Scarecrows – Scary or Wary?

The scarecrow is commonly associated with modern references like the Wizard of Oz and Batman, but its original purpose was to discourage birds such as crows or magpies from disturbing and feeding on recently cast seed and growing crops.The earliest reference is in Japanese lore (circa 700 AD) in which a Kuebiko is depicted as adiety which knows everything of the world from its unmoving location among the fields.

By Drake1024

 

Yet, maybeall is not asit appears. First, was the scarecrow reallyonly a utilitarian object used for its stated purpose?

According to Occult View, “In agrarian societies farmers lived close to their land andtheir natural world, unlike today’s modern corporate farms…which is why the scarecrow would seem pointless, since it does not really scare crows!Farmersknewthis.”

Today we are learning anew just how intelligent crows and ravens are. As we’ve seen in studies documented by PBS since 2009, (and again just last night in Nature’s Crows special), Crows and their cousins never forget a face.Farmers skilled in the art of olde probably knew this.After all, if a crow can remember you and I, they are quite capable of recognizing the ol’ tattie bogle that hasn’t moved an inch since he showed up. They are also not fooled by plastic owls. So why the continued use of bogeymen?

By Radojavor

 

“Perhaps one possible purpose of the scarecrow was notjust to scare away birds, but to mark the land as belonging to the farmer. Or if a serf, to the land’s lord.Stay out!The idea of hanging bodies as a warning was used in the past. The ancient Romans left crucified prisoners to send a message to their population. The infamous Vlad the Impaler impaled prisoners of war as a gruesome warning. The scarecrow, impaled and crucified, could have served a similar, if less graphic, purpose.Call it a Scareman.

Farms were always subject to the whims of nature, and the farmer lived at the mercy of a capricious environment. A drought or flood could result in starvation. An infestation of pests could devastate crops, a plague destroy the livestock. The scarecrow could also have served as an effigy, a form of substitute human sacrifice. The scarecrow would be offered to the natural world in place of the living, that nature might be sated.Like the gargoyles on the gothic cathedral, the scarecrow might have been a hex to protect the farm from harm andkeep evil spirits away.”

Odin’s Ravens

Odin’s Ravens

In Norse mythology, Odin hung upside down from the world-tree Yggdrasil in order to attain enlightenment. He had to suffer greatly for his wisdom. After nine days Odin achieved his goal and discovered the Runes, died and was reborn, freed from the tree but at the cost of one of his eyes.Sufferingbefore spiritual growth is a theme in many religions.

To complete the circle, Odin was linked to his two ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory), which travel the world giving Odin information. Here ravens represent the power of the mind as they perch on Odin’s shoulder whispering in his ears. As crows perch on the scarecrow, grantingthem theadvantage of sight over the fields.

Fast forward a bit to the dark ages. In folklore from the British isles, crows were considered omens of doom and death. If crows were considered bad omens, then using a scarecrow to banish them seems to have a metaphysical as well as a practical purpose.

These symbolic supernatural attributes are a reflection of the genuinevirtues of the crow.They are mischievous,enterprising, adaptive, and highly communicative, and the scarecrow represents not the will of man to ‘scare’ them away, but that man was scared of the crow.

As the ages wear on, methods change, and scarecrows have joined the ranks among the legends and folktale pasttimes, existing only as lonely halloween decorations.

Today, highly reflective aluminized PET film ribbons are tied to the plants to create shimmers from the sun, a futuristic approach to pest problems, however we all know how much corvids like shiny things.

Lord of the Crows – Maura Anderson

Maura Anderson is “one of nine wicked good women who write about magic, fantasy, and the paranormal” , and co-authors Witchy Chicks, a lively fiction writer’s group blog. In her latest short story, titled Lord of the Crows, she weaves a modern fantasy out of an old Samhain fable.

By Linda Bergkvist

“A few breaths pass, then another few in the now silent clearing. Finally a huge male figure stands up through the fog. His skin glows a midnight blue-tinged black, shiny and smooth as a raven’s breast and his long hair trails down his back as if formed of a thousand crow feathers. A mighty stretch and he tilts his head back and screams a demand, his crimson eyes bright with anticipation.

‘I summon thee.’

