The raven is associated with mysticism, magic, shapeshifting and creation. Raven’s black plumage, haunting caw, and scavenger diet has led the raven to become a symbol of bad omens and death. However, the meaning behind raven is often contradictory.
Raven features prominently in the mythology and folklore of many cultures. The raven appears several times in the Bible and Talmud, as well as the Icelandic Sagas. Ravens were often seen as a symbol of good luck in Greek mythology and were the god’s messengers in the mortal world.
Raven, like the coyote, was seen as a mediator animal between life and death. As a carrion bird, similar to crows and magpies, ravens have become associated with the dead and lost souls. Because of its close association with the crow, the raven shares many correspondences with the crow, including magic and mysticism.
In Greek mythology, ravens and crows were associated with Apollo, the god of light and prophecy.
The Norse god Odin had a pair of ravens, Huginn (thought) and Muninn (memory), who acted as his messengers and ‘eyes and ears’. Every day the two ravens flew from Hlidskialf to bring Odin news from Midgard, the mortal world. Odin was also thought to shapeshift into a raven himself.
In Irish mythology, ravens were associated with warfare and the battlefield. The goddess of warfare, Badb Catha, translates to ‘battle crow’. Badb was associated with the Morrígan, whose appearance was a symbol of imminent death or could influence the outcome of the war. In the form of a crow, the Morrígan often appeared flying above the battlefield, inspiring either fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors below.
Ravens were also associated with the Welsh god Brân the Blessed, king of Britain, whose name means ‘crow’ or ‘raven’.
In the Pacific Northwest, raven is known as the creator of life to many indigenous tribes. In one aspect, raven is thought to have created life and brought order, however another aspect was known as a trickster god, selfish, sly and conniving.
Ravens are very vocal and can be taught to speak. They can even mimic the calls of other species. In that respect, raven can help you to understand the language of animals. They also have strong association with shapeshifting and possess the knowledge of how to become other animals.
Ravens are also playful and excellent tool users. They are not intimidated by other birds and are fast and wary.
The time of greatest power for the raven is the winter solstice and the winter season. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, which is symbolic of the black raven. Raven teaches us how to go into the dark and bring forth the light.
Raven gives us the opportunity to become the magician or enchantress in our own lives, bringing forth the magic within. Raven speaks of messages from the spirit realm that can shapeshift our lives.
© West Coast Pagan