Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crows and Ravens

Well I was hoping to have more time to write up information about another creature found in ballad and folklore and commonly seen as a motif for Halloween, but Sandy had other ideas.  So I'll share with you what I was able to collect before I was distracted by wind and rain!

Crows and Ravens.  

A beautiful tray featuring a rather dapper fellow.

A gorgeous yet simple image of a crow.

By artist Jeremy Hush.

 There is a pose in yoga known as The Crow.  This image shows both the real creature, and the yoga  position.  (From Tumblr, original source unknown)

 Queen Ravenna, in the recent release Snow White and the Huntsman, lives up to her name by wearing a gown strewn with raven skulls and a transformation cloak made of black feathers.

 Gorgeous image of blackbirds and cherries by Danielle Barlow.

So...this is a quilt.  Beaded.  Gorgeous.  I love how the branches extend off the edge of the frame at top.

 Four and twenty black-birds.  I always felt bad for the poor creatures in this nursery rhyme.

And of course, no discussion of crows and blackbirds on a mythic blog would be complete without a shout-out to Charles de Lint's memorable Crow Girls, here rendered by Aaron Pocock.

The Three Ravens is an old ballad that includes a group of blackbirds discussing where they should find their meal.  They discuss a fallen knight who has died and been left by his hawk, his hound and his beloved.  Sad, but catchy, when sung in a slightly different version by Steeleye Span as "Twa Corbies"

 Note the body of the knight in the field?  Gorgeous but (shudder) macabre.

A beautiful embroidered garland of corvids from Etsy.

A sweet classic nursery rhyme image from Etsy.

I adore this embroidered pillow from Etsy.  And guess what?  The seller has one of a bat as well.

A whimsical print.
 And another, set against the eponymous poem by Poe.

Pie birds.  My mom gave me one upon request for a recent birthday.  No doubt at least part of their origin is owed to the nursery rhyme of the poor things baked in a pie, but they just add such cheerful whimsy...not to mention they are practical.

The Plague Doctor was a physician who would dress in what now appears to us to be a ridiculous ensemble to visit plague victims.  The "beak" of his mask was filled with aromatic herbs to fend off the stench of illness, the lenses in his mask were tinted red to ward off evil.  And he dressed all in black with a black wide-brimmed hat that identified him as a physician.

 Artist Toby Froud played the Plague Doctor on stilts at Faeriecon three years ago. 

And my friend Lindsey and I, also dressed in vaguely Plague Doctor-y masks, had to get a shot:

 The Grimm fairy tale of the Seven Ravens is a beautiful one, here incredibly rendered in silhouette by a new favorite artist of mine, Steering for North.

Jim Henson also filmed a version of the tale on his incredible Storyteller tv show.  It's my personal favorite episode of Storyteller, with Miranda Richardson playing an incredible evil role, and Vanessa Redgrave's daughter Joely Richardson (well for crying out loud...I never even knew it was her until I just looked it up to write it here) playing the heroine role.

 From Pinterest: "Illustration of a Japanese fairy tale wherein a girl befriends a crow demon in order to save the soul of her sister."  Anyone know more about this story?

And finally, I have to put this question out there to the interwebs.  About twelve years ago I worked at a new-age bookstore.  We would enjoy talking with and exchanging stories with the people who came in there.  Once I told one of the customers that I always tended to see a spiderweb or a crow before something magical or supernatural was going to happen, or I had to pay attention in the moment.  He told me that there was a superstition or piece of lore that when you were traveling, if you saw a crow overhead flying in the same direction as you, it meant you were on the right path, both physically and spiritually.  If, however, a crow flew across your path, it was a sign to change directions.

Has anyone heard of this before?  I would love to know the origin!

So there you have it.  On the eve of Halloween, let's celebrate these beautiful, highly-intelligent, and extremely magical creatures!


  1. What a lovely post, I am glad Sandy has not stolen your voice and hope that you are yours are safe.

    The Crow that stole the sunlight is a favourite of my youth. I have it in a version written by Roger Lancelyn Green and illustrated by the sisters Anne and Janet Grahame-Johnstone

  2. Gosh what an amazing collection of crows! I don't know where to start telling you which ones I like, because I like all of this post, very much! Now to see those lovely looking links! :)
    Jess x

  3. Thank you Charlotte and Jess! I live in Central Ohio, and they kept giving us dire predictions, but the actual aftermath was not that brutal. My heart goes out to everyone in the east.

    Charlotte, thank you for sharing that link!! Jess, enjoy perusing the ones I shared :D :D

  4. I highly recommend the version from John Fleagle's "Worlds Bliss". Actually, I recommend the entire album, you can listen to at Magnatune and download there and I think on iTunes too.

  5. Amy, I listened to that link for about an hour. Amazing gorgeous stuff...thank you for sharing.

  6. This post is truly magical. Corvids are not appreciated enough being seen as pests by so many. I love all of the photos which you have illustrated this piece with, and it is so informative. Even a lifelong fan such as I has learned much. Thank you! PS So glad that you are safe! x

  7. I'm so glad you enjoyed it Minerva!

  8. Hi Grace-catching up on my reading! The illo with sheep up above, I think that is a Walter Crane piece. That or someone very much in his style. I love crows, keepers of poetry, mystery, prophecy... thanks for this.