First one, then two, then more and more appear. Ravens and crows alight on his shoulders and arms and whisper to him the secrets they have learned and the sights they have seen. He takes their knowledge as his due and murmurs back to them their new task, what his creatures will do in his service for the next year. Each one’s eyes glow with a brief flash of red, then return to black as they wing their way to the next task.

For he is Corvus, Lord of the Crows.”

Read the entire story here.

You can also catch up with Maura and her romance books on her personal blog, Realms of the Raven.


The Crow and the Fox



By Forwearemany



Jean de La Fontaine (July 8, 1621, Château-Thierry – April 13, 1695) was the most famous French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century.

While he did not hesitate to borrow freely from other writers, both ancient and modern, Jean de La Fontaine nevertheless created a style and a poetic universe at once personal and universal, peculiarly his own and thus inimitable, but also accessible to all. He is perhaps the greatest lyric poet of the 17th century in France. Though he is best known for the Fables, they are but a small part of his writings. He also wrote a number of licentious tales in verse, many occasional pieces, and a long romance; he tried his hand at elegy and fantasy, at epigram and comedy. Almost everything he wrote is shot through with personal reflections and graceful ironies.

Le Corbeau et le Renard, or the Crowand the Fox, is perhaps one of the most prolific fables to have been borrowed from and reinvented through the centuries since Jean de La Fontaine’s death. It has been illustrated and translated hundreds of times, and even appeared in a series of American cartoons and comic books between 1941 and 1949.

In the fable a crow has found a piece of cheese and retired to a branch to eat it. A fox, wanting the cheese for himself, flatters the crow, calling it beautiful and wondering whether its voice is as sweet to match. When the crow lets out a caw, the cheese falls and is devoured by the fox.

In the original by Aesop, the crow is holding a piece of flesh.


By Heather Rinehart



In Jean de la Fontaine’s French version (I.2), it is the fox who delivers the moral by way of recompense for the tidbit. In Norman Shapiro’s version[1]

“Flatterers thrive on fools’ credulity.
The lesson’s worth a cheese, don’t you agree?”
The crow, shamefaced and flustered swore,
Too late, however: “Nevermore!”


A very early Indian version exists in the Buddhist scriptures as the Jambhu-Khadaka-Jataka. In this a jackal flatters the crow’s voice as it is feeding in a rose-apple tree. The crow replies that it requires nobility to discover the same in others and shakes down some fruit for the jackal to eat as a reward.



By Heather Rinehart



“Master Crow sat on a tree,
Holding a cheese in his beak.
Master Fox was attracted by the odour,
And tried to attract him thus.
‘Mister Crow, good day to you.
You are a handsome and good looking bird!
In truth, if your song is as beautiful as your plumage,
You are the Phoenix of this forest.’
Hearing these words the Crow felt great joy,
And to demonstrate his beautiful voice,
He opened his mouth wide and let drop his prey.
The Fox seized it and said: “My good Sir,
Know that every flatterer,
Lives at the expense of those who take him seriously:
This is a lesson that is worth a cheese no doubt.”

The Crow, embarrassed and confused,
Swore, though somewhat later, that he would never be
tricked thus again.”

The moral of this story? According to the original by Aesop, it is to never trust a flatterer.

Around the World

There is a new monument in Moscow, a new addition to a wide range of the capital city’s tributes to famous writers, composers, revolutionaries and Soviet era bureaucrats. This bronze monument, however, does not commemorate a person, but is erected to honor the processed cheese Druzhba (‘Friendship’), a very popular food product from the Soviet epoch. The statue depicts the Fox and the Crow:





Monument to Processed Cheese



The below statue pays earliest homage to Jean de La Fontaine in Paris. Every French school child has grown up with his stories, usually with a moral, similar to Aesop or Phaedrus. This statue is located near La Muette РAuteuil, and is a fine tribute to this former member of the Acad̩mie Fran̤aise.



Monument to Jean de La Fontaine



And of course, crows and foxes around the world never cease to be rivals:



Hooded Crow Pulls Fox Tail



Visit our Fox and the Crow gallery to see how diverse illustration of this tale has been over the last 400 years.

The 7 Ravens

Ravens appear in fairytales from all over the world, from simple anecdotes of wisdom (Aesop) to elborate illustrated stories (The Brothers Grimm).

