My friend, Michael, is an extraordinary artist. He's been preoccupied with crows lately. He shot me an inquiry about what this might mean on a symbolic level. Here are some of his thoughts:
"I have developed a preoccupation [with crows]..........on some surface levels I sort of know what it's trying to say.... and recent events in my life certainly tie in.....but I can't shake the feeling that there is much more beneath the surface. And that's why I thought of you. I don't know anyone as well versed and researched in symbolism so I figured it was worth a stab to try and glean some insight from you."
I shot back a response, off-the-cuff:
Of all the creatures who have honored me with their inner-symbolic-workings...the crow/raven has been the most intriguing, dark, mysterious, and laughably evasive with her wisdom. Crow symbolism is the bestest! At least in my opinion.
These birds are jokesters. They love a good prank. At least, that's what I've learned from them. If I were to pin down a Jungian archetype for these birds, I would absolutely pick the role of "trickster". If you know anything about folklore as historical relevance and human morality...you could easily pick out the role of trickster in the human collective consciousness. It's that crow who pulls the rug from beneath our feet. It's that well-meaning, but mischievous character who orchestrates an action that reaps dark consequences. Of course, these dark consequences lead to lighter epiphanies, and that's the beauty of hoody-chicanery (as in "hoody crow"). Without the tricky crow, we cannot have levity. It's just the way of fairy-tale balances.
Part of crow symbolism deals with memory-keeping. This is a big symbolic point here. Many cultures believe crows hold memories of ancient worlds, ancient ways of living, and beautiful secrets. I know the Druids strained to understand the language of crows/ravens in order to decode those old mysteries for higher wisdom.
I don't think the crow was ever willing to share those secrets, or share the "rosetta stone" to their unique language. Stubborn, willful, and fiercely proud of their wisdom...the crow keeps their mysteries in their own tombs of knowing. Within those tombs, I rather think the crow glories in major glitter. I think they absolutely LOVE being secretive, mysterious, and get joy in withholding their occult knowing's from mankind. I suppose they're like a Rubik's Cube. Those who can twist their complexity into order, may have the gift of wisdom. Otherwise, I rather think the crow says: "f*ck you." Sorry for the hint of profanity, but the crows that who to me aren't sorry to spout it - so there you have it.
Celtic Druids also used the crow as an augury (seagulls too). Meaning, these ancient seers focused on flight, speech and behavior of the crow for the purpose of foretelling events in the future. Now why didn't they do that with a titmouse? A sparrow? A pheasant? Because the crow knows stuff. As mentioned...they are "keepers".
Black (the color of our feathered friend) is historically symbolic of mystery, occult, death...but also symbolic of the unknown, that place beyond the veil. Black is a symbol of the strangeness that creeps along behind the sun-shiny realm of what is "known". It's a slippery place to dwell. Only the bravest of heart can go into the darkest black night of the soul. It requires cunning, and a willingness to expect the unexpected. Crows reflect that kind of sentiment.
Crows are friends with death. Countless myths and legends place the crow on battlefields...picking at eyeballs, peeling off flesh from the ribcages of fallen warriors in battle. This associates them as "death eaters". In many warring cultures, this is powerful juju. Consider: If you can "eat death" you must 1) Possess the warrior spirit that has died, and 2) Overcome death yourself because you can partake of it, without expiring yourself.
There's oodles more about the crow/raven. I assume you've checked out my raven page (cousin to crow) for info. You might also want to look at my article on "meaning of black birds" (not Blackbirds...just birds that are black in color).
I hope this helps.
Now for you, my dear readers...there's so much more to crow symbolism outside of what I rambled off to my artistic friend Michael. Who, by the way, created the marvelous work of art shown here:
Dontcha love it!?! He's got more, and I hope to share his artwork with you in the future.
In the meantime, let's get crackin' about crow symbolism...
Greeks pegged the crow as a white bird initially. But the white crow gave Apollo (Greek god of prophecy, healing and much more) some bad news and Apollo turned it black as a mark of displeasure. From that day on, the crow kept her secrets to herself in an effort to protect her brood, and her knowledge.
The Latin term "Corvid" identifies the crow family. This word is derived, in part, from the word "cunning". This is oh-so-true with the crow. These birds have been known to outsmart other birds, many animals, and even more humans at times. They are masters at tactical maneuvers, and cunning is definitely the name of their game.
