Truth & Myth: Crows & Ravens in The Game of Thrones

The sagas of Westeros, known as A Song of Ice and Fire and adapted into the wildly reknowned Game of Thrones TV series, makes frequent use of Crows and Ravens as omens, messengers and atmosphere. The foundation of the stories, plots and characters also draw heavily from real-world mythologies.  How much of this is fantasy and how much is rooted in truth? Here we examine the many facets of the Westerosi corvid and how it relates to the real-world counterpart – or doesn’t.

 Warning: this post contains mild spoilers if you have not read the books!

 

1Ravens vs Crows

The stories refer to Ravens mainly in the context of messengers, however later on they appear to Sam and Gilly beyond the wall in a massive flock perched in a weirwood tree.  The show also used “Ravens” in their promotional teasers, however the show often interchanges crows for ravens. So how can you tell the difference? Ravens are the largest corvids, and also the largest “songbirds.”  Twice the weight of a common crow at about 3 pounds (1.5kg), they grow to be an average of two feet (60cm) tall and have a wing-span of nearly 3-3.5 feet (1m) . They also have a diamond shape tail rather than the rounded square tail shape of the crow, and shaggy “beard” of feathers just below their heavier, hookier bill.

 

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2The Three Eyed Crow

Ravens factor into almost every known ancient mythos. The Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Semitic and Siberian legends depict the raven as a messenger of storms or bad weather. In African, Asian and European legends, the raven is an omen of death. In middle-European lore, ravens were often used as exponents of evil (for example in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Macbeth and Othello). In contrast, Norse mythology puts ravens in a place of power and worship, often associated with the god Odin.

Speaking of Odin, many theories and parallels have been drawn between Norse Mythology and the characters, plots and legends in A Song of Ice and Fire.  One such theory compares the Three Eyed Crow, which Bran seeks throughout his story, and Loki, the Norse god.  From what we know of the Three Eyed Crow thus far in the book series, we can assume Brynden Rivers , also known as “Bloodraven” or the” Night’s King”, is the Three Eyed Crow.

So how does he compare to Loki? Dorian the Historian explains on his blog that:

He is an extremely old Targaryen bastard living under the roots of a weirwood tree far beyond the Wall. (Loki lives amongst the trees)

He had been banished and condemned to the Night’s Watch for what was probably the death of Aerion Targaryen. (Loki was blamed for the death of Baldr, a great Viking leader)

He can warg (Loki can shapechange into animals and into the mist)

Baldr’s death(In the book represented by Aerion Targaryen in the World’s history, then repeated again as Joffrey’s death) is seen as the first in the chain of events which will ultimately lead to the destruction of the gods at Ragnarök. Baldr will be reborn in the new world, according to Völuspá. Sound familiar? This is very similar to the prophecy of Azor Azhai, who show watchers think is Stannis Baratheon. So as you can see, the Three Eyed Crow is quite an important symbol and character in both the book and adaptation.

But let’s move on to the warging bit…

 

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3Raven Warging

Warging, by definition, is mind control or mind-melding another living thing. Most mythologies involving Ravens also involve shapeshifting, which is conceptually similar. Native American legend tells of Raven shapeshifting into a man, a pine needle and even a wolf.  Japanese mythology has spirits taking Raven form, or women shapeshifting into Ravens. Norse mythology is rife with shapeshifting lore, including Loki as previously mentioned.  While this is a talent hard possessed by real-world human beings, who is to say it isn’t actually possible?

Both Bran and Jon Snow are connected with crows and ravens using their warging ability. We can also assume that Bloodraven makes frequent use of Ravens as his eyes, both in the scene with Sam and Gilly, and as Mormont’s Raven.

 

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4Mormont’s Raven

Lord Commander Mormont’s Raven(later becoming Jon’s Raven) stars opposite the Three Eyed Crow as the only other prominent corvid-character in the series. He is abnormally large, extremely old and commands a varied vocabulary.