This tale,like The Twelve Brothers, The Six Swans, and Brother and Sister, features a woman rescuing her brothers. In the era and region in which it was collected, many men were drafted by kings for soldiers, to be sent as mercenaries. As a consequence, many men made their daughter their heirs; however, they also exerted more control over them and their marriages.

The stories have been interpreted as a wish by women for the return of their brothers, freeing them from this control. However, the issues of when the stories were collected are unclear, and stories of this type have been found in many other cultures, where this issue can not have inspired them. In the original oral version, there were three, not seven ravens; one study of German folk tales found that of 31 variants collected after the publication of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, only two followed the Grimms in having seven ravens. You will also notice that this later translation bears a striking resemblance to other well known fairy tales, as well as takes on the cadence of biblical prose.

Following the story is a  wonderfully imaginative cartoon based on the  Fairytale.


By Helen Stratton, 1903

There was once a man who had seven sons, and still he had no daughter, however much he wished for one.  At length his wife again gave him hope of a child, and when it came into the world it was a girl.  The joy was great, but the child was sickly and small, and had to be privately baptized on account of its weakness.  

The father sent one of the boys in haste to the spring to fetch water for the baptism.  The other six went with him, and as each of them wanted to be first to fill it, the jug fell into the well.  There they stood and did not know what to do, and none of them dared to go home.  

As they still did not return, the father grew impatient, and said, they have certainly forgotten it while playing some game, the wicked boys.  He became afraid that the girl would have to die without being baptized, and in his anger cried, I wish the boys were all turned into ravens.  

Hardly was the word spoken before he heard a whirring of wings over his head, looked up and saw seven coal-black ravens flying away. The parents could not withdraw the curse, and however sad they were at the loss of their seven sons, they still to some extent comforted themselves with their dear little daughter, who soon grew strong and every day became more beautiful.  

For a long time she did not know that she had had brothers, for her parents were careful not to mention them before her, but one day she accidentally heard some people saying of herself, that the girl was certainly beautiful, but that in reality she was to blame for the misfortune which had befallen her seven brothers.  
Then she was much troubled, and went to her father and mother and asked if it was true that she had had brothers, and what had become of them.  The parents now dared keep the secret no longer, but said that what had befallen her brothers was the will of heaven, and that her birth had only been the innocent cause.  

But the maiden took it to heart daily, and thought she must save her brothers.  She had no rest or peace until she set out secretly, and went forth into the wide world to search for her brothers and set them free, let it cost what it might.  She took nothing with her but a little ring belonging to her parents as a keepsake, a loaf of bread against hunger, a little pitcher of water against thirst, and a little chair as a provision against weariness.  

Now she went continually onwards, far, far to the very end of the world.  Then she came to the sun, but it was too hot and terrible, and devoured little children.  Hastily she ran away, and ran to the moon, but it was far too cold, and also awful and malicious, and when it saw the child, it said, I smell, I smell the flesh of men.  At this she ran swiftly away, and came to the stars, which were kind and good to her, and each of them sat on its own particular little chair.  

But the morning star arose, and gave her the drumstick of a chicken, and said, if you have not that drumstick you can not open the glass mountain, and in the glass mountain are your brothers.  The maiden took the drumstick, wrapped it carefully in a cloth, and went onwards again until she came to the glass mountain.  The door was shut, and she thought she would take out the drumstick. But when she undid the cloth, it was empty, and she had lost the good star’s present.  What was she now to do? She wished to rescue her brothers, and had no key to the glass mountain.

The good sister took a knife, cut off one of her little fingers, put it in the door, and succeeded in opening it.  When she had gone inside, a little dwarf came to meet her, who said, “My child, what are you looking for?”  

“I am looking for my brothers, the seven ravens,” she replied.  

The dwarf said, “The lord ravens are not at home, but if you will wait here until they come, step in.”

By Anne Anderson, 1935

Thereupon the little dwarf carried the ravens’ dinner in, on seven little plates, and in seven little glasses, and the little sister ate a morsel from each plate, and from each little glass she took a sip, but in the last little glass she dropped the ring which she had brought away with her.  

Suddenly she heard a whirring of wings and a rushing through the air, and then the little dwarf said, now the lord ravens are flying home.  Then they came, and wanted to eat and drink, and looked for their little plates and glasses.  

