Crow Divination: Pt 1 of 3

A cool spring rain drizzles down around my mountain abode, and a breeze drifts through my open windows carrying the scent of leaves and roses. Somewhere to the southeast, I hear the calling of my resident crows before one of them alights on my fence.  As he looks at me for a minute, I consider the meaning of his visit. Sitting half a mile above the city in the foothills of the Medvendnica, I can’t help but wax philosophical at least one day a week. Crow is also one of my personal animal totems, reigning over the inner domain, wich assists with keeping me grounded (as I am an Aquarius, that is quite the task).  Interesting that I should have a creature of flight as that which assists me with keeping myself rooted in earth.

If you have a crow as a totem, you need to be willing to walk your talk and speak your truth. You must put aside your fear of being a voice in the wilderness and “caw” the shots as you see them. Crow is an omen of change. If he keeps appearing to you he may be telling you that you have a powerful voice when addressing issues that you do not quite understand or feel that they are out of balance.When you learn to allow your personal integrity to be your guide, your sense of feeling alone will vanish. Your personal will can then emerge so that you will stand in your truth. The prime path of true Crow people says to be mindful of your opinions and actions. Be willing to walk your talk, speak your truth, know your life’s mission, and balance past, present, and future in the now. Shape shift that old reality and become your future self. Allow the bending of physical laws to aid in creating the shape shifted world of peace.

As discussed previously, Crows and Ravens (and sometimes magpies too) have been a consistent source of spiritual focus throughout history. Here, I wish to explore a few ways in which they have been seen as fortune tellers, farseers, and omens.

Divination According to Medicine Men

Crow (Law): There is a medicine story that tells of Crow’s fascination with her own shadow. She kept looking at it, scratching it, pecking at it, until her shadow woke up and became alive. Then Crow’s shadow ate her. Crow is Dead Crow now.

Dead Crow is the Left-Handed Guardian. If you look deeply into Crow’s eye, you will have found the gateway to the supernatural. Crow knows the unknowable mysteries of creation and is the keeper of all sacred law.

Since Crow is the keeper of sacred law, Crow can bend the laws of the physical universe and “shape shift.” This ability is rare and unique. Few adepts exist in today’s world, and fewer still have mastered Crow’s art of shape shifting. This art includes doubling, or being in two places at once time consciously; taking on another physical form, and becoming the “fly on the wall” to observe what is happening far away.

The Europeans that came to Turtle Island were named the “boat people” by Slow Turtle. Even with the knowledge of alchemy possessed by certain boat people, none had ever seen the powerful shape shifting of shamans who utilized Crow medicine. Many boat people were frightened by what appeared to be animals coming into their camps or dwellings to discern their medicine. Crow medicine people are masters of illusion.

All sacred texts are under the protection of Crow. Creator’s Book of Laws or Book of Seals is bound in Crow feathers. Crow feathers tell of spirit made flesh. Crow is also the protector of the “ogallah” or ancient records.

The Sacred Law Belts, or Wampum Belts, beaded by native women long before the boat people or Europeans came to this continent, contain knowledge of the Great Sprit’s laws, and are kept in the Black Lodges, the lodges of women. The law which states that “all things are born of women” is signified by Crow.

Children are taught to behave according to the rules of a particular culture. Most orthodox religious systems create a mandate concerning acceptable behavior within the context of worldly affairs. Do this and so, and you will go to heaven. Do thus and so, and you will go to hell. Different formulas for salvation are demanded by each “true faith.”

Human law is not the same as Sacred Law. More so than any other medicine, Crow sees that the physical world and even the spiritual world, as humanity interprets them, are an illusion. There are billions of worlds. There are an infinitude of creatures. Great Sprit is within all. If an individual obeys Crow’s perfect laws as given by the Creator, then at death he or she dies a Good Medicine death — going on to the next incarnation with a clear memory of his or her past.

Crow is an omen of change. Crow lives in the void and has no sense of time. The Ancient Chiefs tell us that Crow sees simultaneously the three fates – past, present, and future. Crow merges light and darkness, seeing both inner and outer reality.

If Crow medicine appears in your card spread, you must pause and reflect on how you see the laws of the Great Spirit in relation to the laws of humanity. Crow medicine signifies a firsthand knowledge of a higher order of right and wrong than indicated by the laws created in human culture. With Crow medicine, you speak in a powerful voice when addressing issues that for you seem out of harmony, out of balance, out of whack, or unjust.

