Friday, October 17, 2008

Ravens and Crows

Ravens and crows are extremely fascinating creatures to me. This painting is one I executed in acrylics of this iconic bird a few months back.

I've felt a strong connection with these noisy tricksters for as long as I can remember and they have appeared in my artwork time and time again as symbols of birth, death and gnosis.

I have always loved the depiction in Northwest Indian legends of Raven as a Promethian figure stealing the Sun, Moon and Stars from the gods themselves for the benefit of mankind:

"Long ago, near the beginning of the world, Gray Eagle was the guardian of the Sun, Moon and Stars, of fresh water, and of fire. Gray Eagle hated people so much that he kept these things hidden. People lived in darkness, without fire and without fresh water.

Gray Eagle had a beautiful daughter, and Raven fell in love with her. In the beginning, Raven was a snow-white bird, and as a such, he pleased Gray Eagle's daughter. She invited him to her father's longhouse.

When Raven saw the Sun, Moon and stars, and fresh water hanging on the sides of Eagle's lodge, he knew what he should do. He watched for his chance to seize them when no one was looking. He stole all of them, and a brand of fire also, and flew out of the longhouse through the smoke hole. As soon as Raven got outside he hung the Sun up in the sky. It made so much light that he was able to fly far out to an island in the middle of the ocean. When the Sun set, he fastened the Moon up in the sky and hung the stars around in different places. By this new light he kept on flying, carrying with him the fresh water and the brand of fire he had stolen.

He flew back over the land. When he had reached the right place, he dropped all the water he had stolen. It fell to the ground and there became the source of all the fresh-water streams and lakes in the world. Then Raven flew on, holding the brand of fire in his bill. The smoke from the fire blew back over his white feathers and made them black. When his bill began to burn, he had to drop the firebrand. It struck rocks and hid itself within them. That is why, if you strike two stones together, sparks of fire will drop out.

Raven's feathers never became white again after they were blackened by the smoke from the firebrand."

Ravens are also excellent tool-makers and puzzle-solvers. They are so good at this that one man wanted to train them to collect garbage from the streets by way of a vending machine that would give them a treat for each piece of garbage collected. They have been known to use thin twigs to collect grubs from deep inside logs. In the following video a raven figures out how to bend a piece of wire into a hook to retrieve a prize. Amazing!

Here is another video showing a novel way to crack nuts that these beautiful birds worked out on their own:

Once they learn a new talent, it's passed on to the group rather quickly. I love these guys for their intelligence, adaptability and vigorous personalitys. Viva La Corvus! ^_^