Animal symbolism is an important part of religious, mystic and spiritual systems, beliefs and practices. Some animals have especially strong meaning in different cultures.
Because of their nature, given skills, behavior and appearance, some living beings have fascinated humans more than other species, for ages and centuries. From the beginning of our civilization, we have been trying to explain phenomena and events that take place in our reality referring to forces of powers beyond our imagining.
Primitive societies did not have scientific knowledge to interpret natural events in other way than searching answers from gods, angels, demons, and all the creatures of realms unknown to human kind.
Animals living in human environment have always been a powerful source of information to explain such matters.
Animal symbolism has been used to explain fortunate events as well as misfortune, to predict future, to somehow justify certain phenomena. It is completely logical to assume such symbolism has also been regularly misused in order to manipulate other people, achieve something either bad or good for society or an individual.
In that sense, dark feathered birds, such as crows and raves, have extremely high symbolical value.
Crows and ravens symbolism in general
Both crows and ravens belong to the same family of birds, Corvidae. Scientists, as well as common people, usually talk about them as different species, but the only thing that distinctly divides them is their size.
Ravens are significally bigger compared to crows. These birds are of a similar nature and their cultural and symbolic conception is familiar with one another. In this article, we will discuss them separately, starting with crows and then adding some specific characteristics and interpretations in part of the text reserved for ravens.
The main and the most common concepts and ideas referring to crows and ravens are:
-Magic and mystery
-Insight and knowledge
-(Mis)fortune and trickery
-Creation and transformation
Ravens and crows have a prominent position in many of the World’s cultures. Those ‘ominous’ birds are regularly associated with darkness, night, bad luck, bad news, but not in all cases. They are certainly considered mystical and magical, appreciated and admired in some belief systems.
Both ravens and crows have been associated with magic, creativity, mystery, higher perspective, mischief, transformation etc.
Spiritual meaning of crows
What does a crow symbolize? Crows’ symbolism has dual interpretation, which is quite typical for most of totem and spirit animals. Birds as a special order of spirit animals have distinctive meaning to humans, thanks to their natural characteristics and abilities.
Simply, they fly. Birds are given that amazing ability of flying, which is fascinating to human kind and even the reason we envy them. For centuries, people have tried to construct machines and gadgets that would raise us above the clouds and enable us to see the world from the perspective of our feathery, winged friends.
Crows are particularly interesting birds’ specie. One might ask what do crows represent in the world of mystic and spiritual beliefs. As well as ravens, they are extremely intelligent and resourceful. Unlike ravens, crows have distinctively dual meaning as spirit and totem animals.
They are associated to concepts of deception and bad fortune and at the same time these interesting birds are often considered messengers of good and fortunate news. The very basic crow symbolism refers to following concepts and ideas, which we will discuss.
Creativity and creation – Crows are symbol of life and mysterious creative powers that bring the World into life. For example, in Aboriginal tales, Crow was the one to offer the gift of fire to human kind. Native American tribes also believe in creational power of crows.
Transformation – Crows are traditionally associated to ideas of destiny and transformation. In medieval Europe, they were often a symbol of alchemy and the magic of transmutation. In an individual sense, crows represent personal development and transformation. As spirit animals, crows are destiny guides and guardians.
Knowledge, higher wisdom – Crows are naturally intelligent animals, so it is not strange they are symbolically considered wise. They represent deep insight and rich knowledge, an ability to learn, to gather and to use information. They are also keepers of valuable information and great wisdom.
Resourcefulness – Crows represent flexibility and resourcefulness. They are able to adapt to harsh circumstances and living conditions. As spirit animals, they teach us how to adapt to the situation and get along with others.
Manipulation, mischief – In different traditions, crows have been depicted as manipulative beings and great tricksters. They represent swindle and deceit. Crows are also associated to dark magic tricks and witchcraft.
Apart from these depictions and common interpretation of crow symbolism, those feathery animals are also associated with darkness and bad luck. The main difference between crow and raven symbolism lies exactly here; crows are seen rather good than bad, which could not be said for ravens.
