Ravens are one of the most amazing creatures in the world, and we have been fascinated by them for centuries, which many myths and legends can attest to. In the literature and cinematography, ravens are generally depicted as dreaded beings associated with darkness, dark magic, and evil.
Many people perceive ravens as bad omens and messengers of upcoming catastrophes, but is that the extent of their symbolic meaning? Keep reading to learn more!
What do Ravens Symbolize?
Since ancient times, people have observed ravens and assigned various meanings to these magnificent birds. Although they were present in diverse cultures and mythologies worldwide, when Edgar Allen Poe wrote his famous poem “Raven,” it greatly impacted society.
But it also averted attention to these creatures, reinforcing their traditional connotations of death and loss. Thanks to Edgar and Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” ravens and their’ cousin’s crows have garnered a sinister reputation. However, they symbolize much more, and much of it is not related to darkness or decay.
So, the next time you see or dream of a raven, don’t jump the gun and look for deeper and broader significance in their appearance.
Most of their symbolism is linked to their characteristic features and habits and can utilize several meanings. For example, if we take a look at the raven’s role and depiction in ancient history, they were seen as a symbol of magical presence, afterlife, determination, and power of self-will.
As creatures that consume the remains of other animals, they also carry the meaning of cleansing and can indicate that there might be something in your life that needs purging. Furthermore, ravens are considered excellent teachers and guides for anything magic related.
One of their most recognized qualities is intelligence and the ability to mimic the calls of other birds and even human speech. This definitely explains why they were attributed magical properties but also why they are associated with wisdom and intellect.
If you ever watched a video of any experiment with a raven, you must have seen their propensity for complex-problem solving and adaptability to almost any situation that calls for ‘brains.’ This is why a raven is referred to as ‘creator’ due to their ability to create and manipulate tools.
Due to its iridescent black feathers that seemingly appear to change color from black to blue, they symbolize transformation and shifting consciousness. In witchcraft and occultism, ravens are known as shape-shifters, but their transforming role does not elude the physical one but rather a subconscious and mental change.
Lastly, they can be a symbol of protection as in many ancient cultures, they were the messengers of gods and were associated with spiritual practices such as shamanism.
Raven in Mythologies and Cultures
As mentioned, human beings have been attributing special meaning to these birds from the time we laid eyes on them. In addition, various mythologies have offered a very insightful and interesting interpretation of their presence and role in our lives.
1. Norse Mythology
If you’re a fan of Norse Mythology or any Viking show, you might already know this one. In the Nordic legends, a principal pagan god Odin, the god of war, poetry, and wisdom, who resides in Asgard.
Odin, the great magician, had two ravens on his shoulder who followed him as his shadow, named Muninn (memory) and Huginn (thought). They served as his advisors and spies, who scouted and collected information.
These two birds of prey were so close to Odin that he even garnered the name Raven God and many believed that Muninn and Huginn were a personification of him. Nordic mythology is probably one of the first to associate ravens with wisdom, prophecy, and cunnings.
2. Celtic Mythology
Celts associated ravens with battle, and the reason is very simple. As scavengers who eat pretty anything, they were often present on the battlefield.
The Celtic folklore mentions a goddess of war and death, Morrigan, who was depicted in the company of ravens as Celts believed that they were her advisors. Morrigan is not the only deity linked to ravens.
Celts associated other gods with ravens, such as Cailleach Bheur, the goddess of rebirth and fertility, and Lugh, the god of the sun, warfare, and skills.
3. Japanese Mythology
To Japanese raven was of colossal importance and can be found in their numerous folktales. As a matter of fact, Yatagarasu, or a three-legged raven, is one of the oldest symbols in Japanese mythology.
The legend of Yatagarasu says that the bird was sent from heaven to guide Emperor Jimmu on his journey from the region Kumano to Yamato, symbolizing the divine intervention in human affairs.
Besides Yatagarsu, there is also mention of Karasu Tengu, the half-raven and half-goblin creatures that were believed to live in deep forests, cliffs, or caves. Karasu Tengu is a very frightening and dangerous yokai, supernatural entity or spirit.
4. Native American Culture
Regardless of your connection with the spiritual world, you must have seen a raven in dreams and wondered about its meaning during your life. Even though we often and quickly forget our dreams upon waking up, the raven has a strong presence that transmutes mental barriers and is hard to ignore.
In this case, remembering their numerous qualities and symbolism will soothe your quest for answers. Similar to other spirit animals, their appearance can be interpreted in different ways, and (if you can) try to remember the setting and the context of your dream.
According to the culture and religion of Native Americans, seeing a raven means that a change is underway, and they usually perceive it as a positive happening. However, for many tribes, ravens signify a transformation that can come in different shapes and include death!
Remember, death in spirituality is a form of change that initiates rebirth and completes the cycle of life. Although Native Americans generally assigned positive meaning to ravens, other cultures have perceived them differently, and that’s why the context is so important.