Ravens live a very long time – from 40 to 80 years, so it is not unusual for Mormont’s raven to have been around as long as Maester Aemon.

Ravens are capable of the most complex vocalizations in the bird kingdom. They make many different kinds of calls varying from a low, gurgling croak to harsh grating sounds and shrill alarm calls. As the show plainly demonstrates, Ravens can be taught a variety of words and phrases, and have even been taught complex forms of communication through reward systems training similar to the methods made famous by Einstein the Parrot. Scientists have placed their vocalizations into as many as 33 different categories based on sound and context!

 

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5Corn?

Crows and Ravens do love corn, so this is an apt request from the Ravens of this story. The Raven diet is quite variable though, including fruit, nuts, seeds, fish, carrion, trash and an occasional french fry. Ravens are not birds of prey – you don’t need to worry about your dogs or cats roaming the yard unattended, just their food bowls, as Ravens are adept thieves.  Ravens will dig through snow, plastic bags, bins or compost to find their dinner, and may also follow wolf packs,  hunters or fishermen for a meal. Ravens are known to steal the food of many birds and mammals, even from dogs.

 

Michael S Quinton

Michael S Quinton

6Crows & Carrion

As the Game of Thrones is played out, the world is rife with war, plague and death, and thus crows are seen everywhere preying on the spoils. They are seen eating flesh, pecking out eyes and numerous other deeds usually reserved for vultures. This is not far from realistic – although only some kinds of Crow and Raven are known to eat carrion as a matter of course, mainly depending on their environment and options.

In this day and age, we know that crows and ravens often use their amazingly high IQ to manipulate other species where meals are concerned.  They have been observed calling to dogs, wolves or other predators to attract them to a corpse the Raven cannot scavenge or open on their own. This advanced intelligence also allows them to share social and territorial spaces with these kinds of predators without becoming prey themselves.  Ravens and crows have been observed working together to distract a person or animal away from a potential meal so the other can snatch it away.

Historically, crows have been depicted scavenging or circling the dead through many artforms, and have been used in Norse and Tibetan ritual to consume corpses in honor of the dead as vessels for rebirth.

 

Marino Thorlacius

Marino Thorlacius

7Dark Wings, Dark Words

This common idiom in our story refers to Ravens as omens of something bad.  This comparison is used throughout history and mythology as well. Ravens and Crows are famous symbols for death, tragedy and misfortune, which is likely the driving force behind author George R.R Martin’s use of them in the books to foreshadow and set the scene.

 

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8Raven Messengers

The most prominent role Ravens play in the series is as messengers of their sage-type masters, the Maesters of each keep or castle, and by Sam and Master Aemon on the Wall. This serves both functionally, to get information from one location to another, and figuratively as omens or bearers of often bad news.

While Ravens are super-intelligent, they were likely not used as messengers at any point in history, contrary to the romantic notion put forth in the series. Instead, carrier pigeons were used for their unique navigation and magnetic sensitivity. As ravens are not migratory, they would not make the best homers, although they range for very long distances.

However, Ravens have been noted as useful spy tools, purported as trained eavesdroppers capable of repeating back snippets of conversation overheard by the enemy, or retreiving items.

 

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9White Ravens

Among the vast arsenal of messnger Ravens employed throughout Westeros, the Maesters of the Citadel use a special white raven to distinguish messages coming from the Citadel from other messages.  Not to be mistaken for an albino bird, white ravens are quite real, and are the result of Leucism, a genetic disorder whereby the pigmentation cells are unevenly distributed, hence resulting in patches of feathers looking paler, bleached looking or show white. White ravens are the result of the mating of two common ravens with the same genetic defect. The same pair could produce many generations of white ravens, since common black ravens are monogamous and long-lived.

White Ravens have also been revered in mythology, including the story of Noah’s Ark (later translated into a Dove, which was more of a romanized romantic symbol). The significance of white ravens being used by Maesters of the Citadel could be to symbolically differentiate the messages they carry as being peacful or good, or it could simply be a means for noting importance.

