What do you think of when you imagine crows? More than just the bird, what do you feel? For some of us, crows represent a feeling of mystery, uncertainty, and sometimes dread. Modern western culture seems to have given this species of bird a bad rap, but why?
Looking at the world around us, we see the beauty and elegance of nature in its bright and vibrant colors. Naturally, we gravitate towards more positive feelings when we encounter creatures and birds that reflect the lighter side of the natural world.
Unfortunately for the crow, it doesn’t have that same advantage. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that crows are bad or that they bring bad luck.
From a cultural standpoint, crow symbolism can change depending on how you choose to view them. With that in mind, let’s open ourselves up to this intelligent bird. Let’s talk about crows.
Crow Symbolism and Meaning
To understand crow symbolism, we must first understand the symbolism of death. When most people think of death, they think of it in the physical form. However, if you look at the true symbolic meaning of death, the spiritual meaning, you can understand that death simply stands for transformation and change.
Crows are associated with death and are shrouded in mystery, much like dying. If crows symbolize death and death symbolizes change guess what? Crows symbolize change.
More than that crows often symbolize intelligence and foresight.
With this thought process, we can view crows as a source of wisdom and as a vital guide to understanding our emotional and spiritual transformations. Allowing ourselves to accept the spiritual foresight of this often-overlooked bird can allow us to prepare and adapt to change as it happens.
Crow Symbolism in Native American Culture
In most Native American tribes, crows symbolize wisdom. According to Native American history, many tribes felt this way because crows are one of the few species of bird that can speak.
The Sioux people often adorned themselves with crow feathers for the Ghost Dance, a tradition of their people, because they believed crow feathers would help them rise to the heavens at the time of the final flood. Furthermore, Native Americans affiliate crows with pathfinders or guides.
There were a number of Crow clans among Native Americans, with most of them believing crows to be a good omen. Among those tribes were the Chippewa, the Pueblo, and the Menominee. While the natives were aware of the crow’s diet and eating habits, they felt it was inconsequential since many other animals had similar diets.
Many other spirit animals and spirit guides were also derived from creatures that ate carrion, therefore it didn’t make sense to give the crow a negative association.
Crow Symbolism in Christianity
Like in many cultures and modern media. Christianity has a tendency to confuse crows with their cousin, the raven. While they come from the same genus (Genus Corvus), ravens are larger than crows and often have a blue or purple hue to their feathers.
It is perhaps because of Christianity’s perception of crows and its heavy influence on modern western civilization that the crow has so many negative associations. Unlike the Native Americans, most Christians were unable to overlook the crow’s carnivorous habits.
Expert Tip: As a result of the bird’s dark color and diet, Christian society has dubbed the crow to be a bad omen and a symbol of bad luck.
But it isn’t just the crow’s diet and appearance that drives this stigma. If you are familiar with the bible, you may know the story of how Noah sent a bird (presumably a raven or crow) to see if the flood had begun to subside.
Unfortunately, that bird did not return and Noah was then forced to send the dove, who later came back with an olive branch.
Crow Symbolism in Celtic Culture
Much like in Native American culture, the Celts believed the crow to symbolize wisdom and prophetic knowledge. Beyond that, they were seen to be messengers of the gods. Crows were thought to be a facet of the goddess Morrigan, who were thought to represent birth and death.
We can see that even here crows are associated with great change and new beginnings, a common theme surrounding them in most cultures. But their significance to the Celts doesn’t stop there. Crows are also thought to represent independence and self-sufficiency, likely due to their intelligence and resourceful nature.
Interestingly enough, however, while crows are capable of independence they are more at home in large groups. For that reason, the crow is also considered a symbol of unity and community. The Morrigan was also thought to be War Goddesses who liked to disguise themselves as crows.
Despite their dark appearance, crows were thought to have a close relation to Lugus. the deity of the sun. The crow’s significance to the Celts was so impactful, in fact, that you can find references to the bird in dozens of Celtic tales, fables, myths, and religious texts.