Remember that Crow looks at the world with first one eye, then the other – cross-eyed. In the Mayan culture, cross-eyeds had the privilege and duty of looking into the future. You must put aside your fear of being a voice in the wilderness and “caw” the shots as you see them.

Check back in tomorrow for Part 2: Divination According to the Druids

[box]Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through Animals by Jamie Sams & David Carson
Crow Augery by William L. Cassidy
Lonigan, Paul R. (1996). The Druids: Priests of the Ancient Celts. Contributions to the Study of Religion, No. 45. Westport (CT): Greenwood Press.
O’Sullivan, Patrick V. (1991). Irish Superstitions and Legends of Animals and Birds. Cork: Mercier.

The Raven of Matyas Corvinus

In the middle of the 15th century, Hungary had bad luck hanging on to its foreign kings: Two of them died unexpectedly within seven years. They suffered amidst plague, treachery, and foreign encroachment and seemed all but doomed to lose their hold on bloodline and border.At this dark moment, the Hungarians looked to a 15 year old boy, Mátyás (or Matthias in English) for salvation. According to legend, Matthias’ mother sent for him with a raven with a ring in its beak. The raven supposedly flew non-stop from Transylvania to Prague and thus the boy king of Ravens was crowned. The raven-with-ring motif became part of the family crest, as well as the family name: Corvinus (Latin for “raven”).

Matthias Corvinus returned to Buda, becoming the first Hungarian-descended king in more than 150 years. Progressive and well-educated in the Humanist tradition, Matthias Corvinus (r. 1458–1490) was the quintessential Renaissance king. A lover of the Italian Renaissance, he patronized the arts and built palaces legendary for their beauty. Also a benefactor of the poor, he dressed up as a commoner and ventured into the streets to see firsthand how the nobles of his realm treated his people.

Matthias was a strong, savvy leader. He created Central Europe’s first standing army — 30,000 mercenaries known as the Black Army. No longer reliant on the nobility for military support, Good King Matthias was able to drain power from the nobles and make taxation of his subjects more equitable — earning him the nickname the “people’s king.”(1)

King Matthias was also a shrewd military tactician. Realizing that squabbling with the Ottomans would squander his resources, he made peace with the Ottoman sultan to stabilize Hungary’s southern border. Then he swept north, invading Moravia, Bohemia, and even Austria. By 1485, Matthias moved into his new palace in Vienna, and Hungary was enjoying a golden age.

Five years later, Matthias died mysteriously at the age of 47, and his empire disintegrated. It is said that when Matthias died, justice died with him. To this day, Hungarians consider him the greatest of all kings, and they sing of his siege of Vienna in their national anthem. They’re proud that for a few decades in the middle of half a millennium of foreign oppression, they had a truly Hungarian king — and a great one at that.

Today, statues of the raven with the ring in its mouth can be seen around Budapest.

(1) Rick Steves Eastern Europe

Yata-Garasu – The Ravens of Japanese Myth

One of the oldest symbols in Japanese mythology is the 3-Legged Bird, called Yatagarasu (八咫烏) in Japanese. This legendary bird was said to have led the Emperor Jimmu from Kumano no kuni (熊の国), which is present-day Wakyama Prefecture, to Yamato no kuni (大和国), which is present-day Nara Prefecture. The three-legged (or “tripedal”) bird is a creature found in various mythologies and arts of Asia, Asia Minor, and North Africa.It is often thought to inhabit and represent the sun.

In Japanese mythology, the appearance of Yatagarasu is construed as evidence of the will of Heaven or divine intervention in human affairs. It is generally accepted that Yatagarasu is an incarnation of Taketsunimi no mikoto, but none of the early surviving documentary records are quite so specific. The shinto goddess Amaterasu was also said to transform into a Raven (or the raven transforms into the goddess) as worship of Amaterasu to the exclusion of other kami has been described as “the cult of the sun”.

On many occasions, it appears in art as a three-legged bird, although there is no description stating that the Yatagarasu was three-legged in the Kojiki.

This 3-legged crow can be seen on a number of items from pre-war Japan and in post-war Japan one can see it in select shrines and also on the uniform of the national soccer team. In pre-war Japan the Imperial Japan Soldier Relief League used the yatagarasu image on a series of membership and merit badges.

