Although your first impression of crows may be an association with death, bad omens, Halloween, or the terrifying movie The Birds, crows are actually highly intelligent creatures possessing some enviable traits, the blessings of Mother Nature’s everyday magic, and a tantalizing mythical allure.
As loyal members of their flock, they are vigilant guardians, ever watchful and protective. Maybe you’ve happened upon them roosting in the treetops and been assaulted by the loud cacophony of calls, warning their feathered friends of an intruder and possible danger. Or perhaps you’ve witnessed a mob flying and darting at a trespassing hawk, cawing and chasing until the interloper is forced to flee their territory. Crows also possess the finely tuned skill of facial recognition, so if you make a good impression … or especially if you make a bad one … crows will remember you.
Crows can be found in nearly every corner of the world, so it’s not surprising that they appear in countless myths and legends … from parables in the Bible to Greek and Norse mythology, and at the heart of Celtic creation myths. Although, other than in Native American beliefs, you’ll often find that they haven’t been cast in a very flattering light.
But crows are really cool! Their intelligence is nearly right up there with primates. They’re excellent problem solvers. They can make and use complex tools and will actually save the “hardest to make” tools for later reuse. And yes, they may not be the only animal who will hide stores of food, but if they know another crow is watching, they will FAKE stashing it and instead, tuck the food into their feathers and move on to another secret hiding place. Scientific studies of crows have proven that they use a part of their (rather large) brains that is equivalent to the prefrontal cortex of a human brain… the area that processes emotion, spatial learning and decision making. This means that they are actually thinking, not just reacting!
Crows have long been a fascination of mine. I’d never bought into the “bad omen” or “harbingers of death” stigmatism, so unfairly attributed to them through modern books and movies. Perhaps the attraction began with their large, imposing size in comparison to all the other birds that visit the many feeders around our property. It may then have turned to a growing curiosity about the conversations they appear to have with each other in their secret language while perched among the tree limbs. Of course, the power of their massive wingspan and the grace with which they navigate silently and seamlessly through the invisible highway in the trees never fails to impress. And no one could escape being dazzled by the highly iridescent black feathers dancing with color when kissed by the radiance of the sun.
My growing obsession led to me indulge in a little research over the years and although their amazing intelligence was fascinating in itself, the symbolic meanings that had been applied to them was what ultimately fired up my imagination. Through varied Native American lore, the legendary crow was endowed with the ability to travel mysteriously between our world and the spirit world. His brother, the Raven, possessed shape-shifting capabilities. Words like mystical, magical, and psychic abilities showed up over and over again in various myths and legends. And now we were speaking my language!! No wonder I’d always been collecting and making artwork centered around crows!
Ted Andrews’ book Animal Speak is one of my go-to references when it comes to creature symbolism and within its pages there is a quote that sums up crows beautifully:
“Wherever crows are, there is magic. They are symbols of creation and spiritual strength. They remind us to look for opportunities to create and manifest the magic of life. They are messengers calling to us about the creation and magic that is alive within our world every day and available to us.”
If you have a curious fascination with these magnificent birds, I would suspect that it’s the mystical, magical side that has been whispering softly to your subconscious. Invite them in, open your imagination and intuition, and discover what tales they have come to tell.
Have an interest in some further reading about these fascinating creatures? Below are a few links to some really interesting articles:
1. Stories of crows bringing gifts to their human “friends” here, here and here These are really, really cool and if you check out nothing else, at least give these a look!
2. Crows making and saving tools
3. Discover magazine’s article on facial recognition in crows
4. And finally, a link to Ted Andrews book, Animal Speak, on amazon (and no, I’m not an affiliate)
Thank you for stopping by the blog! My name is Carol and I'm a metalsmith and fiber artist who makes amulets and talismans. You can find my work at Willowsongstudio.com