 

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10Ravens & Wolves

Dire wolves and common wolves are almost as common as Ravens in A Song of Ice and Fire, with both Nymeria and Ghost in close companion ship with Crows and Ravens throughout their wanderings.

This partnership is common in the real world, too, as both Ravens and Wolves share common habitats. Aside from ravens enterprising on wolves as competent providers of food, Ravens are also extremely playful, earning them the legendary nickname of “trickster.” One of their favorite games is tail-pulling, which has been observed as perpetrated on larger birds of prey, wolves, big cats and even people. In one account, ravens were seen perching on the roof of a local supermarket, waiting for unsuspecting humans to walk by before pushing a clump of snow over the edge to fall on their heads.

North of the Wall, it is easy to imagine Raven playing with Ghost in much the same way.

In what other ways do you notice crows and ravens used in A Song of Ice and Fire, and what significance, if any, do you think they portray?

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Emi Fujimoto Autumn Ravens

Emi Fujimoto  is a young Japanese photographer and artist with an “innocent” macabre style. Ravens, moons, puppets and cats sparkle across her gallery, set against the dim and beautiful world only her lens can create.

 

 

 

 

 

Twilight- fujimoto emi

View more of Emi’s work here , on Flickr or follow her on Google+:

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Karen Bondarchuk Crows: Scavenging Scavengers

Karen Bondarchuk, assistant professor of art, will be one of about 30 members of Western Michigan University’s Gwen Frostic School of Art faculty and staff who’ll display pieces in the annual art faculty exhibit, which opened on Thursday and runs through Dec. 23. The works will range from oil on canvas and mixed media to sculpture and, well, crows.  Karen originally began sculpting the birds from scavenged tire, wood, and polystyrene. “I’d see a heap of tires on the side of the road, and I’d imagine a claw sticking up in the air,” she said. “Crows are scavengers by nature, and so am I.”

 

Corvus Deflatus

 

Karen’s current sculpture and drawing work, focused exclusively on crows and ravens, examines the complex, interwoven relationship between humans and corvids.  Her artwork has been exhibited widely in the United States, as well as in Canada, Italy and England.

“Using tire scraps and an automobile headlamp, Autogenesis contemporizes the Haida and Tsimshian myth of the raven stealing the sun. Most traditional Native American and First Nations myths recognize the intelligence of these creatures by ascribing complex attributes to crows and ravens. These myths often include a corvid’s ability to shape-shift, wherein the bird will take on human qualities in order to achieve a goal or procure some desired object (which is typically shiny or luminous). The title alludes to both the process of autogeny (organic organisms developing from inorganic matter) and this raven’s genesis from automobile tires, while the form is suggestive of both a prize trophy head and a portal through which this raven is seemingly unable to pass.”

 

Autogenesis

 

Of her painted body of work, Karen says,”The large charcoal raven portraits in this body of work— Speak, Memory and others—are scaled with the intention of creating a meeting of minds or reciprocity: in as much as we are contemplating these brainy birds, they seem to be equally contemplating us. The stark, high contrast and large scale also demands our attention and consideration (as birds in the corvid family—crows, blue jays, rooks, magpies, jackdaws, ravens, etc.—so often do), while the emphasis on individuality and personality with each portrait challenges the generalities we may have regarding what a raven is. ”

Speak,Memory IV

“The title of this series is from Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiographical memoir called Speak, Memory, and relates to my desire to understand the true nature of these highly intelligent creatures, as well as the futility of my desire to do so. In my ongoing research of crows and ravens, I have had various encounters with verbal corvids, including Julian the incredible talking raven (“who’s a good bird”), Blue, the feisty imprinted blue jay that imitates meowing cats and door alarms, and a cursing green-eyed British jackdaw, and I am struck by the fact that their ability to speak makes these birds even more inscrutable. The language they utter doesn’t speak of them or their memories, but of us and our desire to understand these intelligent creatures on human terms.”

