Raven Symbolism and Raven Meaning
I love ravens, but I don’t claim #1 fan status to the raven either. Even if I were, it wouldn’t matter because the raven needs no champion.
I just think the raven has more to offer than uneducated conjecture and superstition (most of which has only cropped up over the last few centuries).
A lot of negative raven symbolism comes about from their appearance on battlefields. They are scavengers (and curious to a fault), and are often seen picking at mangled remains of fallen warriors on battle grounds.
Spans of massacred bodies and gore besieged with glimmery black ravens with chiseled beaks driving coldly into the bloody mire can conjure some nightmarish connotations. I’m betting a lot of the darker raven symbolism came from these eerie appearances at sites with massive death tolls.
This is underscored by the raven’s placement in Celtic animal symbolism because it is a bird closely connected with battle and the Celtic goddess Morrigan, who was a remarkable prophetess (connecting oracle themes with the raven).
“Mystery is at the heart of creativity.”~Julia Cameron
For example, the raven’s intelligence is possibly its most winning feature. Indeed, these birds can be trained to speak. This speaking ability leads into the legend of ravens being the ultimate oracle.
In fact, the raven is often heard to cackle utterances that sound like “cras, cras.” The actual word cras is tomorrow in Latin. This lends more fuel to the legendary fires that distinguish the raven as a bird who can foretell the future, and reveal omens and signs.
Countless cultures point to the raven as a harbinger of powerful secrets. Moreover, the raven is a messenger too, so its business is in both keeping and communicating deep mysteries.
In many myths, ravens have a reputation of being crafy wisdom-keepers. But they are also rumored to be terrible at keeping secrets.
Raven symbolism of wisdom and knowledge-keeping is connected with the Welsh hero Bran, the Blessed whose name means raven. Bran was the holder of ancestral memories, and his wisdom was legendary. So much so, that he had his head (the vessel of his powerful wisdom) removed and interred in the sacred White Mount in London. Ravens are still roosting there (in the Tower of London), and they’re thought to keep Bran’s wisdom protected and alive by their presence. I’ve written more about Bran on my Celtic skulls page here.
“Our greatest achievements often come from a mysterious place from within that is a little wild, a little crazy.”~Avia
Keywords Associated With Raven Symbolism
There’s more good news about raven symbolism from the ancient Greeks and Romans. In spite of its midnight-colored feathers, the raven was a solar animal in this culture, and was associated with both Athena and Apollo, both deities closely affiliated with the sun, and the light of wisdom.
Apollo was also a major oracular god, which makes its connection with the chatty and (and alarmingly human-like) conversational raven a smart match.
There are some Greco-Roman legends that say ravens were once all white. And, because the raven couldn’t keep a secret to save its life, Apollo punished the raven by turning its bright white feathers black after it divulged too many secrets. There’s also a version that said the owl replaced the raven by Athena’s side as her associate of wisdom because of raven’s blabber-mouthed tendencies.
Raven color changes are also mentioned in Christian lore when Noah sent a raven first to confirm the receding floodwaters. When the raven did not return, it was said God turned its feathers black for its failure, and Noah sent a dove out to do the raven’s job. And since then, the raven has gotten a bad rap as being anti-mankind.
I don’t buy it. I rather think (as long as we’re postulating over legends) the raven is very pro-mankind and its feathers turned black from sorrow – a heaviness in its heart to witness the floodwaters were still too high to accommodate the drifting ark.
Ravens are humanitarians in Native American symbolic legends too. In fact, the raven was a hero to many tribes. The Inuit for example believed the raven tricked a giant sea monster into submission, and to this day its body serves as the Alaskan mainland.
Bold, raucous, unabashed. Ravens are unapologetic when it comes to attitude.
Dr. Carl Jung deemed raven symbolism to represent the shadow self, or the dark side of the psyche. I very much like this. Why? Because by acknowledging this dark side, we can effectively communicate with both halves of ourselves. This offers liberating balance, and facilitates tremendous wisdom (something the raven would be very pleased with).
In other words, through the consistent unveiling of inner depths, and the positive/active utilization of inner impulses the esoteric secrets become exposed to the light of our own consciousness. This is at the crux of what the raven speaks to me.
What does the raven whisper to you?
I hope you have enjoyed this post on raven symbolism. Check out the links at the end of this page for more animal symbolism and meaningful insights. Thanks for reading!
May all your raven experiences be delightfully crazy.
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