The Raven and the Crow
Although they come from the same Corvinus family, these two different birds each bring about their own meanings and lore, although many are similar. Typically, ravens are quite a bit bigger than crows, and they tend to be a bit shaggier looking. Both birds have an impressive repertoire of calls and noises they make, the raven’s call is usually a bit deeper and more guttural sounding than that of the crow.
Native Americans had great respect for ravens. Black, being the color of magical powers, and only to be feared if misused. Native Americans and in many other tribal traditions, the raven is the guardian of both ceremonial magic and healing circles and is also the patron of smoke signals. Of course, the context of the bird’s meaning can change from culture to culture.
Ravens are also thought to be the guardians of graveyards and of the dead. Both crows and ravens have appeared in a number of different mythologies throughout the ages. In some cases these birds are considered an omen of bad tidings, such as in Welsh folklore, the raven is an omen of death. If the raven makes a choking sound, it is a portent of the death rattle. A raven could smell death and would hover over the area where its next victim is usually animals. In other cultures and traditions they represent a message from the Gods or from Death or the Spirit World itself. Several south western tribes heralded the Raven as the bringer of light that escaped from the darkness of the cosmos. They associate this bird with creation because it brought light where there was none. Other tribes looked upon this bird as a trickster or even a shape shifter because of its high intelligence and ability to adapt to different situations.
Even today Native Americans say they are good signs and counter the effects of bad spirits, they are a sign that danger has passed and will bring good luck.
To invoke the Raven as a bird of prophecy, you can use the old English rhyme used to interpret omens by the number of ravens, crows, or rooks seen in a flock:
One for bad news
Two for mirth
Three is a wedding
Four is a birth
Five is for riches
Six is a thief
Seven, a journey
Eight is for grief
Nine is a secret
Ten is for sorrow
Eleven is for love
Twelve is joy for tomorrow
In most parts of the world the raven is considered a prophet and a bad omen. In Ireland it was once domesticated for use in divination practices and the term “Raven’s Knowledge” was applied to the human gift of second sight.
The raven symbolizes gratitude and affection, wisdom, hope, longevity, death, and fertility. In alchemy, it represents change and the advanced soul dying to this world. If the bird appears to you through your visions or dreams could be what are presently going on in your life or that a change may soon happen.
Like the larger raven, the symbolic crow is associated with the sun, longevity, beginnings, death, change, bad luck and prophecy. The crow is associated with motherly love and spiritual strength. It was believed that fairies turned into crows in order to cause trouble.
Raven’s element is air, and she is a messenger spirit, which Native American shamans use to project their magic over great distances. Because they fly high toward the heavens, they can take prayers from the people to the heavens and, in turn, bring back messages from the spiritual realm.
In Earth Magic, these birds’ feathers are used in spells, ceremonies and rituals to promote change. They are often used as a catalyst to help focus concentration while carrying out spells and wishes. Since these birds’ element is air, as are their feathers. Depending upon which bird the feather came, as well as its place of discovery is a determining factor in how you would use its feather in magic. I often use them in my spells, I do not buy feathers, in case the bird who gave them paid for them with their life by a horrible death. Instead, I wait patiently until I happen upon one usually in the park I pick them up and save them for when they are needed.
Keep a raven feather or artefact with your divination tools. Ravens especially preside over dark tools such as dark mirrors and onyx scrying balls, but can be used with any tool.
In dream work the raven is an excellent dream guide you can attach a raven feather to your dream catcher and hang it over your bed powerful and prophetic dreams it’s said will come your way. Adding raven feathers to your tools for instance attaching the black feathers to your wand, staff, athame, shield, drum, pentacle or crafting your tools in the shape of ravens is a powerful way to use Raven Magic. You can use the raven to guide you into trance. There are many poems and songs dedicated to the raven that you can use to guide you.
As a spirit guide, the crow will guide you in getting in touch with life mysteries and develop your ability to perceive subtle shifts in energy within yourself and in your environment. It has the ability to go beyond the illusions, especially duality of right and wrong, inner and outer.
Myself, I like both birds and can often sense a strong energy when near one and I see them as messengers, when I find black feathers nearby I often take it that a change is coming. I think the fact that they are black makes them seem daunting, they are in fact highly intelligent and fascinating creatures.
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