Crow totem and spirit animal
If you are born under a totem of crow or you have discovered this amazing creature is your spirit animals, you are lucky. We have enlisted most common associations about crows and all of them are applicable to interpretation of crows’ totemic and spiritual guidance meaning and purpose.
Crows offer their pupils a powerful guidance, especially in matters of their own personal development and growth.
Crows are magical beings, thus, they remind you there is still a lot of magic in this world. Your totem protector would never let you lose hope and faith in things mystical and unexplainable.
Crows are constant reminder of wonders and mysteries of life and creation, so they inspire us to carefully carve our personality and learn how to get along with the World.
Crows are seen all around the planet, but if you notice them more often than usual, they are trying to tell you something. Embrace their magic and follow your intuition.
Crows are favorite spirit animals in shamanic traditions. Since they are associated with the power of deep insight, magic, mystery and transformation, crows have always been highly valued in such traditions. High positioned priests/shamans would very likely choose a crow to be their totem animal.
Shamans would use crows in trance and shape-shifting rituals, in order to understand certain phenomenon troubling their environment;
Crow’s spiritual guidance
As a spiritual guide, crow would teach you how to perceive even the tiniest straws of energy within your environment and yourself. Since it is associated to concepts of creation and transformation, it means your crow totem will help you develop personally and emotionally. If you learn to listen to your spirit animal, you will not be easily manipulated or deceived.
Being creatures of tricks and swindle themselves, crows teach us how to get away from trouble in an easy way. You must be careful about this; do not let your spirit guide crow lead you astray. It is of a vital importance to learn how to balance your own existing energy with that of your totem animal.
Are crow’s bad luck? They could bear many different messages and their depiction varies. Beliefs and superstitions about crows vary depending on a particular tradition.
Craw cawing – If you hear crows or a crow cawing it is literally like an alarm to listen to your spirit guide and your own intuition. As a magical being, associated with destiny and transformation, a crow announces the time has come to make change and to embrace your destiny. You are the only one to handle it and the Crow would help you.
Black crow meaning – Seeing or dreaming about black crows may be a bad sign, but not necessarily. The black color of their feathers symbolically represents mystery and/or death. Seeing a black crow may be an announcement of a bad event to come, even death. However, it could also suggest you should turn to yourself and explore your deepest and the most mysterious thoughts.
Dead crow meaning – Seeing or dreaming about a dead crow could have dual interpretation. Positively, it is considered good, because crows are themselves associated with death and bad luck. On the other hand, since they are powerful mystical knowledge keepers and intelligent animals, a dead crow may represent your loss of intuition or ability to express yourself.
Crow feather meaning – Crow feather is highly valued symbol in native Indian traditions. It represents release and cunningness, resourcefulness and skillfulness. In some other traditions, it could be interpreted the same way some see the crow itself, as a bad omen or as a sign of greater perspective, wisdom and insight.
Two crows/three crows meaning – Seeing two crows is a sign of good fortune. Seeing three crows is even better; this phenomenon suggests big and positive changes, personal development, better self-insight, great events that would certainly have a great influence over your life and personality.
Spiritual meaning of ravens
Raven belongs to the same family as crows, only they are distinctly bigger. Spiritual meaning of ravens is very similar to that of crows, only ravens are more often associated with ‘dark’ messages. They have prominent place in many mythologies and religions. Ravens are an important motif in art, prose and poetry.
Raven is symbolically associated with magic and obscure things, in the first place. This elegant bird, dressed in deep dark, shiny black feathers is often considered a keeper of untouchable secrets and great wisdom.
Ravens are associated with bad omens and misfortune and they are commonly precipitated as heralds of death and misery. Black wings, black words, they say. However, ravens are not always considered dangerous.
They have strong connection to the world beyond our imagining and, such as crows, they bring us deep insight, growing intuition, better understanding of the World and its wonders.
Ravens are observers. As a spirit animal, a raven guides us through deep thoughts and the most remote parts of our minds. They remind us to be patient, to learn from our environment, to watch and grow our knowledge and skills to perfection. It is a powerful totem animal.