Then said one after the other, “Who has eaten something from my plate?  Who has drunk out of my little glass?  It was a human mouth!”

And when the seventh came to the bottom of the glass, the ring rolled against his mouth.  Then he looked at it, and saw that it was a ring belonging to his father and mother, and said, “God grant that our sister may be here, and then we shall be free!”  

When the maiden, who was standing behind the door watching, heard that wish, she came forth, and on this all the ravens were restored to their human form again.  And they embraced and kissed each other, and went joyfully home.


A Murder of Crows

This more poetic term for a flock of crows can be traced back at least to the 15th century, when it was recorded as a “murther of crowes”. Murther is a variant of Middle English murthre ‘murder,’ though the th sound had begun to be replaced with a d around 1300 C.E. There are several theories as to how this particular term came about, but all of them have to do with the supposed behavior of crows.

For instance, crows are scavengers and therefore often seen feeding on rotting bodies of various sorts. Survivors of wars have described how the battlefields were covered in black as crows (and ravens) came down to eat the dead. Another theory hearkens back to old folklore which told of groups of crows essentially holding court over members of their flock that had committed offenses. If they decide against the “defendant” crow, then the rest of the flock swoops down on it and kills it.

The basis in fact is probably that occasionally crows will kill a dying crow who doesn’t belong in their territory or much more commonly feed on carcasses of dead crows. Also, both crows and ravens are associated with battlefields, medieval hospitals, execution sites and cemeteries (because they scavenged on human remains). In England, a tombstone is sometimes called a ravenstone, all derived from this folk tale of the Murder of Crows.


By Peace & Love


Special for our Canadian Readers:

A Murder of Crows is a visually stunning one-hour documentary that recently had a one-year anniversary re-run on CBC (Canada) and will appear again later this month. It is a film that explores a unique pairing of science and cinema as world-renowned scientists, including crow expert Professor John Marzluff, joins forces with an award-winning camera team to explore the secret world of crows. A scientific exploration with a compelling twist, the film is a visually stunning HD documentary that reveals new insights and understanding into this haunting and elusive species.

The average crow knows a tremendous amount about us, from our eating habits to our traffic patterns, but the average human knows relatively little about the intimate life of crows. And there is so much worth knowing. Crows are one of the most common birds on the planet. They have more brain mass per unit than any other bird group except the macaw and as result they often behave more like primates or even humans than they do birds. Crows have a proven ability to reason and problem-solve and have long and dependable memories. They engage in complex social interactions that range from group play and hunting to gang-style killings and funerals.

If you are in Canada, you can watch the entire documentary here. If we find any other resources for those of you outside Canada, we will be sure to send out a Twitter or Facebook update!




Raven Poo – Good Luck Omen?

No Pooping Allowed

One of the oddest old adages states that getting a headful of bird poo is actually quite a lucky event. We believe this has more to do with the odds of it occurring (one in a million) than it has anything to do with the conditioning properties of the poo itself.

The amount of luck present in any particular poo seems to be  directly influenced by the type of bird doing the pooping. Since we know corvids are infamous poopers (but not quite as infamous as pigeons which are completely unlucky), it is no surprise that  the Raven is the harbinger of the most auspicious payload.

The Raven is generally considered good luck because of its high intelligence. The larger the quantity of Ravens that poop on you at one time, the larger the amount of your luck. If a person gets pooped on by seven Ravens or more, that person should be jumping up and down in glee…a great day! Getting pooped on by only one Raven, on the other hand, is not so lucky. This is all apparent in the following Folklore Rhyme:

“One Raven for sorrow, Two for joy, Three Ravens for a girl, Four for a boy, Five Ravens for silver, Six for gold, Seven Ravens for a secret never to be told.”

Another variation of this rhyme continues past Seven: “Eight for a Wish, Nine for a Kiss, Ten for a Time, of Joyous Bliss”

The Raven’s good luck image comes partly from it’s association with Heaven. Looking Ahead Under “Riddled Avians”, It Says “Heaven Offers Truth”. In Beowulf, the Raven is proclaimed as having communication with the Heavens: “They slept until the black raven, the blithe-hearted proclaimed the joy of heaven.”

