The raven is, even outside of pagan circles, well-known as a bird of ill omen. Edgar Allan Poe certainly used the bird’s dire reputation in his famous poem, “The Raven”, first published in 1845 (hold your cursor over underlined link words for a quick definition or explanation; click on the link for more information):
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
‘Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.’
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
‘Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,’
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
‘Sir,’ said I, ‘or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, ‘Lenore!’
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, ‘Lenore!’
Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
‘Surely,’ said I, ‘surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
‘Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, ‘art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as ‘Nevermore.’
But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered ‘Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, ‘Nevermore.’
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
‘Doubtless,’ said I, ‘what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking ‘Nevermore.’
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
‘Wretch,’ I cried, ‘thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’
‘Prophet!’ said I, ‘thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore -
Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’
‘Prophet!’ said I, ‘thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’
‘Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting -
‘Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
Like a number of Poe’s poems, “The Raven” refers to an agonized protagonist’s memories of a deceased woman based on the untimely loss of his beloved wife, Virginia.
Ravens are a species in the family of birds known as Corvidae. To put it simply, all ravens are crows; but crows can also be jays, magpies, or other birds. The terms “crow” and “raven” are actually very general, and can be used to refer to a number of related birds in the Corvus genus. In the United States, most people use these terms to refer to the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and the Common Raven (Corvus corax). While these black birds have many similarities, there are differences in their appearance, noises, and habitat.
The most noticeable difference between a crow and a raven is size; in most cases, the largest black birds in this genus are known as ravens. Common Ravens are noticeably larger than American Crows, for example. Ravens average 25 inches tall with a 4 foot wing span, about the size of a hawk, while crows are around 18 inches tall and their wings span 3 feet, similar to a dove.
In European mythology, ravens are associated with death and war. Ravens have a tendency to eat carrion, plenty of which is found in the aftermath of battle. This tendency eventually led to identification of the raven as a harbinger of doom and destruction. It is through this association that the crow and raven are connected with the Underworld. The cries of ravens are heard before death in battle, and ravens are often said to bring messages from the Underworld. They are a bird of prophecy and divination; the raven can see the past and future while living in the present.
In Celtic mythology, the raven is a sacred bird of magic and mysticism, shapeshifting, creation, birth and death, healing, initiation, protection and prophecy. The Morrigan is the Celtic Goddess of war, fate and death. She often appears in the form of a crow or raven, or is seen accompanied by them. A group of three ravens is a sign that the Morrigan is watching.
In Welsh mythology, Bran the Blessed, whose name means “raven,” was sometimes known as the Raven King. He was beheaded in battle and his head was buried in White Mount, which later became the hill on which the Tower of London was built. His head was placed to face enemies and protect England from invasion.
In Norse mythology, Odin had two raven messengers named Huginn (“Thought”) and Muninn (“Memory”) and he could shape-shift into a raven.
In Greek mythology, Apollo is the God of prophecy and oracles, healing, plague and disease, music, song and poetry, archery, and protecting the young. He is depicted as a handsome, beardless youth with long hair and various attributes including a wreath and branch of laurel, a bow and quiver, a raven and a lyre. When Coronis was pregnant with the son of Apollo, she committed adultery. Upon learning of this betrayal from his raven familiar, he commanded his sister Artemis to destroy Coronis. The Goddess slew her with her deadly arrows, but Apollo, feeling a pang of regret and angered at the tattling bird, turned the raven’s snow-white feathers black. The raven is a symbol of Apollo in his role as god of prophecy.
In the shamanic cultures of aboriginal North American tribes, Raven is a deity who is both demiurge and trickster, both hero and villain, and often are both at the same time.
Here is an awesome Etsy raven treasury:
Messengers who travel in dark places, ravens tell us it is time for change. Listen!
A totem animal expresses the spirit of that animal and the qualities we can learn from it. They are psychological and spiritual symbols that help us to develop the skills and qualities that we are lacking or needing in our lives. Animal totems work with your subconscious, tapping into your share of universal energy. Try thinking of totem animals as different channels or frequencies that we can tune into as our needs change. We simply adjust the frequency of our share of universal energy to tap into the desired channel. However, the key to understanding how to do this is being aware and perceptive of your surroundings.
Having a totem animal does not mean that you worship the animal. Rather, you use the animal totem as a spiritual tool in symbiosis with the path you are already walking. Honor and respect for nature is paramount, as Man is not above nature but one with it. Totems, indeed all of nature, help to guide us on our journey of self-discovery by making us aware of our spiritual connectedness.
From Animal Totems:
Ravens are the largest songbirds in North America. Their bodies are covered in rich black plumage, which shines with an iridescent bluish color. Though often mistaken with crows, ravens are much larger and their croak is more raucous. Ravens are intelligent masters of mimicking the calls of other animals and have also been known to mimic some human words. They are good at finding food and communicating with other ravens where food is located.