Crow Magnus

 

 

Bondarchuk’s contribution to the art show is a six-foot charcoal-and-ink drawing titled, “In Defense of a Stolen Golfball” which was inspired by a story she heard about ravens stealing balls from a Virginia golf course.

“The ravens were fascinated by the golf balls. In this, the raven is defending itself.”

 

Karen Bondarkchuck’s In Defense of the Golf Ball

 

You may follow Karen by visiting her website at www.karenbondarchuk.com.

 

Jutta Maue Kay – Crows on a Cloud


©Jutta Maue Kay

Jutta Maue Kay is a German native with a passion for human rights and conservation. She has been all over the world, and currently resides in Vancouver, where her newest subjects are in vast abundance.

The images she captures of the Ravens and Carrion Crows of the Pacific Northwest are truly special. Each one is infused with the trickster spirit, dark elegance, or intelligent curiosity these birds possess.

©Jutta Maue Kay


©Jutta Maue Kay



©Jutta Maue Kay

To see more incredible photos from Jutta, head over to her Crows Set on Flickr


Film Noir & Creepy Corvid Movies

If it is raining and gloomy where you are, then it is time to snuggle up in your favorite blanket, make some popcorn, and watch a really good (or awesomely bad) movie to celebrate Halloween. Ravens, Crows, and black feathered birds of all kinds have appeared in movies since film was invented.  Their voices and presence enable the film creators to convey mystery, foreshadowing, doom, danger, and in some cases – hope.

Some of the most popular feathered flicks of old include Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds,  Vincent Price in The Raven,  and Betty Boop in The Scared Crows.  Ravens also appeared prominently in episodes of the Adam’s Family. Since then, Crows, Ravens and their cousins have been used as a signature (for directors such as Andrei Tarkovsky), mystical guide (The Crow), and every kind of harbinger or grim reaper.  To help you pick out the right one for you, we’ve compiled a list!

Foreign Classic

This 1943 french film ‘Le Corbeau’ (The Raven) follows a mysterious writer of poison pen letters, known only as Le Corbeau. who plagues a French provincial town, unwittingly exposing the collective suspicion and rancor seething beneath the community’s calm surface. Made during the Nazi Occupation of France, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Le Corbeau was attacked by the right-wing Vichy regime, the left-wing Resistance press, the Catholic Church, and was banned after the Liberation. But some—including Jean Cocteau and Jean-Paul Sartre—recognized the powerful subtext to Clouzot’s anti-informant, anti-Gestapo fable, and worked to rehabilitate Clouzot’s directorial reputation after the war. Le Corbeau brilliantly captures a spirit of paranoid pettiness and self-loathing turning an occupied French town into a twentieth-century Salem.

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Cult

Dubbed “a fatal mistake from beginning to end” by the New York Times upon its release, this Poe-inspired Universal horror flick has since gained a latter day cult following, with Peary himself referring to it as “great fun”, and accurately noting that Lugosi seems to be having “a field day” playing the “fiendish surgeon” with a penchant for everything-Poe. Equally effective — and surprisingly sympathetic — is top-billed Karloff as a tortured criminal whose perceived ugliness has prevented him from becoming the “good man” he longs to be; his intentionally botched facial surgery at the hands of evil Lugosi is tragic to behold.  An excellent choice for anyone into classic horror.

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Family Classics



Vincent Price in The Raven



The Raven is a strange little film from 1960, made for children, in which horror may very well be the funniest thing to happen to you. Vincent Price teams up with Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff in this horror spoof that makes light of every horror movie scare feature.