The crow is associated with many a god and goddess. Do some research, and you'll discover that's true. Morrigan, Shani, Odin, Badb...these and more deities are aligned with the crow. In my studies, it's rare to have a creature shared by so many deities. Why is that? My guess is the power of the crow. There's something majestic and magnetic about the crow that temps a god or goddess to affilliate themselves with this bird.
The crow can be monogamous (having one partner), but this isn't always the case. The Egyptians noticed their tendency to keep one mate and deemed this bird as a symbol of devotion and faithfulness.
Chinese lore places the crow on a throne of masculine rule. In ancient Asian legend, the crow was said to be the father of the Asian race. As a result, the crow is respected and given great devotion (at least it was back in the day) as the parent of humankind.
What makes the crow magnetic to you? Could it be the crow symbolism of the otherworld? Celtic, Nordic and even Native American legend positions the crow in an honorable place of carrying souls into the other side of life. In other words, for these cultures, the crow is an intermediary between life and death. When a powerful human passes out of life on earth, the crow is called upon to take their souls into the afterlife. Crows essentially take the role of a strong human soul. That's pretty powerful!
Maybe the crow intrigues you because they are cocky. They know stuff, and they aren't the least bit concerned about sharing the joke. Maybe you dig that. I do. I like knowing the "inside joke", and I like even better not having to share it sometimes. Does that make me snarky? Maybe. I think it makes the crow snarky, and I think that's what enhances the magnetism of the crow.
And what about the crow talking to you? What does that mean? I think it means you should be bolder, braver and more brazen in your own expression. When the crow comes cawing at you, I believe that's a sign to be more ballsy in your expressions. If you're timid by nature (nothing wrong with that), the crow can bolster you. Call upon crow energy to move you into confidence. If you're already okay with speaking your mind, the crow can help with self-expression..but with an element of demureness, a hint of secretiveness, a touch of class. If you typically spew your expressions, the crow will help you harness that a bit so that your ideas are put out there...but only to a point. Crow will help you keep your audience wagging their tails. Why? Because you're leaving some details out...you're titillating your audience. That's what crows do. They are absolutely vocal, but they only share just so much to get you intrigued.
Crow symbolism is also about curiosity. If you'll notice, these birds can't resist a sparkly bauble. They've just got to check stuff out. Are you that way? I am. Sometimes I've gotten myself into a bit of trouble because I can't help but check out a little glittery bit of fluff. Crows are the same. If you are too, the crow is a great reminder to keep your curiosity - it's a great asset to explore - but maybe do it with a titch of awareness. Don't get so enthralled that you might lose yourself to a swallowing mystery. Crows are canny enough to know when to get away from an enchantment. They teach us that we should be too.
In short, crow symbolism is all about individuality. It's about being bold, ballsy, and brash. If the crow is your totem, you can probably relate.
The crow might also be your totem guide if you good at keeping secrets. The crow has amassed huge stashes of wisdom, and loves to keep it to itself. Are you like that? Do you collect goodies and revel in keeping them in your secret horde? Crow commends you for that.
Crow symbolism, as a totem, also deals with communication. Legend upon legend reveals crows have been consulted for wisdom in their avian speech. Do you speak in a way that is powerful, profound, but not always understood? The crow is totally okay with that. In fact, the crow says "wa-hoo!" to that. Crows love when we speak out with strong intellect, but they love it more when we cloak our speech in ways that can only be discerned by those who are sharp enough or tuned-in enough to hear the message. Does this sound like you? Crow will help you get your intricate messages out to the world, and reach the right people who will support your unique efforts.
As I told my friend Michael, there is so much more to crow symbolism than what I've written here. Methinks I might have to write an addendum at some point, but this gives you a good starting point. I hope this article on crow symbolism inspires you to do more research, and really investigate the meaning of this amazing bird.
I hope you've enjoyed this page on crow symbolism. Check out the links at the end of this page for more articles related to this topic, like Raven symbolism, and more.
Bright, cackling crow blessings to you,
Special thanks to Michael Beyser for the crow artwork featured at the center of this page. More thanks to Dave Crotty for his crow photo at the top of this page.
An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings
Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.
This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."
Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)
As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!