As any person may correctly assume, seeing a bird suddenly fall dead from mid-air is a very ominous sign. This is especially true when it concerns the Raven. In 323 AD, Alexander the Great entered the great city of Babylon and a flock of Ravens fell dead from the sky. A few weeks later Alexander, predictably, was dead.

By Luc Hermans

Now, while we maintain that the pigeon is absolutely the unluckiest bird to have around, Crows and Magpies are popular antagonists of lore.A French saying states that evil priests became crows, and bad nuns became magpies. As the saying goes, “A crow on the thatch, soon death lifts the latch, ” referring to a single crow perched on your roof. Much like the “black cat superstition”, to have a single crow cross the path before you was bad luck. However, if you saw another, then the bad luck was canceled out: “Two crows I see, good luck to me.” The Greeks used to say, “Go to the Crows!” much the same way that we say “Go to Hell!”

Magpies are ominous birds that foretell the future, according to the size of the group that they travel in. Magpies are believe to be cursed by God for not mourning properly and not wearing all black during the Crucifixion. In Scotland, Magpies are thought to be so evil that each has a drop of the devil’s blood under its tongue.

Just Duck Your Head and Make a Wish

However, if either of them so happen to poop on you, consider it a blessing.

Here are some helpful tips on how to protect against crows and magpies:

1. If you are unlucky enough to see a crow or magpie on the road, all is not lost. All you have to do is cross yourself, raise your hat to the bird, spit three times over your right shoulder, and proclaim “Devil, Devil, I defy you!”. Of course, if you don’t have a hat, then your out of luck.

2. if you live in an area were magpies are common, it would be best for you to carry an onion with you at all times.

In the end, getting pooped on by a bird does not necessarily mean good luck. It’s very important to look up and see what kind of bird has left you this present. A Raven or an Owl is more often than not a good sign. Magpies and Crows, on the other hand…we can’t be certain, so just duck your head and make a wish!


Ravens in Biblical Mythology

Regardless of  anyone’s personal philosophy, we believe it is important to learn the significance symbols such as the Crow and Raven have had in cultures throughout the centuries.  Ravens appear several times throughout the Bible, and without having a background in theology it is hard to say if they are used as symbols of greater meaning because of their intelligence, or because they were just prolific in that time period.

What we do know is that Crows and Ravens have appeared more times and across greater expanse of earth, history, and culture than any other bird in existence. They play prominent roles in Native American, Japanese, Wiccan, and Hindu mythology, many tales which still hold religious meaning today.

The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook.


Leviticus 11:13 instructs the Israelites not to eat certain birds because they are “detestable”.  One of these birds,of course, is the raven although no further indication is given as to why the Raven is considered detestable (likely due to eating carrion).


The same command not to eat the meat of detestable birds is repeated in Deut. 14:14.  Ironically the stork, commonly thought of today as a  baby courier, is categorized alongside the raven as detestable.


According to Job 38:40-41, God feeds the ravens and their young , a belief also shared by Hindus.



Echoing this sentiment, Psalm 147:9 says that God gives the young ravens food when they call.



Luke 12:24 and Psalm 137 offer a common adage, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!”


Song of Solomon describes the man’s hair as  “black as a raven” (SOS  5:11)


Psalm 30: 17 says that “the eye that mocks the father will be pecked out by the ravens in the valley”.  This passage has later been translated or adapted to include vultures and hawks to appeal to the current day man’s association with carrion.


In talking about the desert and its distinct desolation, Isaiah 34:11 describes the ‘owl and raven’ as nesting there, attempting to portray a place where there was once life and now where there is only death. This passage has later been translated to include cormorants, storks, pelicans, somehow hedgehogs, and porcupines, but the raven part has stayed consistent.


By Lorna Effler


The first bird Noah sent out from the ark was a white raven (Gen. 8:7), which kept flying back and forth until the water dried up from the earth.   Today this has evolved into a dove with an olive branch.

Japan’s Samurai Blue & the Three Legged Crow


We touched on Japanese mythology awhile back, skimming over the several ways in which crows and ravens have spiralled their way into Japanese art, culture, and religion throughout the centuries.