File:Japan national team.png

ww2 japanese badge medal

The appearance of this figure appeared in two early Japanese sources, the Nihon Shoki (日本書紀)and  the Kojiki (古 事記). However, in these and other early sources there is no mention of the number of legs. This seems to have been a later addition, but it is unclear when this happened. In addition, there seems to have been some early confusion between the yatagarasu and the golden kite because in the Kojiki the bird did not lead the Emperor; the kite did. The yatagarasu did appear in the Kojiki, though.

Ravens and Crows have since appeared in classical Japanese art and textiles for hundreds of years. Most woodblock prints were produced during the Japanese feudal era by dedicated publishing houses employing skilled writers, artists, wood carvers and woodblock printing facilities.  A single print could be produced many times over until interest in the title waned or until the carved wooden blocks used to make the images began to wear and the quality of the impressions failed.  Birds such as cranes, crows, sparrows, and swallows are so prevalent in these pieces that we decided to give this gallery its own page. Enjoy!

[button link=]Visit the Gallery[/button]

[box]Ukiyoe Gallery is not only an online gallery of over 2,000 Japanese woodblock prints (“ukiyo-e” and “shin-hanga”), but is also an extensive “Library” of reference articles about Japanese woodblocks, publishers, artists, printmaking techniques, and anyone who wants to find out more about this wonderful art style.[/box]

Raven Lore: Origin of Light

According to the Native American legend told by many Pacific Northwest tribes, including the Inuit, “In the beginning the world was in total darkness.”

This is a common beginning to most creation stories, but this one has a twist.

The Raven, who had existed from the beginning of time, was tired of groping about and bumping into things in the dark.

One day the Raven came upon the mouth of a great river, where lived a chief and his only daughter. Through his slyness, the Raven learned that the old man had a great treasure. This treasure was All the Light in the Universe, contained in a tiny box concealed within many boxes. At once the Raven vowed to steal it.

He thought and thought, and finally came up with a plan.  He had watched the young woman go to the river to gather water every day. On this day, he waited for her in a nearby tree.  As she knealt to dip her water-skin into the river, he transformed himself into a pine needle and dropped himself into the river. Humming to herself under the stars, she never noticed him float gently into the basket.

As she drank, she swallowed the needle. It slipped and slithered down into her warm belly, where the Raven transformed himself again, this time into a tiny human. After sleeping and growing there for a very long time, at last the Raven emerged into the world once more, this time as a baby boy.

However, Raven was not a normal little boy. He had been born with a Raven’s beak. As he grew he was always after the treasure box, which his grandfather would never let him touch. Even though he had a rather strange appearance, the Raven’s grandfather loved him nontheless. Ravenchild begged and begged to be allowed to hold the light just for a moment.

In time, Raven’s mother yielded to his pleas and lifted from the box a warm and glowing sphere.

As the light was moving toward him, the human child transformed into his Raven form, wings spread ready for flight and beak open in anticipation. As the beautiful ball of light reached him, the Raven captured it in his beak!

Moving his powerful wings, he burst through the smoke-hole in the roof of the house, and escaped into the darkness with his stolen treasure.

He placed the ball into the sky, where the sun has been giving light to the world ever since.

About the Artists:

The late and great Bill Reid spent his life confronting public opinion. The artist, who was of Haida and European descent, was largely credited with inspiring a Haida renaissance with his masterful works of art. Some viewed Reid as a curiosity – an artist who navigated his way through two dissimilar worlds. Others viewed him with a more cynical eye and criticized him as a mimic with manufactured ties to the Haida community

Bob Patterson worked on the linked series of twelve totemic paintings for over eighteen months after studying the art and legends of ancient, Northwest American tribes for over fifteen years. Through his study and masterful artistry, Patterson has created important work that accurately represents the ideas and cultural complexities of people believed to have lived in the area more than 35,000 years ago.

The ancient art that Patterson understands and so beautifully expresses through his paintings is quite complex.  The artist explains, “All things in the totemic world use forms and variations to connect, disconnect, and embellish their purpose.  Totem poles are not the original forms of their art.” Totem poles were used only for memories or to record events and sometimes were considered as poles showing debt.

Patterson further explains that ancient artisans would decorate a bowl with symbols to honor the animal that sacrificed its life to sustain the humans.  “Certain animals were assigned duties by a creator animal or bird. The ancients believed that everything had to be created and that all things that lived were called people. Salmon people, frog people and so on,” he explains.

The intricate designs in Patterson’s Totemic paintings are true to the important symbolism of the ancient people.  According to the artist the symbolic concepts and ancient beliefs can be somewhat esoteric, but important to understand in order to fully appreciate Totemic art.