, was not prepared to take the chance, and instead had the observatory moved to Greenwich.
The earliest known reference to a Tower raven is a picture in the newspaper The Pictorial World in 1883.[7] This and scattered subsequent references, both literary and visual, which appear in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, place them near the monument commemorating those beheaded at the tower, popularly known as the “scaffold.” This strongly suggests that the ravens, which are notorious for gathering at gallows, were originally used to dramatize tales of imprisonment and execution at the tower told to tourists by the Yeomen Warders.[8] There is evidence that the original ravens were donated to the tower by the Earls of Dunraven,[9] perhaps because of their association with the Celtic raven-god Bran.[10] However wild ravens, which were once abundant in London and often seen around meat markets (such as nearby Eastcheap) feasting for scraps, could have roosted at the Tower in earlier times.[11]
During the Second World War, most of the Tower's ravens perished through shock during bombing raids, leaving a only a mated pair named "Mabel" and "Grip." Shortly before the Tower reopened to the public, Mabel flew away, leaving Grip despondent. A couple of weeks later, Grip also flew away, probably in search of his mate. The incident was reported in several newspapers, and some of the stories contained the first references in print to the legend that the British Empire would fall if the ravens left the tower.[12] Since the Empire was dismantled shortly afterward, those who are superstitious might interpret events as a confirmation of the legend. Before the tower reopened to the public on 1 January 1946, care was taken to ensure that a new set of ravens was in place.[13]

[edit] Classic literature

The raven is often depicted in classic literature. William Shakespeare refers to the raven more often than to any other bird; works such as Othello and Macbeth provide examples. In Charles Dickens' novel Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty, the raven "Grip" is an important character. The raven is used as a supernatural messenger in Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Raven". In this and in Dickens' book, the bird's power of speech is important. In other works of literature, Christopher Marlowe's play The Jew of Malta and Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queene, the raven's darkly ominous image is also employed. In The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Roäc son of Carc is the leader of the Ravens of the Lonely Mountain.[14]
In the well-known ballad The Three Ravens, a slain knight is depicted from the point of view of ravens who seek to eat him but are prevented by his loyal hawks, hounds and leman (lover).
The first name "Bram" is derived from a convergence of two separate etymological sources, one being an abbreviation of "Abraham", but the other being the Gaelic word "bran", meaning "raven".

[edit] Film

[edit] References

  1. ^ Schwan, Mark (January 1990). "Raven: The Northern Bird of Paradox". Alaska Fish and Game. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  2. ^ “The Death of Cu Chulainn”. Celtic Literature Collective.
  3. ^ “Branwen daughter of Llŷr”. The Four Branches of the Mabinogi. Trans. for example by Patrick K. Ford, The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales (1977).
  4. ^ Titus Livius. Periochae. Book 7:10.
  5. ^ Brown, R. A., The Origins of Modern Europe, Boydell Press, 1972, p. 172
  6. ^ Camelot Village: Tower of London
  7. ^ Boria Sax, "How Ravens Came to the Tower of London," Society and Animals 15, no. 3 (2007b), pp. 272-274.
  8. ^ Boria Sax, "How Ravens Came to the Tower of London," Society and Animals 15, no. 3 (2007b), pp. 270-281.
  9. ^ Maev Kennedy, "Tower’s Raven Mythology May Be a Victorian Flight of Fantasy," The Guardian, November 15, 2004, p. 1.
  10. ^ Boria Sax, "Medievalism, Paganism, and the Tower Ravens," The Pomegranate:The International Journal of Pagan Studies 9, no. 1 (2007), pp. 71-73.
  11. ^ Jerome, Fiona. Tales from the Tower: 2006. pp. 148-9
  12. ^ Sax, Boria. "The Tower Ravens: Invented Tradition, Fakelore, or Modern Myth." Storytelling, Self, and Society 6, no. 3 (2010): p. 234.
  13. ^ "Tower's raven mythology may be a Victorian flight of fantasy", The Guardian 15 November 2004.
  14. ^ The Hobbit. Ballantine Books. 1985. ISBN 0-345-33207-5.