With World Cup fever sweeping the land, the “Samurai Blue” color of Japan’s national soccer team can be seen everywhere. Equally familiar is the team’s black crow emblem. Few people, however, look closely enough at this bird to note that it actually has not two, but three legs. Even fewer people realize that this emblem is directly connected to one of the most pivotal episodes in Japan’s classic mythology.

Kevin Short, a cultural anthropology professor at Tokyo University and columnist for the Daily Yomiuri online, gives us some detailed insight to this tale:

‘When Amaterasu the Sun Goddess wished to establish a kingdom here on earth, she equipped her grandson with rice seeds and various imperial paraphernalia and sent him down to the island of Kyushu. A few generations later, however, the heir to the throne, Iwarehiko, decided that the land could be better governed from a more central location, and set out on a journey to the east.

After sailing through the Seto Inland Sea, the imperial expedition landed on the shores of what is now Osaka. From here they planned to push eastward over the Ikoma and Kongo mountains into the fertile Nara Basin. Before they could even gain a foothold, however, they were turned away by fierce resistance from the local clans.

Back in their boats they sailed south then eastward, rounding the Kii Peninsula and landing somewhere near modern day Nachi-Katsuura in Wakayama Prefecture. From here the route to the Nara Basin lay to the north, passing over a long stretch of steep, densely forested mountains. Once in the forest the expedition quickly lost their way. Furthermore, enthralled in a powerful spell woven by a local bear sorcerer, all the men fell into a deep stupor.

But Amaterasu the Sun Goddess was not ready to abandon her descendent and protege. From the High Plain of Heaven she had a magical seven-pronged sword sent down and presented to Ihare. With sword in hand, the sorcerer’s spell immediately dissolved. Next, Amaterasu dispatched her own familiar spirit, a giant three-legged solar crow called the Yata-garasu, which guided the expedition along the difficult mountain path all the way to Yoshino at the southern edge of the Nara Basin.

Arriving in Nara, Iwarehiko subdued all the rebellious clans and established the kingdom of Yamato. In history books he is better known as Jimmu, the first in Japan’s long line of imperial emperors that still continues today. Without the Yata-garasu there might not even have been a Japan, never mind a national soccer team!

The concept of a giant crow associated with the sun is thought to have originated in China, and may have first developed as an explanation for sunspots. Also, crows were long believed to serve the local kami deities in the Kii region. Images of a three-legged crow inside a sun circle have been found on the wall of an ancient barrow grave on the Korean Peninsula, and even today can be seen on the banner of the Kumano-Hongu shrine, the center of the Kii Peninsula’s sacred lands and pilgrimage paths.

Here in Japan, ravens  are occasionally spotted in eastern Hokkaido, but only two species, the jungle crow and carrion crow , are common and widely distributed.

These two species can be told apart by the thickness of their bill. In fact, the common Japanese names, hashi-buto-garasu for the jungle crow and hashi-boso-garasu for the carrion crow, respectively mean “thick-billed crow” and “thin-billed crow.” Also, the jungle crow is slightly larger and heavier built, and sports a high protruding forehead.

It is a bit difficult to determining which species the yata-garasu is originally derived from. Ecologically, the jungle crow prefers dense forests and coastlines; while the carrion likes meadows and open farmland. The rocky coasts and heavily forested mountains of the Kii Peninsula would have provided ideal jungle crow habitat, but the extensive rice paddies of the Nara Basin would have favored carrion crows. The shape of the bill and forehead on the traditional images are inconclusive, but the current emblem used by the national soccer team is clearly that of a jungle crow.

The jungle crow’s thick, sharply-hooked bill rivals that of an eagle. Such a powerful bill is ideal for ripping open a fish or deer carcass. Ironically, it is also perfect for slicing open a plastic garbage bag. As a result, jungle crows have proliferated in urban areas. Intelligent and adaptive, they also prey heavily on urban birds such as doves, pigeons, starlings and sparrows. I have seen these fearsome hunters swallow an unfortunate sparrow fledgling in a single gulp.



Jungle Crow Feeding on Fish


During the spring and summer nesting season, each mated pair establishes and defends their own feeding territory. Jungle crows are famous for stealing metal clothes hangers from backyards and verandahs to weave into their huge nests. They seem to have a special fetish for blue items. The parents aggressively defend their nest and brood, and in some urban parks and gardens even dive-bomb people that stray too close.

