What Does the Black-feathered Bird Symbolize in Various Mythologies? Crows are the ubiquitous birds with black feather that are regarded as scavengers. These are variously considered to be harbingers of bad omen in some cultures while in others, these are viewed as representatives of the Divinity.
Crows in Norse Mythology
In Scandinavian legends, crows are a representative of the Goddess of Death, Valkyrie, one of the maidens of the Norse deity Odin who preferred that heroes be killed in battle and showed their souls the way to Valhalla. It is the crow that provides Valkyrie with important information, as can be seen in the Poem of Haraldr.
Two crows are found to be perched on the seat of the Norse deity Odin. Munnin, the Memory and Hugi, the Spirit. They represent the principle of creation. They are said to travel across the globe and bring back news of earthly events to Odin. They sit on the shoulders of the God. The Raven, a bigger version of crows, is regarded by Apollo, the Greek God, as a sacred bird.
In Hindu Mythology
The crow symbolism is incredibly significant in the Hindu ceremonies that are associated to ancestors. The bird has an important place in Vedic rituals.
In the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’, it is mentioned how Lord Rama, during his 14-year exile, was staying with his wife Sita Devi and Laxman, his brother. Away from the society, they were roaming about in many mountains, jungles, and forests. Their lives were in constant danger during this time, and they were bothered by ghosts, demons, and wild animals.
One afternoon, Lord Rama was resting with his head on the lap of his wife. Suddenly, a large crow started bothering Sita Devi with its beak. The latter got startled, immediately waking up Lord Rama from her nap. When Sita told her what happened, he gathered his arrow and bow. He soon understood that this was not any normal crow, but Jayant – the son of Lord Indra disguised as a crow. He had come to flirt with his wife.
An angry Lord Rama proceeded to kill Jayant, who immediately begged for forgiveness. Taking mercy on the disguised crow, he gave a unique punishment that was also a boon. He targeted a magical arrow to Jayant’s eye.
From then on, the crow could use just one eyeball – and not both – at a time. But anything that could not be seen by any creature with two eyes could be visible for this bird. The crow could now see unsatisfied souls and ancestors. Anybody who fed the bird during Pitru Paksha, or the time of honoring ancestors, would be able to satisfy his ancestors. The bird also came to have a long life.
This story from the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’, narrating incidents that supposedly occurred around 85,000 years back, forms the basis for the significance of crows in Hindu rituals that honor ancestors. Many other folk tales, legends and myths regarding crows can be found in many other parts of the Hindu epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahâbhârata’, as well as in many fables, poems, and classic pieces of literature in India.
In Indian Mythology
The messengers of death are compared in the Indian epic ‘Mahâbhârata’ to crows. Time and again, the bird is found to appear at various sections of the epic as the messenger of death (read here about dead crow meaning). Many folk tales, legends, and myths regarding crows can be found in many other parts of the Hindu epics ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahâbhârata’, as well as in many fables, poems, and classic pieces of literature in India.
In India, there are myths regarding crows in India. According to a legend, crows got the power to foretell and inform humans about impending things. Thus, there is a belief in India that if crows land on balconies and start making noises, some guests would surely drop into your place uninvited or unasked. These birds try to make hosts know about the coming of an unwanted visitor or relatives by making annoying sounds. In some places in the country, there are quite a few superstitions regarding the cawing of crows.
In Celtic Mythology
The bird has prophetic functions in Celtic civilization. It is also sacred for the Celts and stood for flesh ripped off due to combat. Morrighan, the warrior goddess, often appears in Celtic mythology as a raven or crow or is found to be in the company of the birds. These birds generally appear in Celtic mythology in groups of three. The presence of these birds is a sign that Goddess Morrighan is watching, or she is possibly preparing to pay a visit to someone.
Myths about Crows
At times, crows appear as a way of prophecy and divination. The birds were viewed in a few mythologies as signs of bad things to come. However, in others, these are regarded as gods’ messengers. In some legends and folklore, the bird often shows up as a trickster.
According to myth, King Arthur of the Round Table English tale did not die but was changed into a crow or raven by magic. According to some legends, in case the Tower of London is deserted by all the surviving Ravens, it will fall, and the English monarchy will meet a terrible end. Thus, the Tower’s “Beefeaters” pet a group of Ravens in the building – just to be on the safe side.