Raven totem and spirit animal
If a raven is your spirit and totem animal, you have got yourself a wise and mystical teacher. Ravens as spirit animals suggest constant creation and change; they are mentioned in many creation stories and myths. In different belief systems, ravens often accompany powerful deities or they are deities themselves.
Ravens are also shamanic and shape-shifting animals. People born under totem of a raven are able to transform and to adapt. They are not easily deceived or manipulated.
As a spiritual guide, raven helps you go through life changes and your own personal transformations and development. It suggests transition from one life chapter to another, a path of discovering better and wiser self, self-healing and rebirth.
Sudden appearance of a raven in your life is a sign of great opportunities, of that transparent and fragile border between our real life and the realm of powers beyond our comprehension.
Although ravens symbolically may represent bad omens, misery and death, they are highly valued as spirit animals and considered powerful totems. Your raven totem would never let you feel miserable or unworthy. Raven totem teaches you how to discover and defeat your hidden, unconscious fears and worries.
Sometimes, a raven in your thoughts dreams or seen in reality could be a sign of something bad. However, your totem tries to protect you and prepare you to deal with the life’s challenges the best way you can.
There are so many superstitions about ravens. They are similar to superstitions and beliefs associated to crows, so we will point out just several of those that are different.
Ravens and the gift of sight – Different legends and traditions tell about the link between all seeing ravens and the gift of human sight. Every mythology knows about two famous Nordic ravens, Hugin and Munin. They are ‘eyes and ears’ of powerful and almighty Odin, the Father of Nordic pantheon.
They would fly over the World and gather information of what was happening everywhere across the realm. A Welsh legend says, if a blind person was kind to a raven, he or she would regain their sight.
White raven meaning – White ravens are extremely rare in nature, so they have a special symbolic significance.
Unlike black birds, often associated with things obscure, dark, unknown and sometimes bad and evil, a white raven symbolizes purity and cleansing.
If you see a white raven (most likely in your dream), it means you are about to literally be born again, renewed, refreshed and healed of all wounds and misfortunes. White raven’s feather is a blessing to the one that finds it and it suggest there are positive and protective forces around you.
Killing a raven – in many traditions, killing a raven brings bad luck. Some Siberian and Inuit cultures believe killing a raven would bring bad weather and natural disaster to the land. In some eastern Asian cultures, ravens are connected to gods and the Sun, so killing them is considered dangerous.
Ravens are considered foretelling, no matter what is the nature of their message, which makes them praised and feared of at the same time.
Crows and ravens in mythology and religion
Both of these fascinating birds are mentioned in some of the World’s greatest religious texts, legends, myths and so on. They are considered incredible and magical, represented in many ways, but always as creatures in strong connection with gods and mystical powers. Ravens and crows have many incarnations in different belief systems. Here are the most popular ones.
In Norse mythology, Hugin and Munin are loyal companions of the supreme deity, Odin. They represent Odin’s eyes and ears and they have amazing abilities. Hugin and Munin fly over the world of gods and humans, they see and hear everything that takes part part in every corner of the realm and they bring important messages to their master.
Did you know beautiful Greek god Apollo had a white raven as his companion and a messenger? The story tells about the final change of ravens’ feathers’ color. Apollo’s white raven brought his master information on infidelity of a princess the god was in love with.
Apollo was so grieved and angry that he burnt his raven’s feathers into black. Quite unfairly cruel, but that is the temper of gods.
In Japanese mythology, three-legged crow Yatagarasy was associated to imperial powers and the Sun. This divine crow was worshiped and admired by Japanese, portrayed as wise and benevolent spiritual guide, a protector and divine navigator.
Today, Yatagarasu is still considered powerful; Japanese soccer association uses it as their symbol, hoping magical crow would lead the soccer ball and win the game.
According to ancient Australian Aboriginal tales, Crow was the one that gave fire to humans. At first, he (the Crow) was unwilling to do so, but finally, he gave it up before their yields. The Crow threw some fiery coal to people and got his feathers sooty while doing so. This story also explains how crows got their dark feathers.