In the southern Kanto Region, jungle crows have taken over the urban and suburban residential areas, but carrion crows still thrive in the open countryside. Here they enjoy a varied natural diet, including frogs, lizards, snakes, crayfish, loaches, stream crabs, grasshoppers and beetles, as well as numerous sweet fruits and berries.”

The Yata-garasu on the national soccer team emblem is said to symbolize power and quickness. The symbol was adopted in 1931, in honor of Kakunosuke Nakamura (1878-1906), considered to be the founding father of soccer here in Japan. Nakamura (no relation, I assume, to Japan’s ace Shunsuke Nakamura) was a native of the southern Kii Peninsula.

Crow Divination: Part 3 of 3

In this series, I explore a few ways in which Crows have been seen as fortune tellers, farseers, and omens. Be sure to read Part 1: Divination According to Medicine Men and Part 2: Divination According to the Druids

As we have discussed, the practice of divining from bird calls, properly called auspicy in the English language, appears to actually originate in China. Yet, as narrowly concerned with crows, it would seem the practice is an Indo-Tibetan invention with symbiotic relationship to Chinese methods.

The tradition talked about the most comes to Tibet from India. The first written record is found in the middle sixth century, in the Brihat Samhita by Varahamihira. In the early ninth century we find a Sanskrit text entitled Kakajarita translated by the pandit Danacila into the Tibetan language as Bya-rog-gi skad brtag-par bya-ba, or “Investigating the Cries of Crows.” Through incorporation of this translation into the Tibetan Tanjur, or Buddhist canon, crow auspicy became an established means of divination in Tibet.

Underlying Principles of Crow Augury

Divination through observation of crows in Tibetan tradition is founded on the following principles:

[list]

  • 1. Crows are of varying distinction and intelligence, therefore notice must be taken of the varying classes of crows.
  • 2. Crows respond to events with characteristic behavioral patterns, therefore by noting the character of the response one may learn the character of the event.
  • 3. Crow behavior and response differs according to time of day.
  • 4. The angle of direction between the observer and the crow has significance.

[/list]

The general predictions governing crow calls are given as follows, categorized by the time of day and the direction in which the call is observed.

First Watch

6:00 am – 9:00 am

[list]

  • East: Wishes will be fulfilled
  • Southeast: An enemy will approach
  • South: A friend will visit
  • Southwest: Unexpected profit will accrue
  • West: Great wind will rise
  • Northwest: A stranger will appear
  • North: Scattered property will be found
  • Northeast: A woman will come
  • Zenith: A demon will appear

[/list]

Second Watch

9:00 am – 12:00 pm

[list]

  • East Near relatives will come
  • South Flowers and areca-nuts obtained
  • Southwest Numerous offspring
  • West You will set out on a distant journey
  • Northwest One king replaced by another
  • North Good news will be received
  • Northeast Disorder breaks out
  • Zenith Fulfillment of your wishes

[/list]

Third Watch

12:00 pm – 3:00 pm

[list]

  • East: You will obtain property
  • Southeast: A battle will arise
  • South: A storm will come
  • Southwest: An enemy will come
  • West: A woman will come
  • Northwest: A relative will come
  • North: A good friend will come
  • Northeast: A conflagration breaks out
  • Zenith: You will gain profit by being taken care of by the king

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Fourth Watch

3:00 pm – 6:00 pm

[list]

  • East: Great fear predicted
  • Southeast: Great gain coming
  • South: A stranger will come
  • Southwest: A storm will rise in seven days
  • West: Rain and wind will come
  • Northwest: Scattered property found
  • North: A king will appear
  • Northeast: You will obtain rank
  • Zenith: Hunger predicted

[/list]

Sunset

[list]

  • East An enemy appears on the road
  • Southeast A treasure will come to you
  • South You will die of disease
  • Southwest The wishes of one’s heart fulfilled
  • West Relatives will come
  • Northwest Obtaining property predicted
  • North Homage will be done to the king
  • Zenith You will obtain advantage you hoped for

[/list]