 Tower's raven mythology may be a Victorian flight of fantasy


    Victorian image of ravens at the tower of london
    The 1895 illustration from an RSPCA journal. Is this the first depiction of ravens at the Tower?
    As every school child knows, there have been ravens at the Tower of London since time immemorial, and if they ever leave, the monarchy and the tower itself will fall.The story is one of the most cherished of all the tower's many tales, and the current seven stalk about the grounds, glossy and pampered, very much as if they own the place - but it is not true. A historian has scoured the records for 1,000 years, and can trace the ravens back no further than the late 19th century. Geoff Parnell, official Tower of London historian and a member of the Royal Armouries staff, is now convinced they are merely a typical piece of Victorian romance. Worse, at at least one point in the tower's comparatively history, Dr Parnell has found the blunt statement in the records "there are none left" - and yet the monarchy and the tower have more or less survived. A spokeswoman for Historic Royal Palaces, which runs the Tower and has a special ravens section on its website, swallowed hard and said firmly: "This is a very interesting piece of research, which adds to the history of the Tower. So much of the appearance of the tower that we see today does date back to the Victorian period that it is quite appropriate that the ravens should be a Victorian legend." An American author, Boria Sax, who has also been hunting down the ravens, has reached the same conclusion: the birds are eminent Victorians, not Ancient Britons. However Dr Parnell has added another layer to the legend: his research suggests some ravens may have been a punning gift to the tower by the Earl of Dunraven, an archaeologist and antiquarian fascinated by Celtic raven myths, who added ravens to his family coat of arms, or by his son the Fourth Earl. The tower was definitely raven-less by the second world war, when some were killed in bombing raids, and others understandably pined and died of shock. The myth was already so powerful however, that when the tower re-opened to the public, on January 1 1946, at the heart of the ruined City of London, somehow ravens had been obtained and were back in place. Dr Parnell first became interested in the ravens story when working on an exhibition about the Tower menagerie, kept by generations of monarchs for at least 600 years until it became the foundation of London Zoo. There were hawks, lions, leopards, monkeys and even a polar bear - but ravens were conspicuously absent. The full-blown version of the legend is that the ravens have been in the tower for centuries, possibly since Roman times. In the days of Charles II, his astronomer, John Flamsteed, complained that their chattering put him off his work, and the king ordered that they be destroyed - before being warned that dire luck would follow, for him and the tower. Instead he ordered that they should be fed and sheltered forever. Tourists from all over the world cite the ravens as a major factor in their visit, second only to the Crown Jewels. The current batch, including Thor and Odin who arrived seven years ago from an Owl Sanctuary in the New Forest, have their own official food and accommodation budget, comfortable quarters by the Bloody Tower, and are cared for by a Yeoman Warder with the splendid title of Raven Master. Some are excellent mimics: one can bark, and Dr Parnell is among many passersby startled by a deep voice saying "hello!" when there was no human being in sight. Each bird has one clipped wing, so they cannot fly far, but as many visitors have discovered they can walk very fast. One small girl last week was torn between thrill and terror when a raven the size of a small dog stalked up to her and calmly plucked her ham roll out of her hand, before retiring behind the barriers and the "caution, these animals can bite" warnings before neatly removing it from its plastic bag. Despite their swaggering arrogance, once Dr Parnell was on their case their days as authentic living history were numbered. The earliest reference he found was 1895, in a piece in the RSPCA journal, The Animal World. One Edith Hawthorn referred to the tower's pet cat being tormented by the ravens, Jenny and a nameless mate. The article also had the first illustration of the ravens and the unfortunate cat - which Dr Parnell has just managed to buy on eBay (see illustration, above). Dr Parnell suspects the first ravens may have been pets kept by Yeomen or other staff: there was a craze for pet ravens after Edgar Allen Poe's poem in the 1850s. By 1903 they had acquired a sinister air: "In ominous proximity to the site of the Block the five pet ravens may be seen", Henry Thompson wrote. The Dunraven family may have stepped in after Jenny was left alone, after enraging her mate - she is recorded as shredding every nest he built - until he fled the tower. Dr Parnell has even tracked an old family firm, Philip Castang, now closed, which supplied animals to zoos or as pets - and operated for years a stone's throw from the Tower in Leadenhall Market. In 1955 the manager wrote to Country Life saying he had "the order for the first Tower Ravens" framed and hanging on his office wall. Although Dr Parnell has interviewed the last owners of the firm, the former manager has died, and the order has disappeared. He yearns for the document to resurface, so he can add it to his growing collection on the true phony history of the Tower ravens.