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Noir



Alfred poses with Buddy the Raven (The Birds)



A classic movie for any Halloween party or gathering is Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.  Starring Tippi Hendren as a blond California woman out to have fun, The Birds shows Hitchcock’s skills of psychological manipulation. Unlike horror movies that rely on straight gore and savagery, the birds scared audiences with the moments of quiet and isolation. The film has since become the single most influential piece Hitchcock ever produced.
The birds in the movie are mostly seagulls, but sparrows and crows do appear, all waiting for their chance to swarm on the helpless people. It struck a nerve with watchers because birds are indeed everywhere, and are usually ignored as friendly or harmless. But what if that flock of doves hanging out on the street decided to become hostile? What if those seagulls circling around at the beach chose to coordinate an attack on someone, for some unknown reason?

One of the most remembered scenes involves the crows on the gym equipment in the children’s playground. As the children quietly prepare for recess, the crows begin to gather in larger and larger numbers. Soon they are a malevolent force, ready for the attack. Where most filmmakers would have only threatened adults, Hitchcock sends the birds after the kids, bringing out the terror in both kids and adults watching. The image is so strong in our culture that few now see a massive group of crows without being reminded of that scene.  If you can get your hands on an original Black and White copy of this film, the imagry is even more impressive.

Hitchcock hired Ray Berwick to work with the birds in the film. Ray trained birds for months and months. Ravens and crows are extremely intelligent and even learned to peck hamburger off of actors’ faces, for some ‘attack’ scenes. But the smaller birds were more trouble. In the scene where sparrows fly down the chimney, they tried lowering 2,000 bullfinches down. The bullfinches decided to just hang out on available perches! They ended up having to have the actors pretend to shoo away imaginary birds, and effected in the flying avians.

Seagulls were better. Ray had them trained to circle over actors, attack, and then return to his hand. When working with the children he would carefully wire their beaks shut, just in case, but the birds were extremely well behaved.

The ravens were the smartest and often had minds of their own. One raven, Corvus, hated Rod Taylor and would attack him any time he saw him. Another raven, named Buddy, loved humans and refused to attack them!  Both are sadly no longer with us today, but  Ray continues to train birds for film, including the Crow in our next pick.

Very recently, zoetifex studio create a wonderful animated short in tribute of the film:

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B-Rated



Carmen Electra in The Chosen One



You might think I had to dig deep for this one, but the truth is that I thought this was a great movie when I was 8.

When a serial killer mysteriously and savagely murders a young Indian woman in rural Los Angeles county, her sister McKenna must replace her as the keeper of an amulet, the sacred crescent. Reluctantly, McKenna accepts the role of chosen one. With the amulet and after the rigors of the ritual, she takes on the spirit and powers of the raven, the good forces in the battle against evil, the wolf. McKenna’s powers include a thirst for milk and great sexual energy, which she unleashes on her former boyfriend, Henry, a cop. The spirit of the wolf inhabits Rose, Henry’s jilted lover. Rose wrecks havoc of her own before a final showdown with the chosen one.  Great flick if you are 8 or just really drunk.

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Direct to Video



Stephen King's Crow series



Fast forward to the 80’s and you can be sure Stephen King covered this topic thoroughly. His Night of the Crow opens with a couple passing through a small Oklahoma town discover that it has been taken over by a homicidal cult that worships a crow god–and that all the cult members are children. Not a bad movie for Halloween – we recommend melted candy-corn on your popcorn to go with it.

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Popular



The Crow



Guided by a portentous crow , Brandon Lee plays a deceased rock musician who returns from the grave to systematically torture and kill the outlandishly violent gang of hoodlums who murdered him and his fiancée the year before. The Crow is a film haunted by a chilling production accident, but beautifully executed in spite of itself. The story becomes that much more symbolic and meaningful, even shrouded in comic book dialog and action. Highly recommended!

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Foreign Horror

Kaw is your typical ‘New Cinema’ style horror movie in which  the Sheriff of a small town is about to retire when his town is attacked by blood thirsty ravens that eat human flesh. Meanwhile his wife Cynthia visits a farm where a Mennonite family lives to say farewell to her friend Gretchen and discloses a dark secret about the origin of the fierce ravens. Clearly derivative of The Birds, not all is lost. This movie makes good background imagry if you plan to have a large party.

