Some of the smartest creatures are the crow and the raven. Dating back thousands of years are stories of these cunning corvids. All over the world, shamans of various cultures have revered the raven for its intelligence, but also for its curiosity and pluckiness. Raven medicine is strong medicine, or so they say. And so is crow. The gods knew it then. They still know it now. Here we present raven gods and crow goddesses from around the world including Odin, Baba Yaga and more.
The raven and crow have been sacred animals to various cultures all over the world for as long as humans have existed. The reason? I’m sure there are many, but the few we can think of include the intelligence of these birds. Their mysterious presence. And their color. Black is a magical color and represents the darkness, the night, space, void, mystery, the occult, disguise and magick. Ravens and crows are particularly linked to witches and shamans, which makes sense when we realize how many gods are also linked to these witty creatures.
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 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 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 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 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.
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 is the Allfather in Norse and Germanic mythology. He has dominion over many aspects of life: war, death, knowledge, healing, writing, royalty, and chaos. Odin appears often as an one-eyed older man wearing a cloak and holding a staff and is typically flanked by wolves, bears, or ravens. He’s credited with the discovery of the Elder futhark runes. 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, their names meaning thought and memory. The ravens are messengers to Odin, and bring him information from all 9 realms. Further, Odin is called the “raven-god” in the Prose Edda.
Queen Maeve, also spelled Medb, is an ancient Celtic Irish goddess of sovereignty. In Irish myth, she’s a queen with a voracious appetite for wealth and sexual partners. In modern times, she’s revered as a goddess of female independence and strength. Did I mention she’s also a queen of the Celtic Otherworld? Which makes her one of Ireland’s fairy queens. When Queen Maeve manifests in the physical, she frequently comes in the form of a crow. In addition, she’s depicted with birds, crows, and other small woodland animals. Scholars speculate she may be another aspect of The Morrigan.
Scholars and folklorists have noticed the similarities between the Arthurian character and goddess Morgan Le Fay and the Celtic war goddess The Morrigan. One of those similarities is in their names, but also in the fact that they are often accompanied by crows. Morgan Le Fay is mostly known for her role in the King Arthur legend, but is believed to have first been a goddess of Celtic origin. Because of her connection to magic, shapeshifting and being a psychopomp (guiding Arthur to the afterlife), she also has an inseparable link to the crow.
Fire burns and protects. The fire element is one of the fiercest and yet required …September 16, 2023