Crow Symbolism in Dreams
While some might worry that visions of crows in their dreams are a bad omen, the opposite can be true. With their reputation as messengers, it is thought that seeing crows in your dreams is really a message from your subconscious or higher self.
Seeing crows in your dreams can symbolize your suppressed emotions and likely indicates that there is a change in your life that you are avoiding or need to prepare for. Some believe that visions of crows indicate foresight or self-acceptance.
Of course, the true meaning of seeing a crow in your dream depends on the context in which you dream of them, as each dream is unique to its dreamer. Keep in mind that it is best not to ignore these dreams and to analyze them carefully, as part of the journey to self-acceptance and spiritual awakening means opening yourself to these messages.
To ignore a dream depicting a crow is to ignore a significant sign of change to come or to suppress your darker self. Achieving balance is only possible when you let in the light and dark, a unification that crows are known to represent.
Crow encounters and omens
So, you’ve seen a crow, what does it mean? Generally speaking, seeing a crow is a message of something significant to you. It is up to you to open yourself up spiritually and emotionally to understand the meaning of the message.
The symbolic meaning of a crow crossing your path can mean any number of things, ranging from advice to a warning. Take into context the things in your life that you may need to examine; be it a relationship, career change, or a move.
Crows are an omen of foreshadowing and transition.
Note that it is important to examine these messages and aspects of your life carefully, as crows, like many intelligent birds, can be known for their deceit. Crows will not try to deceive you as an act of hostility rather they do it to push you to search for the answers you seek.
It is important for our spiritual and emotional growth that we work hard to uncover these hidden truths and epiphanies. In shamanism across many cultures, crows are known as the keepers of the Sacred Law. This is because of their intellect, foresight, and perceptiveness.
Expert Tip: The dark bird is a totem of the Great Spirit and is respected as such in these spiritual communities. As the crow is believed to unify opposites such as light and dark, it is considered very powerful.
Keep in mind that a crow encounter may not have to do with you personally. Crows are representatives of transformation and are the first to perceive a change in those around us as well. Someone close to you could be going through a transformation, or perhaps they have finished their transformation, and you should be aware of it.
A crow could also be a sign to trust in yourself and your judgment. If you have an uneasy feeling about someone or something, it is imperative that you listen to that feeling.
Crow Mythology and Folklore around the world
As you may have realized by now, there is a common theme of wisdom, foreshadowing, and transformation surrounding the crow. These themes carry over across many civilizations and cultures, which is reflected in their myths and folklore.
Crows in Japanese mythology
In Japanese folklore, we have Yatagarasu, a crow who was a sacred symbol of the Sun God. His presence was thought to represent a divine intervention in human affairs or the power of the heavens. Yatagarasu was thought to be the incarnation of Kamotaketsu no mi no Mikoto who was a mythological god of Japan.
Crows in Greek Mythology
In Greek mythology, crows were considered sacred to Hera and Apollo. In one Greek myth. Apollo left a white crow with his lover to guard her. His lover then had an affair, of which the crow informed Apollo, only to be punished for not pecking the eyes of his lover’s suitor out.
Apollo scorched the bird’s feathers. It is believed that this is why crows have black feathers. Another Greek myth references Athena transforming a woman into a crow to help her escape from Posideon’s advances.
Crows in Native American Mythology
Generally speaking, Native Americans focused on the intelligence of the crow. It was thought that the wisdom of the crows was responsible for bringing fire down from the heavens and into the land of mortal men. While some tribes thought the birds to be tricksters, their affiliation was still generally positive.
Crows in Celtic Mythology
The Celts associate crows with Morrighan, believing that when they appear in groups of three it is actually the goddesses themselves in disguise. The Celts also believed that within the feathers of their wings, crows carried secrets. These ominous black birds represented independence, intuition, and wisdom.