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Independent

Ricardo De Montreuil’s absolutely brilliant 6 minute short THE RAVEN is fluidly filmed by Director of Photography Alex Sanchez. This is a chase flick, wrapped in the trappings of a not too distant, or far-fetched dystopian future, where men are exterminated by machines (considering as you read this, somewhere unmanned planes are dropping fire from the sky, and major metropolitan municipalities are considering unmanned robotic droids to police the cities… it is a fiction uncomfortably close to tomorrow’s facts).

But above the cautionary tale, which has been and always will be at the heart of sci-fi or speculative fiction, it’s a truly  impressive and stylishly made film.  This one won’t get you through Halloween, but it will get you through right now. Enjoy!

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What movies would you add to the list?


Crows and the Great October Roost


By T.L.Kemp


It is  the time when the crows begin to form small roosting groups in the evening. Observers may note flights of crows all heading in one direction in late afternoon/evening or gathering in a group in the treetops. These gatherings are generally much smaller that the large winter communal roosts and we presume they serve as a sort of training ground for the sort of social interactions that occur later on when hundreds or thousands of crows gather in one location. One would also presume that the smaller roosts generally are comprised largely of crows closely related to each other by blood or mating and occupying territories adjourning or very close to each other.

According to Michael Westerfield,

“Roosting areas tend to be located where there are large, mature trees with open spaces in between. In cities and towns, cemeteries, college campuses, malls with adjacent trees, old rail yards, and older neighborhoods and industrial areas, and the like tend to be favored. If there is a river or other body of water nearby, its a definite plus. The crows generally settle on the branches of trees which have already lost their leaves, or on the uppermost branches of those that haven’t, so it is easy to spot their silhouettes against the still bright sky. At this time of year, the temporary roosts may be more loosely organized and spread out over a wider area that those in colder weather.

If there are crows in your neighborhood throughout the year, it’s likely that there will be one of these temporary fall roosts nearby. The amazing thing about these roosts, and even some of the gigantic winter roosts, is that one can be fairly nearby and most folks will be totally oblivious to its presence. I suppose it has to do with the timing, when people are still at work, commuting home, or just settling in for a long autumn evening. Probably the most common reason folks notice crow roosts relates to crow droppings on their cars or sidewalks in the morning. If your car is clean, and you want to find your local roost, just take a walk in the late afternoon – with your ears free of noise making devices. Choose an area with large, old trees and open spaces. Watch and listen for crows passing by up above and move in the general direction in which they are moving and, if you are lucky, you might just arrive at the place the crows will choose to spend the night. You’ll know it when you get there!”

Ravens, Tom Ford Eyewear And Brand Myth

As Tim Girvin, brander extraordinaire, says it best, “Ravens as the dark storyteller, the mythic black rainbow.”

Is the etymology of corvid derived from the ancient Proto-Indo European seed sound kos, for shout? That would seem appropriate – ravens for shouting. Marketing as the shout, raven-style. But it’s the sound of the kraaak and croak that reaches to the heart of the word and the story – and running the linguistic gauntlet for several thousand years, the sounds of the black one, the ravening clan, that first bespeak the legend.

To Tom Ford, and the raven as a stylistic emblem, the commentaries are interesting to Tom’s shooting of eyewear/ware that is inter-played with corvids. Noting sensuality, Anne of Caverville’s reflections offer Tom Ford’s use of ravens in his Fall 2010 ad campaign for Tom Ford Eyewear with Freja Beha Erichsen and Nicholas Hoult can be interpreted as his belief in a female-centric, new consciousness. Ford is the ace of sensual branding or hot, sexy, sizzling marketing  whichever you prefer. The sexy marketing maestro has always pushed the envelope, roaming through the closed doors of repressed sexuality and leaving them slightly ajar upon leaving.