It is their natural talent of recycling, which has gained these birds a bad rap. They do a good job cleaning up nature by eating dead animals. Ravens further recycle by using the same nests year after year, and bringing in new materials for repairs if necessary. These birds build their nest in large trees or the sides of cliffs where they usually lay 4-5 eggs. They don’t wander far from where they were raised and will only get a new mate if one of the pair dies.
Ravens are known as the “keeper of secrets” in several native tribes, and are the teachers of mysticism. They have been wrapped in a wealth of myth and lore throughout many cultures and ages. Their black color and diet of dead animals associates them with the vast void of darkness, which is representative of the unconscious.
Raven flies to us with heightened awareness and greater understanding of our consciousness. It is with this new perception that we begin seeing into the hearts of others and experience their feelings. Raven asks us to experience the transformation it brings within our multidimensional self, and be reunited with the mysteries of the universe so we can expel our inner demons.
From All Totems:
Many birds are seen as messengers between heaven and earth, and the raven totem no exception. In addition to carrying messages back and forth from a higher plane, raven spirits also bring meaning from a darker place, within. If a raven guide has appeared in your life and spoken to you, turn your focus inward, it is time for a change. Though as people, we often fear change, the changes raven totems bring are often meaningful and revelatory. The message of change is often difficult, but it is through overcoming obstacles and difficulties that we grow the most. Instead of becoming fearful or uncomfortable when confronted with the challenge, instead anticipate the end result. Ravens are incredibly perceptive; meaning, that if you’ve fallen under the scrutiny of this bird, that which needs to be changed should be revealed. If you’re having difficulty realizing what should change, then change the way you’re looking at yourself or a problem.
Ravens are also considered powerful teachers of the mysteries, or magic. Consider the truth and inner wisdom we each hold within. Just as a raven spirit can mimic the calls of many birds and animals so can you learn to understand the meaning buried in the symbols and messages that surround us. Raven totems teach magic, or reveals the magic within, not hocus pocus magic, but how the energy of your will can be used to shape and create the environment around you. This ties into the message of change, not only can you change internally, but you can change the external. Again, people often dread the raven guide and his message because developing strong willpower, changing, or exercising your intention, takes dedication and persistence.
From Lin’s Domain:
If a raven totem has come into our life, magic is at play. Raven activates the energy of magic and links it to our will and intention. With this totem, we can make great changes in our life; the ability to take the unformed thought and make it reality. The raven shows us how to go into the dark of our inner self and bring out the light of our true self; resolving inner conflicts which are long been buried. This is the deepest power of healing we can possess.
From Shamanic Journey:
Ravens wisdom includes introspection, courage, self-knowledge, magic, healing, creation, rebirth, keeper of secrets, master magician, shape shifter, mysticism.
The largest songbirds in North America, Ravens are highly intelligent and clever mimics. They mimic and use the calls of other species in their own ’vocabulary’ and can show us how to understand ‘animal language’. Ravens have been known to learn some human words also. Early Europeans feared the Raven and regarded them as bad omens, because they would feed on the corpses of the dead hanging on the gallons. Truth of the matter is, the Raven – like all wildlife and nature – should be respected, not feared.
Ravens bear magic and mysticism, and have a long history of myth enshrouding them. Shamans know the power of an unexpected piercing sound in shifting consciousness. Ravens have this power, giving out varied sounds, and can assist us in shifting our consciousness into various dimensional realms. Hence this is a reason why the raven is referred to as a shape shifter with magical powers. ‘Raven people’ can expect continual changes and spiritual awakenings throughout their lifetime.
Some native tribes refer to them as the ‘keeper of secrets’. They are linked to the void, where universal secrets are kept. Obviously, their black colour is the colour linked to darkness, the place where unconscious fear resides. Ravens are master magicians and represent transformational energy, revealing to us how to rid ourselves of our inner fears. Raven will show you how to go within in yourself, into the dark areas and then illuminate them, making you ‘sparkle’ and bringing out your true self. Inner conflicts should then be resolved, however long buried they are – this is the deepest healing.
If raven has flown into your life, then magic and healing abound. Raven awakens the energy of magic, linking it to our will and intention. With Raven, you have the ability to make great changes in your life – now is the time when you can take the thought and make it reality. Raven knows the mystery of life, they are strongly linked with death and rebirth. Remember not to be fearful of Raven, rather give thanks for the teachings he brings. Raven chooses its student according to their knowledge. They usually stay as long as needed to help transmute karma, returning you to the light. They will lead you into the discovery of your multidimensional self and reunite you with the secrets of the multidimensional universe.
Are you listening?