Miwok mythology

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

a coyote
The mythology of the Miwok Native Americans are myths of their world order, their creation stories and 'how things came to be' created. Miwok myths suggest their spiritual and philosophical world view. In several different creation stories collected from Miwokan people, Coyote was seen as their ancestor and creator god, sometimes with the help of other animals, forming the earth and making people out of humble materials like feathers or twigs.[1]
According to Miwok mythology, the people believed in animal and human spirits, and spoke of animal spirits as their ancestors. Coyote in many tales figures as their ancestor, creator god, and a trickster god. The Miwok mythology is similar to other Native American myths of Northern California.



[edit] Creation of the World

[edit] First People

The Miwok believed there existed a "people who lived before real people" who in some tales have died out, in others are the same as the supernatural animal spirits.[2]
Several creation fragments exist detailing Coyote's place in the family of the "first spirits" on earth. According to the Coast Miwok, Coyote was the declared grandfather of the Falcon. There existed animal spirits and a few star-people spirits.[3] From the Sacramento river area the Miwok gave the following names of the first spirits:
  • O-let'-te Coyote-man, the Creator
  • Mol'-luk the Condor, father of Wek'-wek
  • Wek'-wek the Falcon, son of Mol'-luk and grandson of O-let'-te
  • Hul'-luk mi-yum'-ko the two beautiful women chiefs of the Star-people
  • Os-so-so'-li Pleiades, one of the Star-women
  • Ke'-lok the North Giant
  • Hoo-soo'-pe the Mermaids or Water-maidens, sisters of Wek'-wek
  • Choo'-hoo the Turkey Buzzard
  • Kok'-kol the Raven
  • Ah-wet'-che the Crow
  • Koo-loo'-loo the Humming-bird[4]

[edit] Coast Miwok (Coyote & Walik)

According to one Coast Miwok version "Coyote shook his walik" (something similar to a blanket of tule) to the four directions south, east, north and west. The water dried, and land appeared. [5]

[edit] The Diver

In one creation myth called The Diver Coyote creates the earth and land from the Ocean or endless water. Coyote sends a duck to dive for some "earth". The duck dives to the bottom and comes up with some "earth". Coyote takes the earth and mixes it with "Chanit" seeds and water. The mixture swells and "the earth was there."[6]

[edit] Coyote & Silver Fox

Another creation story says that there is "no earth, only water". Silver Fox (a female) feels lonely and mentions this in a prayer song, and then meets the Coyote. Silver Fox makes an artistic proposal: "We will sing the world". They create the world together by dancing and singing. As they do so, the earth forms and takes shape.[7]

[edit] Creation of Mankind

[edit] Coast Miwok (Coyote & Turkey Buzzard)

In The Creation of Man myth, Coyote catches a turkey buzzard, raven and crow, plucks their feathers and place the feathers in different parts of the earth. They turn into the Miwok people and their villages. [8]

[edit] Coast Miwok (Coyote & Chicken Hawk)

Coyote comes from the west alone, followed by Chicken Hawk, who is his grandson. Coyote turned "his first people" into animals. He made the Pomo people from mud and the Miwok people out of sticks.[5]

[edit] Sierra Miwok (How Ravens Became People)

In the myth How Kah'-kah-loo The Ravens Became People, there was an epic flood, and the first world people climbed a mountain to avoid drowning. The water finally receded. They were starving, and they thought it was safe to come down and look for food. But they sank into the mud and died. The ravens came to sit on the holes where the people died, one raven at each hole. The ravens turned into new people the Miwok.[9]

[edit] Sierra Miwok (Coyote & Lizard)

