Raven Gods and Crow Goddesses from Various Cultures
Some of the smartest creatures in nature are the crow and raven. Dating back thousands of years are stories of these cunning blackbirds. All over the world, shamans of many cultures have revered the raven for its intelligence, but also for its curiosity and confidence. Raven medicine is strong medicine, or so they say. And so is crow. Here we present raven gods and crow goddesses from various cultures.
Baba Yaga: Slavic Crow Goddess
Baba Yaga is a popular folkloric figure in Slavic countries who was once venerated in ancient times as a goddess. She is typically depicted as an old hag who lives in a hut in the woods. Her wooden cottage has a chicken foot as its foundation, and Baba Yaga herself flies around in a mortar with a pestle in hand. In the tale Vasalisa the Fair, a young woman goes into the forest at night. She searches out Baba Yaga to ask for light for her family’s cottage. She finds the old hag and impresses her with humility and hard work. The old hag rewards her.
Baba Yaga’s Relation to Crows
Baba Yaga’s role in this story and in others is the feared, trickster witch who grants blessings to those who prove themselves worthy. In the tale of Vasalisa and Baba Yaga, three horsemen are key components – so we assume horses are one of Baba Yaga’s animal familiars. But in another version of the tale, Baba Yaga transforms into a crow in the end. A crow fits Baba Yaga’s personality – wise and yet a trickster. This makes her a crow goddess of old.
Bran: The Welsh Raven God
Bran the Blessed is well-known in Welsh mythology as a giant king of ancient Wales and England. Bran’s name translates to “crow” in Welsh, though some debate its etymology. Bran’s sister, Branwen, was married off to a king of Ireland who goes onto mistreat her. When Bran and his men go to rescue his sister, Bran is mortally wounded. He requests for his men to sever his head and take it to the White Tower in London and point it east. So he could forever guard his people and watch the coastline for foreign invaders. Bran is associated with crows and ravens. The White Tower in London was located where the Tower of London stands today. The ravens keeping watch over the Tower of London are there because of Bran the Raven God.
Dhumavati: Hindu Crow Goddess
Dhumavati is the Hindu crow goddess of “the void”, which is the place before time and the place after time ends. She’s associated with death and transformation. Many depictions show her on a cremation ground looking like death itself (decaying teeth, long fingernails, hag-like appearance). She carries the death god Yama’s horn, and sometimes wears a garland of severed heads. Moreover, it comes as no surprise that Dhumavati’s animal guardian is the crow. Dhumavati is depicted riding a large crow or being pulled in a chariot by two blackbirds. Crows are known scavengers on the battlefield, and hence are linked to death gods and goddesses in ancient times.
The Morrigan: Irish Celtic Crow Goddess
The Morrigan is an Irish Celtic goddess who’s able to shapeshift. This crow goddess is the daughter of Ernmas, one of the Tuatha de Danann, and is one of a trinity of deified sisters. The Morrigan is well-known for being a warrior and fate goddess. She will shapeshift into the form of any animal she chooses, including a wolf, eel, and crow. In the The Ulster Cycle, the Morrigan turns into a crow on a few occasions. While she’s known for her battle-role, there are those who also say she is a fertility goddess and values sovereignty above all. The fact the Morrigan shifts into a crow while on the battlefield shows her dominion over death, as the crow feeds on carrion and turns death into fuel for life.
Nephthys: Goddess of the Dead
A pattern emerges with crow and raven gods and goddesses – crows and ravens have guardianship over the dead; therefore, many death gods are related to blackbirds. Nephthys, the Egyptian Goddess of the Dead, is no exception. She too bears the crow as one of her symbols. Nephthys marries Set the god of disorder. However, Nephthys becomes impregnated by Set’s brother, and births Anubis, the god of mummification. While Nephthys is mostly depicted as a woman with falcon-wings, the crow appears in some places as her companion. She is a goddess of the dead and oversees funerary rites.
Odin: The Allfather, God of Ravens
Odin is the Allfather in Norse and Germanic mythology. He has dominion over many aspects of life: death, knowledge, healing, writing, royalty, and chaos. Odin appears often as an one-eyed old man wearing a cloak and holding a staff and is typically flanked by wolves, bears, or ravens. He’s credited with the invention of the Elder furthark runic alphabet. The myth is a part of the Poetic Edda and tells of Odin hanging upside down from a tree for nine days. In sacrificing himself, he is given the runes as a divine reward. The Allfather has two ravens named Huginn and Muninn. These two large blackbirds are messengers to Odin, and bring him information from all realms. Odin is called the “raven-god” in the Prose Edda.