Saturday, 9 February 2013

Raven Lore

By Margaret Coulson Walker, 1908
Illustrated with photos including these by A. Hyatt Verrill…there are many more…
Digitized by Doug Frizzle; February 2013.

TRUE it is—and it would be an injustice to conceal the fact, much more to deny it — that ravens of old fed Elijah; but that was the punishment of some old sin committed by two who before the flood bore the human shape, and who, soon after the ark rested on Mount Ararat, flew off to the desolation of swamped forests and the disfigured solitudes of the drowned glens. Dying ravens hide themselves from daylight in burial places among the rocks, and are seen hobbling into their tombs, as if driven thither by a flock of fears, and crouching under a remorse that disturbs instinct, even as if it were conscience. So sings and says the Celtic superstition—muttered to us in a dream —adding that there are raven ghosts; great black bundles of feathers, forever in the forest, night-hunting in famine for prey, emitting a last feeble croak at the blush of dawn, and then all at once invisible."
Wilson's "Recreations of Christopher North."

In the moon of falling leaves, an Indian mother, the wife of a chief, took with her into the forest her children that they might help her in gathering spruce boughs to be used in collecting the eggs of salmon. Leaving the children to watch a pile of boughs on the beach, she returned to find them gone. On calling to them to return she was answered only by the voices of crows flying about over the forest. For their wandering and disobedience they were doomed to live in this form forevermore, and to this day crows are carved on the totems of all of their tribe.

A crow never can be put to shame. The lapwing, who, as every one knows, has a habit of repeating himself, said to the crow: "I never saw your like for stealing eggs, for stealing eggs." The crow, rubbing his beak on the grass, replied: "Nor did we ourselves, though it is we who are older."                       Journal of Am. Folk Lore.

In the old days ravens were of beautiful appearance, with plumage as white as snow, which they kept clean by constant washing in a stream. To this stream came once upon a time the Holy Child desiring to drink, but the ravens prevented him by splashing about and making muddy the water. Whereupon He said: "Ungrateful birds! Proud you may be of your beauty, but your feathers so snowy white shall become black and remain so till the Judgment Day," and so they have been ever since.

In the myth of the metamorphosis of Coronis by Apollo as told by Ovid, the raven, once white, was turned black for deceitful conduct.

"The raven flies not straight like other birds, but crooked because cursed by Noah."

"On the first of April boil the eggs taken out of a crow's nest until they are hard, and being cold, let them be placed in the nest as they were before. When the crow knows this she flies a long way to find the stone, and returns with it to her nest, and the eggs being touched with it they become fresh and prolific. The stone must be immediately snatched out of the nest. Its virtue is to increase riches, to bestow honors, and foretell future events."
Leonardus CamillusMirror of Stones.
In Brittany two crows are said to come and perch on the house-roof when the head of the family is about to die. Two crows are there assigned to every family to foretell family events.
Journal of Folk Lore, Vol. XI.

Hindoos gave food to the crows as to the souls of the dead.
Zoological Mythology, p. 253.

In Switzerland a crow perching on the roof of a house in which a corpse lies means that the soul of the dead is lost

"In Sussex the cry of the crow thrice repeated is considered a sure sign of death."
In Bohemia, peasants declare that from springtime up to St. Lawrence's, or, according to some, St. Bartholomew's Day, the crows dare not roost in the forest or on trees, because they were the birds who pecked out the eyes of St. Lawrence, or, as some say, of St. Carlo Borromeo. The children are also told on the birth of a baby that it was brought to the house by crows, who let it fall down the chimney.

"In Andalusia, if the raven is heard croaking over a house, an unlucky day is expected; repeated thrice, it is a fatal presage." If perching high, turning and croaking, a corpse will come from that direction.
In some parts of Europe the raven is supposed to have the power of bringing infection.

"Saturday is the raven's day, and woe to the armies that fall on that day under the gloom of its ominous wing." —Robinson's "Poet's Birds" p. 381.

"When crows fly low it is a sign of rain."

When rooks or crows stay at home or return early in the day, rain should be expected; if they fly far away it will be fair.

Ravens bring the summer rain.

When rooks congregate on the dead branches of trees there will be rain before night; if they sit on the live branches, the day will be fine.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.