From the Sierra Miwoks, another creation myth is more comparable to Pomo mythology: Coyote and Lizard create the world "and everything in it". Coyote create human beings from some twigs. They argue over whether human beings should have hands. Lizard wants humans to have hands but Coyote does not. Lizard wins a scuffle, and humans are created with hands.[10]

[edit] Death and After-Life Stories

[edit] Coast Miwok (Ocean Path West)

According to Coast Miwok, the dead jumped into the ocean at Point Reyes and followed something like a string leading west beyond the breaker waves, that took them to the setting sun. There they remained with Coyote in an afterworld "ute-yomigo" or "ute-yomi", meaning "dead home." [5]

[edit] Context

Many of the ideas, plots and characters in Miwok mythology are shared with neighboring people of Northern California. For example the Coyote-lizard story is like the tale told by their neighbors, the Pomo people. In addition, the Ohlone also believed that Coyote was the grandfather of the Falcon and maker of mankind. The relationship and similarity to Yokuts mythology is also evident.[11]
The myths of creation after an epic flood or ocean, the Earth Diver, and the Coyote as ancestor and trickser compare to Central and Northern California mythemes of Yokuts mythology, Ohlone mythology and Pomo mythology. The myths of "First People" dying out to be replaced with the Miwok people is a "deeply impressed conception" shared by Natives in Northwestern California.[12]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Forester, 2006.
  2. ^ Merriam, 1910, page 31, Stories of the First People--People Who Lived Before Real People Were Created.
  3. ^ Merriam, 1910, page 83-84, The Creation of Man.
  4. ^ This list of people comes from Merriam, 1910, page 83-84, The Creation of Man
  5. ^ a b c Kelly, 1978, page 423.
  6. ^ Kroeber, 1907, Indian Myths, page 203, The Diver.
  7. ^ Bruchac, 2002.
  8. ^ Merriam, 1910, page 83-84, The Creation of Man.
  9. ^ Merriam, 1910, page 101, How Kah'-kah-loo The Ravens Became People.
  10. ^ Merriam, 1910, page 58, The Coyote and the Lizard.
  11. ^ Kroeber, 1925, page 446.
  12. ^ Kroeber, 1907, The Religion of the Indians of California, section titled "Mythology and Beliefs".

[edit] References

  • Barrett, Samuel A. "Myths of the Southern Sierra Miwok", University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, March 23, 1927, Vol. 16, pages 1-28.
  • Bruchac, Joseph, editor. "Silver Fox and Coyote Create Earth", Native American Animal Stories, edited by Joseph Bruchac (Fulcrum Pub.: Golden, CO, 1992), 3-4.
  • Kelly, Isabel. 1978. "Coast Miwok", in Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 8 (California). William C. Sturtevant, and Robert F. Heizer, eds. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. ISBN 0-16-004578-9 / 0160045754, (Religion and ritual, page 423. mythology informants: Tom Smith and Maria Copa Frias).
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907. "Indian Myths of South Central California". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4:203. Berkeley. (Southern Sierra Miwok myths: Earth Diver, p. 203.); available at Sacred texts Online and 3Rocks Publications
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1907. The Religion of the Indians of California, University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 4:#6. Berkeley, sections titled "Shamanism", "Public Ceremonies", "Ceremonial Structures and Paraphernalia", and "Mythology and Beliefs"; available at Sacred Texts Online
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Washington, D.C: Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. (Chapter 30, The Miwok); available at Yosemite Online Library
  • Gifford, Edward W., editor. Miwok Myths, Published by University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnicity, May 11, 1917, Vol. 12, No. 3, pages 283-338. (Fourteen versions, including Theft of Fire and Bear and Fawns, collected in 1913-1914 from Central Sierra informants William Fuller and Thomas Williams.); available at Sacred Texts Online
  • Merriam, C. Hart, editor.The Dawn of the World, Myths and Weird Tales Told by the Mewan (Miwok) Indians of California. Cleveland OH: Arthur H. Clarke Co, 1910. Reprinted as The Dawn of the World: Myths and Tales of the Miwok Indians of California, in 1993 with an introduction by Lowell J. Bean, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln; available at Sacred Texts Online

No comments:

Post a Comment