General Observations

  • Crow on right: good journey
  • Crow behind: you obtain siddhi
  • A crow flapping his wings, calls: great accident
  • Crow pulls human hair: death
  • Crow eats dirty food: food and drink about to come
  • Crow on thornbush: enemy
  • Crow on milksap tree: milkrice to you
  • Crow on withered tree: no food and drink
  • Crow on palace: excellent halting place
  • Crow on divan: enemy will come
  • Crow facing door: peril at frontier
  • Crow pulling dress: dress to you
  • Crow on skull: death
  • Crow with red thread on house: fire

Art by Marie Olofsdotter

Crow Divination Pt 2 of 3

In this series, I explore a few ways in which Crows have been seen as fortune tellers, farseers, and omens. Be sure to read Part 1: Divination According to Medicine Men

Divination According to the Druids

Divination was an important part of pan-Celtic life. The Mediterranean accounts tell of extremely superstitious Celts studying the bloody, warm, still-pulsing entrails of human sacrifices [Tacitus, Strabo], but since both of those authors weren’t what we’d call objective, those accounts may well have been rather highly colored for their target audiences. The use of animal entrails is also controversial, and may not have been commonly practiced.

Druids (Irish female Druids were called bandrui) and especially bards often employed divination, omens, prophecy, certain plants, and altered states of consciousness in order to predict the future. Before uttering their prophecies, the Druids would eat acorns, shut themselves away in a dark place, chant, and in other wise attempt to attain an “ecstatic” visionary state similar to that of the Siberian and Sámi shamans. Specialists performed the more elaborate forms of divination, but ordinary folks could on occasion say sooth, especially on Samhain (Novermber 1). This holiday marked the New Year to the Celts, and auguries were best performed on that day, just as in other cultures, auguries (mostly love, it seems) were performed on January 1. This holiday, according to the records, featured lots of booze. It was also the day upon which one slaughtered pigs. Fires were lit on certain hilltops, and the dead/faerie could walk upon earth, visible even to those who weren’t second-sighted. Maidens on the Isle of Man baked “dumb cake” (soddag valloo) directly on the coals on the hearth; this cake was then eaten in total silence by all the women of the household. Then the ladies retired to their beds, hopefully to dream of their intended lovers and husbands-to-be. If a girl filled her mouth with water and lurked just outside a neighbor’s house, holding salt in each hand, she would hear the name spoken of her future love.

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One Crow for sorrow,

Two Crows for mirth;

Three Crows for a wedding,

Four Crows for a birth;

Five Crows for silver,

Six Crows for gold;

Seven Crows for a secret, not to be told;

Eight Crows for heaven,

Nine Crows for hell;

And ten Crows for the devils own self.

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The crow, black-feathered and fond of carrion, was linked to the Morrigan, sort of a Celtic Valkyrie type “plied” goddess linked with fated death. They hovered over the dying [doubtless to get first crack at the best parts], and could also inform where the best site for building a new settlement or town should be located. It was considered bad luck to have a crow look down the chimney, for that meant that someone within the house was fated to die in the near future.

Another belief was that the birds were faeries who shape-shifted to cause troubles. Magickal qualities included bringing knowledge, shape-shifting, eloquence, prophecy, boldness, skill, knowledge, cunning, trickery and thievery. In the Middle Ages, people believed that sorcerers and witches used the symbol of Crow’s foot to cast death spells.

In most of England, seeing a solitary crow meant anger, but in Northamptonshire, it meant ill fortune. Crow, cawing in a hoarse voice, meant bad weather. A death omen was a crow cawing thrice as it flew over a house. The Irish believed that Crow flocking in trees, but not nesting were souls from Purgatory. Finding a dead crow was a sign of good fortune. Russians believed that witches took the shape of Crow.

Patterning divination was also practiced; as in January 1 auguries, molten lead would be poured slowly into water, and the patterns read for insight into the coming year, or for the trade or skill to be acquired during the coming year. Babies born on Samhain were supposed to be year-round augurs, not date-limited for this ability.

As we may see, the practice of divining from bird calls, properly called auspicy in the English language, appears to actually originate in China. Yet, as narrowly concerned with crows, it would seem the practice is an Indo-Tibetan invention with symbiotic relationship to Chinese methods.  Join us tomorrow for Part 3: Divination According to Tibet.

Visit the Raven Oracle for your own divination!