5. Raven in the Bible
Ravens can symbolize several things such as uncleanliness, provision, resilience, survival, and god’s provision. If you remember the story of the Great Flood, Noah sent a raven to find dry land, but the bird does not return, which prompts him to think that dry has not been found.
So, he opts to send a dove and find dry land. In its second attempt, the dove manages to bring an olive branch to Noah, convincing him that the land is now habitable. This and many other stories in the Bible attributed to the raven (or crow) the role of a valuable messenger and scout known for agility, adaptability, and stamina.
It is also considered a provider and teacher; for example, in the Book of Kings, God sends a raven to feed the prophet Elijah, and in the story of Abel and Cane, the raven is the one that instructs Abel on how to bury his brother.
As creatures that feed on carrion, among other things, they have been seen as a symbol of uncleanliness. The Bible clearly indicates that these birds should not be consumed as they scavenge from other animals and humans.
Considering that purity and cleanliness are some of the most important Christian values, this does not surprise!
Raven Totem Animal
The meaning of raven totem animal connects to the qualities of the bird itself. The raven is your totem animal if you recognize yourself in the following situations. People who tend to lean toward the raven totem animal are considered to have a gift for inventiveness and mischief.
If your raven is your animal totem, it is connected to your subconsciousness, inner thoughts, and stamina. It serves to guide and protect you but most importantly stresses the significance of self-awareness, self-reflection, and the power of thinking.
As an animal linked to intelligence and cognition, it is not surprising that the raven totem symbolizes introspection and connection to the divine and higher self.
People guided by the raven totem are the creators and magicians of their own lives, who use their thoughts and rumination to manifest and attain their desired goals. It also pertains to the ability to transform your mind and logic through ideas.
Raven totem also signifies guidance, your internal connection with magic and the spiritual world, and a challenge. What kind of challenge might you ask? Well, the raven totem dares you to reflect on your action, which is preventing you from moving forward.
It challenges you to reach for the shadows without fear and face whatever is holding you back. These powerful totems are often used by healers, shamans, and others who have the gift of initiating mental change in others and motivating them to turn their attention to more profound mysteries.
As such, these totems might signify that you are a leader who not only heals but protects and facilitates growth.
Raven Spirit Animal
People whose spirit animal is a raven often see the bird in real life or in their dreams. They resonate with its multiple values and qualities and have an unexplainable penchant for the raven as if they are drawn to it by some invisible force. If this describes you, it means that you have a connection to raven and have been chosen and ought to take this bond seriously.
Taking after the animal spirit, these people are usually good at keeping secrets, and this interpretation comes from the Native Americans who call the bird the ‘secret keeper.’ In addition, they take confidentiality and loyalty very seriously, which makes them highly trustworthy persons.
Adhering to the ancient symbolism, people with raven spirit animals are naturally good advisors known for craftiness and resourcefulness.
Furthermore, they are known for dignity, and earning their respect is not the easiest task to do. However, when you establish it, you have most likely created a long-lasting bond.
As sharp-witted individuals, they can ‘smell out’ hypocrites and rarely have the patience to deal with their dishonesty. Even though intelligence is loosely connected with trickery, this quality can be positive and negative and manifests through mischief.
However, one should be careful in utilizing trickery and humor and be aware of other people’s sensitivity and feelings. Ultimately, these people have the ability to think out of the box and see the greater picture and are usually very successful in their professional life.
On the other hand, taking up a lover with a raven totem animal might be challenging and unpredictable.
One of their prominent traits is that they rarely forget if you have wronged them and do not forgive easily. This is particularly interesting because a recent study showed that ravens are capable of holding grudges for up to two years. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?
Ravens in Dreams
In order to deal with the meaning of seeing a raven in your dream, it is essential to clarify the distinction between ravens and crows if we are to interpret their presence correctly. The major difference is in size; ravens are much bigger, longer, and bulkier than crows.
In addition, a raven’s beak is more prominent, and they are often compared to a hawk’s size. Now, let’s talk about ravens appearing in dreams. The first thing that pops into your mind when thinking about a raven dream is a warning about the impending death of someone usually close.
But Ravens in our dream are also there to warn us about a current or an impeding problem and how to deal with it. For example, seeing an injured raven in your dream tells you that someone is out to trick you and that your naivety might get you into trouble. In this case, the raven is there to guide you and make sure you use your gut feeling to deal with the situation.
To many, a raven is a universally accepted omen of ill fortune, destruction, and death. Although their appearance contributes to that connotation, these magnificent birds offer much more symbolism.
Their meaning pertains to wisdom, afterlife, trickery, intelligence, complex-problem solving, prophecy, longevity… So, next time you encounter a raven, don’t frown! It may be that the bird is guiding you or protecting you!
If you have different opinions and questions, feel free to share them with us!