According to Anne’s review,  “If ravens seem a bit dark and disturbing, consider them not only symbols of death, degeneration and bad luck. Tom Ford grew up in Austin, Texas – not Santa Fe, of course — but near America’s Indian Country, where ravens are the hallmark of shape-shifting. Ravens can see all things that are hidden. In addition, ravens brought light into the darkness of the world and transformed part of Maka, Mother Earth. A raven named plants and taught animals. After the success of his debut film A Single Man, a more thoughtful Tom Ford may be evolving into a mythical storyteller.”

The campaign features Freja Beha Erichsen and Nicholas Hoult plus a bunch of ravens. (the story continues right after the jump with more images!) There’s something undoubtedly, unquestionably strange about the imagery and people’s reactions. Kissing ravens? Devilishly smiling while being surrounded by ravens? Breastfeeding a raven? Now that’s something only Ford will be able to get away with. As much as they hate admitting to it,” the fash-people love to feel shocked and appalled. Disgusted, even. I’s in their uberfashionable nature. We, the mere mortals we’ll only see Hitchock all over again and think – oh, look, there’s Freja looking like Harry Potter! – say you didn’t thought about that!”

“Ravens and the corvid class  are, in the mythic mind, a grouping of creatures that, spread all over the world, cast a sight into the legendary mind of man and their link to the archetypal experience of the dark mystery and beauty of natural experience. Gathering the raven clan to the notion of brand, or telling experience, is entirely personal – what does this bird say to you? To each, their own, in the cast of Raven shadow and call to themselves. For me, their call always means one thing – pay attention!”

References:

Tim Girvin “The Legacy Of The Corvid In Retail Brandstory And Merchandising.” , Sensuality , Stylefrizz ,  OpticalVision,

Unusual Crow Sanctuary Flying High

Most people don’t mind having a cat or dog around the house, or even a rabbit.

But a Wolverhampton, UK  couple have gone a step further by sharing their life with dozens of squawking crows – some of which have even appeared on TV.

Mark and Lisa Edge run a sanctuary at their Wednesfield home for unwanted or injured crows, ravens, magpies and rooks and have 37 birds in their care.

The below video gives an intimate glimpse of the sanctuary, and features Jester the Jackdaw and Roxy the Raven, both superstars.

“I used to be so scared of birds,” Lisa said. “I didn’t like them flying near me or coming anywhere near me.

“A few years ago, we found a crow on the ground and brought it home. We looked after it for a few months and it just spiralled out of that really.

“We were then getting people contact us to ask if we would take their unwanted birds from them.”

The couple, who have two sons, Michael, aged 21, and Thomas, 15, keep the birds in aviaries in their back garden, although some will creep into the house on occasions.

Lisa, aged 48, said: “Sometimes Mark will sit on the chair and eat his tea with one of the birds.

“The birds are so tame, friendly and intelligent.”

Lisa, a lollipop lady, said some of the birds had a calcium deficiency in their wings, while others had been attacked by cats.

The couple keep them an average of three to four months before releasing them back into the wild.

She added some of the birds had even made it onto the small screen, with parts on the likes of TV dramas Midsomer Murders and Frost. “Roxy the raven was in Midsomer Murders and Frost,” she said.

The birds eat chicken and cat biscuits, although some like special treats such as scrambled eggs or ice lollies.

Source: Nicky Butler for UK’s Express&Srar http://www.expressandstar.com/news/

Crows,Ravens & The Science of Sleep

Crows roost in large, sometimes huge murders (a flock is called a murder) at night. A hundred years ago one could find these roosts just outside villages and towns, and it was thought they did this for safety from dogs, cats and owls that like to nest in human built structures. Now, however, these roosts are most often located inside the city limits and it’s thought for the same reasons as they roosted outside the city before.

