Corvids – mainly crows and ravens

Corvids are among the most popular and feared birds in folklore. They have many stories and myths that are well known: as a trickster in Native American culture or a battle bird in Celtic and Norse culture. You won’t read much about that – as I’m sticking close to my home. This folklore is slightly less known perhaps, but will still be very familiar. This is not strange, since so many myths and stories all over the world are connected to each other. And as we all know, corvids are basically everywhere…without further ado:

This page is dedicated to the folklore of corvids in Northwest-Europe , especially the area of England-Netherlands-Germany.Corvids are crows, ravens, rooks and jackdaws. They are associated with winter, death and dark magic. Ravens have become rare in Northwest Europe, mostly through excessive hunting down of these birds because of their negative image and the ravage they can cause on fields. But the other corvids are thriving. They are scavengers and clever opportunists who are feared by other birds. And it’s not only birds who fear them – I know of more than one person who has been attacked by a rook or crow seemingly out of nothing (though it probably has to do with us coming too close to their nests).  Still, since prehistoric history the lives of humans and crows are intertwined, mainly through death.

This ancient connection can for instance be found in Iron Age (Celtic) pits, many of which contain animal remains. Ravens were often among those remains, and from that we can conclude that it may have been a chthoniv animal (connected to the underworld) to the Celts. One such example is a raven found buried Winklebury, England. The site found in this town contained many humand and animal remains, but this raven was very peculiar. It was laid down at the bottom of  a pit with its wings outstretched. These pits are generally considered ritual structures, and the raven was probably part of a sacrifice.

It is the eating of dead meat on battle fields and at the gallows that has gained corvids the reputation of devilish creatures who foreshadow death. Some even called them godless birds, since they would even steal the flesh from altar offerings. On the other hand, it is said that the ancient Germans would leave their enemies on the battle fields for the wolves and ravens to eat – an offering to the god Wodan. Which makes them very divine creatures indeed. This idea can be followed into late medieval England, where it was actually forbidden to kill corvids because they would keep the city streets clean (this idea would dissolve in later times, when these birds were more and more seen as vermin).

Naturally, corvids, the death birds, are connected to divinatory beliefs. Click hear to read more…

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