Crows in Welsh Mythology
In Welsh mythology, we see the reputation of crows take a negative turn. Welsh fairytales describe evil witches and sorcerers as being able to transform themselves into crows. For this reason, the Welsh tend to associate crows with dark and unnatural magic.
However, they can have other meanings in Welsh myths depending on how many crows you see at one time.
Seeing one crow is bad luck, two is good luck, three means that a son shall be born into the family, four means a daughter, five means a funeral in the family six flying head-on means sudden death, and seven facing away means death in seven years.
Crows in Chinese Mythology
In Chinese mythology, we see crows continue to be associated with the sun. According to the Chinese myth, there were originally only ten sun crows who could only rise to the sky one at a time. The crows one day defied this rule, bringing devastation to the earth.
Because of this, the gods sent an archer to shoot down all but one crow to keep humanity safe. The remaining crow was Sanzuwu the three-legged crow.
Crows in Norse Mythology
In Norse mythology, crows and ravens hold a special affiliation to the father of all the gods, Odin. They were thought to travel across the mortal and godly realms collecting information for Odin, securing their places as divine messengers.
In the same mythology, crows are seen as representatives of the Goddess of Death, Valkyrie. They also represent the principles of creation.
Crows in Australian Aboriginal Mythology
To the Aboriginal people. Crows were heavily sacred and thought of as a good omen. Their positive affiliations stem from being thought of as an ancestral being and being attributed with a role in bringing fire to the earth.
While crows were considered the origin of death, this does not impact their positive association as the Aborigines consider death to be another stage of life.
Crows in Buddhism
In Buddhism, especially among Tibetan monks, crows are sacred. To Buddhists, the crow symbolizes the earthly form of Mahakala, the protector of righteousness on earth. For this reason, the crow is a symbol of protection. It is said that crows protected the first Dalai Lama when his home was under attack.
Crows in Hinduism
The divine status of crows is protected heavily in Hinduism, as the hunting of crows is considered sacrilegious and is prohibited. Crows are thought of as ancestral beings and are fed during Siddha as part of a ritual meant to honor the ancestors.
Expert Tip: In other Hindu beliefs, crows are simply thought of as representatives of our ancestors linking the living and the dead.
When the crows are fed, it is believed that they will deliver the food they received to the spirits of the departed. In either case, crows enjoy sacred status among Hindu people.
Crows in Paganism
According to Pagan beliefs, crows are a connection between our world and the spirit world. They have the unique ability to cross between life and the afterlife. Like in many cultures and beliefs, they seem to be the unification of opposites or the bridge that holds together the normal and abnormal.
Crows in Slavic Mythology
In Slavic mythology, crows are associated with wisdom and trickery. In many Slavic countries, crows are affiliated with Baba Yaga, whose reputation depends on what folklore you’ve heard. In some stories, Baba Yaga is known as an evil witch who eats children.
In other Slavic mythology, Baba Yaga is an ancient Goddess known for her trickery and wisdom, Making the crow her animal familiars. It is because of these conflicting tales that like Baba Yaga, the crow has both positive and negative connotations in Slavic culture.
Facts about Crows
To further support the idea that crows are intelligent beings, here are five facts about crows you may not have been aware of:
- Crows know how to make and use tools.
- Crows hold funerals for their dead.
- Crows can recognize human faces, sometimes for generations, and can be known to hold grudges.
- A crow’s average lifespan is roughly 20 years, while the oldest crow ever recorded in captivity reached the age of 59.
- Crows remain with their families for much longer than other birds. Some crows have been documented as staying with their parents for five years or more, even helping to raise new crows bom into the family.
In summary, the symbolic meaning of crows throughout the history of different cultures generally tells us not to fear them. Crows should instead be seen as a good omen or a sign of transformation to come. These wise and spiritual creatures represent power, intelligence, self-reliance, and transformation.
While it is good to analyze your visions and encounters with crows, know that it is likely not a bad thing. Crows come to us when we need them for their guidance and integrity. For these reasons, a visit from a crow or perhaps a dream involving a crow should be seen as a blessing.