By Richard George

Crows Choose to Sleep Inside City Limits

Inside cities are 5 – 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding urban areas, and even where its legal to shoot crows, it’s illegal to fire weapons within city limits. Crows don’t see well in the dark, so sleeping in the city gives the advantage of being able to see a predator coming, and also the ability to see where to flee safely. In 1972 the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was written to cover crows, meaning crows are now much safer than ever before.

If one ever has the chance to see a large roost in the city before dark, it’s an interesting thing to watch. They begin to collect at the roost before dark and they all seem to chatter to each other and flit from tree to tree until it becomes the darkest. Then, they quiet down and sleep. Large roosts that are located just outside of city lights quiet down quickly, and those crows seem to get more sleep.

Some of the largest, oldest trees around are protected in city parks and privately owned land. These are large, old trees and are very attractive to roost-searching crows.

By Martin Cooper

Migratory Birds Have Reasons to Sleep in the City

Crows that are territorial also fly to the roost to sleep with family and friends at night, returning to their territory at dawn to begin foraging for their survival. Scientists think they do this for several reasons.

One theory is that, like humans at a hotel, many are meeting their needs of sleep and shelter while at the same place, at the same time, but they aren’t interacting with each other much. This doesn’t sound correct, especially if you’ve ever witnessed crows at such a roost. As mentioned before, it’s loud and very socially active until complete darkness.

There’s the old adage that there’s safety in numbers, and this may well be another reason they gather to roost together. A crow with many supporting helpers around may not be as attractive to a hunting hawk or other predator. And, there’s also the theory that they gather to spread information about food supplies and dangers to avoid.


Catching a Nap

Corvidae Daytime Behavior

During the day, some crows go off on their own to their territories and others may stay in a small murder and forage together. This is when you see a bunch of them swarm a yard or field and walk around while they hunt and talk together. They are loud and move through an area quickly and scientists believe this behavior is a social event, since crows do not depend on each other for day to day survival. Every now and then, they will catch a nap.

[box]Written by Sandy Mccollum[/box]

Crows & Ravens vs The World

Mobbing behavior by crows and others in the avian family is very common. The crows are reacting to the potential threat another lifeform or (until they quickly figure it out) an object poses as a predator to the adult crows and their offspring. The mobbing often serves to harass the threat into leaving the area. Occasionally, though, a mobbed hawk or owl will turn the tables and attack and kill the crow.

The following video is a chilling example of how a murder of crows will defend its turf, cornering an otherwise formidable opponent using intimidation and force, but the Owl is not about to lose…

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In this clip, the crows are shown displaying a more common dive-and-swoop behavior on a Great Horned Owl that has entered their territory.

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Mobbing is not the only way crows and ravens deal with threats, and there is some speculation that harassment behavior may be more than protecting a flock. There have been documented encounters between Crows, Ravens, Magpies etc  and a variety of natural predators, (the most common being hawks, owls, and cats) but also between the corvids and creatures which would normally not pose any threat to them whatsoever (such as squirrels, rats, smaller birds, or insects). Generally these can be attributed to hunting and scavenging, but not all.

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During some encounters, the crows act as if they are simply doing it for sport, to alleviate boredom, or as a ritual of discovery. Bullying and teasing has been observed in many highly intelligent animals, including ourselves, apes, dolphins, rats, cats, and wolves, lacking the systematic signs of an instinct mechanism (such as those observed in ants). Does this indicate that the sense of self which factors highly into higher intelligence also brings with it the curse of jealousy, intolerance, and greed?

In a tribute to Aesop’s fable of the Jackdaw and the Peacock, this crow attempts to steal a tail feather (or catch a ride)

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All is not lost, however. Our beloved birds are not Hitchcock villains or devious devils looking to lie, cheat and steal at any opportunity. Like humans, corvids adapt to their environments and fortunes, or lack thereof, and as a result have a widely diverse set of skills and behaviors.  They also seem to be particularily fond of, or at least respectful of, the cat.

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…sometimes.

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